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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 ...
  • 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 ...
  • Radical Rituals at B ...
    Sunday is always a
    tough day at the
    burn because we have
    to strike
    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 ...
  • 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 ...
  • 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 ...


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

Reconstruction and Discombobulation

Posted by: julia

Tagged in: wrestle , solipsistic , reflect , record , metaphorical , memory , life , cancer

So on Wednesday I met with the plastic surgeon at UCSF, Dr. Foster (and his resident, a nice young woman whose name I’ve already totally spaced). My ultimate takeaway from the meeting was positive, though yes, there were more details that rocked me and which I am currently trying to absorb (more on that in a minute). I liked Dr. Foster, he seemed steady and warm and explained things really well and respectfully. I have accepted that my cancer care is pretty much going to all be through UCSF and I am generally happy about that, despite the commuting hassles that will invariably ensue. I do feel good about the high quality of the institution, and the qualifications of the team are nothing but stellar. My interactions with staff and all my experiences at UCSF have all been about as positive as they can be, considering.

Anyway, we agreed to and reiterated the “save the nipples” plan of 3 separate surgeries that Dr. Ewing had proposed to me before. They drew me pictures and explained the anatomical and procedural details of where and why and how they cut and sewed where they do and what I might expect in terms of scarring, and showed me photos of what other people have looked like afterwards. (The photos were actually more reassuring than I thought they might be.) We talked about recovery from each surgery and about the timeline as a whole, which turns out might be shorter than I originally thought (Dr. Foster seemed to think that it would only be about 3 months between the first two surgeries rather than 6 months, which makes the whole timeline shorter—and I’m glad about that.)

Now, let me back up and go more into the details, because writing them down helps me absorb and process. And I have to keep absorbing and processing, keep moving these things through to make room for the next batch which I’m sure will be coming soon. Gotta pace myself...

Still Alive at Forty-Five: An Ode to the Node

Posted by: julia

Tagged in: solipsistic , reflect , record , metaphorical , memory , life , lessons , identity work , cancer

I turned forty-five yesterday, which is starting to feel like a pretty significant chunk of time spent whirling around the sun, feeling the seasons change over and over again. I’ve passed in and out of a few life stages by now, enough so that I feel like I’ve maybe even learned a few things, and had some pretty significant experiences. (Oh, but there’s so much more to learn and do....I intend to pack it all in as much as I can for as long as I can!)

In many ways, yesterday was just another day (albeit with a somewhat more sparkly than usual outfit). I did the same things I always do on a Wednesday: appointments, errands, lunch with my Dad, playing mom taxi, supervising homework...and trying to fit in a little writing somewhere. But in other ways, yesterday felt different. Special. It was my birthday which is always a great excuse for me to practice being “all about me”, but as anyone who’s read this blog in past years knows, my birthday is also my “cancer-versary”: the anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. This particular birthday marked twenty-two years since I heard those fateful words from a doctor I’d met only once before: “the bad news is, it’s cancer.” Twenty-two years is a long time. I was only twenty-three when I was diagnosed. That means that this time next year, I’ll have spent more of my life being a cancer survivor than not. Huh. That’s trippy for me to think about, especially when I think about the way that this experience and this identity marker has ebbed and flowed and affected my life. I’m still here, which is awesome—no, I really mean that adjective, for once: I am full of awe. How did that happen? I could so easily have not been here, if things had gone even a little differently twenty-two years ago. Or I could be here but in a completely different space, more painful, less growth-ful. Life is so delicate, so complex and mysterious in its unfurling, clear only occasionally and even then mostly just in reconstructive hindsight. What’s cool, though, is that every year on my birthday, the day that has become my personal contemplative holiday, I am able (in fact, encouraged) to access those feelings of awe and mystery again, and that is a gift I was given. Given gratis, just because, with no judgment around how hard I fought or didn’t fight for healing, or whether I “deserved” either the cancer or the resultant epiphanies. It was just given, and the other awesome thing is that it keeps being given to me, if I only look for it. So here I am, looking.

I wrote a pretty good piece on last year’s birthday about my takeaway lessons from the cancer experience twenty years down the road, and I don’t have any huge new breakthrough epiphanies to add to that list. But what I have noticed, as I look in the rear-view mirror and see this life-changing event receding farther and farther down the road, is how I have incorporated all those lessons into my outlook on life now. It has been a gradual change, a slow motion dancing with destiny, like the way a tree will sculpt itself into a particular arch as it reaches away from the shade and into the light. I’m still the same tree, rooted in the same soil, but I’ve spent a long time reaching—stretching—for additional nourishment as I grow. My overall shape is different now than it once was, even though it’s made from the same bark and branches, leaves and sap.

So I’ve been quiet here in good ol’ Parentheticals, despite my best of intentions (I should really open up my own metaphorical paving company called Road to Hell, just so I have something to do with all my good intentions). It’s not that I’ve been creatively absent, though, it’s just that I’ve consistently chosen to put my creative energies elsewhere than into blogging. I hate to think that there’s a finite amount of usable creative juice available to me, but that seems to be the case.  Personal creativity and artistic output are not all-or-nothing things, but I’m learning (again) that I can only juggle so many active creative projects at one time and that having too many projects going on means that something inevitably gets dropped.

So if I haven’t been blogging, what have I been doing? Thanks for asking. :) Well, for at least the last 4 or 5 months, I’ve been distracted quite a bit by working on my Fly Your Freak Flag High (FYFFH) project. In March and April I put together a Kickstarter campaign to fund taking FYFFH to Maker Faire and Burning Man, and that sucked up a great deal of creative juice. I did manage to get the project successfully funded (yay!)—I wrote about that whole Kickstarter experience over on the FYFFH blog—and then I jumped immediately into prepping all the materials and the booth for the Maker Faire in May (and I wrote about my experience with Maker Faire here). I had a great time at Maker Faire, and learned a lot. (I’ll be applying some of those lessons to the FYFFH projects that I’m bringing with me to Burning Man at the end of August, but more on that later.)

Shortly after Maker Faire, my creative juices took a hit from the advent of summer and its inevitable changes in routine (including family distractions, vacations and other excitement). At the same time I was also hit with an opportunity to publish my novel sooner than I had expected, because another author dropped out of the schedule, so June and July’s creative juices were largely taken up by edits and rewrites and more edits (with a heaping helping of cover design on the side) that eventually resulted in my book becoming a leaner, tighter finished product that I am actually proud of. I’m super excited about the upcoming book launch and I know that any minute now I will have to turn a significant chunk of creative energy over to marketing the book, but I’m ok with that because I think I can be creative and have fun with that process, even though it will probably result in having to temporarily put aside other kinds of creative output. Blogging will likely prosper (stay tuned) but I suspect that work on the novel’s sequel and the next steps for FYFFH will probably founder unless some sort of clever reapportionment of available creative juices or a serious rebalancing of all my daily responsibilities—always desired, rarely attained—can be implemented. I am determined to try both reapportionment and rebalancing, but also to be okay with whatever happens.

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