9/29/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Over the last 21 years, I’ve taught writers. Beginning writers, advanced writers, writers of all genres and writers of some genres that haven’t even been invented yet. For the last 13 years, I’ve taught at my own studio, AllWriters’ Workplace & Workshop. AllWriters’ is named deliberately… ALL writers are accepted here, all genres, all abilities. All everything. And here is one thing I’ve learned over and over again about ALL writers:

Writers are the most discombobulating combination of huge ego and crippling insecurity.

And yes, ALL writers. Including me.

Over the last several months, I’ve had some amazing highs as a writer.

*a publisher came after me.

*several magazines asked me for a “Kathie Giorgio story”.

*I was nominated for a Pushcart.

*My short story, Snap Dragon, was chosen to be put on stage in a lovely theatre in Denver.

*And my book launched, to many lovely reviews and a great debut event which required the bookstore to bring out more chairs…because they all filled.

Amazing. Ego flying to new heights. You couldn’t touch the soles of my shoes, I was up so high.

Then yesterday, I found that there was a new review on a reader review site – a site where the reviews aren’t professional, but done by readers. In it, this reviewer said the writing was “average.”

Average. My writing has never been called average in my LIFE.

Ego: smashed. Insecurity: pushing me underground up to my neck.

Average?

Granted, this book does leave me a little insecure. It’s different than what I usually do. It’s gentler. It’s quieter. It’s not “dark and disturbing”. But…average?

So I pitched a fit. Internally, anyway. I was going to quit writing the current novel, which is also different. I was going to quit writing, period. I was going to throw myself off the highest bridge I could find. But I’m scared of bridges, so instead, I was going to go straight to bed and never get up.

Oh, it wasn’t pretty. Fits generally aren’t. That’s why I tend to keep mine internal.

Thing is, while I’ve had a lot of positive reviews on Grace, this was the second negative one. The first one, I laughed off. It was from a young guy in Nebraska, who said that Grace’s grief was tiresome (sorta the point of the book, bud – that people want you to get over your grief quickly), that a gay man would never be attracted to a woman (wake up to the world, darlin’) and that the book failed to present grief in a unique way (oh, I know…there have been so many books on grief where the grieving person runs off with the town’s gay doll salesman). This review was so ludicrous, I shook it off in a matter of minutes and I congratulated myself on doing so.

But average…that punctured me. And so I had a fit and I licked my wounds and swore they were never going to heal again.

Huge ego. Crippling insecurity. All writers.

But then tonight. Michael and I attended the opening night of The Who And The What at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre. We were accompanied by two writers from AllWriters’. Because Michael works at the Rep, we usually get a couple of tickets as a perk. But tonight, we had four.

Why?

Because two weeks ago, the Rep wrote ME. They invited me to attend the opening night with a guest because…are you ready? Because I am “a leader among Wisconsin writing organizations.”

A leader. I like that word. So much better than “average”.

And you know what? I am.

So I attended tonight, not as Michael’s wife, but as Kathie Giorgio. Leader among Wisconsin writing organizations. Author of seven books and tons of short stories. I walked in with my feet off the ground again. Partly because of two key lime martinis. But mostly because I threw that second review out the door with the first one.

Huge ego intact, thank you. Crippling insecurity – back under control.

It’s how writers survive. ALL writers.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Tickets & program from The Who And The What!

 

9/28/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

The world should know that she is infinite

and not limited

She has never-ending abilities

in a never ending crazy infinite world of hers

  • — Olivia Giorgio, She Holds The Infinite World

 

Today, I helped my 16-year old (almost 17!) daughter prepare manuscripts for submission to two magazines. One magazine received a short story in the horror genre. And the other received two poems, including one that I called a Memoir Built With Poetry, as it’s about Olivia’s experience with growing up autistic.

When a child decides she wants to do what her parents do, it’s just so mind-blowing on a number of levels. I have four children. One doesn’t write at all. One was working on a novel and writes an active blog. One writes poetry when she takes breaks from getting her PhD in math (that’s mind-blowing too). And now this one, who flat-out says she wants to be a writer.

 Her parents write

They have their colorful worlds

Their worlds get published

She doesn’t understand how publishing works

But all she knows is that she wants to be like them

In particular, Olivia’s poem about growing up autistic gets to me. I can’t read it without tearing up. Her experiences of trying to marry her rich interior world with the real outer world are just visceral. Olivia went from nonverbal for her first three years to trying to communicate by memorizing massive amounts of television show scripts to being beautifully well-spoken with a vocabulary that would put most to shame. She also automatically adds twists to words that are at times funny, but are mostly soul-reaching and artful.

But the words wouldn’t come

Yet her head is filled with wonderful words

that no one seems to understand

 For me, one of Olivia’s most stunning moments came in first grade, when I tried to calm her dancing, stimming hands. “I need my hands, Mama,” she said. “Sometimes my brain slips sideways, and my hands bring it back.”

I knew then that I had a child who would use her words to speak of her inner world to the rest of the world.

She also wishes to give others this gift

of the infinite world

through song, art, and words

 Today, Olivia showed me the fainted remnants of a pink ribbon she drew on her hand. “I wanted to show you support, Mama,” she said. She told me that the swim team at school is creating Pinktober shirts and she wants to buy one. “I want to show you support, Mama.”

We told Olivia that she is autistic when she was in the sixth grade. As she struggled to understand this new definition, she became obsessed with anything with the autism symbol – a rainbow-colored puzzle piece. T-shirts, jewelry, stickers. “I want support, Mama!” she cried.

Under her words, I heard the need. For support, of course. For acceptance. For love.

And now, “I want to show you support, Mama.”

Support. Acceptance. Love.

I love you too, Olivia. So incredibly much.

because she knows the truth

Her world is infinite

She contains it all

 And yes, that helps. Despite Anyway.

Olivia. Writer. Violinist. Artist.

9/27/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

I took off work for the rest of the week, to give myself some time to decompress and recover, from both the radiation treatments and the book launch and just from the whole cancer kit and caboodle. I needed a break. I didn’t have much scheduled for today, but I did have to go to the post office and to Walgreens. My skin on the right breast and side is still a mess. Wearing anything hurts. I decided to venture out braless. My t-shirt would suffice. I’d be fine. Who would notice? Who would care?

I was at the self-help kiosk in the post office lobby when an older woman sidled up next to me. “A woman your age,” she said in a voice that I think she intended as a whisper, but wasn’t, “shouldn’t be out in public without a bra.”

I didn’t remove my eyes from the screen, where I punched in a zip code, a street number, the first letter of the street name. “I’m in recovery from breast cancer,” I said, keeping my voice even. “I just finished 20 days of radiation. My skin is burned. I can’t tolerate a bra. I can barely tolerate this t-shirt.” I looked directly at her. “You might want to think before you speak. You might want to think before you assume.”

Her jaw hung somewhere around her amply brassiered chest. Then she hurried away. I finished my business and went to Walgreens, trying hard to not be self-conscious.

At Walgreens, a clerk I know introduced me to another clerk. Her head was covered with a bright pink scarf and her eyebrows were drawn in. She asked me what stage I’d been in (2), and if I’d done chemo yet. I said I didn’t have to have chemo, just radiation. She rolled her eyes. “I was Stage 3,” she said. “I had surgery and radiation. Then they found a spot in my shoulder bone. And on my ribcage. Now I have chemo.” She nodded at me. “You should have chemo. Your doctors, they’re not right.”

I thanked her, held my tongue because she’s another breast cancer victim, and I went on my way. And I began to think about the assumptions we make.

Post office lady assumed that because I was a late-fifties woman out without a bra, I was trying to be something I wasn’t. Walgreens clerk assumed that because my breast cancer case is different than hers, my doctors are wrong.

We make so many assumptions.

I’ve been watching, quietly, this whole Take A Knee thing. Some assume that the NFL players who took a knee during the National Anthem were doing so because they disrespect our flag, or our country, or our military.

It could be that they’re taking a knee because they’re protesting what‘s being done to the country they respect and love. They could be protesting those in power. They could be protesting bigotry or racism.

The other day, when the Orange Asshat said that NFL owners should fire those that are “disrespecting our country,” I thought, quietly, It could be that they’re disrespecting you, Asshat. You and this country are not synonymous. I’m thankful for that.

Eventually, I found myself in the drive-thru at Starbucks. When I pulled up to the window, several of the baristas called out a hello. Then the one who took my order handed me my drink and leaned out the window. “Are you doing okay, Kathie?” he asked. “Are you all right?”

And I smiled. There were no assumptions here. Just genuine care. A moment of offering compassion. “I’m just fine,” I said. “Thank you for asking.”

And then I took my braless self home.

I don’t really know the point of this ramble. I just know there were some assumptions made today, some judgements, that made me unhappy and uncomfortable. But a simple moment of compassion, which would really be easy enough for us all to offer each other, lifted me up.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

What’s that old rule? When you assume….

9/26/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Today was the official launch of my new book, In Grace’s Time. Well, you just know that’s got to be The Moment.

Of course it was.

There is nothing, nothing like reading your own words in front of an appreciative crowd. Hearing their response. Or hearing their lack of response when they’re all holding their collective breaths. Answering their questions afterward. Signing books. Oh my gosh. It’s what I live for.

It’s what I live for. I’m going to come back to that.

But I had one major wish for tonight. A hope. No, not for world peace. Not that Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey would be in the audience and that afterward, they would say, “We want to make a movie of your book!” Well, maybe that, a little. What I wished and hoped for was this:

That more chairs would have to be brought out because they ran out of seating room.

And…they did.

Oh, yes.

But back to that “It’s what I live for.”

The first night that I was in Denver, I partook in a guilty pleasure: watching Say Yes To The Dress. On the show that night, a father, diagnosed with cancer, said, “When you have cancer, you begin to make every moment count. Every day becomes important. And you make sure you don’t waste your time anymore; you try to do what really counts.”

Since diagnosis, I really have tried to think that way. I’ve sat and I’ve pondered and I’ve perseverated and ruminated on what is important in life, on what gives it meaning, and I’ve said, “I really have to focus on this now. I really have to spend my time wisely.”

But tonight, at the podium, I realized that I am already doing what I most want to do in this world. And all I want is to be able to do more of it. I want to write. I want to teach.

It’s what I live for.

I’ve said it before. I love what I do. I do what I love. If I’m not writing, I’m teaching. If I’m not teaching, I’m editing. If I’m not editing, I’m advocating.

It’s what I live for.

Tonight’s audience was filled with all sorts of pie slices from my life. Students were there. Readers were there. Friends and family were there. My high school creative writing teacher. My radiation oncologist. Someone from the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, where Michael works. People I knew. People I didn’t. And they had to bring out more chairs.

I do what I love. I love what I do. It’s what I live for.

Ohmygod, tonight felt good.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Presenting at the launch of In Grace’s Time.

9/25/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Today was my last day of radiation. 20 treatments, done. 16 covered the spot where the tumor was, the surrounding area, and the lymph nodes. 4 were what they call a booster, with all of the radiation just focused on the tumor’s spot. All of them were grueling emotionally. The last week was grueling physically, and from what I understand, I will be feeling the effects for a few more weeks. The fatigue, my doctor said, will peak and dissipate over the next two weeks, the fried skin will get worse for a bit, then heal over the next three.

But no more assuming the position. No more shrinking under Xappa the Radioactive Hulk. No more hearing his hum and knowing that while he sounded cheerful, he was shredding my cells and causing damage that was ultimately going to be healing. No more, no more.

After the treatment, I had to return to the waiting room until someone came for me to take me to the weekly review with the radiation oncologist. I was expecting to feel elated, way up, unable to stay in my seat. Instead, I leaped out of my seat to grab some tissues because I fell into a teary meltdown. I was so surprised. I never thought I would fall apart at the end. I fell apart at the beginning. I fell apart in the middle. Now the end too?

When the nurse came to get me, she sat down beside me. “Feeling overwhelmed?” she asked.

I nodded, unable to speak.

“That’s really common,” she said. “Everyone expects to skip out of here, to dance a jig, to cheer. But instead, it’s like the enormity of it all just lands on your shoulders. When you’re in treatment, you’re so busy looking ahead, you’re not looking at what is happening right now, or at the experience as a whole. But then suddenly, you’re not looking ahead anymore.”

No. I was just there. And it was like this entire three months just crashed over me. From that first day, the mammogram radiologist telling me that he thought I had an 80% chance that this was cancer, to today, being told that I’m done. Yes, I am returning to my normal life. But I am not who I was before.

As we sat there, I saw one of the technicians walk by, carrying my molded beanbag body form. It was made right before I started radiation. When I was a cancer victim. Now it was being thrown away. It’s not necessary anymore. Because I’m a cancer survivor.

I never wanted to be either of those things. Those characters in my story. But in the end, I had no choice.

The cancer wrote me.

Before I walked out of the Cancer Center, I was given a Certificate of Achievement. It was signed by all the nurses, the technicians, and the front desk receptionists. It said:

 Kathleen Giorgio has completed the prescribed course of radiation therapy, with the highest degree of courage, determination, and good nature.

Well, I know the truth of this, of course. Courage? I was terrified. Determination? Well, I gritted my teeth through my tears a lot. Good nature? Well, some days. Maybe. I put on my public face. Though some days, I just couldn’t.

But I made it through. I said goodbye to Xappa, the external beam radiation machine, and told him I’d immortalized him forever in a poem. I hugged those that helped me. Which means everyone.

And then I walked out that door, clutching my certificate. It was a warm sunny day and I drove in my convertible to Starbucks, where the barista called through the drive-thru mike, “Your usual, Kathie?” and I said yes, please. Please, the usual. Then I drove home, hugged my daughter, and sat down at my desk. My desk. My life.

Changed. But still mine.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

My radiation certificate.

9/24/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

I’m feeling the tide beginning to turn. This is a good thing.

Late last night, I had an email from my publisher, letting me know that In Grace’s Time is now available as an e-book. I’ve not had an e-book before – my first publisher wasn’t interested in them. As a writer, I am – I don’t read them myself, but I know plenty who do, and I’m interested in anything that means my book(s) are available to as many readers as possible. So my excitement went up a notch.

Then this morning, I saw a photo posted by an AllWriters’ student which showed In Grace’s Time in the window of the bookstore where the launch will take place on Tuesday. And my excitement went up another notch.

And finally, when I popped over to Amazon to see that my book was indeed listed as an e-book as well as a print, I saw a new review. It was five stars. And it had only two sentences: “Novel takes reader on a tumultuous ride of a mother’s suffering. Not to be missed.”

Not to be missed. Well, HELL, YES!

Under the book’s description, where it shows what other books were viewed by customers looking at that book, there were the covers of four other books. All mine.

So this by itself would be enough to make it a moment of happiness. But there’s more.

In the middle of the day, I was coming back home from dropping Michael off at the grocery store. As I walked through my garage, I noticed a really, really large spider on the wall. Really, really large by my standards means…well, honestly, any spider at all. I moved as far against my car as I could, to maintain as much distance as possible between me and the spider, and promptly walked into my car’s sideview mirror. With my right breast. THE breast. The one that has been poked, squashed, squeezed, biopsied, operated on, and fried from the inside out.

I let loose with a stream of profanity and vulgarity that I didn’t even know I knew. It’s probably still around, in a great blue storm cloud over Wisconsin, maybe making its way over Lake Michigan. As for the spider, I don’t know where he went. If he was smart, he got the hell out of there.

So for those moments, I saw stars. I saw more than stars. I saw and felt pain that encapsulated my entire summer, from June 20th to now. It bent me double. There were tears and there was anger and there was nothing else in the world but that. Nothing else mattered. And I just shrieked. I’m kinda surprised my neighbors didn’t call an ambulance. Or for the men in the white coats, given the language I was using.

But then the world came back. The pain dissipated. I straightened up, wiped away my tears, made sure I wasn’t bleeding, took some deep breaths. And I went back inside and continued reveling in the discoveries above.

Moment of happiness? Again, HELL, YES! Because that whole scenario represents tomorrow and Tuesday and the rest of my life. Tomorrow, I walk into the Cancer Center, receive my last dose of radiation, and walk out. I will not be going back. And on Tuesday, I launch the book.

The moments of tears and anger have been absolutely encompassing and overwhelming and blinding and deafening and world-suppressing. But after tomorrow…

I’m back.

And (hell) yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

In Grace’s Time in the window of a bookstore.

 

9/23/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news (very late, past midnight, but I’m the one in charge of it so I still say it counts).

In the middle of a batch of errands today, I stopped at Office Depot. I was on a mission. I needed a signing pen for In Grace’s Time. The launch is this coming Tuesday.

When The Home For Wayward Clocks came out in 2011, I picked out a pen. It’s a Sharpie, ultra fine point. And it’s black. But when Enlarged Hearts came out a year later, it didn’t seem right to keep using the same pen. So I picked out another. Purple. Then, 2013, Learning To Tell (A Life)Time. Blue, to match the cover. 2015, Rise From The River. Orange. 2016 was a challenge – two books released! Oddities & Endings; The Collected Stories of Kathie Giorgio and True Light Falls In Many Forms, a poetry chapbook. Oddities: Green. True Light: Blue, but a lighter, more sky blue shade than Lifetime.

OCD has a really odd way of coming out sometimes. But hey, it just makes me happy.

And then today. I stood in front of the huge Sharpie display at Office Depot. With each subsequent book, I have fewer choices if I don’t want any duplicates. I looked from the cover to the colors. Green. Been done before. Blue, been done before TWICE. And then I looked at the car on the cover.

When my publisher asked me if I had any ideas on what I wanted on the cover, I said the only thing I felt very strongly about was that it had to include a tan 1969 Chrysler Newport 4-door sedan. I searched for images on the internet and when I found the car, I sent it on to the cover artist, so he could see exactly what I meant.

My first car, sold to me for a dollar by my father in 1980, was a tan 1969 Chrysler Newport 4-door sedan. The car had been in the family for some time and my dad was ready to move on. I needed a car. So the big tanky vehicle, which really didn’t leave any impression on me before, became mine.

And with that, he became special. He became Chrys. And he was the best damn car ever.

I loved him. He was like driving a sofa. He was a bitch to park because he was so huge, so I headed to the far end of the parking lot so I wouldn’t have to figure out where his magnificent hood ended. After my first husband and I were married, we were plowed into by a car trying to pass us. That driver didn’t see our left turn blinker as we were turning at an intersection. I can still feel the impact, still see that other car bounce off Chrys’ driver’s side door like he hit a rubber wall. I swear I saw every line as the windshield of that other car shattered.

That car was totaled. Chrys’ door was bent in, but my ex-husband wasn’t even bruised. Chrys was declared totaled too, because of his age. We drove to a junkyard, found another 1969 Chrysler Newport and bought the driver’s side door, replacing ours. Chrys no longer matched – his door was green and the rest of his body was tan. But we drove that car for another two years.

When we finally junked him, it was because his muffler was gone and we were pulled over for a noise violation. It just wasn’t worth replacing it. We bought a 1979 Plymouth Volare, which I hated. We left Chrys at the auto graveyard. I cried all the way home.

This is why I still drive Chryslers. I’ve owned a 1994 Chrysler LeBaron convertible, a 2003 Chrysler Sebring Lxi convertible, and now a 2006 Chrysler 300C Hemi and 2012 Chrysler 200 convertible. And I’ve loved them all. LeB, SeB, Hemi and Semi.

But when I needed a car for this book – a car with a personality, a car with a long life, a car that would protect the people tucked within its doors – there was no doubt. Chrys came back to life on my own pages.

Today, I bought a pen that matches him. And it’s for my seventh book. I brought the pen home and laid it reverently on my own copy of In Grace’s Time.

Perfect.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

The book. The pen. I’m good to go!

 

9/22/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

“And when {birds} hit a window like that, or get hurt in any significant way, they have this ritual. They shake off the pain. They shake off the trauma. And they walk in circles to reconnect their brain and body and soul. When your bird was walking and shaking, it was remembering and relearning how to be a bird.”

–Sherman Alexie, You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me

 Today was my second to last day of radiation treatment for breast cancer. My final day is Monday. And on Tuesday…my seventh book has its official launch event.

I sat back today and thought of the metaphor of these two days on the calendar. On Monday, I walk away from breast cancer. On Tuesday, with a book event, I walk back into my life, MY life.

And that just made me cry. I’ve been given to tears more in the last few months than I think I have in my entire life. I was ridiculed for crying as a child which led to sad-expression stoicism as an adult and now…well, I don’t think I’d be ridiculed for the tears I’ve shed this summer. Today’s tears were about relief and happiness and looking-forward. I thought again of Sherman Alexie’s book, You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me, and the scene where the bird who bashed himself in a window shakes himself and paces in circles to connect himself with himself again. Between Monday at 3:45 p.m. and Tuesday at 7:00 p.m., I plan to shake myself out like a favorite shirt that was pushed for a season to the back of the closet. And then I’m putting myself on again.

A phrase that popped up in my head right after diagnosis and that has sat on my shoulder throughout this whole experience is “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” When the diagnosis hit, and it hit out of nowhere, with no warning, no foreshadowing, it was a semi coming out of my blind spot, I didn’t know at first that this wouldn’t kill me. But as time went on and positive upon positive was stacked upon the original negative, that phrase on my shoulder kept yanking me by the earlobe.   On days I felt particularly weak, it yanked me particularly hard and reminded me of the word “makes”. What doesn’t kill you MAKES you stronger. It’s a process. Not an immediate morphing.

So far, I’ve only written, outside of this blog, two things about dealing with breast cancer. The first was a poem, called What Doesn’t Kill You. The second is an essay.

I don’t know if there will be any more. Maybe. We’ll see how my head and heart feel as time goes on.

But today, as I walked out of the Cancer Center and thought, One more, just one more, I realized I was looking forward again. Not just to the next horrified glimpse in the mirror. The next step, the next test, the next treatment, the next appointment. But forward. And into my life.

Monday, the last day of radiation, is big. But Tuesday, opening the door of the bookstore and stepping into my book launch, is even bigger.

I’m shaking cancer’s dirt off of my shoes. For that matter, I’m taking off the shoes entirely, my socks too, and leaving them behind in the ditch. And then, I’m pulling out my favorite shirt, shaking it, shaking it, and putting it on.

As I walked out of the Cancer Center today, there was a parade of geese crossing the parking lot, right next to my car. A couple stopped to look at me. “You’re early,” I said. “Come back and give me a parade on Monday.”

I don’t think I’ve ever wanted so much for a weekend to pass quickly.

Let’s go, let’s go. I’m ready. Shaking, shaking and pacing. Remembering and relearning how to be me.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

The too-early goose parade.

9/21/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

When I walked outside this afternoon to take the dogs on their after-lunch constitutional, I found a brown paper bag waiting at my door. It had my name on it. I wondered what it was as I alternately followed and dragged the dogs around the block – the dogs’ potty break waits for nothing, so that had to be first.

Back at home, I opened the bag and found a bottle of cooling mist, along with a note from a wonderful student who said she thought this might help with my “hot flashing”.

Right before I started radiation for breast cancer, I was also put on a medication which I’ll have to take for the next five to ten years. This particular breast cancer feeds off of estrogen, and so the medication suppresses estrogen production in my body.

Which means, essentially, that I’m back in menopause. Which as we all know is the exact phase of life that most women would just love to relive again. I’m so delighted. And my husband is thrilled too.

Not.

I am usually a cold person. Not cold personality, but I feel cold all the time. I have a desk-top space heater that I use year around, especially when the air conditioning is on. During the summer, while my husband and daughter revel in the a/c, I turn the fireplace on and cuddle up under my electric throw. I drive topless in my convertible with the heated seat turned on high. At night, I sleep with at least three blankets pulled up to my nose. My husband will say that I steal his, blankets, but he lies. He tosses them off during the night and over me and I happily accept them. There are times I move my little space heater over to my bedside table so that I have heat blowing directly on me all night.

Well…no more. I’m HOT. All the TIME!

It’s now me that throws the covers off at night – my husband complains that I throw the covers on him (he’s never happy). I’ve turned the heating element off on my space heater and I use it as a fan instead. Another small fan is sitting on the kitchen island where I eat lunch, so that I can have cool air blowing on me while I eat. I’ve done coaching sessions with clients while mopping sweat off my forehead and neck. Instead of turning on my heated seat in my convertible, I’m driving topless with the a/c on.

I’m HOT. I’m DRENCHED. I’m HOT.

And not hot in the way I used to be. Sigh.

So when I received my little bottle of cooling mist, I ripped the protective wrapping off that sucker with my teeth and I choked the lid off like I was killing a chicken and I threw it across the room. I sprayed myself, liberally sprayed myself, and I wanted to howl like a wolf. So I did. Oooooooooooooh, yeah, baby. I swear steam rose from my skin and piled around me in clouds of angst and frustration and stupid stupid Menopause Round Number Two which isn’t menopause at all, but cancer-inflicted ridiculousness.

Oh, what a lovely gift this is. It WORKS!

Please send me cases of this stuff. In gallon-sized bottles. It’s going to be a long five to ten years.

But for today, for this moment…Ahhhhhhhhhhhh. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ve been saved by a bottle.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

My saviors for the next five to ten years: my Vornado space heater turned fan and my cooling mist.

 

9/20/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

I’ve been reading Sherman Alexie’s new memoir, You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me. It’s a BIG book and with my limited time for leisure reading, it’s taken me a while to get through it. But I found I didn’t mind; it’s one of those books that takes time to ponder. You read, you think, you read, you think. It’s an oddly constructed book too, combined of poetry, essays, and chapters. And it’s lovely.

At the end, Alexie writes a poem about a bird that hits his window pane. Alexie thinks the bird is dead, but then, it lifts its head up. It goes through an odd number of actions, shaking one wing, the other, shaking its whole body, walking in circles. Eventually, it flies away. When Alexie tells his therapist about this, his therapist, a birder, explains that when birds have this kind of shock, the shaking and pacing in circles brings them back to their bodies. They teach themselves to be birds again; they shake off the trauma. Much of Alexie’s book has been about trauma. He goes home and tries the bird’s method. Then he writes:

 And as I continued to shake, I felt

A sparrow-sized pain rise

From my body and – wait, wait, wait.

Listen. I don’t know how or when

My grieving will end, but I’m always

Relearning how to be human again.

 I’ve been disturbed since Saturday morning, when I taught a workshop where we got into a discussion on kindness. We talked about people who are unkind to themselves and to others because they were raised in an unkind way and so they don’t know how to be, well, kind.

I asked about those who were treated unkindly, who are unkind to themselves, but are kind to others. And I was pretty much shot down by the class. They didn’t seem to think this was possible. When I protested, I was told that those who have this background and who believe they treat others kindly often don’t realize that they are being unkind. So I fell silent. And began to worry.

I was treated unkindly. I’ve been known to be unkind to myself.

But I believe I am kind to others. I try really hard to make a practice of it. So was I fooling myself again?

I’ve been second-guessing myself since Saturday. Questioning my motives. Looking at what I do, how I do it, why I do it. Looking for unkindness. Looking for possible.

And then I read Alexie’s words today. I’m always relearning how to be human again.

I thought of the anonymous woman in yesterday’s Today’s Moment. The one I heard crying in her dressing room. I could have walked out without saying a word. I could have left her to her privacy. Or I could have knocked and then reminded her that there are many people who are worse off than she is. I could have called her a crybaby and told her to suck it up. I could have told her that this will end, and things will get better.

But I didn’t. I acknowledged that this time, this moment, was hard. And I held her while she cried.

You know what? I’m a kind person. And I’m possible.

And I’m always relearning how to be human again.

Thanks, Sherman. Thanks, Words.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Sparrow.