infertility · pregnancy · trauma

“So, How Was It?” The Feels Edition

I’m part of an online group for people who are pregnant through IVF, and it’s been bringing me back to last December full force. The minute clocking of how many days and weeks along, the agonizing over whether taking your medication early or late or not at all that day will cause an irreparable issue, the wondering, wondering, wondering.

I’ve already written a bit about the early days and weeks of my pregnancy with HB, how worrisome it was for me. There was literally nothing else on my mind. When I had abdominal pain acutely on one side of my belly, I was absolutely convinced I was having an ectopic pregnancy, which mandates “cancellation” of the pregnancy. This fear has to continue until the embryo is large enough to detect on an ultrasound, which means you’re even more pregnant than you were with a potentially non-viable pregnancy, which also means you’re even more invested in it going well, you’re even closer to seeing it come to fruition.

At my earliest possible time, I came in for an ultrasound because I was convinced my abdominal pain was the portend of bad news. She’d told me it was early, that just because they may not detect anything didn’t mean it wasn’t there. My blood levels were continuing to rise apace. Then, the frozen agony as she angles around with the wand like a spotlight in my body, searching, searching for life.

And there it was, a flutter on the black-and-white screen. A flutter in my uterus where it should be. She turns on the sound, and there it is… a heartbeat, an honest-to-goodness heartbeat. Not my own, something new, something hers. Her. New. Yes.

And this is how it was for every minute of every day for me. A terrified conviction that any moment could be the last, as it had been several times before. It was this way until my 20-week ultrasound, an in-depth three-dimensional view of the growing body inside me. I would not, could not with a fox, allow myself to breathe until that 5-month test. I know personally three women who’d had “bad scans” at that critical appointment, all three who’d had to make haunting, heart-breaking choices, and I could not allow myself to plan for the arrival of a baby until then.

To be honest, it was only a few weeks to the end of my pregnancy when I was posting in a group about my terror that it would all come crumbling down. This feeling didn’t abate until she was safely, healthfully in my arms in the hospital bed. It’s a horrible feeling. It’s a horrible cloud to live under during a time that many people feel can be the most blissful and abundant.

And this was usually the kind of content I gave when friends asked how I was feeling. The emotional piece. I expressed how difficult it was for me to trust, how I was awaiting the 20-week scan to really believe this would happen, how I was having a hard time wading through my own trauma. Funnily enough, after several minutes of my talking in this vein, friends would often say, “I meant, ‘How are you feeling physically?'” but I knew what they meant. That aspect just wasn’t that important for me to talk about (see previous blog!).

But there she was at 20-weeks, a face, eyes, nose, heart. Four chambers of a heart. All moving blood, red and blue pulses of light on the screen. Pulses of life.

Til the end, this is how it was, checking my underwear for spotting each time I sat down to the toilet. She was still right-side-up as my time came closer, and this worried me. (She did flip on her own eventually.) Two weeks to go, I hadn’t felt her move in over a day. I drank juice, did jumping jacks, drank cold water, and sat quietly in the dark awaiting her movements to confirm she was still there. Really there.

I came downstairs streaming tears. J drove me to the hospital. And she was there, really there, just moving less but healthy, beating, “breathing.”

Everyone does what they can to assure you, assuming things have been going well, that they will be well. Everyone with the best of intentions and with all the love they can muster try to hold your hand, physically or virtually, as you wade, slog, crawl through the darkness that creeps into the side of your vision. The unbidden thought. The momentary arresting of your breath.

So, How Was It?

Pregnancy is a nine-month mental labyrinth, regularly gnarling your joy into a Gordian knot.

Until it’s over. And the knot unravels, cascading open to reveal the most tender pulse of awe and magic this side of the veil.

anger · community · isolation · recovery · trauma · truth · uncertainty

The Look-Good.

I was with a group of close friends on Friday night, celebrating one of their “not getting drunk and sleeping with strangers” anniversaries. These are women I’ve known for nearly my whole 8 years of not doing the same, and who know me and have seen me through my best and worst. 
And I couldn’t tell them the truth. 
It wasn’t until the assembled group was about to close that I got up, walked to the podium at the front of the room and said, “This is the place you’re supposed to tell the hard things. And, things are really bad.”
I began to sob. I eeked out that 5 months ago, I burned my life down, and I’m exhausted and isolated. I told the group that I realized I had to say something when, tonight, I couldn’t hold eye contact with my friends over our dinner. That the closest women I have in my life, I couldn’t look at for too long, because if I did… they would see… and I would break down crying. 
And I didn’t want to do that. 
Because it doesn’t feel like there’s anything to do. So, why talk about it?
I told them about being an expert at looking good on the outside, and feeling like dog shit on the inside. Now, the thing about the “look good” is that, sure, who doesn’t want to look good? Especially when you are feeling crappy, sometimes it’s nice to say, Well, at least I can still pull myself together. At least I can assemble an outfit, put on a little makeup, and … look good. 
However, the other thing about the “look good” is that generally, if you look good, people assume you feel good. And that’s part of the guise of it, of course; that’s part of its purpose… is to fool people. Because if no one asks, you don’t have to tell. 
It’s a pretty little prison we wrap ourselves up in, in an effort to try to do it alone. Because, again, what else is there to do?
In my case, I’m going on interviews, auditions, tours of school, taking tests, ordering physics books. I’m going about the wildest flurry of activity, the other day, I called it a blizzard. 
All this manic pushing to get out of my current situation that I feel ashamed I got into again. Molly, quitting another job without a plan. Molly, struggling to find work, again. Molly looking into a hundred different career paths, and feeling like a strung-out shell of a person through it all. 
Because, as I said earlier: Things are really bad. 
There’s a lot of crying, a lot of hopelessness, a lot of just trying to make it through these extended, exhausting retail days. 
A co-worker I’ve been sharing some of my, “Someone get me out of here” activities with said yesterday that shouldn’t this (the retail job) feel laughable in comparison to what I’ve been through? (She knows about the cancer.) And I said, No. 
Instead, it feels like, “Haven’t I been through enough that I shouldn’t have to deal with this fucking bullshit?” That’s how it feels. 
It feels like I push and try and explore and push and try and explore, and nothing moves. 
I feel like the hamster on the wheel, working so fucking hard, and getting no where. 
I will say that this new idea to pursue teaching feels like the first thing that makes real and doable sense in all my career lily-pad hopping. So, that feels like a win, and progress, and hope. 
And in the center of that remains the fact that my feet and legs ache, right now, I’m earning half what I did when I was at my office job, I have a dwindling savings account that was really fucking hard-earned, and I have no back-up.
So. What? Why do you talk to anyone about that anyway? No one really has anything to tell you of use, except, “We love you and you’ll get through this.” … And take that to the bank. 
But, no. It’s fabulous that I have people around me, and I know there’s something to telling the truth, and so I did. When I realized I couldn’t look my best friends in the eye for fear they might see the truth of what’s happening beyond the “look good,” it was time to say something. (Though, perhaps earlier could have been better, too.)
Did they particularly have anything that shorn through the bleakness in which I find myself, again? Not really. No magic bullets. No words of enlightenment. Just simple suggestions like, Go to a meeting everyday with people who actually know you, and share about this. 
And so, I am. 
I hate it. I feel vulnerable, and I want everybody to not talk to me about it afterward — but there’s no controlling people. 
Because here’s the undercurrent of all this surface nonsense, all this struggle to stay and get afloat and to try to believe that things will change and get better if I keep doing “the next right thing,” that life will even out, that I’ll be okay…: 

The undercurrent is: I. Don’t. Know. That. (None of us do, surely.)

But, specifically, I’m talking cancer. I have a lot of cancer grief to go through, and I don’t know how. 
Partly I don’t talk about it because I feel it’s so dramatic to talk about, because I’m scared people will roll their eyes, and think, “Sheesh, enough with the cancer already; you lived, didn’t you? Move on!” 
I don’t know how to share with people about how angry, betrayed, and every day still terrified — with every cough, or sleepless night, or strange headache — about a recurrence I feel. 
I don’t know how to begin to put faith back into a universe and a universal law that arbitrarily may decide to kill you “just cuz.” How to “come to believe that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to wholeness” when everything solid was ripped from under me in an instant. 
And that’s what I’m being asked to do. I’m at the point, again, where I’m supposed to contemplate my idea of a “higher power,” and I want everybody to take their, “It’s the cycle of life and death,” it’s love, it’s community, and shove it with red hot poker down their own throats. 
Because: Fuck. You. (non-cancer having people, she mumbles mentally.)
I am going at all this activity pretty much on my own, without the guidance and space of meditation, without a wisp of a belief in the goodness of the world, or in the belief that efforts bring results. 
And it’s really hurting me. 
There’s a lot of work I’m going to have to do on this, and I feel SO TIRED. I’m so tired. Have you fought cancer and then had to go about the daily business of living, getting parking tickets and paying bills you can’t afford? And are you now being asked to reconcile that traumatizing experience with a belief in goodness or constancy in the universe in order to stay sober and not kill yourself?
Few of us have. And I don’t know how to do it, because I don’t know who to turn to. 
And so, I’m doing this — or have been trying to do this — all alone, in many ways. Sure, I’m reaching out, and the shell of isolation is cracking, and I imagine “good” things will come of it. But for now, I’m just so tired. 
So that’s what’s beyond the “Look-Good,” friends. It’s not pretty, or happy, or palatable for many, including myself. It’s sad and raw and real and really fucking painful to be where I am right now. 
And… if one of you tells me “this too shall pass” or “everybody dies sometime,” i’ll shove an iron through your cranium.

(Because it is small comfort, even though it’s true.)
healing · joy · recovery · relationships · self-preservation · trauma

Recalibrating the Bar.




Surely, normal is relative. I read some of my blogs about my
past, and I think, Jesus, this is not
what “normal” people have dealt with. I listen to some of my acquaintances
share their histories, and I think, “Thank god things weren’t that bad with
In some comparisons, my life has been saner and pretty charmed; in other comparisons, it’s been dysfunctional and tragic.
Yesterday, I came home from hearing tell of someone’s tragic
past, “worse” than mine. Then I picked up where I left off in Autobiography
of a Face
, because surely the story of a
little girl’s jaw sawn off through cancer is “worse” than my own story.
And I decided then, it is time for me to recalibrate my bar for
normal and dysfunction.
I was feeling activated by the story I’d heard earlier in
the evening. I was feeling protective of the children that story was being told
to, and I was experiencing a hardening in my chest, made of anger and
self-protection against the terror of that story.
And despite the fact that things in my life have been on the
plus and minus side of well-being, I think it’s time for me to start marching
toward those people and experiences that don’t trade in trauma.
There tends to be a uniting force among those in my crowd,
knowing that we’ve, most of us, come from some kind of trauma. Wherever that
may fall on the spectrum of horror. But, we feel an understanding with one
another on the basis of a shared experience, and sometimes this unification
posits us against more “normal” folk, folks who perhaps didn’t come from that seething primordial ooze.
The problem, and I’ve contemplated it before, is that when
you trade in trauma, there’s no value in happiness. When you bond over tragedy,
how do you boast your success?
Over the last few years, my threshold for violence and gore
has lowered dramatically. Even “silly” crime t.v. shows that used to be my
favorites, I’ve had to eliminate from my visual diet. I just can’t stomach
them anymore.
As time has passed, I’ve become more aware and attuned to
when those shows or images are getting to me – when I’m cringing, or closing my
eyes – and I’ve taken note of those cues, and begun to drop them from my cue.
It feels the same to me with these stories that are around
I read Autobiography
last night, despite knowing that I didn’t want to read it. The language is
beautiful, the plot is compelling; by all counts, it’s a well-crafted book. But
I don’t think I want to read any more – in fact, I know that, and I’m going to
have to decide if I heed that information or not.
The same is true with some of the stories I hear around me.
It’s going to be up to me to begin either seeking out or attracting into my
life people, not who don’t have those
stories of trauma in their past, but who don’t feel compelled to broadcast them.
Who don’t feel compelled to do so inappropriately.
I am not saying that I will only surround myself with
“normal” folks, or that the stories of our pasts are not important. I am,
however, saying that my trauma meter is full, and I need to back away from
media or people who will put it over the edge because of their own hemorrhaging boundaries.
I am, of course, an advocate for sharing of ourselves, as you’ve read over and over in my blog, but I stand behind the knowledge and hope that others click to read this on purpose, that this blog is chosen as a media source
for them, that I’m not dumping it on anyone. I also think perhaps it is time for me to begin walking farther
away from the retelling of these stories, as repetition keeps them powerful.
I don’t know what the line of balance is between honesty and
appropriateness. But I do know there is one.  

alcoholism · change · clarity · trauma · travel

Oh, The Places You’ll Go!




October marks 10 years since I left New Jersey to teach
English in South Korea for 18 months. Having barely finished the icing on my 23rd birthday
cake, I rolled my newly purchased suitcases onto a JFK flight and was off to I
didn’t know where.
The process felt almost instantaneous – register with an ESL
teaching recruitment site; have an informational call with them (when they told
me you’d make more money in Korea than, say, Thailand or Taiwan); have an
evening interview call with a pre-school in a town on the outskirts of Seoul on
Tuesday; board a plane on Friday.
I didn’t know what I was getting into, and despite all the
good parts, the landing was a difficult one. If I did have it all to do again,
my life to live over again, I wouldn’t have gone.
I know people say not to regret things, and that each
experience was for learning, and certainly this one was: I met great people,
had unusual experiences, got to travel to places I’d likely never have been and
endear myself to a classroom of wide expectant faces.
But. It was not easy. And, yes, if I could do it again, I
wouldn’t go. I was too fragile when I went. I was too lost to be uprooted. Yet, I
don’t know what would have happened if I’d stayed. Korea was where I eeked
along the bottom of an alcoholic lifestyle, and I’ve often said that if I
hadn’t been in Korea, where there was little access to drugs, and mainly only
to booze… that if I’d still been in the States and on the trajectory I was on,
things could have gone a much different way.
As bad as alcoholism is, add drugs into the mix, and it
quickly becomes a 4-alarm fire.
That said. It was rough. There was a half-hearted suicide
attempt, gang rape, alcoholic stupors. There was racism and sexism and a
feeling of alienation from everything you recognize.
There were antidotes, or places of brightness, for sure. I
met some of my best friends there, ones who I’m still in regular touch with. I
dated a very charismatic Canadian who went on to work for the U.N., who’d put me
and my coworker up at his great aunt’s place in the orangutan paddock in a zoo
in Jakarta, Indonesia. I hiked up ancient Buddhist and Hindu temples; ate dog
stew, which was actually very good; planted my feet in the Pacific Ocean for the first time.
I traveled to Osaka, Japan to renew my work visa and still
remember the glint of the flat rooftops outside the city as the train barreled us
from the airport to the city center. I spent a New Years in a cabin on a dock
in the warm waters of Malaysia and partied in a sprawling, palm-encased home in Singapore the following one.
I went to Korea because I didn’t really know what else to
do. And to quote Carroll’s Cheshire cat:
“Would you tell me, please,
which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on
where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where
–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which
way you go,” said the Cat.
“– so long as I get
somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do
that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
I’d walked long enough, and I’d found something. I didn’t know
where I wanted to go, just somewhere else. Yet, despite the intervening years and nearly a decade of sobriety, as I begin now to set out
again to simply go “somewhere else,” I’m tempted to recall what happened
last time I didn’t know where that was.

courage · fear · singing · trauma · trying

127 Hours




From my blog on Friday, March 29, 2013:

These are the words that close Brene Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection. The last
“guidepost” to what she calls Wholehearted Living is “Laughter, Song, and
It’s funny; she spends a lot of time saying how most
people feel really vulnerable when dancing, concerned with what people think of
how they look, or scared they’ll be told to “dial it down.” That’s not my
experience of dancing; it’s my experience of singing.
Yesterday, I had another voice lesson, this time with
someone in the cast who’s also a professional voice teacher. We’re working on
my “belt” range, where I need to be to sing for this role, and also the range
that, when done correctly, feels to me like yelling.
Being Loud.
Being Heard.
And where I begin to pull back. Close my throat, muffle the
sound. Close off. Shut down. Shine down. Diminish. Dull. Deflate.
I am so achingly terrified of being loud. Because deep in my
history is the terror of being hit.
If you make noise, you are noticed. If you are noticed, you
are a target.
This terrible defense mechanism I’ve built that stifles me.
Stifles me from the thing I am most passionate about. I don’t think this is
(I believe) We are pushed into the places of most discomfort in order to
heal from and emerge from them.
The years spent avoiding singing. The years spent writing
quietly. The moments when I do try, the self-doubt that pounces on me, that
shushes me.
I am walking right into the center of one of my greatest
fears. And I am emotional. Scared. And also, trying.
I am trying so hard. I want to do this so badly because I love it. Because I feel it’s beautiful, and transporting,
and transforming. Because I believe that song is one channel my soul wants to
shine through. Because it makes me happy, gleeful, expansive, collaborative,
I have one foot in a bear-trap. Constructed practically
in utero. It is rusted, craggy, and defunct. What this feels like is chewing
off my own limb to free myself. Painful. Awful. And completely necessary.
I don’t know what the outcome will be by the time the show
opens in 3 weeks. I don’t know if I’ll power through the “shouting” that I
think I’m doing, but exactly what my teacher yesterday applauded. I don’t know if I’ll
pull back. I might. It might still be too frightening to be truly heard, and to
truly give what I know I can.
And no matter the outcome, or what I perceive as the outcome (since apparently, I can’t hear
myself very well through all my shushing and evaluating and mishegas), I must
also know and acknowledge, that whatever the result, I am indeed trying to
dismantle this old trap.
Which is something I wasn’t willing to do before. 

connection · healing · love · recovery · synchronicity · trauma

How I met my best friend from Long Island in South Korea




It’s 10 years this Fall since we met. I’d come
off a 14-hour flight from JFK into Seoul. I seem to recall I was actually
picked up by the Assistant Principal of the pre-school where I’d be teaching who drove me the 45 minutes back to the Samsung Apartments. The LG Apartments
were over the hill. 
I arrived to a large 4-bedroom apartment with heated floors,
one Texan, and a Canadian, the two other “native English speakers” who taught
at the school just up the road – or over a fence if you were late and feeling
adventurous. I tore my favorite pants that way.
Further up that road was a mountain spring, where my
Canadian roommate, the one who showed me the short-cut, would refill his water,
in line with agimas, old hunched Korean women with no front teeth who would
cut in front of you no matter how long you, young white person, had been
standing there waiting to fill up at the fresh, cool water tap.
The Texan insisted that I come “into town” that very
first night, before jetlag and culture shock set in. Beer. The great equalizer.
It was halfway through the school year, so the Texan had met some of the other
ESL teachers in the area, one from South Africa, one from Ireland, all in our early to
mid-twenties, all young enough to be stupid and adventurous, but old enough to
have consequences. We celebrated on the first of many nights to come over uncountable
pitchers of piss-water beer, bad games of darts, and laughter
that always got too loud, and if you were me, too sloppy.
About a month into my new life there, culture shock,
homesickness, alcoholism running like a hotshot through my veins, I found
myself hailing a cab in a dark corner of Seoul. Well, I was attempting to hail
a cab. But wherever we’d ended up wasn’t the typical wei-gook (white person)
hang-out, and fading, wasted, and tired, there weren’t any cabs.
This is where we flash forward through the two Indian men
offering to give me a ride home, me saying no thanks; long minutes passing without a cab,
and them coming back; me agreeing to the ride. This is where we flash forward
through them pulling the car over on a lonely stretch of highway, and taking
turns raping me, too drunk and immobilized to fight.
This is where we flash to them actually driving me home, and where I collapse inside my apartment’s front door and begin to wail.
And, by the grace of something I will never quite call
coincidence, this is where Jess walks out of her boyfriend, the Texan’s room,
and comforts me.
She picks me up, I tell her what happened; she offers to
stay in my bed with me, I tell her it’s alright. But the darkness of my bed
is too large, and I pad across the heated wooden floor to their room, knock on
the door and ask her to stay with me after all.
Jess insisted the next day that I go to the hospital. I
wouldn’t have. Never would have even crossed my mind. She came with me to all 4 of
them, because at each we were turned away, because “rape is not an emergency.”
To flash forward over the harrowing and humiliating events
of that day that only compounded the isolation and violation I’d suffered, I’ll
tell you it’s over. And the rest will have to remain the content of therapy
sessions and the slow course of healing, which over the years since I’ve
considered turning toward volunteering at a crisis hotline. But honestly, it’s not over. I’m not over it enough to help others. 10 years later.
Two years later, I lived in San Francisco. Jess lived in upstate New York in a
partially-converted garage next to a washing machine while earning her
Teaching Certificate. 5 years later, she met an old high school-mate at a New
Year’s Eve party. 9 years later, I watched them get married. And three weeks ago,
she had a baby girl. Who I’ll get to meet, and hold, and smell next week on Long Island.
My friendship with Jess is inextricably linked to one of the
hardest events in my life. I’d barely known her before that night, met her
sure, another East Coaster, great. But friends? As dramatic as it is to say,
but real enough anyway, it was while holding the hand they’d botched the IV into
that Jess and I became friends.
It’s accrued and built and become many more colors and
tenors and experiences over the decade, mainly on the basis of a shit-talking,
wise-cracking, overly honest relationship. (Yes, the nurse stuck her hand up
Jess’s vag to pull out the rest of the placenta.) And although it started as it
did, and though I would eagerly and instantly give that experience back–despite how it might
“benefit others”–our friendship is easily one of the great and unexpected treasures of my life. 

adulthood · compassion · connection · courage · friendship · healing · leadership · perseverance · recovery · self-love · trauma · writing

Seeing Someone

Yesterday, I saw my new somatic therapist for the 2nd time,
and we’ve decided to continue to work together, for the next little
while. I don’t know, exactly, what changes will be wrought from it, but it’s
nice to have someone to talk to again who’s third party and kind and uninvested
in propping me up or giving me advice.
Which isn’t to say she isn’t keen on helping me recover and
heal, but she doesn’t really have any agenda except that. Which is nice.
At the end of the session, I said how it galls me that I was supposed to, all these years, work on trauma recovery and grieving, and now I
have to go through recovery from the trauma and grieving of cancer to even
get to that layer of healing and muck.
She said something heartening, which I’m not sure I agree
with yet, but maybe will eventually: That it’s all connected. That if we work
on one part, it’s pulling on all the others. Like a spider web, if I work and
tug and pull and excise over here, it’ll ripple across and affect the other
We’ll see. As always, the act of showing up is one of hope
that things (that I, my life and how I engage in or hide from it) will
change. I have hope, every time I call a friend or reach out for help or write
this blog – this blog is an act of writing myself out of the darkness.
In my “stats,” I see someone read that first blog called
“Cancer,” so this morning I went back to read it too. So much of what I wrote
about the recovery process was true and so many of the questions are still the
same, if not a little more in focus. My cousin is a doctor in palliative care,
and reads my blog (Hi, L.!), and she emailed me the other day after she’d read
my blog to say she’d never thought of life-threatening illness as trauma
before, but of course it is. And to thank me for the bravery of putting my
process of coagulation up for the help of so many.
It’s interesting to read back to that first blog, and to
read the virulent ambivalence of being “an inspiration.” And it’s something
that came up yesterday in my session: the desire to be someone who holds the
torch, and the desire to stop being the
f’ing person who holds the torch all the time.
The duality of being a leader, if you can call this that
(which, frankly, I’m coming to see it is), is that sometimes you want to just
march along with everyone else. You get tired of standing at the top of the
mountain alone to look out and see where you should go next, what horizons need
staking. You get tired of being the one who charges into the fray – of being
the person, as I wrote in that blog, who just “goes with it,” faces it, accepts
AND YET, of course, for me, I want to be that person, too – I want to be the person who is a light for others; I want to be a teacher and a leader and an inspiration. I
want to exact positive change in the world.
Yesterday, in session, we spoke about vascillating between
both these feelings, and allowing it to be. It’s part of owning the all of
myself: the fearless leader, and the exhausted soldier. The tireless explorer,
and the guy who just wants to carry the horse oats and play cards in the tent.
I think part of my ambivalence is a conscious understanding
of what leadership might mean, too. To recognize, without slipping into
workaholism or unseeing “progress,” that I am, and have always been Both/And.
At some point, I also told her that I’d been scrolling
through my profile photos on Facebook just the other day, since I’d put a new
one up. And I came, on Tuesday, sitting in my car waiting to meet up with some folks,
to the photo of myself at graduation from Mills College in May of 2012. That I
stand with a cap and gown, long hair, and a “radiant smile,” I told her.
I told her how I began to cry, looking at that photo, out of
grief that that girl had to go, and would go, through all this. That she had no idea what was about to happen. That the innocence of that
moment and that glee was … time-limited. To see that girl, to know what she was
about to go through, to feel so sorry that she does and will, and still is, is
grief. To know that my right eyelid will never look quite the same, an eye
infection during chemo causing it to droop slightly, so that I can see it now,
though others can’t. To know what that graduation day meant to me – to accomplish
something, to put my energies in and to excel, learn, progress, and shine.
I suppose, truthfully, I can say the same for my current
profile photo. Almost 2 years later, headshots for theater gigs. The result of
something I’ve also put my energies and monies and progress toward in order to
shine the way I know that photo does, too.
It’ll take some time, as I wrote in that first cancer blog,
to heal from all this. But I am a leader with a torch–though, please,
sometimes, can you be one too?

change · community · faith · fear · growth · prayer · trauma · vulnerability

Witchy Woman

I’ve been back to reading through that Louise Hay You Can
Heal Your Life
book before bed. Just
reading through some of the affirmations, saying some of them out loud.
I’ve also begun more consistently reading my Tarot cards,
pulling one daily.
And, it should come as no surprise to you that I have variously: burned sage,
taken a bath in a blend of “protection” salts, participated in a sweat lodge,
buried letters to G-d, dissolved some in the ocean, carried rose quartz in my
jacket pocket, and burned a blend of incense powder mixed for me by a man in a
When I was in college, I took a class on Witchcraft in Literature. I don’t remember much from it, except what the classroom looked
like, and probably that most of the classmates were women. I know it’s not
gender specific, but I feel like in the teenage years, many women (or those
that I’ve come into contact with) delve in the occult for a little while. I
mean, with the proliferation of movies at the time we grew up that embellished
witchcraft as both hot and powerful, like The Craft, Teen Witch, Practical Magic, and Hocus Pocus (for a humorous bent!). Plus, the 80’s show, Out of This World, where the main teenage girl could freeze time
(though, she was half-alien, not a witch), or
Sabrina the Teenage Witch (a far worse show).
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
(both the movie and the t.v. show) can also be seen as a teenage girl “coming
into her power,” the development and surge that happens in the teens. And I
think there’s something about the occult that offers girls a channel for that
energy; something that offers safe guidelines and something a little special
and weird and creepy and, perhaps, powerful.
I’m not saying I believe in witchcraft; I’m saying I believe
that we all want to believe that we have the power to change ourselves and our
circumstances, whether that’s through spells or prayers or good karma or electro-shock
And I want to believe that I can divine some information
about the world and myself through things like shamanic journeys, meditation
circles, and, yes, Tarot cards.
Recently, I’ve been pulling this one card consistently. The
8 of swords depicts a woman bound with ropes, blindfolded, and surrounded by a
barricade of swords. In the distance, there is a castle on a hill. At least in
my book of interpretations, the meaning of this card is restriction, hopelessness,
accepting inaction. The last paragraph of the description says, however, the ropes are not that tight around the woman; she
could ostensibly wriggle free out of them, knock over the swords, and head
home. She, the figure, waits for someone to save her, instead of acting to save
The words “accepting inaction” have been echoing for me
these few days and weeks.
I met, post-cancer, with a therapist who works with PTSD. I
described to her the vision/metaphor I currently have of myself:
There is a birdcage. I (forgive me) am the bird. The door to
the cage is open. Has been open for some time. I walk out of the cage into the
freedom, but the freedom is too big, too unknown, too scary, and so I walk back
into the cage.
I know I am not alone in describing self-made prisons. I
know I am not alone in cleaving myself to the devil I know rather than the
devil I don’t. I know I’m not alone in fearing that there’s a devil at all out
there in the wide scary world. (Not like THE Devil. Pretty sure I don’t believe
in that!)
But I have become restless in this self-made prison. In the
looking at things that interest me, and backing away. In the participating in
things I love for a little while, and quitting. In exploring what kind of work
I want to do, and procrastinating indefinitely.
And, I do know that countering fears with affirmations is one of the only tools I have in my belt
right now to help me wriggle out of those self-made, and self-maintained,
bonds; to bend a crowbar behind myself and shove/encourage me back out of the cage, where, underneath all the doubt, I know it is not only safe, but inviting, enlivening, and waiting for me to play/lead/inhabit.
So, if I have to meditate to a drum that “mimics an alpha state” for 20 minutes, tack the Sh’ma AND a cross
to my wall, or pull a card from a deck to help me feel like I have support and
protection as I try, so very falteringly, to enter this wide scary world, so be

acceptance · change · community · love · trauma · truth

Over the past two weeks, I’ve had occasion to sit with two
friends who shared with me about trauma in their past, as well as reading an article by a
sexual abuse survivor about the upswing of the Dylan Farrow case.
A little less than a year ago, after I completed chemo, I started reading a book
about healing that kind of trauma. As you may remember/know, it’s my
understanding that disease can be a function of underlying emotional or
spiritual dis-ease, and after my bought with cancer, I was (and still am)
determined to do all I can to root out causes and dis-ease that may underlie
the causation of cancer. The book suggested that before you really begin, you collect your army of support
because the work would be intense. So, I sought out a somatic therapist, as the
book suggested, and saw her a few times. I wasn’t a good fit, and I soon
stopped seeing her, and soon stopped reading the book, maybe a chapter or two
However, this morning, I was toodling around on my phone,
compulsively checking my email for the rehearsal schedule for the play in which
I’ve been cast(!), and I clicked on the “Notes” app I have on there, wondering
if there wasn’t some old “to do” list that may have good ideas for me.
Instead, I found a series of quotations from that book. A
series of words that struck me, applied to me, and offered me compassion,
understanding, and hope.
I … don’t really want to do this. Read that, re-read that.
Tell you here. But, my friends, it is all related. Don’t worry, I won’t get
specific here—it’s not appropriate, and not necessary—except to say my abuse
was not incest or young child abuse, but simply a series of events from a youngish age into my 20s when I didn’t
understand what No was, how to stop things, how to not
go along.
But, apparently, several things in my current life are
pointing me back at looking in that direction. And, from my own understanding
and cosmology, the “Universe” tends to bring things up when you’re ready to
deal with them. … And, if you don’t, you’ll be given occasion to deal with them
later, we promise.
One of the quotes in my app says something about moving out of
isolation into relationships. Va voy, if that’s not what I’ve been trying to do. And
here is a hiccup I didn’t see coming. A gentle nudge from the Universe saying,
Hey, there are these unresolved things. I know they’re hard, but you’re not
alone, and we’ve already pointed some support structures your way, if you want
to work on this now.
I may say, Fuck you. I don’t wanna.
I may call on the language I read once that said, Stop
Identifying With Your Trauma. Don’t use it as a shield and a sword to say, LOOK
I could call on that language and say, see, I need to not look at this, because then I’m just wallowing in my
past, instead of moving out of it.
See…. but the thing is. I haven’t wallowed. I’ve avoided.
Partly because “it wasn’t that bad.” Partly because it’s
so damned fucking common
. Heartbreakingly.
Partly because there have been other fish to fry.
And mostly because it’s really really hard.
I have some Louise Hay “Affirmation Cards” over my kitchen
sink, so I can look at them when I’m doing my despised dishes. The one that
calls to me about this reads, “All these changes are easy to make.” These
patterns are easy to heal and change. Maybe. Maybe this is easier than I fear.
The big boogey man with a flashlight projecting himself on the wall much larger
than he really is.
It’s happened before.
I know it’s a heavy thing to lay out to you here, but I also
know some of you are there, were there, get it, and are curious, like me, on how to go
through this stage of healing. As always, I write this for us.