In one year…

365 days have gone by, some have been great, some have been terrible, impossible and downright dreadful. Others have been amazing, glorious and the best days of my life. 

On this day last year, I was preparing to fight with Cancer. Everything was so unpromised- I was getting ready to go into surgery to remove a softball sized tumor from my left breast and have reconstruction on both breasts to be symmetric. 

My fears that day were: A. I would look like a freak with no breasts after surgery. B. I would die on the table. C. The cancer would be larger than projected and I would lose not only a softball sized amount of skin and tissue but like a whole side of my chest. D. I would have a reoccurance within 90 days and have to do this all again as statistics suggested. 

365 days after and none of those things have happened. Yes, I have scars. I hate them and have started to desire something to cover them. Maybe a tattoo or a really dark tan. Either way, I hate looking at them. 

I had my scans last week and thankfully I’m cancer clear right now. So no reoccurance. 

Thankfully, I didn’t die on the table. It’s unfair to say this is a fear only born during this crisis. I always think I’ll die on the table during surgery. I blame this irrationality on television and a dramatic mother. 

There were so many things that I planned on happening to me that didn’t. For all of those I’m grateful. 

There were also things I never planned on happening that did and I’m even more greatful. 

My husband and I have gotten closer. We have always been in sync with one other but not always completely honest. Facing death makes you really honest really quickly. We’ve put everything on the table. Some scary stuff, some hurtful stuff, some amazing stuff and some downright erotic stuff. 

See it’s easy to be truthful when you realize there’s nothing to lose. 

I have finally, after almost 40 years, built a relationship with my father, whom I thought was a complete bastard my entire life. Again, reality of death opens closed doors. 

I have seen my daughter grow into a woman and give me my first grandchild, truly the light of my life. 

I’ve seen my boys turn into men. Good men, silly, funny, intelligent, salt of the earth men, like their dad. 

I’ve made new friends, better friends than I deserve. I’ve seen my old friendships strengthen. I know the truest of friends. I’ve also lost some friends. Because illness makes some people uncomfortable. They don’t know what to say and so they quietly walk away. The thing is, I used to be mad about this until I realized it’s okay. It’s not that I didn’t or don’t need them, they just can’t. Can’t what? I don’t know. But if they Can’t, well then I can’t make them. 

Honestly, if I had to do it all over again. Or if I ever have to do it all over again, if I get the same results or the same revelation, then I’d do it. I wouldn’t give up, like I’ve wanted to some days. I’d dig in. 

A lady this week gave me one of the most honest compliments I’ve ever received. She said, “I like your grit!” … is that what it is? Well, okay then.. I raise my glass! To grit! 

Here’s to 365 more days of grit. 

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Pain is a hateful b*tch

It’s been one year, I’m sitting in the waiting room of huge cancer treatment center in Houston, Texas. They are the best in the world, I’d never go anywhere else but today I’m scared to death. 

I’m listening to a new patient discuss the minor details of her diagnostic day and I’m praying that today is her last day to be here and that they find nothing. Because I know what the alternative is. 

It’s been a year of ups and downs. Fear and relief. Scared of it coming back and relieved when there’s nothing new. The test hurts, it hurt before they cut all my nerves. Now I can’t even image the amount of pain because hot water hurts when I take a shower. 

I’m scared to look over at my husband, he can see the pain without me looking at him. He offered my Valium. Thank God for drugs.

It’s all in my head? Right? The pain, the fear? No, not really. I’ll make it, I know. And later we will find somewhere to go and laugh this all off. 

Results tomorrow, it’ll be a long night. I’m not sure how people sit so bravely in this room, no hair, fake body parts, horrible scars. And yet! We do. 

I took a picture of the blood bank downstairs on my way up. I want my students to understand the need. I’m in charge of the blood drive every year. I think if they sat in this room today, I’d never have to beg for participation. 

A year full of ups-down, right now we are down but I’m looking up. 

When you love…

It’s heart wrenching when you love someone so much that every little thing they do or say becomes a part of the fabric that is you.

It’s every sentence, every word, action, thought, feeling. You can’t help but wonder, do they feel the same? 23 years of fabric sewn together. A California King sized love that requires no real words. 

It’s the silence too, the kind where you have to sit and wonder, what’s the next move? Can we keep this all together? Are we the lucky ones who stay and stay. Who give and give until there’s nothing separate about us? 

There’s a push and pull. The need to be uniquely your own but similarly there’s. To belong to yourself but never alone. The world does try to get in the way. It picks and picks leaving an open wound. 

Are we good enough? Do we live enough? Are we saved enough? Does it ever stop? 

There must be a balm. A healing in the inside that scars the outside so much that the seal can never be broken into again. Is it worth it? If it’s only going to be cut through with a scalpel so dull there are jagged edges that can’t quiet get back together. 

When you love? When you love? When you love? It hurts so deep even the one who walks on water can’t save you from drowning. 

Storyteller…

I grew up in the local library amongst the stacks, emersed in stories, characters and a world of fantasy. I was never told what I could or couldn’t read. My parents aren’t readers so if I was reading inappropriately they would’ve never known. And so I did. 

In the sixth grade I read Flowers in the Attic. A story about an incestuous family and a crazy grandmother who held people hostage in her home. I read North & South, a story about slavery and civil war. I read every thing I could get my hands on and to this day those stories are stuck in my head. 

As a child I learned to love a good story. I learned to stick with it even if it didn’t seem all that great. In time, I learned how to make up my own stories. I found that life is really full of rich characters and little stories. 

There are characters in my mind that have lived there for years. They have a story that needs to be told but an author that can’t find time to give them life. There’s the teenage girl from the trailer park, raising her mother’s children on money she makes from selling things that people throw away. There’s an old man who lives alone remembering his wife that disappeared while he was off fighting for our freedom. The rich woman locked in her home by her own doubts and fears. 

My children laugh at me for watching my “story” on t.v. They don’t understand what it’s like to get lost in a story. They live in a world that’s black and white. They have no crazy dreams, no fantasies, no desire to be someone else for a moment. I feel for them. I feel for anyone who doesn’t know the pure joy of getting lost in a story. 

Everything and every day is a story. We are living ours out but isn’t is nice that we can chose to live as many as we want if we just open our minds. I for one, want to live many stories, be many people, have many joys and dream many dreams. 

I’m a story-teller, an inventor, a change maker. Any day I can change, be someone new. I hope one day some girl is hiding in a book shelf, getting lost, reading one of my stories and dreaming about her own. 

Break away…

It’s only happened to me one time. I was headed home from a cruise with my family and all of the sudden I had an out-of-body experience. It scared me so badly that I sought out a counselor for the first time in my life. I explained to him that I felt like I could see myself moving around, making decisions, talking, trying to remain calm and act normal. I remember having a hard time breathing it was like someone had put their hands around my neck and started squeezing. I couldn’t seem to swallow either, like a cotton ball was clogging up the passage. 

I’m not sure what the trigger was, later my counselor would tell me it was the feeling of losing control. I’m not OCD or even close to being a control freak. In fact, I might be described as a bit of a mess. I keep things way to long, I’m very sentimental, I have a hard time letting go of things that belong to people I love. I can eventually get rid of them but it takes awhile. 

The idea that I need to feel in control was very foreign to me but after a lot of talking it ends up that I need to “feel” in control. I may not be in control of anything but as long as I don’t “feel” like it’s out of control, then I am okay. Whatever happened that day, I’ll probably never know but I lost control. 

I had a dissasociative episode brought on by a panic attack. I essentially broke up with myself. My body continued to preform as usual but my mind took a break, a scary break. Scary enough to know I needed help. 

I’ve had my issues with depression over the years and rightly so but never to the extent where I couldn’t cope. Not like that day. PTSD, he said. From childhood abuse and trauma. When a situation feels out of control my mind protects me. 

Valium helped, my family helped, understanding and talking helped. I learned that certain places and activities cause me great stress and I learned to avoid them. Other things I dive right into, panic or not and I try to crush them. I don’t want to be held captive by my past. I don’t want anything to have that much power over me. Mostly, I never want to watch myself from afar again. 

It’s impossible to always stay in control and impossible to know when things aren’t but it’s worth a shot to try to hold it all together and not let the past dictate the future. 

Today, I feel better. After a year of therapy my counselor said to call him in I need to revisit. I learned how to have a voice again. To tell people that things are bothering me. I learned the truth is always best and that people who genuinely love me will continue to despite my flaws. That’s the magic of coming clean. Of not holding onto things and of letting people see the real you. There’s nothing scarier than pretending. And there’s nothing more precious than the raw, nitty-gritty self. 

Define good…

Last week I heard of a boy who tried to kill himself because his family won’t accept his lifestyle. Another kid is going to jail for raping a 14 year old. A lady snobs a co-worker in public and the co-worker questions her own self worth. One of these people is me.

Growing up in small-town America with a strict set of religious ideology has me begging the question what is good? 

My husband and I both attended a charismatic church as children. We were taught to love thy neighbor, be kind, be spiritual, be forgiving, and to hate the sin but love the sinner. That’s the kicker that really gets to me. 

More and more, I see people who not only hate the sin but hate the sinner. The kid who tried to kill himself, he’s gay, but his family says they can’t be around him. Can’t even love him or associate with the appearance of evil. Maybe there are other things that caused him to try to take his life but if his church going, forgiving, love thy neighbor family,can’t accept him then what’s the point? 

The kid that raped the 14 year old girl, well he’s just a kid himself. Used to show up at his local church and hang out of with the youth group. You could tell he had problems. Mom and dad problems, the kind you don’t recover from. I doubt if that kid ever knew what love was. That girl got in his car willingly, she said she was his girlfriend, but her mom and daddy didn’t care much for him and well he’s older and the state says it’s rape. He’ll go to jail, half the town has already convicted him and he hasn’t even been to trial yet! There’s no mercy for a rapist, child-molester and according to some people there’s no forgiveness either. “They are the worst kind of sinner”. 

My husband once befriended a guy accused of child abuse. People thought he was crazy. Maybe he is crazy. Crazy for thinking that being kind to someone hurting would win you any kind of recognition in a society that can’t help themselves from being cruel. Turns out that guy’s wife made it all up to get custody of their kids. Ruined his life. It doesn’t matter if your innocent. Once you’ve been accused you might as well go into witness protection. Something, anything,to save yourself from the public. 

And the snobby co-worker. She calls herself a Christian too. Her husband is employeed by the local church. She does just enough to pull off the facade. Likes the people who can get her somewhere or get her something. She doesn’t care if a person walks away from knowing her feeling worse than when they met her. That they question whether they are good enough, whether they belong in the same building. High society types, leaving the lowly down in the dirt.

I’ve asked myself, am I good person over and over. I certainly hope so. I’ve fed the poor, I’ve been the poor, I’ve clothed children who had nothing, I’ve forgiven those who hurt me, I’ve stood up for the under-dog. I’ve apologized when I’m wrong and I’ve apologized when I’m right. I’ve been a friend to the friendless and I’ve been the friendless. I’ve loved when I haven’t been loved and I’ve been the chiefest of sinners. 

I still believe in God, I believe in the God I’ve learned about my entire life. I believe in Jesus Christ as my savior but I don’t much believe in people anymore. 

I don’t believe in people who can’t forgive, can’t love, can’t include. I don’t believe in hatred, or malice, or judgement. I don’t believe in labels and I don’t believe you can be a good person and believe in any of these things. 

I’m not calling myself a good person. I’m still working that all out. But, I’m not bad… I’m not hurtful or hateful. I feel deeply about others and I am working on myself to be better. So I can’t define what good is, but I can tell you what it isn’t…

Not one of them…

I thought I could blend in, thought after all this time I’d bra part of the group, the cool crowd, the elite. 

I’ve really tried my best. I’ve bought the clothes, got the cut, put on the smile, I’ve bought the lies, defended the pride. 

But, I’m not one of them. I’m not better than anyone. My daddy isn’t rich, didn’t marry into money, didn’t go to an ivy-league, no sorority house for me. 

It’s all part of the facade, all made up small-town rules. I’m just part of the help, no real relevancy. A throw-away. 

This is part of the promise, to thine own self, be true. The truth is I’m tired. Can’t do it anymore. Either I’m good enough like I am or I’m moving on. 

New year, new you? Nah, you can’t change that. You are you, that’s all you can be. But, they are them and they are never going to change. You can’t make them like you but why would you want them to anyway?

Don’t forget you have something to offer! You’re a diamond in the rough. Realize the jewel you are and only give yourself away to the ones who treasure the gift.