Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Gut Check.

I recently went on an interview and almost walked out in the middle of it. As my would-be boss droned on about how amazing she is, my gut said in no uncertain terms, "Must. Leave. Now."

But instead I heard my mouth say, "This is a great opportunity and I know I will do well here."

What happened? Why did my mouth just say that? Aren't we a team? Why is my head defying my gut? Where did my heart go?

I got the job. Of course I did. My mouth wouldn't listen to my gut and said things like, "I believe in this mission. I want to help you be the best you can be." My mouth never shut up with the incessant compliments...I'm surprised I didn't offer to pick up dry cleaning. To be fair, this woman may have had some reservations about me, wondering if I was borderline stalker.

I was speaking in what seems to have been the language of, "Kissing Major Ass." I don't recall taking advanced courses in this language, but somewhere along the road I learned the correct intonations, when to laugh even though my gut is fearing for its life, and how to sprinkle in 'ego boosters' so my superior feels...well, superior.

What is with this defiant stance on doing the opposite of what the gut tells me to do? It only leads to pain and misery. Like the time I went snowboarding on what I can only describe as an "icy hill" and broke my tailbone.

I think we all come installed with our own little orange detour cones, but for some reason, we seem to question if it's legit. I have friends that ask, "But what do YOU think? Should I go to Mexico or Europe?" And I do the same. "What does YOUR gut say about me becoming vegetarian?"

Perhaps we're not really asking for an answer necessarily, but rather, we need a gut checker. A friend to help us navigate the way into our guts so we can check it out. I wish I could have had a gut checker in that interview.

We could have called for a recess, leaned in close as we drank coffee and I'd spill out in a caffeinated panic, "I'm totally repulsed and want to leave, but is that rude? What do YOU think I should do?"

My answer was there already waiting - I just needed a gut checker. A friend with a cup of coffee to say, "Sure it's rude, but this person is a fucking lunatic. Let's go shopping."

But I will say, even when we defy our intuition and we make huge mistakes that usually end up with a broken tailbone, broken heart, or busted up ego, we have the guts to move forward and try again until it feels right to us. And the next one is usually better because we learn what isn't right for us.

That's the power of human nature. We've got guts, that's for sure. All we have to do is check it once in a while. If we're lucky, we have a friend to help us navigate the way.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Halfway There.

I am more than likely halfway through my life. Today I am 41 years old; If I live to be 82, I'd say that's a pretty good ride.

But it got me thinking, "What have I accomplished in the first 41 years?" Before I started shredding my dignity, I really thought about it.

I have learned how to walk, talk, eat with a fork, use a toilet, blow bubbles with Hubba Bubba, double-dutch jumprope, make friends (and keep them), kiss, performed in theatre, recently wrote a play, wrote a book, healed broken bones, graduated from high school, graduated from college, learned how to walk in heels, got married, had two children, learned how snowboard, learned how to ripstick, learned how to say goodbye to unhealthy friendships, and learned how to say goodbye to my father dying from cancer. Still learning how to grieve, but getting there.

I've done shitloads.

Frankly, if I don't accomplish another thing in my life, I can count this one as successful.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I lost my dad.

It's not the same as losing car keys. I actually lost a person. He was right here a moment ago, and now he's not. I have no idea where he went, so I don't know how to find him.

And worst of all, even if I do find him, I can't bring him back.

Cancer kept putting up these little orange cones along the road of my dad's life. Detour after detour. He couldn't catch a break. Every time he tried to make a new road, another detour cone appeared. Lung, then bone, then brain. Ba-da-boom.

So the term, "I lost my dad" feels a little off now. I think he knew where he was going. Somewhere along the road - maybe it was when I was scooping up ice chips for his "dinner" - he decided this kind of life wasn't worth the effort.

Every life needs to be equipped with dignity, strength, and integrity; if it's missing those key ingredients, I think the owner of the life tends to re-evaluate the point of diminishing return.

You have to let me go. He told me this. Point-blank. He said it just as I would say, "Hey, grab the milk please." He knew exactly where to go and what to do; like a baby taking his first breath when he comes into the world. He just knows.

And when he takes his last breath leaving this world, he just knows.

Where does that leave the remaining parts of the whole? My mom, sisters and me. We're like rusted joints trying to figure out how to turn the wheel without all the pieces.

But I have to believe that if we are capable of helping our loved one die, then we have the ability to help each other live.

And what's strange is this little golden thread that seems to be pulling my head up high. There is a sense of strength and peace that is coming from somewhere and I honestly don't give a shit where it's coming from, as long as it keeps coming.

It's a strange thing to be left here while a loved one moves on. We seem to blink, look around, and try to walk forward; because we would we look silly trying to walk backward.

We hold on to that little thread that gives us some odd new feeling of strength and peace, like a bright balloon tied to our waist. A signal to others in case we do get lost, they can find us, hug us, and hold our hand.

Friday, March 25, 2011

"...And You Can't Keep Yours."

I can't go in there. I'm sitting here in the lobby of the hospital down the hall from my dad's room. I know he's resting and trying to make peace with his situation. His situation. I want to fix it; restore his life like a car. But I can't. I can't reach into the air and remove the words, "You have 3 weeks to 3 months." I want to pluck them out of the air and throw them away.

My dad has very limited time left.

And I'm sitting in a lobby down the hall. Why won't my legs walk me into that room? These legs have run me through two half marathons, yet they won't move an inch. So here I sit in the lobby. I listen to people express their good news. I hear them. "...so grateful this was a close call. Just think what could have happened?"

Just think.

I was one of those people once. Breezing by someone with a broken heart, not understanding that I would be switching places with them one day.

Why is there a grandfather clock in every hospital? What is the deal? Every hospital. Is it to remind me that time is fucking brutal? Tick Tock, time moves forward. It keeps ticking and my dad's cancer keeps spreading. He keeps hurting. The world keeps spinning.

I want painkillers. Each time my dad takes one, I want one too. It's difficult standing on the sidelines sober and raw, watching and feeling every breath, every cough and every wince of pain.

I feel it too, but I have no choice but to be healthy and aware of every teeny tiny change that puts him one inch closer to a place I'm not allowed access. A velvet rope I can't jump. Where is he going? What's over there? What's so exclusive about it? I won't know for a very long time. It's not my turn. The bouncers won't even allow a peek.

Fifty years. I told him yesterday that I want 50 more years with him. I grabbed his hand when he wiped the rivers of tears draining out of eyes. "But when something good is in my life, I want to keep it. And you're a Good. So I want to keep you."

He sat up a little straighter and said, "Well Kel. I couldn't keep my parents. They couldn't keep theirs. And you can't keep yours. But you can hope for 50 more years with your kids."

He's trying to change my line of vision. When I was little he would say, "Look at that eagle! Isn't that something!" When I couldn't find it, he'd grab my chin and turn my face. "Do you see it now?"

Yes, I see it now.

I look up to the blue, blue sky. It's the same sky I saw when I was 11 and my dad coached our softball team. We won the championship, so we all piled in the back of his truck to go have ice cream. It's the same sky; why is everything under it so different now?

Yes, I see it now.

It's time to treasure words, smiles and looks. It's time to treasure his hand that reaches out for me when I visit. It's time to treasure the "I love you's."

Maybe time is a good thing after all. He's still here which means I have time to lock more memories away into my heart. Stockpiling a silver lining for when the storm hits. Yes, maybe time is a beautiful thing after all.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Battle Hymn Of The Sissy Mother.

I just finished reading "The Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother" by Amy Chua. There is a lot of controversy over how psychotic this Chinese mother is about rearing her two daughters. For example, 6 hours of drilling violin for a 7 year old girl. That's a bit extreme for us Westerners.

However, this book made me realize I'm more comfortable subscribing to the Candy Ass Mothering Method. This is when I nicely request (beg) for my daughters to study for a test and when there is any type of resistance, I fold like a deck of cards.

I fear that I will traumatize them if I push too hard. So I don't. Or rather, didn't.

There was a day when I begged for mercy when I blew my top, apologizing profusely for saying things like, You guys are ungrateful jerks, I brought you into this world and I can take you out, and one of my lowest points, What, you think you're better than everyone else?

In other words, I was a fan of the verbal smackdown with my daughters.

I hired a child psychologist. I confessed to being a passive-aggressive asshole and begged for a solution. She explained that I needed an incentive chart. I already had stickers up the ass trying to reward them for good behavior, so I was pissed that I was paying $150 for 50 minutes to learn nothing.

But wait. There was still 35 minutes left.

She said, "That's great. You know how to reward your kids. That's the part parents love. What about discipline? How do you handle that?"

How do I what-what?

I explained that I usually barked out orders and whined about how I had no respect. Did that count? No. In fact, according to psychological theories, I was fucking them up worse by caving and blaming them for my lack of boundaries, structure and holding firm on what I need.

So I'm basically a candy-ass, then I whine and blame my kids for not getting my way. Is that right?

Confirmed.

Shit.

So I crafted together a little chart on the back of a paper bag I fished out of the recycling container. I ripped up some sheets of paper and scratched out rewards on them. Movie Madness! Tooth Fairy Bonus! Shit like that to Bait and Switch behavior.

And it worked. I tried to hide around corners when I did a victory dance.

They wanted structure. They wanted to be worth the effort. They wanted me to push them to a higher to potential. They were asking me to help set goals for crissake. Their friends came over and asked if they could have one. So I made a few more out of grocery bags.

And just like that, my kids respected me. Grades in school started kicking ass. They were eating breakfast, sans chips, by 8:10. No more Defcon 5 military watch as they brushed teeth, no more arguing as I brushed their hair, and no more sprinting for the bus with papers flying out of backpacks.

Dare I say it - morning are peaceful. Homework is teamwork and weirdly becoming something they fight to "get mom first" for their 45 minutes alone in the "Homework Hole" (a.k.a the dining room). No more tantrums at bedtime.

I think I found a nice middle ground between Psychotic Tiger Mother and Candy-Ass Sissy Mother.

This little chart became a "thing." I created it into something that wasn't such an eye-sore. A ripped Cub bag was bit trashy, so I hooked up with a printer and made two. Then my neighbor wanted one. Then my friend who was battling with her ADHD son wanted one. Then the hockey mom who was sick of finding lost uniforms wanted one. A couple of Canadian moms hear about it and wanted homework to be scream-free. A woman in Texas was ripping her hair out because her 3-year old wouldn't sleep in her own bed.

And it worked for all of them. Kids are keeping track of their own uniforms (even washing them!), kids with ADHD are staying focused and less frustrated, homework is teamwork for the Candians, Texas is sleeping better...

I had a few printed up. There aren't a lot left, but if you're looking for a new way to connect with your kids, this will help. Yes, you can buy peace and it will arrive in your mailbox within 3-5 days.

p.s.
I have been asked if there is a chart for husbands, but that has not been developed yet. : )

Friday, February 18, 2011

Superstition.

I didn't think I was superstitious until I encountered hopeless situations. When hope runs low, I start grasping at anything to sway the world to better odds.

For example, yesterday I had the terror-filled ultrasound to determine if I had breast cancer. The pressure of the morning was enough to drive me psychotic. If I think a certain way, I'm attracting cancer via Law Of Attraction. And frankly, I was fucking it up because the unbearable pressure to think positively was backfiring on me.

I'm healthy and strong, healthy and strong...that's bullshit. My breasts feel like ziploc bags filled with ice cubes. Why haven't I noticed that until today? Fuck.

Horrible signs of my pending death were mounting: My fearlessness necklace broke, I wore all black, the birthstone in my anniversary ring fell out, and the kitchen clock stopped working.

And to top it off, I used the Cancer Care parking spot reserved for my dad for my ill-fated first mammogram. Why on earth did I do that? That sealed the deal - I was fucked.

As my husband drove me to the appointment he explained that the Katy Perry song "Fireworks" was about inner strength. I started sobbing uncontrollably, gasping and letting the tears splash onto my lap.

Of course this song is about inner strength because the world is telling me that I'm going to need shitloads of it soon! And my birthstone fell out and my necklace broke and I'm wearing all black I never wear all black why am I dressed like I'm attending a funeral? And the clock stopped and my boobies are like ice cube-filled ziploc bags...

He stopped at the red light and said, "Listen to me. A necklace has nothing to do with causing or repairing cancer. Katy Perry doesn't know you. And your boobies don't feel like a bunch of ice cubes. Whatever it is, it is, okay? We got this."

Okay, okay, okay.

No more superstition. I bravely walked to the machine, chatted with the tech as she ran the tests. I courageously laid in the ultrasound room, holding my breath. This is it I thought. This is how it happens. This is how the earth grinds on its axis and changes the course of life and I can't stop her from saying the words to me.

She said, "It's fine. Everything is fine."

Exhale.

I was fine. Everything was fine. I said a prayer for all the women who laid on that same table and did not hear those words. Oddly enough, the "prayer" that spilled from my mouth were from Winnie the Pooh:

...there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

To all the women out there surviving and thriving through your journey of breast cancer, we are here for you. We admire you, treasure you, and we are continually inspired by you.

Be well.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Doors.

Doors. They're so simple. We turn the knob, we walk through them. I've been walking through them all my life. In 1981, I walked through a door without braces and walked back out with a mouthful of metal and a headgear. In 1986, I skipped out a door to my first date. In 2000, I walked through a door pregnant and walked out with my first daughter. I did it again with the same door in 2002.

But lately the doors I'm walking through feels like life is kicking me through them and I'm hesitating at the knob. It's just cramming me against the doorframe and I'm bracing myself saying, "Just give a fucking minute to breathe. Stop being so pushy."

Yesterday I walked through a door to see my father-in-law for the last time. I held his hand and said, "I love you." He whispered it back. I walked out the door and left a piece of my heart on the other side of it. With him. Sometimes my heart hurts so bad I fear I'm having a heart attack. Which truly, life seems to be attacking my heart lately. As the Tin Man says, "Now I know I have a heart, because it's breaking." I hurt because I love. And that's okay with me.

Last week I walked through a door with my dad and sister. We listened to his oncologist say the words, "You may need think about your quality of life." I walked out the door with my insides spinning and shaking. Cold and floaty, that's how it feels to hear those words spoken to your hero. Life is making me go through those same doors today. This time I will be walking through that fucking door already in a panic, so there very well could be a nervous breakdown waiting for me when I walk out.

I think breaking point has been lurking around the corners lately smoking a cigarette. It's been waiting since the day I lost my job and my nephew. Same day, same hour. Shit like this seems to happen to me in bulk. Many people get laid off, but I get laid off AND lose a family member. It's like I buy tragedy at Costco instead of Target. I get the big load so I won't run out.

Case in point: As I walked out the door to see my father-in-law yesterday, I received a call about my gamma mammogram I had on Friday. The left titty is concerning them. I hear about false-positives all the time, but that's not helping me right now. The more I hear about the "lucky ones" the less lucky I feel. They're taking my cards and I fear that I will be left with the joker. There are only so many false-positives out there in the world and frankly, it sounds like they're all used up.

So another door on Thursday. I have to walk through it and have more tests. I have no choice but to move forward because I can't move backward. That knowledge blows ass. I have to go to that fucking appointment. It's just sitting there on my calendar taunting me. 1:20 Thursday. 1:20 Thursday. 1:20 Thursday. I begging the universe to please let it be scar tissue from my Rack Install (a.k.a. boob job) from 2007. Damn, I should know that au natural is always best for me. What was I thinking having chicken cutlets slammed into my chest? Fuck. I'm no porn star, I just wanted to be proportionate, that's all. I have hips and I resembled an upside down lightbulb. I just thought I could have a shot at having the body I've always wanted. And now I'm pretty sure I'm being punished for it. Goddamn it to hell.

I can't figure out which area of panic deserves my attention most: My father-in-law who has less than a couple of days to live, my dad who quite possibly may choose to quit chemo today, or my left booby. Which one is panic-worthy?

Maybe none.

Information is just that. Information. It's what emotions I attach to it that makes me scared, panicked or anxious. Like flying a kite with certain strings. I can choose which string to use, but I still need to soar.

I don't know what doors I'm going to have to walk through in the next week, but I do know that I will survive whatever comes my way. Thrive even. I've already walked through doors that have broken me down and yet I always get back up a little stronger. A little happier. A little more forgiving. A little more grateful.

Am I going to panic? Absolutely. Am I going to live in fear because of panic? Absolutely not.