Homebody

I have been home for 14 consecutive days, and I have a confession. I’ve loved every minute of it.

I’ve slept in the same bed, owned my usual routine. I’ve even made it to the gym or done some form of exercise for 13 of 14 days. I cooked about half of the days. I’ve reconnected with friends and drank a few beers. I even went to see a ballet, and I have tickets to the Symphony on Saturday.

I’ve nearly always been a traveler, since I graduated from college. I’m a million miler, and I often have status on more than one airline. I envision a retirement where I regularly travel and explore the world – and I’ve always envisioned that I’d need to do it on a budget. After all, traveling in coach, staying where the locals live, and eating at the “hole in the wall” restaurants seems like the point of travel…staying at the fancy places only brings the experience closer to living in a bubble.

So it’s deeply puzzling to me that my body loves routine. Waking up at the same (damn early) time every day. Working at the same desk. Heading to the gym regularly. Eating healthy but ultimately home cooked food. Connecting with people I love.

Perhaps it’s because I experience two weeks of being a homebody so rarely that I forget how wonderful it truly is to sink into the routine of the usual. And I’m already dreading that next trip, which is coming up soon. Way too soon.

Maybe I should reconsider my retirement plan.

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Ten Thousand Cats

I should have been shopping for Christmas gifts, but instead I found these lovely pajama pants on Amazon…they have a pattern called “Ten Thousand Cats.”  So, now I’m wearing Ten Thousand Cats as I cuddle up underneath a blanket and read my book.  Last night, I also lit a fire and poured myself a Scotch to go with it (the scotch was called “Old Particular,” which might also be apropos).

I’m certainly getting older, and I’ve always been particular.

My observation of the moment:  I don’t wear pajama pants enough, I don’t read enough, and I certainly light  too few fires in the fireplace.  Between work and volunteering and my social life, I keep myself pretty scheduled herding ten thousand cats…not wearing them.

I’m looking forward to a little time slowing down over the holidays, perhaps wearing pajamas.

 

Regeneration

It’s been almost a year since I regularly wrote.  I’m not sure when I lost my voice – it wasn’t a formal decision to stop journaling my 150 words a day.  I know that I was feeling repetitive, as though all I did was complain about my perennial busy-ness with a liberal smattering of health issues.

However, as I have looked back over these posts I appreciated something very different – that I do occasionally have deep thoughts and observations which tend to fade over time.  Rejuvenating this blog gives me the opportunity to record and preserve these thoughts for future contemplation and reference.

I am a “human doing” and not just a human being – my needs, opinions, aspirations, and problems change over time.  I’m growing more aware of how my brain practices revisionist history, and integrates current beliefs into past situations.  My journal might be one way to preserve these transitions and keep clarity for myself.

My observation for today:  at some point over the last several months, I’ve stopped lighthearted laughter and moved towards sarcasm as my primary expression of humor.  Today I joined a hip hop dance exercise class at the gym, and acted completely silly and carefree during class.  I walked out of class with a smile on my face, and a spring in my step – and I was reminded that fun is FUN.  Sarcasm can be disingenuous fun and ultimately isolating….but the hip shaking I was doing didn’t tear anyone’s ego down – not even my own.  That’s certainly an insight I need to remember.

A Typical Day

I woke up this morning  hair before 6 am, and I felt normal.  Not sniffly or feverish or sore or tired or 100 other things I’ve felt intensely over the past week.  I think I might finally be on the mend from the flu, and from its evil sister that occupied me from Thanksgiving to mid-December.  In this moment, I vow never to take good health for granted again.

I’m sitting here writing my blog, drinking a cup of coffee (which wasn’t possible last week because my stomach took a holiday from both coffee and food) and everything feels so normal, so full of possibilities.  I’m kind of sad I have to work today, because I don’t really feel like I got any restful or fun vacation time.

I’ll try to impress you with more philosophical ruminations later in the week, when my brain has also returned to full wellness.  However, today I am simply happy to be a marginally healthy and operating human.  Now, onto spin class (which I am certain will humble me).

 

Successive Estimations

I’m not writing down any New Year’s Resolutions this year, or formulating another 20 step plan for success.  All of the lists from my prior years only partially succeeded.  I often dusted off the list mid-year and wondered WHO was that person who wanted item #7 on that list anyhow?  Surely not me?

I’ve come to acknowledge that life is an open system, and that we can’t fully change its direction all at once.  Some things are even completely outside of our control — although how we respond to those events is most certainly controllable.  And by May, I’m going to want new items on the list — because we’re human, and life is a game of successive estimations.

This year, I simply pledge to engage.  I pledge to wake up every morning and try to be the best person I can be that day.  I know this resolution seems trite and simplistic.  However, it just might be my most memorable resolution yet.

The Big SCare

Yes, the “C” in the post title is capitalized for a reason.  Cancer.

It started off according to plan.  I scheduled my annual ob-gyn visit and fully expected to have the usual chat.  I made a couple of observations during my exam and my doctor prescribed me two relatively usual follow ups: a mammogram (my first), and a uterine ultrasound (also my first).  After the usual scheduling delays, I ventured into the Women’s Center at Sutter Hospital in San Mateo to complete my testing.

First up was the uterine ultrasound.  The first set of tests netted possible tumors/fibroids/lesions that had the potential to be harmful.  More testing was required, and I was sent away with a vague feeling of dis-ease (and disease, in fact) and another appointment to attend.  I completed my mammogram with little discomfort and fairly quickly, and found it to be a relatively harmless procedure.  Given all the negative experiences of family and friends, I was pleasantly surprised.

The second set of uterine tests was completed on the following week — an extended, internal ultrasound and biopsy/tissue testing.  While I was in the exam room, one of the nurses tracked me down…to let me know that I needed another mammogram and additional testing on my left breast because there might be “an anomaly.”  At that moment, I actually began to doubt my status as “healthy” and started to wonder if there was something systemic wrong.  One set of extra testing is concerning, but requiring additional tests for multiple organs seemed to indicate a systemic issue.  My heart began to race.

The second mammogram and ultrasound was also relatively painless, but raised serious concerns about a possible tumor in my left breast.  The doctor let me observe the mammogram and ultrasound images — there was a 10mm dense lump that clearly was different than the rest of my breast tissue, and had characteristics of a tumor.  The doctor advised a biopsy, and reassured me that she felt it was only 20% likelihood of cancer.

20% likelihood of cancer is still frightening.  I don’t bet because I have horrible, terrible luck in almost any game of chance.  Despite my otherwise robust health, there was a persistent voice in the back of my head warning that this was the beginning of a long journey.  What about all those hamburgers I ate — and those glasses of wine?  I certainly could have treated my body better over the past 41 years.  I tried to put the worry aside and focus on making a difference in my healthy living today — I recommitted to working out, eating better, reducing stress, and drinking less alcohol.  But still….I needed a biopsy, and now I had results to wait for.

I walked into my biopsy — over a week later — scared and tense.  The doctor did everything she could to reassure me — she explained the procedure, explained the “post procedure” instructions, and answered all of my questions.  The doctor asked me to look away as she made the incision — but I asked to look.  I simply needed to know what was going on at every step.  She kindly let me watch the procedure on the monitor (I got to see the biopsy needle go into the tumor, and the actual biopsy happening).  Watching gave me the small sense of control I needed in that moment.  Even more remarkable, she showed me my tissue sample on the slide — about 1 1/2 inches long, the tumor clearly delineated on the slide.  It didn’t look “evil” — the tissue wasn’t black or strangely colored, it didn’t smell, it didn’t ooze.  I was slightly reassured by the visual, but that 20% positive diagnosis statistic was still lurking in my brain.  I am not a lucky person.

And then the waiting…and the continued worrying….  While I waited for my results, I distracted myself as much as possible.  I read three books.  I entertained a friend that visited from Nashville.  I went to the gym 2-3 hours a day, leaning on endorphins to prop up my mood and the exercise to give me a feeling of health.

I got the call this afternoon from the doctor who performed my biopsy.  It’s a benign tumor.  I’ll need to track the growth of the tumor annually for the next several years, and we will remain careful to make sure it doesn’t grow too fast….but there’s no cancer.

And suddenly I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

 

I’m sharing my story because I think we need to openly discuss our problems — because we need to lean on one another for emotional support, treatment ideas, and experience sharing.  I want my friends to know that you can talk to me if you have a similar experience, or need a sounding board.  It’s been a really tough and stressful few weeks, and I’ve leaned very heavily on a couple of friends to support me.  You know who you are — and thank you.  Meanwhile, I wanted to share my experience, now that I have a resolution, in the hopes that it might help someone else.

 

Setting Money on Fire

fireworks

 

She picked up the colorful package near the checkout aisle.  It had at least ten different types of fireworks inside the cellophane, each in its own brightly colored wrapping.  Some of the wrapping had writing on it – one of the packages said “snakes.”  She wondered how you could make snakes out of a firework.  Were they the poisonous ones?  Did you have to feed them and make them your pets after they were born from the flames?

She knew what sparklers were – mom had bought her some of those last summer.  She enjoyed running around with the fizzing stick as it spit off bright tongues of flame…but it didn’t last long enough, and it didn’t make a scary noise.  She wanted to see what the snakes looked like, and she wanted to know what the thing that looked like a rocket did when you set it off.  Mom wouldn’t want to buy this package of fireworks though…it would be a waste of money.  It would be almost like setting your money on fire, she supposed.  Except setting money on fire didn’t sound as exciting.

She knew that her dad would have bought them if he were around.  Dad wouldn’t have had the money to spend, but he would have found it anyway.  She thought that maybe this is what fathers were supposed to do – initiate their kids into the wonders of fireworks.  She suspected she could walk down the street tonight and she would see dozens of dads lighting fireworks with their kids.  Maybe she could watch, and see what the snake fireworks did.

With a sigh, she carefully put the fascinating package back on the shelf and went to find her mom.  She knew it would be time to head home soon.

Almost Time

I hit the pause button on writing for the past 10 months.  When I took on my new role at Microsoft, I knew I would need to fully commit to learning a new function, a new segment, and learning how to interact with a new set of business leaders.  I gave myself permission to fully focus on work and to avoid too much time dilution with creative pursuits, cycling, or social functions.  The successes I’ve achieved and the relationships built during this time are greater than I dared expect.

Now it’s time for re-balancing.  Time to get healthy, ride my bicycle, and endeavor to string words together in a pleasing fashion.  Perhaps time to celebrate with friends and co-workers.  Time to enjoy the summer, sit on the beach and read a book.  Time to visit family.  A new equilibrium where work is but one facet in my sparkling life.

I shared dinner with some friends last night, and one of them remarked that his career in the military  – over 20 years in the past – truly felt like a distant life.  The comment resonated with me — and I also resolved that it was time to make life less distant.

Here’s to a bright and varied second half of 2017!

I Don’t Mind

maui_rain

It’s raining on Maui and I don’t mind.  The skies are gray and low, and the humidity is almost oppressive as it surrounds me like a moist woolen blanket.  The birds sing quietly from their nests or covered branches, and the world waits for the rain to stop.

Long ago, I became a friend of storms.  I understand their nature and purpose, and I’ve broken through to the place where I no longer seek shelter to wait their passing.  I try a=to accept the storm, to welcome it and to thrive on its energy.

But today I wait, because I know that a Maui storm is brief and that the sun will awaken in this Paradise.  I’m grateful for the time I am here to enjoy it.  In the distance, I might even see a break in the clouds already.  I don’t mind if it waits awhile.

Peaceful Places

kapalua-beach

Places, like people, have personalities.  Maui has always been a peaceful place to me, a bastion of serenity.  I woke up early this morning to enjoy the sounds of the surf, the fleeting appearance of rainbows as rain patters across the horizon, and the occasional evidence of whale plumes.  The air is softly caressing my skin, and the birds chirp happily.

Today is the fifteenth anniversary of my stepfather’s death, a date that he shares with hundreds of 9/11 victims.  Today, our country mourns…but not for my stepfather.  That’s okay, because it makes my sorrow seem a little bit more normal, and my contemplation seem common.  Today is a day for mourning, and the serenity of Maui seems a fitting background.

Maui will take your sorrow and put it in context — that sadness and even death are part of the beautiful circle of life.  This wind on my face reminds me that the universe is beautiful and constant and that we’re connected to everything around us.  The surf sings that there’s a cyclicality to everything, a rhythm to the Universe.  The evidence of whales make me feel joy amidst the sadness.

It’s a good day and an appropriate place for mourning.