The magic and sparkle around us

On the last day of our vacation, I skied partway down the mountain alongside my snowboarding husband and son when we stopped for a moment to take a break. The weather felt relatively warm under cloudy, grey skies, though the trees alongside the trail were covered in ice.

Close-up of ice:

Ice on the trees - Mt. Snow

Trees along the trail:

Trailside trees at Mt. Snow

Suddenly, before our eyes, this entire row of trees sparkled as though filled with multi-color glitter, changing the entire view. We stood in awe of the transformed scene. Then, just as quickly as they appeared, the colors returned to grey. However, our perspective on those trees had shifted and we knew they held magic.

Later that evening, during our drive home, one of our sons noticed that if you looked out one side of the car, you could clearly see the stars, but not from the other side. On that side, the city lights, though not nearly as powerful as a star, were close enough to block out the starlight. We thought it ironic that the stars themselves were significantly more powerful than our earthly electric lights, but the electric lights drowned them out simply because they were closer.

Though we would have enjoyed seeing the stars, we didn’t need to see them to know that they were there.

I feel that way about the magical beings around us and the magic we each carry inside. Like the stars, that magic is stronger than I can comprehend, even though it can be hard to notice when daily life gets too loud. Like when I ski, I often move too quickly or focus elsewhere and miss seeing the sparkle. Still, I know that the magic and sparkle are there. And when I slow or stop the action and pay attention, I am giddy to actually see it.

I appreciate the magical beings around me, and I honor the magic you share with me. Thank you.

I dedicate this post to my dear, dear friend Shira. I feel honored have shared this path with you. Thank you for inviting me to stop the action and noise in my life, and experience the power of your love as you transition into the next life. Thank you for blessing my life with your light and magic. Good travels, my friend. Your love and magic remain with us. 

One day, one moment, one prayer at a time

Your attitude, positive thoughts and prayers impact my life in a huge way, as I was reminded this past weekend.

Last week’s chemo went as chemo goes, bringing many of the usual side effects and a few bonus surprises. Luckily, by Saturday, I was on the upswing so my husband and I took the kids to find a Christmas tree.

As we walked among the trees, I was suddenly transported back in time. Six years ago, right before Christmas, I was diagnosed with cancer, healing from surgery (and sepsis) and about to start chemotherapy for the first time. Not only did the diagnosis unsettle everything I thought to be true in my life (i.e., that I could take good health for granted and actually make plans for the future), the treatment schedule upended our personal plans to spend the holidays with my family in Pittsburgh. In addition, I had already shipped all the gifts “from Santa” to Pittsburgh, and I was too overwhelmed to shop again for our one- and four-year-old boys, both of whom still enthusiastically believed in Santa Claus. I feared that would be my last Christmas with them, and it looked like it might be a disappointment all around.

But on this day, in 2013, wandering among the trees in the city lot, listening to my boys yell happily to each other and watching my husband measure various balsams and firs, I felt immensely grateful to be living and making preparations to celebrate another Christmas together.

After driving our tree home, I needed a rest so we draped ourselves over the sofa and watched Frosty the Snowman. Years ago, my psyche was filled with the words “…and we’ll have some fun now before I melt away.” (You can read about that here.)

This time, despite being tired, a different set of Frosty’s words slid happily into my heart:

“I’m all livin’! I AM alive! What a neat thing to happen to a nice guy like me!”

I was feeling lighter and coming out from under the chemo cloud.

On Sunday morning, due a confluence of circumstances, I went to church without the boys, and to a Mass at a church that I didn’t plan to attend. The priest began his homily talking about his seven-year-old niece and her dying father. Not an easy topic for me, but I hung in there while he made his way to his point. After that, he began to tell a story about a “dying stage 3 colon cancer patient.”

Those words put all my cells on high alert. As a stage 4 colorectal cancer patient, I don’t think of stage 3 as dying. In fact, I know both stage 3 AND stage 4 patients who are now cancer-free, so I don’t really think of either as dying. I thanked God that my kids weren’t there to hear this.

As the priest continued speaking, I went into fight or flight.

Because I was at that Mass and that church on a fluke, and because I strongly believe in the power of coincidence, I considered staying. Maybe God had a message for me if I waited.

The instant that thought occurred to me, it felt wrong. I didn’t need to stay and absorb another negative assumption that this man had to share. I needed to leave, and leave right then. Every fiber in my body said that was the right thing to do.

Mulling over this experience afterwards, I realized that I am both accustomed to people being supportive and focusing on what is possible, and that I rely on it. I can’t even let other viewpoints into my energy field.

Hearing those words and tone from this priest reminded me that there are still people who equate cancer with death, and I am lucky they aren’t in my circle. It reminded me that I am most fortunate to know that, not only can someone live with cancer, one can actually gain a different lease on life as well as get rid of cancer altogether. It reminded me that I am infinitely fortunate to know people who share that experience and / or perspective.

Maybe I didn’t need to hear whatever point the priest was trying to make. Maybe I was simply meant to gain a new appreciation for what is already in my life.

I thank you deeply for always infusing me with positive thoughts, energy, and prayers through your presence, emails, actions, notes and countless other connections. What we say and do can move each other in one direction or another. I feel like I am here six years later by moving one day at a time, one moment at a time, one prayer at a time. I could not do it without you and all the positive power you share. I am living. I AM alive. Thank you.

Love and blessings and all that is good,
Marie

This, too, shall pass

Thank you for your prayers and concerns about the bleeding I was having. Since I’ve gone through both menopause and a hysterectomy, I thought there would be no more of that. Perhaps the name of the game is, “Assume Nothing.”

I called my doctor, fearing that he would insist that I jump back into chemo. Instead, he recommended a watch and wait approach, and I felt comfortable with that. Well, as comfortable as I could be. The worry persisted, but chemo wouldn’t help that anyway.

I went to tong ren, and the bleeding stopped.

In the meantime, life continues. My day consists of tasks that simply…take time…and in my focus to complete them, I frequently hear myself saying, “in a minute” to the kids.

For example, I might be online booking summer camps and one of the boys will say, “Mom, look at this!” I don’t want to stop, lose my place, look at that, and then have to re-oreint myself to wherever I was in the registration process.

So I say, “In a minute.” Of course, by the time I am ready to look, the moment is over. I’ve missed it, and then spiral into fear that they will stop inviting me to share in their discoveries.

Since change comes slowly to me, I decided to start by observing where I put my energy and what I put off, to learn what I am prioritizing every day.

One morning, I dropped the boys off at school then stayed to watch one of them play basketball with his friends. It felt idyllic. The boisterous boys dribbled and shot on the asphalt against a backdrop of blooming trees.

Wouldn’t it be nice to take a picture so someday the boys could get a glimpse of their kindergarten mornings?

May 2013

This photo does not show the morning light as it streamed through the trees. Consistent with my “in a minute” approach, I didn’t take the photo that morning at  basketball time. Instead, I thought I would do it another day.

I went home, got busy and then panicked. Would the flowers be there when I got around to taking the picture? What if it rained and the rain knocked them off the branches? This was the moment. It was now.

Maybe the name of the game isn’t “Assume Nothing.”

Considering the moments of worry and the moments of joy, perhaps the name of the game is, “This too shall pass” so I can feel safe in immersing myself in whatever happens to be right now.