Saturday, September 14, 2013

Stinkmouthery, Big Dreams and Gin Cocktails. Or, What Seems Really Important to Me to Talk About Right Now.

Holy Crumbs! Where did the summer go? Has it really been two months since my last post?

Clearly, I’ve let a little too much time go by since my last blog post. I can always gauge this by the increasing volume of non-urgent-but-concerned emails my mother surreptitiously lets me know she’s receiving. 

Given that my mom really is a sweet person with a social life far better than I will ever hope to have, who should not have to bear the e-burden of having brought such an incommunicado child into this world, let me address the elephant first: indeed, the rumors are true. I am still alive, and doing quite well. Thank you, everyone for your love and concern. It really does mean the world to me. 

Despite my persistently rude silence, I really do get why it may cause you to worry. It’s sort of like why I tend to stick my face way too close to my 13-year old toy poodle while she sleeps to make sure she’s still breathing. And how then after like ten minutes of watching for any sign of movement, I still can’t really tell because she has these tiny little lungs and a ton of curly hair, so I end up poking at her ribs. Gently, of course. At which point, she wakes up all startled, trying to focus her cataract-y eyes on my big ol’ face, and yawns her tiny sleeping dragon breath at me, causing me to back away coughing and wondering why I woke her stinkmouth up in the first place. 

So also, this may have a slight stinkmouthery about it, just like the poodle. Sorry in advance if so.

It’s been a year and four days since I found the boob sidecar and started my travels in exotic can’t-sir land. It’s been just a little over three months since I wrapped up treating it to the beatdown it deserved. (OK, in all honestly, I didn’t feel nearly as tough as “beathdown” would imply, and I was mostly quietly introspective and/or in a complete chemo daze, but “beatdown” somehow sounds way cooler to me right now than, “self-aware, diligently compassionate, new agey if slightly doped up, co-creationist healing process”, so I’m going with it today.) 

Oh, and just a few weeks ago, I turned 40! Yeah, baby! I totally won another tour around the sun. E-ticket!!! Hoot hoot!

I thought about writing a clever but kind little piece about how almost every woman I know reacted when I told her I was turning the big 4-0. About the self-defeating spiral most of these brilliant women suddenly went down about their own relationship with their aging process. I thought about it in the spirit of trying to help all my sisters come to terms with the fact that age ain’t nothin’ but a number and that I totally can prove to them that being alive at all is a pretty frickin’ miraculous thing compared to the alternative. But really, if there’s one thing I have learned this last year, it’s that life is way to short for me to spend even a second of it trying to convince anyone else of anything at all. Our story about our age is definitely our own to deal with, and I just hope we all remember to love on ourselves and sing Amazing Grace in the shower while we’re counting the wrinkles on our knees. So, I’m leaving that out for now.

I also wrote this really long draft of a post chockfull of learnings I’ve had since returning to work post-can’t-sir, thinking, “Hey, this might be useful to other peeps doing the return to work thing someday.” Things like how I’ve learned the hard way that I turn into a foggy-brained limpet by 2pm when I travel for offsites, don’t eat enough protein, or listen to too much Pandora while doing email. How I end up walking around like a troll for a week when I get all Inspector Gadget and try to juggle a million things with my nonexistent robot arms. How my colleagues’ enthusiasm when I say, “I’m doing great,” creates this contagion inside me and I suddenly realize I’ve just said yes to another project that I may not be able to actually find the energy to work on because they thought -- and I so desperately still want to believe -- I meant “I’m doing great” as in, “My energy is comparable to that of Gerard Butler in that 300 movie where he and Faramir wore Spartan Speedos and were ridiculously fit,” and not, “My energy is beyond fantastic when compared to the rotting Borg-like carapace I hauled myself around in during chemo and radiation." But really, returning to work after can’t-sir is in itself basically a whole book, and all these comic book movie references are exhausting, so I decided to leave that one out for now, too.

I also thought about writing a really hilarious piece about how a brilliant colleague I know went down the grammarly rabbit hole with me and told me how I should stop starting my sentences with, “but”, “and”, or “so”. But, frankly, I made the call many years ago that I’d rather write stuff precisely the way I want to write it and have people tell me my grammar sucks, than write the next Strunk & White handbook. And, I still feel really fine about that. So, I decided to leave that one out also. Bam!

Here’s what I want to say today: Life after can’t-sir. It’s a funny bob of a thing. 

I’m sure it won’t surprise you. I’ve chosen to invest the remainder of my days attending the college of MSH (Making Sh*t Happen) instead of MSU (Making Sh*t Up). I think I had a pretty decent academic record at MSH before the sidecar, but, you know, some cliches are true. Can’t-sir really does have a wonderful way of helping you wake up and want to do something about the fact that every moment is truly, madly, deeply precious. 

It seems to me that a big part of “survivorship” is setting the baseline for what’s in and what’s out. If that’s so, then “thrivorship” is about something even greater. Yes, it’s about staying integrous with the baseline. With remembering to do the things that represent putting your own oxygen mask on first and then helping all the wonderful yay-hoo’s who decided to take this trip alongside you secure theirs. But beyond that, it’s about telling the truth, getting down to the heart of what matters most, and then doing what feels right to you to bring it into reality. Even when it means pivoting and pissing people off and disappointing them. Again, and again, and again. 

Shockingly, I think this maxim kind of applies, whether you’ve just exited the can’t-sir teacup ride, or not.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: it’s tempting to try to stay small. To just do the bare minimum we need to do to get by. To stay in the shadows and let the dust settle. Fortunately, or unfortunately if you’re having a dangnabbit of a day, that isn’t what we’re here to do.

Let me be clear: in the first months after big stuff like finishing up your can’t-sir treatment, letting the metaphorical dust settle is very likely the best you can do, and if that is the case, that is absolutely excellent. Yes, I am aware you will read stories of people doing PX195 or whatever the hell it’s called, all through their treatment and then suiting up to run a marathon in a tutu and Spanx the moment the last drop of Taxol has flowed through their port. To those who are about to ‘thon, I salute you and send you metaphorical gilded Spartan Speedos.

But if it’s not that way for you, there’s nothing useful about pretending it is. Be with what’s so. Be with what you’re up to mentally and physically. Ignore the pleas and cries and demands to be anything other than that. 

Try some stuff you think you might like to do, and then give yourself a break when it all goes haywire and you realize you hate, or simply no longer have the energy to do, 90% of what you used to really enjoy. 

Sleep in once in awhile. Take off early from work for an afternoon. Drink a little more water than you think you actually need and let the sun beat down on your skin for a few minutes without sunscreen. Eat the foods your body is craving (even if those foods seem to be made primarily of swiss cheese, real butter and Cadbury Fruit and Nut Milk Chocolate). Drink some fancy pre-prohibition era cocktails instead of that green juice you drank for a year. 

Do what makes you happy. Do nothing at all. Whatever you choose, be amazingly gentle on yourself. Give yourself permission to ignore everything everyone else says. Give yourself the freedom to change your mind. 

Dream. Dream of the things that make you come alive. 
And then: Do them.

In this spirit, if you need me, I’ll be working my day job at create the change HQ alongside a couple of awesome chicks who really get this whole promise and possibility thing. On the weekends, I’ll be drumming in the spirits and growing herbs and heirlooms at our new off-the-grid cabin in the woods. In the fall, I’ll be scuba diving amongst the fishes and offering Reiki to rescued donkeys alongside my amazing hubs and my soul sister and her fantastic hubs in Bonaire. And, of course, when I’m not digging in the dirt or adventuring, I’ll be antiquing for the perfect coupe from which to drink exquisitely hand-crafted lavender-cucumber martinis. 

Until we speak again: Have fun, Lovelies. It promises to be an exciting autumn.  Did I mention it's less than two months 'til Nevada Day/Halloween? Woot!