adversity · friends · friendship · growth · laughter · love · opening

Open Sesame!

Normal
0
0
1
505
2880
24
5
3536
11.1287

0

0
0

I’m still a little giddy from last night’s show with my
band. Our debut and farewell show! (Though, there are rumors we may have a
“reunion show” on Halloween.)
But a friend said something to me after the show that’s been
sticking with me. She said that I am so much more open and confident now, that
I’ve changed so much in the last year.
This same friend sat with me in ERs, cared for my cat while
I was in chemo, and allowed me to bawl on her couch when things seemed so hard.
We’ve known each other only for maybe 4 years, but a lot has
certainly happened since then, and she said she feels like she’s seen me
blossom. And that, especially with everything that I’ve been through, how
heartening it is to see that I’ve become and am becoming more open, and more
engaged.
She referenced a quote she’d read in a book about women’s
aging, that women come to a crossroads in their lives where they choose: become
more open, or become more rigid, and therefore bitter. I told her, I don’t
think that’s just women!!
But, what struck me about her initial comment was that it
echoed something I’d thought to myself only a few days earlier.
I was in my car, and made some kind of comment aloud to
myself, and laughed about it. And I had a flashback to when I was in junior or
senior year of high school, and this one frenemy commented that I’d become much
more relaxed and funny in the last little while.
Which may have had something to do with the fact that I started
drinking and smoking pot… but… She was right. I wasn’t as exacting or
perfectionist as I had been.
I sort of took that “easy-going” train off the rails a
few years later… But I remember feeling then that she was right, that I felt less … not “square,” but serious, I suppose. (I was
a very serious teen!, like most emo children.)
And as I sat in my car laughing to and at myself the other day, I
had a similar self-awareness: I’ve become and am becoming more easy-going. (In
some ways! In others, you have to untangle my brain with a tweezer and a
magnifying glass!)
To have that same sentiment reflected back to me only days
later by my friend was heartening, affirming, and… sentimental.
She said that as she watched me play, she found herself
getting teary, thinking about everything I’ve gone through, and what I’ve made of
it. And then she had to check herself, because you don’t cry at a rock show! 
The same understanding about rigidity or openness I heard on
an audio CD about “Exceptional Patients” from Dr. Bernie Siegel. He said that
after cancer, people tend to go one of two ways: become scared of everything,
because death is just around the corner, or (finally) throw caution to the
wind, because you’ve literally faced one of the worst things that can ever
happen to you. You’ve stared death in the face: Will you now shrink at all risks,
or will you say, Tah, this is cake?
Well, we all know, I don’t think it’s “cake” to say “Tah” to
fear, but we all know that I’ve been doing it anyway. Because, really, there
isn’t anything greater to lose. There isn’t any harder challenge. (Now, yes, there are other challenges that people face that I
cannot imagine, child loss being one that’s top of mind lately.)
I find no glory in shutting down. I’ve lived most of my life
in a state of “flight” and paralysis. I will never call it a gift, but I do
recognize with appreciation and awe that, following visceral horror, I have
become a woman more willing to be open, free, funny, and present than I’ve ever
been. 

adversity · balance · joy · laughter

We Can Do This the Easy Way . . .

the easy way.jpg

Why does nobody ever put a period after that phrase?

We can do this the easy way. Period.

I heard it again on a radio interview the other day: Well, anything worth doing is hard. It’s the hard work that makes it worth while. Nothing good ever came from taking the easy road.

Really?

Here is a brief list of activities that I find most worthy and fueling in the world:

* Holding a baby
* Making conversation with a child
* Laughing with friends
* Singing showtunes with my mom and brother
* Singing camp songs while my brother plays guitar
* Dancing

Not one of these things is “hard.” Not one requires advanced degrees, mountains scaled, or scars incurred.

Each of these things are, for me, Easy. Joyful. Miraculous.

This value our culture has attached to struggle and adversity and toil is sickening and disheartening.

Now, I know what they’re getting at. I know that I wrote just yesterday that showing up is hard and scary, so I don’t know that I have a soap-box to stand on here. But, I am tired of being harangued by the idea that I have to struggle in this life to do anything worthwhile.

That anything that comes easily, naturally, feels good, joyful or pleasurable must have a toll paid in flesh.

Sure, caring for children all of the time is taxing; and I’m not a parent, just an eager attendant and friend to others’ kids, which demands its own responsibility. Making the time to show up with and for friends, and to maintain friendships does take effort. Dancing means making myself vulnerable to being seen, which requires taking a deep breath before diving in.

But it doesn’t follow that these things are struggles, adversities, or stories of redemption.

God, how we love a redemption story. We hate people who “have it easy.” We want to hear how muddy the water was you had to slog through toward your goal. We want you to express fear and isolation and doubt and a “dark night of the soul” before you are worthy of a story of triumph, joy and ease.

What kind of fucking schadenfreude society are we?

I “get” that we all want to feel a kind of connection with those who have struggled, because often we too find ourselves in struggle and we don’t want to feel alone. It feels disconnected to hear a story of ease, success, and Life’s mercy. Because we don’t have or believe we can have that ourselves. And so we want you in the mud with us.

Sometimes we do slog through mud. I get that, too. But not everything in life that’s worth doing requires that. Sometimes we cross the bridge, our toes are not calloused, there is no troll to pay off, and we simply arrive at our destination.

I know that doesn’t make great drama. But I’m not looking for drama. I’m looking for joy.

adversity · anger · challenges · gratitude · growth · life · perseverance · perspective

Aesop was a Scientist.

Normal
0
0
1
487
2779
23
5
3412
11.1287

0

0
0

Chances are, like me, you’ve heard a hundred versions Aesop’s fable, “The Oak and the Reed,” wherein we’re taught to bend like a reed in a storm, instead of remaining stalwart
as an oak which will be blown over.
The moral is to remain flexible in the face of
challenge or adversity, instead of becoming rigid and unmoving. To move with
the times, to let things shift around you without trying to control them or how
they’re affecting you. To be at ease with how things are, because when the
storm does pass, if you’ve remained reed-like, you’ll stand up into the
sunlight again.
Yes, we’ve all heard this, and again if you’re like
me, you vacillate between these flora’s coping mechanisms, flexible to rigid and
back again. Sometimes within the same hour.
However, one story I didn’t know was one I heard on
the little audio book I’m listening to now: The
Biodome Moral.
(Unfortunately, this has nothing to do with the Pauly Shore
movie, but it’s valuable nonetheless.)
Scientists in the 80s, the book reports, created a perfect
replica of Earth and Earth’s atmosphere within a dome. They then sent 8
scientists into the dome to live there for 2 years. Among their findings was
what happened to the trees.
Inside the dome, there was no wind and no storms. The
scientists assumed that without the challenges of storms to damage the trees,
they would grow taller and stronger and faster than those outside the dome.
Indeed, the trees grew faster and taller. But not stronger.
The trees were weak, and easily uprooted. The scientists
discovered that the trees needed the challenge of the storms, of withstanding the storms, in order to become strong and healthy.
By eliminating all adversity from their lives, they became big and tall, sure,
but they also became hollow and weak.
Remind us of any other species?
I am not an advocate for adversity. I bristle vehemently when told that adversity is “a blessing,” as I’m
occasionally told about my cancer.
Which, by the way – never tell someone that. If they want to say that to you, great; listen, nod, be compassionate.
But never be the one to tell them that it makes them stronger, never tell them
that there will be a gift from it, or that it is itself a gift. All these
things may be true, but fuck you, healthy person, for telling me to look
on
the bright side
of leaking out my ass for a
month. Even though you mean it authentically, lovingly, and truthfully.
I happen to know
these things are true. I write here that they are; that having had that
adversity has impelled and propelled me to engage in my life and in activities
that I’d procrastinated on; necessitated my creating new relationships and boundaries that
I’d been too scared to create before. Having had and survived cancer has
irrevocably changed the rest of my life and given miles of perspective to every
other storm I may encounter.
But if you haven’t noticed, sometimes we get tired of
encountering storms, and I’d really prefer for you to not steal my lemons to
make your own lemonade. — And I still wouldn’t call it a blessing. An opportunity, I’d concede. But I’m sure no one ever said: Bless me, father, with life-threatening illness. 
… I guess I still have some letters of complaint to write to the Universe’s customer service department.
So,
The absence of storms makes us weaker. But, the
preponderance of storms makes us exhausted.
To continue in fable-speak then, I suppose it’s appropriate
to quote Goldilocks on the merits of balance and the middle way. To endeavor to
create, withstand, be free from and grow from challenges that are not too big, not too small, but “Just
Right.”