Elephants and Ladders

Elephant and Elephant-Made Ladder, by PrajaktaPradhanAnd just like that, seven weeks have passed. Seven weeks that began as One, stumpingly segued to Four-and-a-Half, and curiously culminated as Seven-that-Felt-Like-Four. Tomorrow, Friday, October 12, marks my last day of radiation, and Saturday, 10/13 will be my first day without it. Again with the Lucky Number.

On my first radiation center visit, I argued with my husband in the car on the drive over and cried the rest of the way, then spent 45 minutes lying alone in a room on a CT table thinking about this: every day for the next seven weeks, I will be forced to wake up in the morning, acknowledge that I have cancer, and drive myself nine minutes down the road for treatment from strangers. The radiation part? No biggie. The acknowledgement part? Biggie.

And so it went that I drove myself alone for the first treatment on the first day and put myself in the hands of four strangers in gray scrubs who would become my morning companions for the next seven weeks of my life. I can’t tell you how much I’m going to miss them.

Years ago, after a particularly shaking experience with someone I cared about, I headed out the door for a walk. I was in a strange city and knew no one, with a map folded into my back pocket. After about 45 minutes of emotions-in-a-twist-staring-at-the-pavement under my mindlessly-moving feet, I looked up and across the narrow road straight into a tea room with its doors flung open to the day. Inside, a woman paused, looked out, and smiled at me. I smiled back. And in that instant, that moment-with-a-stranger, I was fine.

And this has been much like that.

I’ve always been fascinated by the connections we form in life. Some of the people I remember most vividly are those with whom I’ve spent the least time, but with the most intensity. Some taught me life lessons, some gave me a nudge back onto the path, others showed me new ways of being, some simply showed compassion — but almost consistently without a surplus of words — and often with no words at all. And then they were gone — but only — only — in a physical way. Those that impact us in times of need are with us forever.

And I think about this: it’s so easy to be kind. It’s so easy to give a nod, a smile, a touch. I count myself at the top of the list for too often being too afraid, too shy, too sure my words are cheesy or my interest suspect, and I need to change that.

And so to Rick, whose curls bounce every morning when he nods and his eyes twinkle hello: Thank You. To James, who fetched me gently from the waiting room alone on that first day and always tries to make me laugh: Thank You. To Betty, whose mega-watt smile and cheeriness always calm me: Thank You. To Will, who didn’t flinch when I sulked up to him on Day 1 and put my hand on his chest to turn over his name tag because I didn’t want to be treated by a man whose name I didn’t know, and who looked in my eyes to keep me steady: Thank You.

Thank you all for bringing me from this to this to this.

Breast Cancer Biopsy, Radiation Registration Lines, Almost Done

Breast Cancer Biopsy Bruise, Radiation Registration Lines, Almost Done

Oh! The title for this post was provided by my daughter, of Ashinine, quite randomly, with no knowledge of the post content. Ever a lover of Metaphors for Life, I’ll give you this: We are all at times large and clumsy, unaccustomed and often ill-equipped and, certainly in my case, articulate only in an alien-ish sort of way when we encounter the unexpected. Thank You All for being the Ladder to my Elephant, giving me something and often someone to hold on to, a leg up, access to a broader view, and a steady hand. I’ll never forget. Hugs and Kisses.

Presbyterian Radiation Oncology

The Odd Moment

I’m always running behind. Walking into work with a Carmen Miranda melange of must-be-done today tasks arranged willy-nilly and aslant, balanced precariously on my buzzing brain. And after a day’s work, I walk back into our house sporting a very similar headpiece — the fruits may have changed, but the basket is still overfull and topheavy, threatening to spill and be lost at any moment.

What are You Waiting For?

Most of the time I’m okay with this. I love my life, and I snarl at sleep as a major annoyance. But I don’t have much down time.

So it was a bit of a surprise when I realized the gallery was covered Friday morning, and I had a few hours off before a long weekend workshop. Supplies were in and set-up couldn’t happen before 4:00. I cleaned my workspace (some would call it a kitchen), washed the sink, and sat. And for someone who is never, ever, ever bored, I was oddly close. Quite, and oddly, at loose ends.

Given enough time, of course, I could have been productive. Or even mindfully unproductive, which can be just as good (and sometimes better). But caught unaware and given a gift — the one gift we ALL covet — I was totally unprepared.

Boredom always seems so expansive, no matter how momentary. It’s as if the mind, the heart, and the soul are all busy elsewhere, and all that makes you you is off on holiday. How is it that we can so easily forget who we are, what we love, our passions and pleasures? How is it that I can sit for a moment with time at my feet, and not be able to remember what I love? And yet I can always remember the chores left undone.

I’ve always laughed at myself, or maybe scoffed is the better word, when I’m trying to think of something to make for dinner and can’t remember a single favorite. For years I’ve been meaning to make a list: “food I like to eat.” And now it appears that I need to make another: “things I like to do.” I don’t want to be caught staring into space the next time a few odd  moments fall into my lap. Hmmm, sounds like the topic for my next post 🙂

The Road to Hell

may be paved with good intentions, but I’m eager to believe that a well-considered plan can take you someplace fabulous just as easily. Eager, commonly associated with beaver, an animal not so much known for its wisdom or global thinking, but hey, teeth are good. On the plus side (and I’m not only referring to girth and the “ungainly waddle” here), National Geographic touts that “beavers are second only to humans in their ability to manipulate and change their environment.” I may be dragged into each new year kicking and flinging obscenities, but I do plan to channel a bit of that busy-beaver energy for good. So yeah, eager as a rodent for change.

1) Create. I will write and I will make art. I will clean off my art tables and use them. I will close the computer; I will not check email every time the phone beeps. I will not put every request ahead of my own need to create. At least one day a week. And that day will be Tuesday.

Yum, c. Pamela Goode2) Eat. I will cook more. I will cook European. Not only is the food healthier — it’s beautiful, and it’s soul-satisfying. If I can’t live on the other side of the Atlantic and toss together suppers of dirt-fresh market finds on the terrace, I can make the plates pretty enough and healthy enough and al fresco enough to pretend.

3) Love. I will make more of an effort, or a wiser or more intuitive effort, to connect with those who are difficult to access — those who are afraid to love, don’t know how to love, have been hurt by love, can’t trust, won’t trust, whose hearts have been trampled, or who simply haven’t a clue what love is, how to express it, or how to sit back, open their arms, and receive it. I will try harder to give without being afraid of the response.

4) Discipline. I feel bad that this isn’t the discipline my husband might long for (I can be an unruly child), but it’s the practice my spirit covets, and that is silence. Not a constant silence (I love to warble and whistle and dance), but a deliberate one — a chosen rest. Not a lack of communication (because real communication is everything), but simply a lack of spoken words. I suck with words. I say the wrong thing in the wrong tone and worry too much about the word choices and tones of others. I’m hypervigilant when it comes to verbal communication, and it’s exhausting. I’m going to gift myself one day each week free of that weight.

I’m raring to go, but there seem to be a few things to attend to first — a four foot high porcelain poodle in one of the guest beds, a blonde wig left over from a LOST party on the towel bar, a red patent leather slingback on a nail near the kitchen cornice molding, and of course the trail of gingerbread crumbs moistened with butterscotch schnapps leading from the computer table to the Swallowing Sofa and back again.

On the other hand, touches of whimsy are so necessary to a Well-Lived Life.

Fah Who Rah-Moose

from shloshspot.com

‘Twas the night before New Year’s, and all through the house

Every Who down in Whoville was doped up and soused.

They hated the New Year; they grumbled and whined,

“We don’t want a NEW year; this suits us just fine.”

But the clock wouldn’t listen, it groaned and it wheezed,

And it paused not a whit on the cusp of the breeze

That would blow that foul second hand forward and then

Slap the faces of Whos with a pointy-mouthed grin.

Auntie Em hugged her teacup; Vern gripped hard his bottle

Cindi Loo sucked her nipple of mead on full throttle.

While Muffy poured scotch and Big Joe warmed the wassail,

I saw Gramps downing Nyquil to plump up his fossil.

Homer was huffing and Jane rode a bender

While Grams poured tequila and rum in the blender.

They binged and they cringed and they cowered in fear

“We must stop it from coming! We’ll stop it this year!”

But no matter the moonshine, no matter the crack,

Father Time gave the gift that he wouldn’t take back.

He granted them change and a hope for the new,

Whilst snickering snickers, ice cold as a shrew.

It’s a New Year, My Lovelies, You Hortons and Whos,

And you’ll take it and thank me; you don’t get to choose.

So get on with your hopes and your dreams and your wishes,

Cause I’ve got the clock, and you dogs is my bitches.

~ c. 2011 by Pamela Pardue Goode,

with apologies to Clement C. Moore and eternal gratitude to Dr. Seuss  🙂

Down Deep

I’d been looking for ten months and one week. Not constantly, of course, but there were more than a few sporadic foraging forays when my aggravation billowed to extremes. Where could I have put them? Were they gone? I remember thinking, “I’ve got to move this before Vernon sees it and heads to the trash can. I know — I’ll hide it under the bed.” But it wasn’t under the bed — not a single one of the many times I fell to my knees and poked my hands and head beneath the dust ruffle, scanning, of course, nothing but dust.

It wasn’t in any closet in the house, carefully secreted behind ski parkas, the wet suit or boxes of Matchbox cars. It wasn’t in the attic, playing coy behind a bag of tinsel or that inflatable reindeer. It wasn’t in my trunk, which inexplicably still holds some giftwrap bought on sale four summers ago. It was just gone, and I moaned about the loss often — and loudly.

Naturally, we all suspected Vernon, who often views my “treasures” as mouse fodder, and 160 used napkins from a barbecue dinner ten months ago stored in a Hefty bag would certainly top that list. But I had big plans for them, and he swore up and down that he hadn’t touched them. And after all, I had told myself that I had to move them. Didn’t I move them? And where the hell were they, hidden so well that I hadn’t stumbled across them in ten whole months?

They weren’t just any napkins. I handpicked six different fabrics and hand-pinked them for my son and daughter-in-law’s rehearsal dinner. Besides the sentimental value, which was elephantine, they were splendid, happy fabrics, which allowed me to justify the purchase because I knew I could use them for fun dinners on the lawn, and make patchwork fabric for a sundress and some nifty studio aprons. And now, it was an absolute necessity to make a string (or five) of bunting flags. Quite simply, no other fabric would do.

And so this morning you could have found me again on my knees, poking impotently about beneath the dust ruffle and pulling back empty-handed and pouting, tiptoeing through the attic to peer high and low in the dim morning light, opening and closing one closet door after another.

And then suddenly I found them. Sitting in the very same bag in the very same corner they had enjoyed for the last ten months (and one week), with a snowfall of boxes hiding them quite neatly. I thrust my hand down and claimed them, slung them over my shoulder like a jolly old guy, hoisted them into the washer, and jumped into Vernon’s unsuspecting arms as he was climbing the stairs. “I found them! I found them! I found them!” Sometimes it’s the little things . . . .

I knew a girl in high school, Karen, who used the following as her Senior Quote: “Itching for what you want doesn’t do much good; you’ve got to scratch for it.” And usually, you gotta scratch pretty damn hard. They say Seek and Ye Shall Find. I seeked, sought, soaked — nothing. Sometimes you gotta dig down deep. As humans, we have an aversion to it, but in my opinion, that’s where your life is waiting.

Or in my case, bunting!

Bunting