art · community · fortitude · friends · fun · say yes · vulnerability

Ain’t Dead Yet

Last night, I went to a Halloween party. Like a normal
I did fancy glitter make-up on my face, pretended my
dress could pass as a 60s throw-back, donned my friend’s blue wig, and called
myself a psychedelic stewardess (as they were called in the 60s, pre-politically corrected “flight
It was amazing. It felt like normal. Like something a normal
person would do the weekend of Halloween – get dressed up, go to a party. It’s
something that has felt nearly unattainable for me after the whole cancer
thing – normal. I danced. I danced a
lot. I laughed, talked with friends, and it
wasn’t about my cancer. Sure, a few people asked me how I was feeling, and
if there was anything they could do, but for the most part, the people there had no
idea the blue wig covered a shaved head. They just saw a girl at a party – and
I am grateful for it.
Part of the anomaly of being so sick is that sometimes my health is what’s top of my mind, and it’s immediately what I talk about when people call or visit.
Sometimes it’s top of their minds, and they want to know about it. But … sometimes, I just want to know what the heck else is going on in the world. I mean, I didn’t even
know the Giants were in the World Series. (Though, I remain partial to the NY
teams, ahem.)
I want to know how your new job is, or your relationship, or
what happened with that thing. I want to talk about something other than
CANCER. It’s so overarching and undergirding that it feels hard to get away
from, and just talk normally. That’s part of the “watching Ben Stiller movies”
thing I was questioning yesterday – am I allowed to still have normal
conversations, activities?
Thank G-d, as shown yesterday, YES. As I painted a star over
my eye yesterday and asteroids on my cheek (despite a weird double-vision thing I have that the
doctor tells me “will resolve itself”…) — I felt
like my old self. Engaged in an activity I love.
I do feel the guillotine though. I go back into the hospital a
week from tomorrow, and it’s hard to not feel like my days are numbered. It’s
hard to not get defensive in advance. I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to
do this 4 more times. And yet, this is what they know to do to cure cancer, or
at least send it packing for what they hope is years, if not forever.
So, I try and remain present, if possible, but I know it’s
looming. I have scheduled a bunch of self-care things this week, chiropractor
tomorrow to realign all the sitting in a bed for three weeks issues; a masseuse
that a generous friend gifted me on Tuesday to work out the rest of the kinks;
Thursday, I’ll do work with a friend who’s a professional at inner/spiritual healing to help work out the kinks from the inside as well.
It’s seems hard to try to live normally, and yet, as I saw
yesterday, it wasn’t hard at all — All I had to do was show up. – Plus, I kept the wig. 😉

adventure · decision · faith · family · finances · judaism · say yes · shabbat · work · writing

Go Toward the Open Door.

Wise women have told me this occasionally over the last few
years. And, this is just the opportunity I
got this weekend – to go toward the open door.
Originally planned for this weekend, was helping my
immensely talented and ambitious friend by volunteering at her art show
benefit for Japan. My volunteering for her had come as a status reduction from being in the art show, as during the time of my unemployment, I
realized I was not energetically inclined toward creative production, nor,
unfortunately, toward the donation of any art I currently own. So, I
downgraded myself to volunteer last month.
Then, I continued to be unemployed, and although now (halleLUjah) employed, I don’t get paid until the 15th
of this month. Her show was planned for last night, Saturday night, and I have
$40 to my name until Friday. I had to tell her I couldn’t do it. I simply couldn’t
afford the roundtrip to the city. It just wasn’t feasible.
Do I/did I feel like a flake? Yeah. Was there anything I
could do about it? No.
In the meantime, having unceremoniously bowed out of
volunteering, on Friday morning my office was in the midst of heading out for
the weekend to a “Shabbaton,” basically, a weekend at an overnight summer camp
in the Santa Rosa mountains, where 250 members of the congregation (did I
mention I work, now, at a synagogue?), kids, grandparenty-types, Board members,
staff members, would all gather and have a hella Jewish weekend (well, hella Reform Jewish weekend – which includes guitars, LOTS of
clapping on the up-beat, and the community-sanctioned use of a cappuccino machine on
I, was not going to go. I told them over this week and a
half of my new employment that I wouldn’t be able to go, as I was volunteering
with my friend’s art show. And, part of me didn’t really want to see these
people, as I was still feeling rather resentful at being a freakin’ secretary,
answering phones and manipulating mail merges.
However, there was another part of me who is, about 7, I’d
say. And she, every time I heard someone
wish me a good weekend as they were departing on Friday afternoon,
would say to me,
I wanna go to
I wanna go. I wanna go to camp. I wanna sleep in a bunk,
and clap during song session, and eat at long uncomfortable tables, and see the
mountains. I wanna go to camp!
She whispered this to me all day. Indeed, she’d been
whispering it with increasing intensity all week, but adult me was too pissed at
these people for having supporting roles in the drama of my life that was once
again entitled, “Molly: The Disgruntled Employee.”
Then, however, came the reality that I would not, in fact,
be joining my friend for her art show. And I’d been offered a ride by another
reluctant employee earlier in the week, that she was going up on Saturday
morning, coming back on Sunday, and I could ride with her.
She’s new to the office as well, and I could sense that
perhaps we could get along. So I told her I’d think about it. And, as she was
generously giving me a ride the the bus stop on Friday afternoon, long after almost
everyone else had defected for the mountains, my little girl was screaming to
be heard.
I was, in fact, on the bus home when I finally gave in to
her. I called the woman, and I told her that if she was still willing, I’d love
to ride with her to the Shabbaton.
Because, in reality, my alternative now, without the art
show, was to sit on Saturday in my apartment, continue to read my Zadie Smith
novel, see a few friends, and putz around, as per usual. I saw that very
clearly as I rode that bus through Berkeley. Everything as per boring usual.
I have been camping once
this summer. Several months ago now. I have kept my childlike spirit drowned
out with the adult business of interviewing, resumes, finance planning,
budgeting, cost efficiency, worry worry worry. There has been nearly NO play in
the last 3 months. At all. A few movies here and there for a break from the
awful soul-crushing of unemployment, but other than that, no glitter, sparse laughter, begrudging fun, and a riotous need to DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT.
So, I said YES. I went toward the open door.
The adult in me was also very calculatingly clear, with its
Cheshire cat smile, that this weekend away would not cost me a penny. That I
would have good meals I didn’t have to cook, pay for, or clean up from. That I
would get the chance to go to the mountains, and hike there, as I did, without
paying for a rental car, gas money, a camp site, anything at all.
I would be able to get out of dodge simply by saying “yes.”
To think that I almost didn’t makes me laugh at myself.
The weekend itself was both satisfying, and exhausting.
Exhausting, as I was “on” the whole time, schmoozing with people, making my new
presence known. It was not an entirely selfless or avocational decision to go up, obviously –
it was/is also important to me that people got to know me as more than the
receptionist, should the ears of the executive director be listening to the
chatter in the water. Phrases like “raise” and “room for growth” come to mind
as I go forward with this job. It was a political decision. – Also, it
exposes/d me to people who might be good contacts later on.
Indeed, there was a published/working poet there with whom I
got to spend some good conversations. The last one included my bald question,
“Is it worth the fight?” [to be a writer, to pursue this {or indeed any} art, to continue to
put one word after another as a sign that we mean something to ourselves, others, this world we live in – that we are not floating mindlessly through it – that we value our experiences – that we mold and shape them and
ply them and tongue them and pinch them into these characters we imprint on paper
and screen …
Is it worth the fight to do this?]
His answer, after the knowing laugh, was yes, if you believe
it is.
I believe it is. I believe in marking my existence. I
believe in questioning it, turning it, shaping it, and being shaped by it.
I believe in inviting you to share it with me. To tell me how you see it, to let me have my own world shaped for a
moment or more by how it is you walk in the world.
By saying yes to this weekend, I allowed cherished and often
dismissed parts of me to sing in the sunshine. To look at the Milky Way, for
Christ’s sake. To dance in a circle of women, to talk blogging with a
stay-at-home dad. I got to see a fawn pounce through the brittle brush and pet
baby goats, and to sing at my most favorite service in
all of Judaism, Havdallah, the closing of Shabbat, where we say good-bye to the
week we’ve had, and we welcome the week to come. The service where we invite
the sweetness of Shabbat to come with us into and sustain us through the coming week.
It is a service that dances the edge of wistful, grateful
endings and limitless, renewed beginnings. And, simply, it has the best music.
Shavuah Tov, friends – May you have a happy week.