The green journal

It’s rush hour here in Ottawa. Early rush hour, but now with flexible work schedules it seems from 3 pm onwards everyone is hitting the road. I’m on the porch of my downtown apartment, which has steps leading down to the sidewalk. I guess you might call it a walk-up. A very busy road it to my right and it’s clogged up with cars. I can’t hear them too much, however, because my right ear is not hearing very well lately. It may be a side effect of the radiation. It may be that my ear is full of wax. Probably it is both. My father took a look in there and said it was very waxy. He then tried putting in drops while I told him not to poke my ear drum, and gave him an all-around hard time.

 

Radiation or not, I probably need to get these ears cleaned. That and stop watching Youtube videos about people getting their ears cleaned, because it’s gross. (but cool too, because I find that weird stuff fascinating)

 

This is one of those days when I cannot stand being told to rest. Zsolt is head-deep in his new job, so cannot play with me. I’m locked out of my work email so cannot take a peek at the accumulating correspondence that need to be sorted. And project wise I’m a bit dried up at the moment.

Lost in a land of chemo and recovery and destructive anticipation.

I’ve come across videos and blog posts that made a very important point around chronic illness: stop feeling sorry for yourself and do something. Do something for your life because you are here to live it. Don’t hide behind pity (self or otherwise). Create pathways in the mind that don’t focus on the fear or pain, but rather reinforce the constructive, the creative, and the happy.  And to do all this, you must do something. Because you start feeling very sorry for myself when all you do is lay on the couch.

Some days it’s okay to lay on the couch. Sometimes I MUST lay on the couch. But when I can get up and move and not feel zombified, it’s really wrong to just stay there letting the sadness sink deeper.

 

Thing is – I don’t know what to do! So I have come out onto the porch to write a blog post.

There is a green journal in my place, tucked in amongst my other writing (stories, drafts, thesis, etc). This journal was written upon meeting Zsolt. It’s about my going to Hungary, him coming to Canada and our moving to England. It’s full of wondering about the future and love and commitment. It’s really a trip to re-read these many years later. I can see how circumstances have changed, but even more important, how much I’ve changed too.

 

I was happy but lost at 23. And actually felt like a failure – I had expected great things, and clear directions from myself. I thought I would know where life was headed. But after four years of psychology, and having dropped out of Photography to go to Hungary, I was literally floundering and without purpose.

There’s this list where I write out what I’m good at: taking instructions, helping being, listening,

AND

There’s this list where I wrote out what I’m okay at: drawing, photography, psychology, speaking

Isn’t it funny I never wrote ‘writing’ on those lists? Or storytelling? (Or project creation/management, or networking or designing or community building . . . but of course I couldn’t back then, because I’d never tried to do those things)There I was in Hungary – feeling like I didn’t fit in, couldn’t understand anyone and had no purpose – filling up my green journal with observations of life. Writing in the park about the church across the yard, and the school children, and how the tourists were watching me as much as I was watching them. It was such a natural way for me to be – the writing – and a talent too, right in front of my eyes on the page, and I didn’t even see it. Instead I felt disappointed for my lack of purpose, and my lack of money making potential.

 

It makes me wonder what I cannot see in front of me right now. What am I missing? What important element is there to notice and embrace? And is it only time and life that will reveal things, or is there a way to force it to my attention now?

(Can I pop this pimple of potential? Yeah, I’m fascinated with popping pimples too, as well as looking into ears)

This is SUCH a self-absorbed blog post. Very self-ruminating. Bumpyboobs has become my green journal.

In a way, I feel lost as I did those 10 years ago. Cancer has changed everything once again. All the projects have stopped. Even my job had to be put on hold. Heck, I’ve even published my novel. So what now? What is my purpose now? Can I get back there, do I need to reposition – and how?!

Are there new pathways I can carve into my mind that will take me away from the cancer pity? Do I need to make it a productive part of my life? And if so, how? I’m not going to become an advocate, so what is this illness forcing me to experience? How I supposed to learn from this – what can I create with this? What can I do despite this? Who am I now?

 

I am back there, like ten years ago, floating and uncertain. But I’m much, much further too. Far more confident in myself – and I know no matter what, I am not a failure and there is no loss. Just life. Just living. Just a lot of learning and experiments.

 

We’ll see what happens next.

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Age vs Beauty, and Sally Field …

Beauty_is_as_beauty_does

The other day I was watching the View. I’m on leave from work, and I guess when you are on leave watching ladies chat about pop culture and American politics is a thing that just happens naturally. Honestly, they kind of drive me crazy (because I’d like to argue with them, but end up arguing with the TV screen. Then my mother, working in the other room, says ‘who are you talking to? And I have to  admit that it’s no one.), but if I don’t watch something I have trouble remembering to eat my banana for breakfast.

Anyhow, Sally Field appeared on the show to promote her film Hello My Name is Doris. Apparently it’s good, according to her and the ladies at the table. I believe them. From this chat, Sally Field was asked about gender and age in Hollywood. She shared some insightful remarks about trends and actions and ideas without follow through. I was impressed with her experienced perspective. But one little thing really caught me, and it continues to make me think.

While discussing age and Hollywood, the ladies of the view were letting Sally know how darn good she looked – ‘You look 35!’ says Joyce Beher, a View host. I know that is meant as a compliment, but it immediately strikes me as a sad juxtaposition against the words that Sally had literally just spoken. Sally Field is smart and productive and beautiful.

“What the heck was that?” I say to the TV screen.

Does she look 35? No.

Should she look 35? No.

Does Joyce’s comment inadvertently imply that whatever age Sally is at this moment isn’t an age to be honoured?

Yep.

And what’s sad is that is really how our culture has been trained to think, not just Joyce Beher. We attach beauty to age – with an emphasis on ‘anti-aging’, when the two things needn’t have a damn thing to do with one another.

People who are beautiful in my life:

My mother; my father; My mother-in-law, my father-in-law, my brother’s partners, my brothers, my best friend and her husband, my sister and brother in law, the inspiring library ladies who I worked with in both Southampton and Rosemount, the women of my old book club and writing group, the children of my cousins (and my lovely cousins too!), all the babies I adore to see on Facebook, my husband, my grandmother, my husband’s grandmother….

There are so many beautiful people in the world, and the more I come to meet and know them, the more incredible they are in my mind.

How old are all the people I just listed? It doesn’t matter one bit. They are a range of ages and experiences. They are a rainbow of eye colours, hair types, tan lines, wrinkles, scars, and smiles.

Beauty is not age. And the moment we say ‘you look half your age’ I think we discount the value of perspective, wisdom and credit earned within a lifetime, as well as how wrinkles add kindness to a face, and grey hair is lovely, and stretch marks are accomplishments. (etc)

Age before beauty? Beauty before age?

In my mind the two do not compete.

Beauty is as beauty does.

 

2015 in the blink of the screen

Here we go, it’s the end of 2015. No joking, I can remember the year it turned 2000 like it was literally (almost not quite) yesterday. The New Year’s Eve party was held in my neighbor’s dance studio – and it felt as though half our grade showed up. Maybe it was really just a quarter, but it was a big party nevertheless.

My dad bought me ‘baby duck’ champagne because he figured the millennial shouldn’t be rung in without some fizzy baby booze, even if I was underage for drinking. (Which is reasonable, I think, considering there was no shortage of booze at the party. Though I seem to recall my mom wasn’t so very thrilled that he went out to get me ze drink a la baby duck.)

This was back when I didn’t touch alcohol. I had my reasons, but mostly it was because I really didn’t care about it. This I get from my mother. However, I was nevertheless all set to have some champagne, except that I barley got a sip in due to some very concerned friends who weren’t too pleased. So, I caved into peer pressure – but in the reverse direction than would be expected.

Whatever! It was a great night. There was a balloon drop that took forever to set up beforehand because we had to blow up all the damn balloons. There were weird make out scenes at midnight – as in, throw up and then kiss! For me no kiss, but I watched a guy I had a crush on kiss someone else, and somehow I was still into him after that. Typical wonderful teenage stuff 🙂 And I think I was wearing trousers made out of this khacki coloured mesh. Weird.

At midnight we checked the phones, and for about 2 minutes they didn’t work. Y2K Strikes!

Then came the inevitable freak out, when the host is both hammered yet beginning to sober up, and realizes: “My parents are going to kill me!” which is when we pull out the garbage bags and begin cleaning – around about 1 am. I’ve been at many a party where this has happened, and always get my clean on. Once, at a different New Year’s party, the host’s mother actually called during the party, then asked to speak with me knowing I’d be sober. I’m not bragging, except that I AM BRAGGING because somehow it made ‘being responsible’ feel cool for a few minutes.

Anyhow, after the party, at about 2 or 3 am, we went back to my friend’s home. When I say ‘we’ I mean all my group of friends – the guys and the girls, and I reckon we totaled over 15 people. Boys slept in the basement and girls slept upstairs. Except that my friend’s mother were completely shocked that everyone was hammered. Hammmmmmered. One friend who shall remain unnamed tried to go through the door and walked into the wall, repeatedly. So, we got quite a talking to the next morning. In fact, my friend’s mother thought I was also completely drunk – and this truly bothered me, since I’d been talked out of drinking that bottle of champagne, and therefore missed the boozy fun and instead got pinned for the trouble. Honestly, I was just exhausted by the time she saw me. Tired Catherine is actually nothing like champagne & sugar Catherine… but, why would she know that?

However, it was still really nice of her mother to let us all stay there. Her mom didn’t know what she were getting into. She handled it quite well considering.

Mostly I remember having a damn good time. And that it feels like just yesterday. And I was about 18.

Flash forward, and I’m almost 34. Okay, I’m 33 but with 34 on the horizon.

2015 went by in the blink of an eye. We were in Hungary for the summer. I got a real job – like, a serious and challenging and REAL job. I wrote many articles and won a grant. I was with my husband. We saw the cancer grow, and yet it didn’t own our life.

2016 will start off with a serious bunch of challenges. They will be worthwhile, but they will also be hard. One step at a time. It makes me wonder, will I write more this year or will I write less? Much less? Not at all? Or maybe a whole lot? I’m not sure. Each time I write a post about cancer, I feel truly weary of becoming ‘the girl who has cancer’ all over again. Not that I was ever that girl entirely, but you get known for something and it sticks. I guess I hesitate to blog it all out because it makes me address a piece of myself that  – just – doesn’t – fit.

And yet, writing it out fits me quite perfectly.

Oh well, who cares? Each year is a surprise, and sometimes you have moments that stick in your mind in the best possible ways, and will always feel like only yesterday. May 2016 have many of these moments for you, for us, for everyone. Even when it gets hard, and damn it – it will get hard, even when that happens, may we think back to ‘only yesterday’ and use those moments to fuel us towards the future.

One day at a time. Sooner than later, it will be the end of 2016, and we will have yet another new year to look forward to.

Happy New Year everyone. May you have a Baby Duck good time.

P.S. WordPress year in review!