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Losing Lotto, finding peace

It seems like lately everyone I know, at some point in every conversation, sighs and says, "If only I could win the Lotto..."  I joke with friends about how bad I am at the lottery actually, since I can't seem to win it, even when I do buy tickets.

There just seems to be a gap for most people I know, myself included (BIG gap), between how we are earning our livings and how we want to live our lives, between what we do for money now and what we really wish we were doing.  As things got harder for most everyone in our economy last year, I think everyone got a bit more philosophical about what they should really be doing that circumstances forced them away from.  I do know some people who are actually doing exactly what they should be doing - who've lined up their talents and passions with how they pay for groceries.  They stand as shining examples of Possibility. 

I also shouldn't minimize the impact, last year, of the dread cancer, which struck first my sister, then my dog, then my husband.  That damn disease just sucks a lot of oxygen out of the atmosphere for real, and in the context of After, having Survived, it does seem asinine to continue doing what we were doing before.  As if just because we survived all that, it should somehow be sunshine and rainbows and ease every day for the rest of our lives, without a care, having carried the worst fear around in our guts for a year. 

At the same time, I've been thinking and reading and practicing so much around reconciling that gap, minimizing it, by bringing yoga practices with me off the mat into the workplace and every other part of my life where I am less happy, like in my car driving too far to work every day.

I'm not going to lie.  That practice ain't easy.  

Mostly because sometimes, at work, I feel the drag of some crazy  personalities, clanging cymbal monkeys clamoring for attention (look at me! what about me! when can i eat!).  I know it's the best practice of all to maintain equanimity in a situation of imbalance and stress, but seriously: how much would I love to just not have to deal, to not have to practice equanimity against such enormous odds?

Sometimes I totally fall on my face.  Some days I am not patient. I am not compassionate.  I am not kind.  I am pissed off with bullshit and I am tired.  Even on days when I've tried to prepare myself, done my reflection in the morning, read my yogic texts, what-have-you, I don't stay calm, I do react, I am not nice.  I am irritated by sloppy work. I am a total bitch boss.

The Lotto isn't going to save me.  Especially because I always forget to buy tickets.  The only solution for me, really, since I know the situation I'm in is not right for me, is to move to the situation that is.  I'm working this with every ounce of energy and focus I have, but in the meantime have to keep moving through this middle place between what is right now and what is coming, and try to maintain some modicum of integrity.

And not rip the heads off the monkeys.


Sing out, Early Bird!

I am an unabashed early bird, happiest in the early morning hours, especially if I'm the first one up in a quiet house.  It's even more fun than usual since our boy, who's been living with us (on the couch) since October, is away on a much-deserved post-graduation vacation, so I can make a regular amount of noise, no tip-toeing around.

Since I opened my eyes at 4:55, I've been having a great time.  Not to brag, but just to jump around and say I'm really happy about all the following crap I got done in the 2 1/2 hours before I left my house:

- read email, caught up on Facebook, especially the delightful posts by Samin who cooked for the PRESIDENT last night, so freaking cool;
- read the news according to NY Times and SF Chronicle on-line;
- did a little housework, emptied the dishwasher, folded *and* put away a load of laundry;
- enjoyed the sound of the roomba cleaning the floors (love you, robot!);
- talked to my adorable husband at full volume;
- kissed my dog all over;
- read Gurumayi;
- watered half the orchids (there are a lot of them);
- took a shower, got dressed and ready for a loooong day at work today (and missing favorite yoga class, boo on that);
- had time to reflect, curse my laptop a bit, write this post by hand.

In that reflection time, I got to remembering that today marks the 21st anniversary of the first time I laid eyes on Joe.  Oh darling Katherine Powell Cohen, what wonders cigarettes and lighters can work!

And then, wow, on the way to work, coming to a complete stop because the President's in town, not minding the traffic at all, warbling like a bird indeed inside my car, loving everything on the radio.

So it's a great day, I'm singing my early bird heart out, taking it all in, feeling good.


Where is my summer?

This May has been so weird.  It's been raining pretty much every week, and cold.   On May 17th last year, San Francisco had a high of 84, this year 60. I know you can do the math, but I feel the need to remark: that's an astounding 24 degrees lower.

A year ago this weekend it was something like 100 at my house.  I remember because that was the weekend of Panoche Valley Road Race at which Joe crashed and broke his humerus.  I drove an hour and a half to go get him in Hollister where it was 110.  Hollister is bad enough, but Hollister when it's 110?  Ridiculous.

Here's a visual on the aftermath of that crash.  I couldn't resist taking photos of Joe in the ER where, seriously, every other patient had an armed guard. There was a point at which I had to leave Joe alone in the car while I had his prescriptions filled, while still in Hollister.  He was too wasted on whatever pain meds they'd given him to even walk, so wasted that he wanted me to turn off the A/C while he waited in the car because he'd been too cold in the hospital.  The whole time I stood waiting in the pharmacy, talking to scary people who loved my tattoos and wanted to know all about them, I kept expecting to look up and see my high husband shambling around the parking lot in his hospital gown in the full and blazing heat.  Thankfully he nodded out and dreamed his crazy dreams about polar bears and Jamaican cycling teams with which he regaled me on the drive home.

As someone who grew up in San Francisco, albeit in a relatively sunny and warm neighborhood, I revel in the warmer summer temperatures in central Marin where I have lived since 1991.  I do not miss the fog.  I love the heat.  I love those nights when it's so hot that it's hard to sleep, those days when going outside feels like stepping into an oven.  I love the quality of the light on a really hot day, how unbearably hot the sidewalk gets, how great it is to eat outside in the garden when it's dark but still 80.  I love not needing a sweater in August.   I love, most of all, how easy it is to grow things, how plants soak up the sunlight and warmth and visibly change every single day.

So this year, with this weird weather, I am experiencing some strangely-timed seasonal affective disorder.   Along with hay fever,  a given in these windy early summer days, I'm cold.  Cold!  Today, while gardening, I was in jeans and a long-sleeve t-shirt.  Reminder: this time last year it was 100!  OK, that was abnormally scorching, but generally 80 is the norm around these parts as we approach the end of May.

I'm thinking about those devices they sell in that Gaiam catalog for people who get sad in the winter, to generate more light, to bring them out of their wintertime, shorter-days funk.  I'm thinking about that as I lie here on the couch, at 7pm, fuzzy with allergies and irritated by a day of cold wind, wondering how the vegetables will do this year if things don't turn around pretty quickly.  I feel strangely hopeless, worn out, which I know is the stupid hay fever, but it's also, I think, a product of my weather-based discombobulation.  I am craving the heat this year and can't wait until it's back.

Until then maybe I'll just stay in this exact spot with my computer on my stomach, keeping me warm, and wait it out.


The final word on the PET scan?

I got the call this morning that I've been bracing for. Unfortunately, every time Joe calls me lately, I am instantly in a panic, wondering if this is The Call -- the call that contains the final information on the PET scan, which is really the final word on his lymphoma (oh jesus, please let there not be something else, not more chemo and suffering and pain). It's a drag because instead of feeling my usual total joy at hearing my sweetheart's voice, there's also this spike of nausea and anxiety.

But I think I can be done with that for a while.

The ENT doctor (Dr. Chien, love his name) called to say that he had indeed spoken with the radiologist about Joe's last PET scan. For those readers just joining the saga, we needed to make sure that the little Something on Joe's right tonsil wasn't some residual uber-lymphoma, power cancer, that survived the chemo scorched earth treatment.

The radiologist said that the Something was nothing to worry about. In a regular person, one who hadn't had lymphoma, he wouldn't even mention something like this when reviewing the results of a PET scan. In a normal person, not even worth mentioning. It's nothing to worry about, he said.

So Joe's not having his tonsils out, and we're trying to get comfortable. We both wanted news that would make us jump around and shout and laugh and cry and schedule a big party, but I think we're still a little stunned - not feeling exactly elated, not feeling exactly devastated, either. Perhaps just another aspect of our shared Post Cancer Stress Disorder which I assure you is very real and present in us both.

But really, even though we're stunned and not sure what or how to feel, I know that it really and truly IS good news. Once cancer has invaded your life, it's hard to feel safe, get comfortable. But I know this is good news. I just can't quite exhale yet, even though I know it's coming.

We will have a party. We will jump around and shout and laugh and cry. It might just take a little while.



Traveling through layers of memory

Taking the kid and his buddy to SFO this morning at 6am was an experience of swimming through thick memory, while the two of them snoozed in the car. 

I suppose this is what it is to get old living in the same basic place, seeing through what is there now to what was there before: oh yeah, long before Starbucks that used to be the Gap, oh yeah, when did Larson pool become Charlie Sava Pool and where did the airplane go, and here's where I lived in exile like Hester Prynne when you were a baby, in the boonies four blocks from SF State where I was a graduate student and it just goes on and on, the constant narration. Taking 101 back I looked for the Planter's Peanut man. And thought about the time when I was 6 that a truck rammed and took down a pedestrian overpass right near the Vermont exit on 101, so that its replacement looks completely different from the others.  

So, wow, coming up Larkin and seeing this blew my mind.  Something completely new, occupying a space where nothing was before. Wow.  

This work by Zhang Huan, "Three Heads, Six Arms," weighs 15 tons, is two stories tall and part of a sister city arts-exchange thing with Shanghai.  Whatever, i don't care where it's from or what it means.  I love it.  It snapped me right back to the present, out of my endless memory meanderings.  Snap!

I can't wait to go look at it again, maybe tomorrow, from the sidewalk rather than from the window of my car, this time with my own camera in hand.