Those were the words I wrote without thinking: “a relearning how to dream after cancer blog.” I was shocked when I looked back and saw that I described my blog in this manner. Since writing the post, I’ve gone back and stared at those words countless times. To be honest, the words make me a little uncomfortable. Those hastily written words contain truths I didn’t realize were simmering under the surface.
Friday Night I found myself on stage at Courage Night as one of five women reading our work about surviving cancer. In the Q&A session, as I was describing how my blog had evolved, I recited this line from that blog post: “CoffeeJitters has been a single girl making her way in the world blog, a wedding blog, an infertility blog, a photography blog, a quitting my job and going back to school full time blog, a wow! I’m pregnant! blog, a mommy blog, a cancer blog, ….” except I swallowed the words “a relearning how to dream after cancer blog.”
No, in a room full of cancer survivors, women I love and trust, and who understand better than any one else, I could barely voice those words I had already published. I’m still not quite sure whether I said them out loud when I was at the mic.
I am currently taking Susannah Conway’s “Blogging from the Heart” class, which is proving to be more magical that I could have ever dreamed. This class is also bringing me face to face with that line – “a trying to relearn how to dream after cancer blog.” She is asking me to dig deep, and think about the purpose of my blog. It is easy to spot the focus on gratitude and appreciation of everyday magic, but this blogging practice is also challenging me to stretch.
Just as a physical injury can leave the body bound up in a tight little ball of muscle, the emotional trauma can have a similar impact on the spirit. Yoga and stretching and movement will little by little improve the flexibility and range of the body, but it’s sometimes painful and frightening. It is work that exists entirely outside of the comfort zone. I’ve reached the point where I understand what I have been intuitively trying to do, yet simultaneously resisting – to improve the flexibility and range of my imagination, of my ability to re-dream my future.
The process is slow and difficult, but looking back I can see how I have gradualy expanded the time frame of my dreams. Since diagnosis, I’ve had trouble imagining my life more than a few weeks or months ahead. Now my dreams stretch as far as five years out. Some day soon, I’ll be able to imagine myself at my daughter’s high school graduation.
Writing has been difficult lately. I feel like I’m chasing soap bubbles, and the moment I grasp a nugget, a train of thought, an approach, an angle, it disappears into nothingness before I can pin it to paper.
It’s so very much like my daughter chasing these bubbles around the park – yet so different.
First, I’m not having as much fun (I need to do something about that).
Second, my failure to grasp these bubbles, and manipulate them into a cohesive thesis, has consequenses.
Just a few more days, I can count it in hours now, till this semester is done. The last paper and final are friday; then I can exhale.
We spent the evening walking down Bourbon Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans, The Big Easy. It’s Friday night, and I’m told much tamer than the partying a few nights earlier on Fat Tuesday.
My friends and I stand at the corner waiting for the light to change so we can cross the street, while revelers around us brazenly jaywalk – behavior that seems foreign to this group of girls from Seattle.
We stop for drinks at Howl At the Moon, and when they are delivered in 36 ounce plastic cups, the server explains that the 3 for one special means everyone is automatically upgraded to a triple, and the cups are plastic so we can take them out in the street.
We look outside: Everyone does carry their drinks with them in the street.
Don’t worry, we adjusted. It wasn’t long before we were jaywalking while carrying open containers. Talk about multitasking.
Beads hang from balconies, street lights, stop signs, trees, public art, and anything else that will sit still long enough to be draped with the twinkling strands in all colors of bling.
A sprinkling of rain and a sturdy breeze lends more sparkle and movement to a street that is already teeming with life; humans, pigeons, palm trees, flowers, moss, mules, dogs can all be seen in a single glance.
The next block we walk through is closed to traffic, and pedestrians fill the area between the buildings as they laugh, dance, and wander amongst the street performers and live music wafting from the insides of bars and restaurants, music so rich and textured it seems to hold a physical presence in the space as well.
Bright lights and dark corners, high contrast colors, bricks and stucco, trolleys and mule drawn carriages, trees and bling,
and ornate balconies populated with blow up dolls
conspire to create an environment that is, to me, both fun and foreign.
The second anniversary of my cancer diagnosis is quickly approaching. Of course it has me thinking. A lot. Not all the thoughts are happy thoughts, but that just comes with the territory.
But some of those thoughts are happy thoughts. Warm, fuzzy, happy thoughts. Like the girls I met because I have cancer.
These are women I would have been proud to count among my friends even before diagnosis, but I can’t imagine a scenario in which I would have met any of them outside of cancer.
This weekend a group of us traveled to New Orleans to a conference for young women with breast cancer. We learned about treatment protocols, late effects of treatment, nutrition, dealing with the impact of cancer treatment in the bedroom, and myriad other topics, and we got to spend time with other women whose lives have been similarly impacted.
Good times, good music, good food, good company…
I think the people with whom we surround ourselves have a huge influence on our happiness. Sure, we all have those people around whom we have to tiptoe and walk on eggshells, but we can dilute their influence with so many more amazing people, people who lift us up and love us for who we really are. I’m so blessed to have such amazing friends – that they understand what I’m going through with cancer because they’ve been there too just makes it that much better.
I’m a very lucky woman.
Of course I still worry about how many years I have left, but even more important than the number of trips you make around the sun is your traveling companions along the way.
I like to joke that no one really knows what I look like without a camera in front of my face. I’m THAT girl at parties: the one who hides behind the camera, capturing moments more than participating. The one who rarely actually appears in photographs…
Put Mom in the Picture
When I was first diagnosed with cancer, this really bothered me. For the first time ever, it was REALLY important to me that I have photos of myself, and photos of myself with my husband and daughter.
I wanted my family to have them – not just in case I died, but also to mark who I am right now, because I’m evolving. My looks are changing daily as my hair grows back. My outlook is changing daily as well; each new day brings a new challenge, and something else at which to marvel.
I’m trying to teach myself photography, and in that process, I spend a lot of time studying the work of some of my favorite photographers. Each has their own unique and identifiable style. What I’m learning is that a picture doesn’t just tell you about the subject matter in the frame, it tells you a whole lot about the photographer. You can see moods, attitude, approach… you can see respect, affection, and love.
The photograph is a record of the world as I see it
That realization eased my mind a bit about my absence from the photographs. I understand now, that I am in all those photographs that I have taken.
The photograph is a record of the world as I see it. It’s an opportunity to look at life through my eyes, to see what I see.
My hope is that someday in the future – when my daughter is 13/16/18/whatever, and mad at me because I wouldn’t let her stay up late/take the car/have my credit card/whatever – that she will, every once in a while, glance at one of the millions of photos I’ve taken of her, and see that the person behind the camera loves her with everything she has to give.
I can see my attitudes in the photos I’ve taken. I can see the difference between the photos taken to simply to document a place, thing, or an occasion, and those that seek out the magic of the moment. Mood, attitude, and approach do make a difference.
The camera bag of my dreams
Long before I had a real DSLR camera, I had my eye on a camera bag. Not just any camera bag, a beautiful camera bag from Epiphanie Bags.
After I was finally able to get my good camera this summer (with some help from my mom – THANKS MOM!), I bookmarked my dream bag, and revisited regularly. But purchasing the bag was out of the question. The price was prohibitive.
Not to long ago, I even posted the link on Facebook with the words, “sigh… someday.”
A couple weeks later that bag appeared at my door.
But here’s the thing: I didn’t order it.
I don’t know who sent it to me. It was delivered by the UPS guy with no note attached.
I laughed, I cried, I jumped up and down and squealed, even scaring my baby a bit till I convinced her it was a happy dance. I am completely in awe of this bag, and the kind, anonymous, generosity that caused it to become mine.
A Sense of Gratitude and Magic
I tear up every time I look at the bag, I also stand a little taller with that beautiful braided strap over my shoulder. That kindness now travels with me everywhere. Each time I reach for my camera, I am reminded of this generosity, and as I look through my lens at the world, I do so with a sense of gratitude and magic, and I hope that will show in my photographs.
Thank you my friend, whoever you are. You have given me so much more than a gorgeous bag to cradle my camera. Bless you.