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  • On Being A Constella ...
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Parentheticals

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

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.


Julia's hat on the dash as we waited in the Exodus line

Monday we got up as early as we could and spent three or four hours striking and mooping our own camp area and loading up the van and the Uhaul with all our stuff. We said goodbye to all our remaining camp mates and then Mom, Josh and I caravanned together with Kathy and Anthony to the Exodus line. We were expecting it to take a long time to get out and at first we were happy and perky hanging out in line with our friends and other random folks around us, but after hours and hours and hours of that we got tired (like you do) and cranky. I spent time writing in my journal and listening to BMIR. We didn’t hit pavement until nearly 9pm, which meant that our traditional stop at the Black Bear Diner in Sparks was not going to work (they closed at 10). So we decided to go back to the GSR to get some food (casinos are open all night, after all) and maybe see some other Pinkies there. Once we got into cell range Mom called Dad and we called home and spent a nice long time (maybe an hour?) talking to our eldest (youngest had already gone to bed) about what had been going on for him in the first week of school, which was great.

We got to the GSR around 11 and changed clothes and wiped down in the restroom there and then promptly ran into Alex, Lionessa, MissyKat, Halcyon and Millie. We had a late dinner with Kathy and Anthony and Millie, and then eventually got back on the road around maybe 2am. We were all tired but especially Josh, who’d been driving most of the way. I took over from him for the last hour or so, and had to fight to stay awake, especially when we hit morning rush hour traffic around Vallejo. We got home just before 7am, and the kids were already up and about getting ready for school (though my poor Dad was asleep on the couch waiting for us to get home). It was so great to see the kids (and they were happy to see us too) but it was also great that they left to go to school and we could finally shower and fall into our own comfy bed for a couple hours.


Sunday we did indeed get up ridiculously early and jump right in to hours of camp teardown. I mooped and schlepped and helped write down the inventory of one of our two camp storage containers (which both got absolutely crammed with stuff in every smidge of space). I worked on that until mid-afternoon, after which Josh and I tried to consolidate and pack up as much of our own stuff as we could in preparation for leaving the next day.

The Temple burningAround 7:00 we got a few people together to head out to see the Temple burn. As I already mentioned, that burn was particularly lovely and meaningful, although I’d done much of my processing already. I was especially drawn to/impressed by the smoke angels (vortexes or tornados of smoke that formed at the fire and “marched” across the playa in a line until dissipating into the air). They started at the Temple and kept leaving it in a beautiful procession, one after the other. I also loved watching all the embers dance away up into the sky, billows and puffs and clouds of tiny glowing sparks all moving this way and that until they winked out. I was glad to feel the sense that all the grief and loss of the last year were puffing away so beautifully, and to put a ritual sense of closure on my year of living cancerously. I took out my letter to myself that I’d been carrying around and re-read it. Ryan, who was sitting next to me, asked if he could read it, so I let him, and then Josh asked to see it too, so I let him read it too. Really the whole thing was beautiful and satisfying. I would have stayed longer but at a certain point everyone else with me wanted to go so I just let that desire go along with everything else I had let go of that burn and went back home to Pink Heart, where almost everything was transformed also. Our fluffy pink home during the week was gone, all packed up, vanished like the beautiful temporary love dream it was; but our little silver yurt and shade patio were still there. (Hmm, are there metaphors here? Yes, probably, but I will let you imagine your own.)

[Da Vinci's Workshop Intro]


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