the slush is melting, and yoga is being made

The slush is melting. A reminder of the snow that brought such mixed feelings to so many people, from exaltation to revulsion to dread. For me, being the Gemini that I am, each moment held a different feeling. I had moments of absolute giddiness, joy and hope and others when I wanted to hide in a corner sucking on a bottle of wine or run like a lunatic screaming profanity….But regardless of what was happening outside (with the weather) or inside (with my emotions), I bundled up and ventured out to be in it. I wanted to experience the snow and ice and slush- to breathe in the elements and be in the land of the living.

In my snow adventures I was often surrounded by people- a mixture of people of all ages romping and playing as people often do when it snows in Seattle (which is rare). I walked in areas of my neighborhood that I rarely visit, and I smiled at people I most likely ignore on any other given day. This is what snow does for me- it helps to bring the introvert out so that I can look people in the eyes and begin a brief dialogue. It also…brings out the worst in me. The angry me who gets frustrated by people who refuse to give space for me to walk past them on the sidewalk and the me who frets about the homeless, the flooding, and the power outages. I obsess. I ruminate. I “kvetch”. And there’s no rhyme or reason. I’m downright unpredictable and crazed.

Metaphorically, the storm and my ensuing moods related to change in my life are like my experience of cancer. I had moments of insight and recognition of luminous beauty mixed with times when I wanted to scratch incessantly at an itch that never existed. And this is where my yoga practice so beautifully comes in. I can once again feel pain without having to own it as something that will never go away. I can be in the experience of joy or pain or itchiness and trust that this is just this moment. My truth does not have to be dictated by this discomfort or this elation. And when I freak out, I can look at that as another opportunity to learn. Which seems never ending…

Lately, I delight in thinking about Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 1.1 (that’s right- the very first sutra)- Atha Yogānuśāsanam, or something like “now begins the exposition of yoga”. Even in the slush, yoga is being made.

still standing…one year post diagnosis

The anniversary of my cancer diagnosis passed with little to no fanfare, despite the fact that I spent a good portion of the day reminiscing over the past year and looking at the photos of myself nervously posing topless on the beach. July, 2008 will most likely always be a time that I will be able to recall and to react to on a visceral level. I can bring up the smells and sounds of the day I was diagnosed, but I can’t even remember what I had for dinner yesterday. Probably an exaggeration, but not far off…

I can remember distinctly the feeling I had when the radiologist called me personally to tell me that I should contact a medical oncologist and a surgeon right away. I told him that I would begin the process on Monday, as it was Friday afternoon, and he urged me to begin making calls as soon as I hung up with him. I was stunned and distracted, thinking that I couldn’t possibly have such a diagnosis, and that if I did, in fact, have breast cancer, that I had no time for it. I thanked him for being so kind as to call me personally, and he asked several times if I was going to be alright. I wanted to ask him the same question. I had no idea what the future held. I still don’t. But I knew at the time that I had resolve and that I was going to begin the process of healing before people saw me as sick.

Now, a year later, I am still a bit stunned at the magnitude of it all, but I am also quite amazed at how naturally life takes on a new normal. At this point, I’m used to periodic infusions and scans, and dressing to hide my scars and the port that remains until I finish treatments. I am usually careful about what I put into, onto, and around my body, and I am skeptical of more than I ever was before. I recognize bullshit from a mile away.

My body is still not back to the vibrant and energetic state that it was at last summer, and I question whether it ever will be. Cancer has in some ways motivated me, and in others, has taught me to respect the fact that perfection is overrated and unobtainable. It’s ok to slow down and to enjoy sitting in the garden sometimes, even if it’s been days since my heart has experienced aerobic exercise.

Although I’m still working full time and I’m back to taking a full course load at school, I no longer feel the necessity to keep up a frenzied pace. I don’t have the capacity for the stress that I had before, and I recognize the importance of enjoying the ride and learning along the way. I want to feel into my days and to experience each moment for what it is rather than racing through to see how much I can accomplish.

Even the mirror reflects my changing self, complete with my short, curly hair, which is filling in quite nicely. I still admittedly feel like I look like an adolescent boy on occasion due to my lack of a chest, but I attempt to radiate my sassy feminine qualities, and to remember that my scars are proof of what I’m capable of; a badge of honor. Imperfection is a sign of strength and uniqueness, and in some ways, my differences give me more courage than I’ve had before. Like a warrior, I have gained clarity through my experience