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  • Radical Rituals at B ...
    This year I’m
    doing something
    different than my
    usual tradition of
    pithy punch list of
    lessons learned to
    wrap this series of
    entries up.
    I’m writing
    this last entry
    exactly two weeks
    after we got home
    from the burn, b ...
    Readmore...
  • Radical Rituals at B ...
    Monday morning I
    woke up early and
    decided that I
    wanted to do one
    more personal ritual
    before we had to
    break down and pack
    up our yurt and load
    the truck and leave.
    So I took my handpan
    and one of our
    little chairs and
    walked ou ...
    Readmore...
  • Radical Rituals at B ...
    Sunday is always a
    tough day at the
    burn because we have
    to strike
    camp—it’s
    tough physically of
    course but
    it’s also
    tough emotionally
    because it feels
    like the setting and
    the vibe we worked
    so hard to put toge ...
    Readmore...
  • Radical Rituals at B ...
    Saturday was my only
    day with nothing
    pre-planned and
    nothing I had
    committed to do. The
    burn was almost over
    and I was starting
    to feel nibbles of
    FOMO (Fear Of
    Missing Out) so I
    was determined to go
    see some more art
    (especially ...
    Readmore...
  • Radical Rituals at B ...
    Because I had
    actually gotten
    enough sleep, I woke
    up reasonably early
    on Friday morning.
    Josh was still
    asleep, but I wanted
    to take advantage of
    the relative
    coolness of the
    morning and go do
    something. So I
    decided to take my h ...
    Readmore...

Parentheticals

A blog in which Our Heroine records, reflects and wrestles with meaning. With lots of asides.
Tags >> metaphorical

Monday was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year (5777 on the Jewish calendar). I went with my family to services at our synagogue, where we helped greet and hand out prayerbooks to people, sang, prayed and listened to moving poems, personal stories and the amazingly loud “wake-up” blasts of the shofar. I even chanted two verses of Torah in front of the whole congregation (this is more impressive than it sounds, considering I don’t read Hebrew and had to memorize the whole thing, including the intricate up-and-down traditional melodies). After services, we went out to lunch at our favorite bagel store.

I mention this because this is exactly what we were doing last year on Rosh Hashanah when I got the voicemail from the Marin Breast Health Center telling me that the test results from my mammogram re-do were back and they wanted me to call them (it’s never good news when they ask you to call back to hear test results instead of telling you right then and there). If you’ve been reading this blog over the last year, you know the rest of that story (and if you haven’t, well, spoiler alert: it wasn’t good news). In this time of anniversaries (one year since my breast cancer diagnosis, my triumphant return to Burning Man after the Year of Living Cancerously) and of High Holidays-inspired introspection and t’shuvah (re-turning, redemption) I’ve been thinking a lot about how to put this past year in perspective and what I want from the year ahead. This post is an attempt to record and reflect on some of this t’shuvah work.

So now it’s not only a new year, it’s also time for a new stage of my life: post-cancer. It’s the time when I get to switch from being a patient patient to being a survivor. (Not that you ever really are “cured” and of course I’m still in the recurrence danger zone for the next five years, which is why all the chemo and hormone therapy, but the active phase of treatment and recovery is now over.) On the one hand, I am enjoying being able to celebrate surviving all that I had to endure and I am excited to finally be able to put a confident, weighty period at the end of the sentence “I had cancer and went through treatments and now I’m better.” Yet the other hand is busy holding the question: “so what do I do now”? That’s a big and heavy question, and the answer isn’t necessarily obvious.


Every year for the last 24 years I have used my birthday as an opportunity to reflect back on an experience that loomed large in my personal biography: my diagnosis with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma on the day of my 23rd birthday. (You can read past blog entries about it here, here, here and here.) It has been a good practice, a cyclically occurring opportunity to ever more deeply appreciate and commit to the hard-won lessons and transformations that that moment birthed for me, and to the person I’ve become. I’ve also used it as an opportunity to enthusiastically remind myself that I am still here, and that no matter how chaotic or tragic life sometimes feels, it beats the alternative. Life is complicated, yes (and it grows ever more so as I age); but it is good and I am glad to be still around to appreciate it.

Ah, but this year is a particularly complicated and emotionally-mixed birthday. I can’t celebrate my “still here, fuck you cancer!” anniversary with the complete, 100% positive feeling of victory that I used to...because here I am again, dealing with cancer (and not even close to done with this phase yet). And it’s a bigger threat this time: the treatments will not be so easy to get through, and the overall narrative feels like it has escalated closer to pessimism (because the second time you have cancer you are in a different story than “I had it once and I beat it”). There is a more urgent sense of existential angst and fear of the unknown that is back again now after having finally been beaten back by decades of watching the cancer experience slowly recede in the rearview mirror. It’s scarier than I remember. In fact I think this is the most consistently anxious and scared I’ve ever been. I'm trying to stay emotionally open and "keep it 100", but it's both difficult and humbling.

In addition, this particular birthday marks a sort of last hurrah or farewell to my “normal” life for a while, since I start chemo treatments tomorrow and that is going to be a tough row to hoe for a while (not to mention the recovery from the double mastectomy to follow). So it was important to me to celebrate as fully and joyfully as possible by doing as many of the things I love as possible. I’m happy to report that I was pretty successful at that celebrating stuff...successful enough to have delayed writing this blog post for close to a week. I ate delicious food with people I adore, I got all dressed up in fabulous outfits (twice!) and played amongst the art with friends at the Edwardian Ball, I saw amazing acrobatics and listened to excellent music, I talked and laughed and processed with my peeps. It was as good as a birthday gets...and possibly even a little more sweet than usual given the knowledge that it represented an ending of sorts.


[Well, I meant to get a post up about my New Year’s Intentions last week and then I got clobbered by the news about needing chemo treatments. I’m still reeling about all that, but at least it helped clarify my intentions. Anyway, onward.]

Last year I intended to trust more, and while that was certainly a challenge (one that will always be with me), I think I did do more trusting. I especially practiced that surrender to trust that comes from overwhelm...there were too many times where my usual plan-ahead, multitasking, project manager mode just wasn’t possible so I had to get comfortable with triage and just-in-time problem-solving and with trusting that everything would be okay. And it generally was, so trust was easier.

This year, it felt harder to pick an intention, largely because there was so much chaos and uncertainty swirling around me that it felt somewhat self-defeating (or at least overly optimistic) to set an intention. I did come up with some personal projects I wanted to commit to: blog more, start yoga again, start using Instagram again, and of course that perennial classic, FINISH THE DAMN BOOK. But though I have started several of those projects already (oh hi, Parentheticals!), I am also vividly aware that any and all of these are likely to sink with barely a bubble into the murky swamp of discomfort and depression as things continue to evolve with my cancer saga (not to mention all the other life drama). Yes, the year is still young and there’s plenty of time to start things anew or continue slogging away at things; but I think the only things I can really commit to are being gentle with myself about expectations and settling into whatever pace I can, even if that pace is herky-jerky and wildly inconsistent.


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