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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 >> wrestle

Cognitive Dissonance

Posted by: julia

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

Life sure seems surreal right now. I'm still processing the burn and all the things that happened there and how I feel about them and what I've realized since, but at the same time I have to keep reminding myself "oh shit, I have cancer. AGAIN." There's a big fat cognitive dissonance wrapped around my brain ("everything is fine/everything is NOT FINE!") and I keep boinging back and forth. I still feel relatively normal (except for this big leftover bruise on my boob from the biopsy), and the usual life hurlyburly keeps on comin' at me without a pause, and I'm still (mostly) able to handle it. But my people are all worried, and therefore I'm spending a lot of time trying to reassure them that I've got this and everything is going to be okay. Which seems a bit backwards. I'm enjoying all the contact and the love beams (even my teenager is being super nice and snuggly), yet I'm NOT happy about the reason for it.

Life is weird. I'm going to go play some handpan now and try not to overthink everything.

Cancer Clarifications

Posted by: julia

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

I am so humbled and uplifted by the many heartfelt responses to my cancer news from the mix of beautiful people that make up all my many communities. You people seriously give me faith in humanity.

I realized though from some of those lovely responses that perhaps I was being too vague in my original post yesterday, so in my usual spirit of full disclosure (and at the risk of oversharing) please let me clarify a couple of things:

1) What I'm dealing with here is "garden variety" breast cancer (specifically, invasive ductal carcinoma, and even more specifically the hormone positive kind, which is good). Theoretically this is not related or only distantly related to my bout with Hodgkins Disease back in 1992. It was found through a routine mammogram a couple weeks ago, which triggered a follow up mammogram right before I left for Burning Man and then that in turn triggered a biopsy appointment a few days after I returned (boy I'm glad I waited on that!) The biopsy results just came back yesterday.

I have been thinking a lot about memory lately. I’ve been doing some personal archeology in my own past, both as a form of research for the new novel, and as a part of the ongoing inquiry into issues of personal identity and self-(re)construction. I’m constantly amazed at how little I remember of my own life (let alone what was going on around me on a community, national or global level). I feel like the memories I do have are the equivalent of a small shoebox full of faded, oddly-colored photos, snapshots from this moment or that, not necessarily connected to each other and often unlabeled. Sometimes the snapshots are moving, like the Harry Potter kind, but they only capture a small moment, never an entire story. I’ll remember, say, contentedly walking across the UCSC campus on a macadam path under the redwood trees, listening to a Cat Stevens’ Greatest Hits tape on my Walkman. (Oy, did I just massively date myself or what? No matter. Onward.) But I don’t remember what I was wearing, where I was going, what the weather was, what the smells were, or why that moment was important. I just remember it.

Some moments are more important, and they are seared in my memory, yet still only snapshots: sitting in the stall of the school’s bathroom in 7th grade, fearing that the stain in my underwear meant I’d had some sort of incontinence but then in a thunderclap of understanding realizing that I’d just gotten my first period. Climbing up the dusty, switchback dirt path up Masada in Israel at dawn (and twisting my ankle and getting to ride the tram back down). My first “real” (albeit casual) kiss under the mistletoe hanging in the doorway of our Drama classroom in high school. The moment the ground heaved like the ocean and trees bowed like dancers while I was standing in the doorway of a classroom on the Kresge campus, during the Loma Prieta earthquake. Losing my virginity in the back of a Volvo station wagon, in the cast parking lot/campground of the Renaissance Faire. Sitting in the doctor’s office on my 23rd birthday, being told that the bad news was, it was cancer; the good news was, if there was any kind of cancer to get, this was the best one (and my response: “well happy fucking birthday”). Sitting at my desk in the house I shared with a friend in Santa Barbara, pouring intense emotion into typing back and forth on computer chat with Josh and finally coming out with “I love you” and feeling drunk on exhilaration and fear as I hit send. Our wedding day. The loss of three potential children. The birthing of my two sons. The morning of 9/11. The moment when a secret was revealed that changed my marriage.

It’s not that I have *no* memories, it’s just that they’re, well, snapshots. They’re brief. They’re incomplete. I question whether I’m remembering the events themselves or just the stories I have been told/told myself over the years *about* those events. Some things I feel I should remember are completely gone. World events, cultural milestones, family experiences. Everyday details, places, people. What kind of time did my brother and I spend together in middle school? What did I eat for lunch in high school? What did the outside of my last apartment in Santa Cruz look like? What was the first date like with the boyfriend I met through a personal ad? I feel like there is so much that is just irrevocably gone. Friends often play the game of “do you remember so-and-so?” with me, and almost always, the answer is no. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate or connect with the people around me at the time, it’s just that if they’re not still around, and they aren’t associated with one of the snapshots from the shoebox (or one of the stories I’ve told about the snapshots in the shoebox), well, they vanish. It’s a good thing I still keep family and friends around me from all the stages of my life, or I’d be constantly adrift, wondering where I’d been (and who with).

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