YOLO: What makes your body happy?

About a month ago my OB Gyn told me I had “concerning” cells in my uterus and that I had a good chance of having cancer.angry uterus

Can’t I just go to El Salvador and Guatemala first and then do the surgery afterward?” I suggested as if I was immortal. (I was very excited about an important work trip.)

She peered at me over the top of narrow reading glasses. “I…. wouldn’t do that if I were you.

Still I made my case.

Eventually her tiny 5′ body turned from the computer screen where she sat in a short, hot pink tuliped skirt, fishnet stockings, and tall spiky heals which she somehow managed to make look classy (I kid you not) and said…

Shannon, I know this is not an easy time for you. And that your work really matters to you. But I don’t want you that far away from me.

So I sat quietly for a moment letting it sink in. I could feel my eyes fill up with tears. She was right. It had not been an easy time. I had been bleeding for a couple of months and already undergone some “procedures”. But this was the big one:  uterus, ovaries, all the reproductive connectors. I was getting neutered! Or spayed! Or something like that. And then there was that “C” word.

As if that weren’t enough, I had moved to Kentucky only a year and 1/2 prior and left my entire family in Washington State, including my precious college girls. Oh and I was in the middle of a divorce. That’s all. So my Doc wasn’t exaggerating.

After a weekend of feeling like I was staring up from the bottom of a dank muddy well, I came up with a plan. I would have THE most fantastic week responding to the question: “What makes my body happy.”

The question is “What makes you happy?” not “what makes your body happy?

And the answer came: good food, companionship, fresh air, touch and music.

A number of years ago I began a re-orientation in my life toward gratitude. I grew up in a family where one “expects the worst and if good happens, you are pleasantly surprised“. I hope you didn’t. Really, this way of thinking can cramp your life and suck your mood into tiny little entropic vortexes that will wreak havoc on you and all those you love. I was feeling pulled into that old way of being. A good friend gave great advice when he told me to live in what is, not what might be. Thus I began my YOLO week.

Facebook friends didn’t know. They seemed tickled by it when I posted. I went out for drinks with people I liked. Just one drink – I really was good to my body. I went on a night walk with a friend and his dogs. I sat by the Ohio River. Walked in a rainstorm. I stopped by my favorite coffee place regularly. I listened to a band of people I know. A friend and I went out to eat at my favorite restaurant. We were there 4 hours. I went to a movie. I made pumpkin pancakes and bourbon vanilla syrup for friends and we all jammed on my music. The hardest part was the touch part.

How was I going to do that? I have truly missed the tenderness of touch, in all it’s forms. But given my personal life transition, I was in a quandary.

Sure, sexual intimacy would have been nice, especially since I was losing all my official reproductive organs  — and for a moment I toyed with asking a male friend to “fill in”.
You know. Nothing intense. Just sit and hold me and stroke my hair or something. But the only ones I felt vaguely close enough to sit that close to were gay. That would be awkward. Plus, I have a thing about how people smell. And what if agreed upon “friend” hung out with me for an evening and I couldn’t bear his smell. Maybe I would run a craigslist ad! THAT wouldn’t likely go over big in my Christian subculture. Strange things go through the mind of a woman about to lose her “girls”. awkward santa

I settled for dogs, hugs and kisses from friends, the warmth of prayers and good wishes, and a lovely knitted prayer shawl which accompanied me after surgery through my return to the hospital for a nasty infection and eventually home again. My touch came after. I think that is a good omen.

To sum it up, I loved my YOLO week. And really, it only took a little extra effort! In a way, it was not particularly different than any other week. Perhaps it was a little concentrated, but it had all of the elements of my normal “at home” weeks with a bit more cash outflow. The only thing that took any organizational effort was creating music. I simply MUST do that more! Music makes my body the happiest.

Part of the joy was my heightened awareness of being grateful for the things that make me happy and healthy. I didn’t succomb to anxiety and grief over being so far from home. Granted, 3 of my closest family member took turns caring for me – flying from WA, ID, and LA. I am blessed. But it took intention.

I am still learning about gratitude and recovery. (It could have a bit to do with the instant menopause I have been placed in.) But as I write this I am remembering the literally hundreds of people I know who prayed for me, called me, sent cards and flowers and brought food, who reminded me that I am strong and loved. What a rich life I have in friends and family and colleagues. This is all I have ever wanted. Well, and good coffee.

~~~~~

The cells they were most concerned about had not developed into cancer. Hallelujah! We will watch some blood tests for 6 months to make sure no errant cells escaped the uterus (they often evolve into cancer). But I am

 

 

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Holding My Breath

IMG_1526 ridiculous dog
“stay down!” 
i say upon our first greeting
coffee in hand
 
there is an
effortless morning rain 
dissipating
into scattered white and pale blue
while
supervising crows
issue orders
 
surely the animals are in charge
 
a hand-pulled espresso
in a pottery mug
from
my 40th:
girlfriends
and wine
a cold rocky beach
crabcakes 
 
on the bookshelf
there is a photo of the children
5, 3
tucked into a red tree
with tevas
so fiesty and sweet they were
and are
 
tomorrow 
my baby goes to college
and again
 
everything
changes
 
with intention – and not
it does not matter…
we do what we can
to hold it at a distance
until
a cloudburst catches us
unexpected
 
machines die
children grow up
dogs learn not to
eviscerate every
computer cord
 
you receive a phone call
you know what comes next
 
today the wall
of change is 
a tidal wave
i feel like i am
holding my breath
to
say good-bye
to what was
 
and what i imagined
both
dreams and ideas
and such gorgeous and treacherous realities
 
today
i know only three things
i love deeper than i thought possible
i have been loved so hard
and 
even the wrong things
can be done with love
 you are loved
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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beyond purfection

beyond perfection

is where you will find me

i slipped around it

through a vision

which revealed the other side

could be found

by refusing to

make myself any crazier than

being

me

what a relief!

 imperfection-is-beautiful

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weeding and weeping

1:2 weeded gardenstep into the garden
 
silence
 
cedar trees and alders sentinels
the greyed bench
tipping back now
needs to be righted
 
my ½-weeded garden
sweet woodruff and oregano
larkspur and foxglove
and horse tails
that grow
 
while I travel
and work
and attempt to make sense of the world
of myself and of youceltic lady
 
you who tend to your
gardens of love and belonging
every single day
 
i am weeping
and weeding
i feel it in the dirt
the every day smile of my women/children
grilling with family 
making music
 
but mostly the amendments
of laughter and nurture
the afternoon sigh
and yelling at the dog
who just slurped my coffee
 
we will never know
what might have been
or
what good will come of
anything
 
we do what we do
because we have to
or need to
and such a gift it is and will be
 
we cannot know we
are shadows
until something 
heartbreaking shifts
or how empty and lost
and blessed
we were and still are
 
meanwhile
 
the rosemary may be overwhelming
the butterfly bush
-one would never think it-
 
the himalyan honeysuckle
still thrills
with trickling red flowers
the hummers are warring
for their sweetness
 
and i am just here
weeding
and weeping
in my gardenhimalayan honeysuckle
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Maybe

SONY DSCSome days a spiritual life resembles a sunrise hike through old growth forest. We stumble through the trees on intermittently illumined paths, stubbing our toes on roots, threatened by unruly underbrush, and evading fear of what creatures are nested in the old stumps and beside occasional creeks. It is beautiful, alive, and mysterious. And mostly dimly lighted. As we walk, our eyes take time to adjust to the glimpses of light diffused through blackberry bushes, spotted on lichen beards and falling through cedar trees.

In our fear we may fixate on the glimpses of light, sometimes focusing so much on it that we misstep or are pulled into a trail that seems safe but goes nowhere. The light is – sometimes – part of the problem with finding our way, we so crave it. When we quit peering soin tensely and allow ourselves to explore the obfuscated underbrush … the dark, the night itself lets go into dawn and we find it was manageable all alone.

At this moment I think that the purpose of “awakening” is not the pursuit of the light itself … nor the faithful trodding toward some clearing where we think “all will be well”. It is an  illusion to think that we will – in time – sit in the sun for longer hours than it is light. It is not possible.

Perhaps the light is there so that we can open up the fear and blindness we experience, accept it, honor it, even befriend it. Perhaps we traverse through all this fear and mystery and hope in order to see what we have been walking through all along.old growth

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The singing night

the air is singing the stories of
summer
oh – hear it!
 
only interrupt the path of our arresting
conversation
and attend even a moment to
 
the smell of the night
the familiar way the lobster sticks to the soft smoke-grilled shell
and the tendril of crab in butter
you gave me
the bite of mint floating in bourbon
 
photo (3)
 
if we lean into our senses
 we will hear what underlies it all
 
insect cymbals rattling, banging
and then falling
like a starling’s murmuration
lyrical, other worldly
and such a friend to the ear
and heart
 
this isn’t Puget Sound
where the night hush
sinks into the ground with the dew
and only the “whash” and plop of the waves
on the rocks
 
these singing nights
are heavy wool blankets
and fire breath
pull it in, blow it out
and feel it
rising and falling
like labor
and love-making
and the changing embers
glowing in new shape and form
which is friendship
 
last night we heard a whole song
in and between soul-filling
the glow of the fire
the word of the ivory-fingered gospel
and the picking of strings and story
of mamas and look-out towers
of failure
and birth
and the epiphanied treasures
that are mystery
Piano_Profile_by_TBW_Photography
 
we heard a whole song of songs
and story
in the treasury of music
which is our lives
each one
soft to the touch
to love and lyric and laughter
 
such beauty
and truth
is almost
too much to bear
 
 
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Kentucky Sunday

a wild bouquet of 3-year-olds
fling themselves into water jets
and sit down
before dissolving into
a crowd of guardians and water play
 
oh the racket!
waterpark
of 5-year-old boys
who are deliriously
happy
being doused by buckets of water
 
almost as gleeful
as their dad
who has a couple of them
over his shoulder
sopping wet
and squealing
 
it is into this calescent
Kentucky Sunday
the kind that could stifle
conversation
and divert every kind intent
 
that we call for
 
bloody marys
maybe 2
no celery stalk
but olives
which shipwreck and sink
to the bottom
of the glass
 
bloody mary 2
 
we sit in this summer field
while
you tell truth
 
which spills out
like the sweat on your brow
uncaged stories
as redolent and wounding as
I’ve heard
 
and this heartsong
 
only a patch in the acres of
your tender and
interrupted pilgrimage
 
you cry
for the love of a friend
 
and rehearse with me
the binding and releasing of
wonder and fear
wonder and fear
 
 the tugging of discontent
and the unexpected gardens
where loneliness leads
 
you are art
 
such honesty
I did not earn
but you gave
anyway
 
i neglected to thank you
 
birdcage man
 
we don’t know
what weighs down the pockets
of those we hold in our hearts
or only in 
eyesight
 
rocks or nails
or a day old piece of leftover fish
wrapped in a napkin 
 
who knows?
 
the scripts written
for and by you
are with you
and being harvested
even now
 
like those 
sprouting children
~~~
 
too soon the day collapsed
into home grown carrots
organic broccoli
and cheese
poems
and the friction
of insect legs that sing up the night
 
much too soon 
 
as you left
i thought
“maybe this is what holy is:
being trusted enough
to hold the darkness and light
of another
in your heart
and to love it all”
 
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