Climbing the mountain – one gratitude, miracle, connection at a time

“You never know what’s around the corner. It could be everything. Or it could be nothing. You keep putting one foot in front of the other, and then one day you look back and you’ve climbed a mountain.”

-Tom Hiddleston

The other week, Tom connected me with a woman I will call Jae, a mother with young children whose cancer has recently recurred, and she was told that it is inoperable.

She and I live on opposite coasts but were able to have a phone conversation, where we covered the tip of the iceberg of things we have in common. When we discussed anxiety, I remembered an assignment I received from an energy healer:

When you get up in the morning, take one full minute and list OUT LOUD the things for which you are grateful. You can list anything from a close relationship to the sunshine or the ability to breathe. When you are ready, do it for two minutes, and continue increasing until you get to five minutes. Do it even longer if you like!

One minute. Ha! I thought that I could easily go for five minutes, right out of the gate. Once I started, though, one minute suddenly felt like an eternity, and I felt a bit like a crazy person saying all these gratitudes OUT LOUD while my husband (not exactly into “cheery early mornings”) did his best to tolerate my latest exercise.

However, I persevered and it really made a difference for me, so I shared the advice with her.

Shortly after our conversation, I received this video, out of the blue, from a friend:

http://lifeasmama.com/if-everyone-started-their-day-like-4-year-old-jessica-the-world-would-be-a-better-place/

Essentially, the little girl in the video lists a long list of things she loves in a very upbeat fashion. I enjoyed the video but quickly realized – this link was cosmically meant for Jae!

I am grateful that I got to connect with Jae and maybe even be of help. I am grateful that my friend sent that link along to me, at exactly the right time for it to mean something to someone who could use it at that very moment.

I am grateful for my connection with you, and I am grateful for the ways in which we are all so interconnected, even when we don’t try to be.

Your actions make a difference in the lives of those you touch, then they ripple through and touch even more lives.

Each action, no matter how small, helps us all to put one foot in front of the other and climb our mountain. Thank you for your positive impact.

With love and joyful gratitude,
Marie

Energy boost

After the last chemo, I laid around for more days than I would like. My energy was low and I didn’t have much to write; each day looked like the one before it.

Despite my low ability to get around, we decided to go ahead with a planned trip to Naples, Florida. Last Tuesday, with quite a bit of help, I was able to travel with my family. Once we arrived, I spent the first two days in bed while they explored the beach and pool. For me, it was more of the same, just new surroundings, but the kids were having fun and it was nice to have some new scenery.

A friend of mine, a wonderful woman I met on one of my trips to see John of God in Abadiania, Brazil, lives in Naples. She had JUST returned to town (again from Abadiania, Brazil) and texted me on Wednesday morning that, that very night, there would be a crystal bowl meditation with a focus on the Divine Mother. Did I want to go?

Wow. Crystal bowls, meditation and Divine Mother. Any one of those would get me there. Yes.

With some effort, I got dressed, put on make-up and made my way downstairs, where my friend picked me up.

The meditation was being held in a salt cave. More coolness (even literally). We arrived early so that I could sit near the large crystal gifted to the owner from John of God and the entities. (That is a story in itself.)

Before the session began, the owner showed my friend and me some of the bowls she would be playing, and I suddenly felt Shira beside me, smiling and laughing. Of course. Shira was the first one to introduce me to crystal bowls and sound healing, and she owned a few that she played beautifully. They gave her much joy. And another connection: Shira traveled to Brazil with my friend even before I did! I loved feeling her there with both of us.

The meditation lasted about an hour and a half, and afterwards, I got to visit with my friend, staying up later than I had in weeks. These events shifted my energy for the rest of the trip. The next day, I could get out of bed early, leave the room, enjoy the resort, and even eat a couple of real meals of solid food! That may not sound like much, but it was a big shift for me.

I remain surprised and grateful for the things that arise to keep me going. Deep gratitude to my friend for initiating all this.

And I hope that, as you read this, you know that you are on your way to your next energy boost as well. You never know where it will come from, or whose energy you will boost by your thoughtful actions!

Love,
Marie

Six degrees of separation. Or fewer.

Thank you for your prayers for my CT scan last Thursday. All went smoothly, and I get the results on Tuesday.

Rather than feeling anxious, I’m so excited about Tuesday. Yes, I get the scan results AND it is chemo day, but that is overshadowed by the richness of relationship promising to infuse that day.

Jodi is driving me to my appointment and staying with me – always wonderful to spend time with her. And then…Tom and Linnea will drop by.

I met Tom via my blog, back when he was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer. I met Linnea via her blog. Linnea is living with lung cancer, thanks to a drug that Tom helped discover. Isn’t that just so cool? I absolutely love that we are all connected. Both of them inspire me and enrich my life, and it thrills me to learn that they are connected to each other, too.

None of us have met in person. But on Tuesday, Tom will be at Dana Farber for a meeting (with my doctor!), Linnea is able to stop by, and I have an appointment there. So we will all get to meet together at the same time, live and in person, the old-fashioned way. I’m kind of giddy.

I am often conscious that my life is different because of my diagnosis. But then I consider events like this, where I might never have experienced these kinds of connections, and I feel so blessed.

Love,
Marie

P.S. I also feel good that, out of all the doctors in the country, Tom selected my oncologist to get a second opinion. Tom is really smart and on top of all this, and I kind of bumble through it, so it is like finding out I am holding a golden nugget.

Setting goals

We set life goals, tangible and intangible, such as achieving a level of professional success or creating a certain style of life. We also set near-term goals. For example, when I used to run, I would decide to run three miles, then along the way, set mini-goals of running faster until the next lamp post. These smaller goals helped me in reaching the larger goal.

Since my diagnosis, the tone of my goals has changed to sound more like, “How long can I live?”  I set out for 20 years and the mini-goals, so far, look like this:

– See our older son make his First Communion and be able to host family
– Attend his fourth grade poetry reading and listen with my whole heart
– Help our younger son transition to his “real” school (from preschool)
– Celebrate another wedding anniversary with my husband (I reset this one every year)
– Prepare for and attend the First Communion of our younger son

I feel so lucky to have attained the first four, and I have the fifth one in my sights.

In the meantime, as other goals pop into my head, they get added.

For example, last week, I was loving my 10-year-old car. Yes, it has given me problems here and there, but lately, it felt reliable and like it would go on forever.

Goal: I would love to outlive my car.

Immediate gut response: Careful what you ask for.

The next day, I started the car in our garage and slowly backed out. The engine felt sluggish, but I attributed that to our crazy-cold weather. As I backed up further, the ABS and BRAKE warning lights flashed orange on my dash. Then the BRAKE light turned to red.

I checked the handbrake. I’ve driven with that on before, but it was not set. Halfway out of the garage, I thought, maybe I just needed to restart the car?

I turned off the ignition. Instantly, I realized my mistake, but the deed was done. I could not start it again. It wouldn’t even turn over. Not a click.

I looked over my left shoulder and saw the side of the garage door right next to me. I tried to open it, but there was not enough room for me to get out. I was effectively locked in the car. Sigh.

What were other options? The backseat doors were clear of the garage! I climbed over the seat. Not so easy to do with a colostomy bag, sore abs, and generally under-used muscles, but I did it! Once out, I felt thrilled with my little physical manipulations. One problem solved. Now to worry about getting the car started.

Just then I realized – it was FREEZING cold outside and the garage door could not close with my car in the way. We would be heating the outside for hours through an opening the size of a garage door!

Call to hubby, my salvation in all things that I cannot handle on my own.

Yes, I see some parallels to my body. Sometimes it feels a bit unreliable, but I can go for such long stretches of feeling good that I feel like the problems are gone. And then suddenly, they crop up again. I can feel trapped, but I luckily have been able to climb out. Maybe a little awkwardly and with some effort, but it works. And much of the time, I look at my situation and realize that I need help. Fortunately, help arrives.

My husband came home, pushed the car out of the garage, and charged it. He charged the battery, but it wouldn’t hold a charge. Because this is the fourth battery in 10 years, and we had countless mechanics say they can’t find a problem, it feels more like some obscure electrical problem.

It became clear that, as much as I loved this car, it was time to move onto another one.

So, check that goal off my list. Next!

Heart explosion

Much of this weekend was spent in religious services, which also means that much of the weekend was spent with me tearing up from all the beauty.

On Saturday, I attended the bar mitzvah of the son of our friends. Let me start by saying that I love the Jewish faith. I happily immerse myself in the prayers, the songs, the cadence of the words. I adore the history, the rituals, the intellectual leanings and conversations. I admire that one practices certain holy days at home with family and others in community at the temple. At one point in my life, I studied, just a bit, toward conversion.

So in addition to the honor of being invited to share in this very special day with friends, I looked forward to the service itself.

Still, I arrived ten minutes late. Plus, my laryngitis turned into a chesty cough, so I slid, hopefully unobtrusively, into a seat in the last row on the side, away from everyone else.

From that position, I settled into watching the bar mitzvah boy lead the service. Clear and composed, he obviously prepared well for this day. The rabbi and cantor surrounded him with infectious joy, smiling throughout the service and, at times, almost lifting themselves off the floor. Their phrasing and tone was consistently positive and upbeat. Though I entered a bit grumpy and sat on the sidelines, I couldn’t help but be quickly drawn into their current of happiness.

The service itself focused on our interconnections, God’s loving kindness, gratitude for the simple things, making this world a better place, and all those other topics that slide right into my heart and make life feel warm and wonderful and full of possibilities and love.

Because the Hebrew words and the corresponding actions do not come automatically to me, I watched others for guidance throughout the service. What page are we on? Was it time to sit or stand, bow or close our eyes? Do we all sing or is it just the cantor for this part?

As I looked around for hints, I saw so much more. The husband and wife sitting in front of me, with their school-age son between them. Each of the three of them wore a yarmulke and prayer shawl, clearly reverent. They also clearly shared a strong bond of love. The family of the bar mitzvah, each one beaming so strongly I would not have been surprised to see light pour out of their faces. The woman across the aisle from me, heartily greeting everyone who came her way as if each were a long-lost friend. The husband near the front, who tenderly put his arm around his wife at various points in the service. The son who held his mother’s hand when she need to take a few steps, and her smiling response. The sisters who read from the bimah together, supporting each other with smiles and a few giggles, then, when they finished, putting their arms around each other. All these connections demonstrating deep love and joy brought tears to my eyes.

In the midst of this crazy love, I realized that I didn’t want this service to end, and suddenly worried that it might be coming to a close. Right then, the rabbi had us pause, take a deep breath, and hold onto the beauty, sacredness and awesomeness of the moment we just all experienced together. My heart expanded until it was about to explode and I could have screamed with joy (if my voice were back to normal).

I woke the next morning in some pain (unrelated to the bar mitzvah), but dragged myself and a thermos of tea to Sunday Mass. I am almost always touched by the Mass and, after Communion, often moved to tears.

Again, I was late. I was thrilled to see that this Mass would be led by a priest who also spreads kindness, joy and acceptance. As I eased into the Mass, his infectious and joyful demeanor helped to move my focus from myself to the service itself, and I felt my own pain  dissipate.

Midway through, I remembered yesterday’s advice of the rabbi. Inhaling deeply, I took in the awesomeness of the moment. Ahead of me and across the aisle to my left sat, side by side, three teeny grey-haired ladies wrapped in wool coats and hats and the comfort of a long friendship. Just then, an older man entered alone and sat a few rows ahead of me, shoulders slumped but relieved to be here. Directly in front of me, a mother and teenage daughter periodically leaned toward each other, touching shoulders as they gave the usual Mass responses. The toddler directly across the aisle sat so quietly and attentively on his father’s knee; I admired the peace between them. The pianist wore sunglasses that made me think of Ray Charles and I giggled inside. With each sight, my heart expanded. When my eyes fell upon families who have children the same ages as mine, I realized how much they have helped me to grow and to feel a part of this parish, and my heart expanded yet again.

Both days, it felt as if God’s love was running through all of these connections, then through me, eventually pouring out through the tears that landed on the lens of my eyeglasses.

It doesn’t stop there. I feel this connection with you, when you read this or write or pray for me or even do something kind for someone else. It expands my heart to exploding. I overflow with tears, and my smile could break out of my face. Thank you for all that you do to make my life, and this world, a better place to be.

Love,
Marie

Woe to the complacent in Zion (Amos 6:1)

Thank you for all your prayers last week. As chemo weeks go, it was a good one. I was thrilled to be scheduled as the lector for the 8 a.m. Mass on Sunday, and I even felt well enough to get my body out of bed and to the church on time.

A theme of the readings on Sunday included helping those less fortunate. I reflected on my past 24 hours. Living in a city, we often see individuals at traffic lights, walking among the stopped cars asking for money. Though I am totally random when it comes to giving in that way, I had given money to someone the day before. And after Mass, I put money in a basket for women and children working to change their lives after sex trafficking. I probably have a ways to go, but I felt okay about my sharing, at least recently.

In my life, that kind of self-satisfied, or maybe complacent, feeling, no matter how mild, is like foreshadowing. I know that by now, but I can’t seem to stop it, so I basically think “uh oh” and go about my day.

When I left the church, my husband and kids met me with our dog. I scooped up the dog and drove straight to Fresh Pond to meet my friend, Mary, and her dog. The air was crisp and clean under a beautiful blue sky and the fall leaves stood out against the blue pond water. I felt good enough to walk, so, in the car, I happily changed from my skirt into yoga pants. I considered changing my shirt –who cares if someone sees my bra for a minute – but decided that it was too awkward to pull my blouse over my head in the car. (Turned out to be a good choice.) So I stayed in the same top, kicked off my dress shoes and got out of the car barefoot to retrieve my socks and sneakers from the back seat as the dog ran off to play with his doggie friends.

I opened the back door to the car and stood between that open door and the back seat to put on my socks and shoes. While doing this, I was happily chatting on my iPhone with my friend, Kathy.

Suddenly, a man appeared RIGHT NEXT TO ME. Not only did he invade my happiness circle, he was shoulder to shoulder with me.

I turned to face him. He held a cardboard takeout coffee cup holder with three cups of Dunkin Donuts coffee that appeared to be fresh. At first, I thought he was about to offer a cup of coffee to me.

Instead, he said something about my bare feet but it sounded confusing. I was suddenly aware that I had zero personal space and the car door behind me made it impossible to back up. I don’t generally mind talking with strangers but I do need my space. Plus, I wanted to finish my conversation with Kathy and find Mary, who was waiting for me.

From there, our conversation went something like this:

Me: “You are too close to me. Step back.”

Him: “I want to talk with you.”

“You need to leave.”

He got a little annoyed. Or maybe he was angry – I couldn’t tell – there was too much going on with my socks and shoes, my interrupted conversation with Kathy, the car door, and the funky vibes this guy was throwing off. I couldn’t process all of it, much less factor in how he felt.

“You need to leave. Right now.” I was surprised at how firm I was and how calm I felt.

“No.”

“You are creeping me out. You need to leave.”

I was able to move so that I was no longer stuck between him and the car door. I still had my cellphone in my hand. Apparently I am unwilling to let that go, even in a crisis. I must be more addicted to it than I think. It also kept me connected to Kathy, an expert in getting her way with difficult people. Her connection on the phone provided inspiration.

“I just want to have a conversation,” he slurred.

“I DON’T. You need to leave.”

He turned around and walked away, muttering nasty things about me as he did. I watched him walk until he was on the other side of the parking lot, where he seemed to meet up with some other guy and they walked together to the street. I put on my socks and shoes and stayed on the phone with Kathy until I found Mary.

Recounting the incident with Mary, she told me that he had approached her, too. Their conversation also felt creepy but she managed to ask how he was. Clearly, Mary has a kind heart. He told her, “I’m stoned and f’ed up” (though he didn’t leave out the letters).

So much for helping those less fortunate. Always room for improvement.

I felt okay about how I handled it. I was strong and clear and direct. But maybe there was a better way that wasn’t all about me. He wasn’t looking for money. I didn’t feel fear, so I wasn’t working from that. Maybe he just wanted to connect. It was not yet 9:30 a.m. and I had interacted with my husband and kids, talked with people at Mass, laughed with Kathy on the phone and looked forward to meeting Mary for a walk. Clearly I had an abundance of connections and communications that I took for granted.

It’s a tricky business to communicate with someone in an altered state of mind. I don’t know that any kind of conversation would have made a difference, any more than I can know that giving money to a homeless person makes any real difference. Still, I try.

It did remind me, though, that I often have more than I am consciously aware of, and that there is plenty to share.

Thank you for sharing your life with me, your time, your blessings. Thank you for being connected to each other, as it builds our huge web of social support. Thank you for your prayers. Though it may seem like a little bit, it makes a real difference.

Love,
Marie

Rolling forward

Thank you. Thank you for your patience and your support and your prayers. Chemo week is fast approaching, so I welcome your prayers especially on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday!

In the meantime, I feel SO much better than I did during my last chemo week. Physically and emotionally, that was a difficult week. Every spot that had a tumor screamed in pain. My back spasmed intensely from the neulasta shot. I felt gross and off-center from the chemo, and I was exhausted. The icing on the cake: I felt indescribably sad.

If anti-depressants can lift you from a poor mental and emotional state and put you in a better place, chemo took me from a better place and put me in a poor mental and emotional state. I couldn’t snap out of it, use logic, or any of my usual tools. I was stuck simply experiencing it. It wasn’t fun or cheery or light or soul-filled. I literally just wanted to die.

Compared to my post-chemo week, I thought that the chemo session itself went well. I recalled watching a movie and staying awake during the entire infusion.

But then Valerie called me three times this past week to check in. I adore Valerie but we rarely talk on the phone and typically don’t “check in.”

When I eventually returned her call, I learned that she had called me during Tuesday’s chemo session, and while I was getting the infusion, I fully unloaded my soul to her. I shared my worries. I cried. I talked about my dark vision of my future and my concerns for my family. The nurse even joined our conversation at one point. We talked for a full hour.

I remember none of this. None. Not even when she recounted it.

I’m glad that she repeatedly called to check on me. Yes, it was good to talk with her (especially since clearly, I didn’t remember our prior conversation). But also, our follow-up call helped me to appreciate that (long) moment of conversation during chemo, and she reminded me of some insights we shared at that time. All good things.

I also bring this up because if I forget a conversation, neglect to respond to an email, or otherwise drop the ball, please please know that it isn’t intentional. Obviously, I am blanking out on large parts of my life, even parts I value. Be annoyed, but do feel free to remind me, even repeatedly, of anything that needs a reminder.

Thankfully, I moved out of last week’s deep, dark post-chemo place. The bike arrived, and life started to turn around. I truly believe that God was working through whomever delivered that bike. Their grace kicked off a theme that continued for over 24 hours. Get this:

Sunday night: The bike arrived. Happy happy joy joy.

Monday morning: The sitter took my older son biking (not on the new bike – that was mine to ride first!) During the ride, she lost the key to my bike lock, setting off a string of drama about that lock which consumed all of us, all day. Small problem, I know, but chalk it up to post-chemo mood swings. And note: Bike theme.

Monday night: I posted a thank you on my blog to my generous anonymous friends. My friend, Tom, was watching Dora the Explorer and, after reading that post, he looked back at the show. At that moment, Dora was receiving a yellow tandem bike to help her solve her quest. No kidding. Love that. And love that he shared that. I decided that my yellow tandem bike was helping me solve my quest.

But wait, there is MORE on the bike theme! My friend, Ig, reminded me of one of my favorite StoryPeople quotes:

Life Cycle

This is a special bike that’s not very good at listening to excuses, so it takes you exactly where you really want to go & if you kick & scream it makes you pedal harder & go up steeper hills until you’re too out of breath to complain & after awhile, if you’re lucky, you start to see that it doesn’t really matter if you laugh or cry, because it just wants to ride like the wind.

I had been kicking and screaming and pedaling as hard as I could, going up steeper and steeper hills until I was finally too out of breath and out of strength to complain. I literally plopped myself in the backyard and just looked at the sky. Exhausted, I could now only go along for the ride. Then I began to feel the wind in my very short purple hair and smiled.

Thank you, yellow tandem bike givers, for getting this all rolling. Thank you, everyone who was part of all the unfolding (even the sitter who lost the key to the lock – I’m sure there is some cosmically-connected message in there somewhere!). Thank YOU, most of all, for reading and bearing witness to all this. I send you much love.

Marie

Let my love open the door

Thank you for your healing prayers. As more than one person pointed out, I should ask for your prayers for FULL healing, so thank you for focusing your prayers on that!

Thank you also for staying so connected. I am more and more convinced that we are connected in invisible but vary tangible ways.

Mostly, those kinds of connections are just so fun and open my world even wider. My family and I recently returned from a magical vacation where we got to connect in real time with dear friends.

Of the gazillion stories, I will share something from my time in Ashland, Oregon (USA), visiting two friends I met last summer in Brazil.

At one point, my friends and I were talking about this blog and I mentioned Tom. Tom and I met through this blog and I shared with my friends some of the cool “coincidences” related to Tom and our email connections.

Shortly after this conversation, I checked my email. Around the time we were talking about Tom, he was writing an email to me! Love it when that happens. AND this is what it said (slightly edited with his approval):

I was just … beginning to read the first post: “How This Blog Began” https://adventuresinspiritualliving.wordpress.com/2012/08/31/how-this-blog-began/

During my reading…, I had my iPod going on shuffle with ensuing random background music.

At the moment I started to read why you started to write this blog based upon a clear message from God, my iPod Shuffle started to play the song “Let My Love Open the Door” by Pete Townsend.  It isn’t a song I know super well but it instantly caught my ear & I immediately felt the need to look up the lyrics since I didn’t know them. I feel like I got my own message at that moment  – I don’t know Pete’s background of why he wrote the lyrics but it spoke to me of God’s love, especially after the first verse, wonderful timing to reading about why & how you started the blog.

Of course, I totally loved the synchronicities of all that. I completely believe that events are connected in ways designed to speak to our hearts. I love that that song came on during the reading of that particular blog post. I love that Tom’s experience helped me to hear that song in a new way.

But wait, there is more! In the liner notes of Pete Townsend’s Gold (Remaster) CD, he refers to this song as “Jesus sings.” Who’d have thought?!

So, maybe you will hear this song in a new way as well. Or, if it isn’t the song for you, I hope that you will see and hear your connections with new eyes and ears, always.

Joy and love to you (and the lyrics that follow),
Marie

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQ4MOkK2MOM

When people keep repeating
That you’ll never fall in love
When everybody keeps retreating
But you can’t seem to get enough
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
To your heart

When everything feels all over
When everybody seems unkind
I’ll give you a four-leaf clover
Take all the worry out of your mind

Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
To your heart

I have the only key to your heart
I can stop you falling apart
Try today, you’ll find this way
Come on and give me a chance to say

Let my love open the door

It’s all I’m living for
Release yourself from misery
Only one thing’s gonna set you free
That’s my love

Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
To your heart

When tragedy befalls you
Don’t let them bring you down
Love can cure your problem
You’re so lucky I’m around

Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
To your heart

Flowing like a river

Chemo today. I’m so excited because I do this one, and then, instead of the usual “return in two weeks,” I get to return in THREE weeks!

Looking around the waiting room at Dana Farber reminds me of how incredibly fortunate I am, and I know that it is because of you – your prayers, positive thoughts, good vibes, even happy living as you appreciate how beautiful life can be.

This morning, it was warm but pouring rain as I walked the boys to school. Our house sits on a hill, and when our younger son reached the foot of the hill, he stopped to look at the puddles and then turned to look back up at the hill itself.

“Look, Mama! There is a RIVER coming down our driveway.”

We were running a little late for school so I had to force my normal “hurry-up” self to stop and notice. Yup, there was water flowing. I had to stop another minute to actually try and see it through his eyes, as an impressive river.

He continued. “And then look – the rivers go down the hill and into these puddles and makes them bigger. Mama, look, the whole system is connected.”

Thankfully, the boys go to a school that encourages this kind of exploration, so we spent a minute explicitly pointing to the connections – how the rain comes down and forms rivers, how the rivers flow into puddles, how the puddles grow and connect to each other. Even how, if he jumps into one puddle, the splash sends the water into another puddle.

I feel like our human connections are like that as well. Like a raindrop, even a small drop of your energy can join with the energy of others, gaining mass as it gathers. Together, those drops continue moving, forming a flow, filling me with energy, and hopefully, that positive energetic flow also passes through me to others.

Thank you for all of that. I know that you sharing your energy is the reason that I feel so good, that I can go through this treatment, and that I am looking forward to a Merry Christmas and fun New Year.

I send my energy, and love, and deep gratitude to you.

Marie