December 23, 2014

Good News & 2 Poems

Checking for Lymph Node Involvement

Lift your chin,” says the ultrasound technician,
Jennifer. “Are you comfortable?” she asks,
squirting a gob of lubricant on my throat.
“Not really,” I say, “Can I scoot back a little?
and crumple the sterile paper beneath my hips.
“Sorry,” she says, “The machine can’t reach that far.”
“Turn your head away from me.”

Beginning below the tip of my chin, she glides
the ultrasound wand along the underside of my jaw.
Systematically pausing to frame shots,
she photographs the inside of my neck.
She is thorough, gentle.
The Doppler machine clicks and clicks.
“It’s relaxing,” Jennifer says, “isn’t it?”
I look at the ceiling with my eyes closed. “I suppose
that’s a way of looking at it.”

“I mean as far as tests go,” Jennifer says,
“Turn your head toward me.

“Click,”
says the Doppler.

 

Everything Looks Good

Mopping lube off my throat,
I toss the sticky tissues in the trash
basket the ultrasound technician has dragged over.

“The doctor will be in to discuss your results in a moment.”

Dr. S. shakes our hands and leans back
against the cabinets. He gestures
to the photos in my file.

“Everything looks good,” he says.

“Good?” I say.
“Then what were those red masses we saw on-screen?”

“Blood supply,” he says.
“I’ll see you next year.”

My husband does a little jig
in the parking lot, while I bend forward to gag
into my hands. So, this is how
we wash up 
facedown on the shore.
Relief, 
it turns out, coming
in the form 
of nausea. 

Tomorrow morning I will get up,
slice potatoes thinly, and
fry them up with onions
in a cast iron skillet. Tomorrow,
I’ll poach eggs for breakfast.

Today, I curl onto a couch
at water’s edge and sleep.

point_reyes_elephant_seals_2

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December 22, 2014

A Moment in Time

It’s a peculiar thing that bloggers do–revealing bits of ourselves on the intarwebs. A glimpse of leg here. A brawl confession there.

My blog gets neglected for months, sometimes years at a time. When I rediscover it, it’s often because there’s something I need or want to process. Y’know–something so deeply personal that I can barely speak of it with my nearest, and instead share with the entire world the two or three readers who still occasionally meander by.

I realize this is illogical, but for some reason it seems to work for me. It’s probably akin to confiding in a stranger on a park bench. (Something, by the way, that I would NEVER do. Jesus, do you think I have NO DISCRETION WHATSOEVER?!)

Also, as a yoga instructor, one of the things I’m committed to is dialing down the amount of fraudulent Shiny Happy in our profession. I think there’s often some kind of belief, conscious or unconscious, that if we were “doing it better” that we would never struggle. “It” being our relationship to ourselves, our bodies, our hearts, our belief systems, one another, and life on life’s terms.

Of course that’s utter bullshit.

But it’s bullshit that’s often happily perpetuated by those with wares to sell, wares like yoga teacher trainings or life coaching programs or introductory cult memberships, etc. I suspect that thumbing my nose at Shiny Happy is one of the reasons I do this bizarre cyber sharing.

Someone trying to understand asked me, “Is it that writing helps you organize your ideas?” and of course, to some degree it does. Even more so though, there’s a way that getting lost in the pure crafting of the words leaves me, for a while, emptied in a good way.

This word. No, that word. Here. No–there.

There’s a purely mechanical satisfaction in the act of writing, a sense of craftsmanship so pleasurable it’s almost physical.

When we’re longtime readers of a website, we get a sense of a writer over months, or maybe years. That’s not possible through a single blog post. A blog post is not a book. It’s not a portrait, or even an essay. It’s a snapshot, a single serving made up of the same stuff as poetry. Writing a blog post–and hopefully reading one–is a cohesive experience but it’s a moment in time.

I say this because as much as being diagnosed with thyroid cancer genuinely sucks, and as much as it brings up dark thoughts for me– and as much as those dark thoughts are real–they’re also just a slice of experience. A full fuller picture takes longer to cohere.

Yeah, okay–right now is not my favorite. I can go there. Personally, I think if you’re committed to consciousness, and if you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, it’s sort of required.

But.

But it’s also not a complete portrayal. I’ve also been through tough shit before and not only survived but been enriched. (Thank you for that word, Amy.) I’ve got support. I’m surrounded by inspiration. I welcome the transformation, albeit clumsily. I’m halfway decent at holding a paradox. I know this because I’ve done it before. 

I’m looking for the openings and finding them, at least some of the time. 

When I write things like “I’m lying facedown on the floor,” it’s partly because it’s true that I’ve done some of that–and it’s partly because I think it’s funny and it amuses me. 

So, thanks for all the love and good wishes. Everything you read here is just a slice. Thyroid cancer sucks, and I’m also really kind of okay.

Okay?

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December 21, 2014

Ordinary Time & Impoverishment

This morning a word floated into my head:

Impoverished.

This is what a thyroid cancer diagnosis feels like, at least to me. I feel impoverished, depleted from the moment my endocrinologist uttered the word, “cancer”.

I wrote it down on a sticky note, and stuck it between the pages of a book.

“Impoverished.

It is a message from a past self a future self–a message I would prefer to forget, but sense may be important to remember.

2014 was an idea year for me. So many projects in the works; so many projects disrupted as I’ve cleared my schedule for procedures, surgery, recuperation, and lying on the floor emotional processing. With all the professional events I’ve cancelled, cancer definitely ain’t great great for my bank account, but the feeling of impoverishment thums at a deeper level in terms of an overall sense of vitality, and life force. It’s a Pranic Chapter 11.

I’m wondering if other people who have received cancer diagnoses relate?

It’s just a feeling. Something to record, and let go of. It will pass.

At the same time that I’m feeling spiritually broke, I’m putting one foot in front of the other–albeit slowly–and trying to get back into some semblance of routine and self-care. Little things like grocery shopping and meal preparation seem to require a great deal of effort. I’m rising to the occasion on some days better than others.

Sometime around noon today, I rallied to reheat the last of the roasted asparagus, and poach a couple of eggs for breakfast. When I accidentally dropped the plate–rather than cleaning up the mess–I stepped over it. I’ll get to it eventually.

Probably.

Yesterday my friend Maria Cristina pointed me to an On Being podcast with Marie Howe, who happens to be my very favorite poet of all time. Marie–I hope she doesn’t mind if I call her Marie; in my mind we’re on a first-name basis–spoke of an assignment she gives to her writing students at Sarah Lawrence. She instructs them to record a daily list of the details of everyday life, something she calls Ordinary Time. No metaphors or similes allowed.

(I’m also so lucky to share resources and recommendations and encouragements and consolations with partners-in-crime Emma and Natalie.)

Ordinary Time. Presence, and observation. Being with what is. These are, I suspect, antidotes to impoverishment.

This morning, on the floor, is a pink towel found on Rockaway Beach by my father, and an even pinker sock lying alongside. There is the numbing of my tongue from the turmeric in the green juice–today’s small accomplishment. There is yellow yolk congealing on soft pine.

 

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