From Velveeta to Bone Stew: A Bi-Coastal Tale




My mom was in town from New York last weekend, and I took her to this cute
row of stores called Temescal Alley, that if you didn’t know was there,
you wouldn’t know was there.
In this alley is an apothecary, which I didn’t exactly know what that meant, but apparently, here, it means lots of loose tea ingredients
and medicinal, herbal items. Including … a Hot Sex jar of honey for my mom
(hey, she ain’t dead! And I’m sure her boyfriend will appreciate it!) and a
vial of liquidized, immune-boosting mushrooms for me. … Not quite as “hot” as the Hot Sex honey.
The whole fact of all this is funny to me. The owner talked
with us for a while on the benefits of bone marrow stock, how to
make it, by slow cooking a bone for 72 hours, and I listened raptly… I have become more Californiafied
than I ever thought I would.
Though certainly some of my bending my ear to these whispers
of magic mushrooms of a very different stripe than I’m used to is the cancer
Things change after cancer.
Particularly, I’m noticing, my threshold for my own
bullshit. Or, to put it a wee bit more compassionately, my tolerance for my own
reticence, fear, and stagnation has decreased rapidly.
It’s my first week back to work. I haven’t sat in a chair in
front of a computer screen for entire days in 6 months. (Perhaps I’ve lain on a
couch in front of a computer playing DVDs for entire days, but I digress.) I
did not face and fight death to be a secretary. I just didn’t. It’s where I am
right now, but it’s up to me and only me to change that.
I was telling a friend this week about some of my (same old,
same old) frustrations about working this (or any) secretary job, and she gave
me the same shtick most people do: see it as an opportunity for service, see it
as a chance to do good, what can I give rather than what can I get. Yes. But that’s not the whole story, not by a lot, for
My friend has a mission statement for herself that goes
something like this: “To use my gifts and talents to be of maximum service to
those around me.” The only gift or talent I get to use at this job is my
personality. Which is fine. But it’s not nearly enough. Data entry, running
reports, updating computer filing systems … a monkey could do my job.
This is not a use of my gifts and talents.
So, it’s up to me to use them, eh? It’s up to me to find
ways to use them, perhaps for now, extra-curricularly. I finally emailed back
the photographer who offered me headshots when I put out the wish in December,
and my hair has grown back long enough to be pixie-ish cute, and so it’s time
to move forward with that. I emailed my friend whose husband is a pilot, and
who’d offered to give me flying lessons. I reached out to my defunct writing group, and we’re back on the books for this month.
I ‘ m s t i l l d r a g g i n g my feet a little about the
singing with the band stuff. But, I’m coming up to it.  I must. 
I did not fight death to be a secretary. I am not eating marrow soup, taking a supplement
called Liverplex, eschewing sugar, or flossing in order to be a
It is a noble place to work at least, and yes, work is work; there is always something
that brightens my day about it – be that the kids coming in all nervous for
their first pre-Bar Mitzvah meeting with the rabbi, or the Nursery school kids
hiding shyly in their mothers’ pant-legs as I wave goodbye to them, or sneaking
into the sanctuary for 5 minutes to play the piano in warm peace. I’m not a
line cook, I’m not a prostitute, I’m not a field hand. My job is not bad.
It’s just not me.
Therefore, it’s up to me to change, not my job. 

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