| Don't let this happen 2 U |I don't (often) get on the soap box, but there are some days I'm just too grateful not to.
This week: my annual skin exam.
Sixeen years ago I was diagnosed with melanoma. Skin cancer. Ultra-bad skin cancer. There are a lot of "fortunatelys" in my story. Fortunately, I'd been paying attention. Fortunately, I went to the doctor to have it checked out. Fortunately my doctor, however unimpressed with my small lesion, trusted my instincts over her own. Later my doctor told me, Well, you just might have saved your own life. Fortunately, I'm here to write about it.
My skin cancer was caught early. I had blood work, tests, scans. Excisions. Lots of them, my skin's every wart and bauble now eyed with wariness and suspicion. Even that small mole on my shoulder, a lifelong embarrassment, was carved out and tossed to the scrap heap of just-in-case (hooray!). Most were benign. A few were marginal. The soon-gone melanoma left a tidy reminder scar, but I'd dodged the chemo, the radiation, the terminal prognosis.
Eight years later, a lesser repeat. This time, a basal cell carcinoma on my nose. Plastic surgery was recommended. Not being particularly vain (or so I thought), I asked my dermatologist if she couldn't just cut the thing out. She said she could, but I'd be left with three nostrils.
I opted for the plastic surgeon. Fortunately I had a good medical plan.
And I had my friends. One, Diane, understanding my face would be a mess, did what any good friend would do and purchased for me a handy disguise (above), so I could move through my post-surgical days without drawing undue attention to myself. Another expressed alarm as he thought I'd tangled with a raccoon.
Eventually I graduated to a once-a-year evaluation plan. It's no big deal, showing up for that annual appointment to have my physician check me out. It's an important thing to do, but what matters even more is my ongoing vigilance, my routine of keeping my eye out for myself.
I'm lucky. I've always been aware—thanks to a long personal history of mysterious skin outbreaks and a father who had his own skin cancer follies—that I should probably be paying close attention. In fact, when I was in my early twenties I made an appointment with a dermatologist just to talk about my skin, to educate myself, to learn what it was I should be wary of. What I received was a lecture, a Grade-A scolding on how I was wasting his precious time. Sure, he was a jerk. But looking back, I see now how I might have been ahead of my time. I also see how I might have been deterred from taking care of myself, how that one sour experience could have turned me away from vigilance.
Fortunately, it didn't. And because of that, I've had sixteen good years I might not have otherwise had.
This week I received a clean bill of health and a friendly reminder as well—to come right in if a future anything causes me concern.
Now it's my turn to offer a reminder: Pay attention to your skin. It might have some very important things to say.
Where Would You Rather Be:
Or home writing a blog entry—
I rest my case.
. . . for I have sinned. It has been thirty-something years since my last Confession, and these are my sins—
Wouldn't you know, all these decades I've lived so squeaky-cleanly that I haven't once needed to go to Confession. But this weekend undid me. The piety snapped, and no washings-out with soap, no cancer of the tongue, no kneecaps calloused from the recitation of fifty Our Fathers was threat enough to keep me straight on the path of verbal hygiene.
It was the cable company that broke me: a new piece of equipment, spaghetti-tangled cords, a failed activation, 800 numbers to nowhere, one-sided conversations with perky virtual assistants. And "Donny," from someplace-not-here, ma'am-ing me at every switchback down the road to technology hell. All I wanted was enough free space on my DVR to record Project Runway without my stacked-up episodes of Cajun Pawn Stars being deleted in the process. Was that asking so much?
Bless me, Readers, for I have sinned . . . I used bad words. Very bad words. Many bad words. Many and varied bad words.
Funny, just a couple of days prior we had been talking about our Catholic Confessions, some friends and I, recalling our youthful experiences in those incense-musty, darkened booths. One friend was relieved when an older sister fed her a script to tell the priest. Another gaggled in advance with her girlfriends to concoct shocking exploits involving b-o-y-s. I recalled making up a list of transgressions that might sound plausible to a priest: lying X times; disobeying my parents Y times; missing Mass on Sunday (this, a real doozy in the heirarchy of sins). After assembling my list, I added one lie to my made-up total to cover the fabrication I would be telling the priest. I figured as long as I was already doomed to penance, I might as well emerge with a scrubbed-white soul.
I was always a cynic. But I squared the straps on my red plaid jumper, donned my beanie and filed dutifully into the pew-queue because, well, it's what I was told to do. I may have been compliant, but it didn't mean I grasped the notion of the on-command purge, that ritual spilling of my sins to a stranger.
Not that I don't believe in the power of confession. I do have my priests; I know them as friends. Which is why, Readers & Friends, I think it's time to begin again clean. Remember earlier, when I said I hadn't needed to confess in years?
Well, I lied. I have committed some trespasses.
Whatcha gonna make me do about it?
You think about that; in the meantime, I've got my television shows to catch up on. *&$#@*$@^#*
| |Well, the honeymoon is officially over.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have produced The Heir.
I was kind of hoping for a girl, just to mix things up, to test how well-adapted the Commonwealth really is to the idea of a firstborn daughter being the official third-in-line, subsequent son or no. Twins would have been even more interesting. If Kate had had a C-section, would gender have been a factor in deciding which child to pluck forth first?
The kids kicked the can down the road on this one, and a boy it is. I can handle it.
If I sound jaded and ho-hum about this, I'm leaving the wrong impression. I just completed CNN's photo tour of House of Windsor babies, and I've spent a good chunk of time today clicking around various news sources to see what else I might learn about the new arrival. The official birth announcement posted on the Royal Easel outside of Buckingham Palace is a charming tradition, but c'mon already, it's a little dullsville for those of us hungry for the particulars.
I have a weakness for royal events. (FLASH: The fountains at Trafalgar Square are now flowing blue!) I stayed up all night to watch Charles and Diana's wedding. I was there (okay, not in person, or even in country, for that matter) for the birth of William. Of Harry. I remember precisely where I was when I heard of Diana's death. Another all-nighter to watch her funeral. Yet another to view William's marriage to Catherine. I spent the entire weekend in front of the TV for the Queen's kazillionth jubilee.
The Royals have been thoughtful this time around. A birth midday, Pacific Daylight Time, suits me just fine—I've not been getting my sleep of late. I think grandmama the Queen is glad the moment's come. She's been a little petulant, it seems, about the infant's arrival interfering with the holiday she'd been planning. (FLASH: It was a vaginal birth!) Grandpappy Charles has been droll, which could suggest glee or ennui, hard to tell. The parents-to-be, now the parents-that-are, have been remarkably chipper, considering the telephoto lenses trained on them for three years at the least. (FLASH: William is quoted as saying, "We could not be happier.") Their temperance has been notable; who wants their reproductive life bright-lit under the constant loupe? How many experts do we have by now, able to count back nine months on their fingers?
Forget med school. Forget the plumbers' union. Forget the art institute or call-center training. One thing The Cambridges won't be wondering is what the lad will be when he grows up. Who he will be is quite another matter. In this task, I wish them well. They'll do a good job. I know; I've been watching that family for years.
But gee whiz, couldn't they have had a girl?
(FLASH: Bookmakers are giving 6:1 odds that the baby will be named George.)
And so the morning has brought with it news of another suicide. Not someone I knew, but close enough—the husband of an acquaintance.
The ripples are ongoing. The phones ring. Messages are left. Calls back and forth among the circle to learn what's new, see what can be done (nothing, forever nothing), check-in on how one or another is faring. The data accumulates. Everyone has questions; no one has answers. The set-aside day.
We fill in the squares of the calendar, anticipating the days will play out as planned. Boxes for each hour—committed or not—are stacked neatly on the page, one above the next in orderly fashion. Success is a Sharpie mark through every last one; reward is a new list, beginning with tomorrow.
When we've really got things under control, we even plan for glitches—traffic at the interchange, the doctor running late, the file filled with paperwork left on the desk at home. There are workarounds and backup plans, alternate routes and errands that can be put off until another day. Yet, no matter how in-charge we think we are, it's often illusion. A thing happens, and we're stopped in our tracks. Control, that mythical creature. How hard we work to capture it, how clever it is in eluding us.
My day's been interrupted. No more, no less. My lists and schedules can ebb and flow.
But that set-aside life...
The set-aside lifetimes of the ones who go on...
If a man decides to end his life, is he dead even before his feet hit the river? If he's already jumped and no one knows, does he remain alive even as the search wears on? If your life has ended, and you're still alive, are you dead and not dead all at once?
Does this man exist because I now am aware he's no longer here?
Claim this day. Make of it what you can.
I thought I was back—here, at the blog—but apparently there's quite a disconnect between my intentions and my actions.
I shouldn't be surprised. And I'm not. But I am disappointed. It's humbling to fail a commitment—to others, to oneself. In this case, both.
The struggle against failure is a lifelong battle, isn't it? This weekend I was participating in a book event at a riverfront park. Mid-afternoon the wind reared, and a sudden gust made havoc of our book table. A friend lunged to shelter what she could against the assault, using her body as a shield and grabbing at flying papers and broadsides and some lightweight signs that had been propped on the table. I had been standing back and away—useless in the moment—and just as my friend stood up again, I called out to her from behind, scolding like an angry parent, Bad! Bad! Bad! as if she had been the cause of all the mayhem. She froze, and when she turned around, I saw in her widened eyes a child's primal fear.
I had brought it all back. Whatever darkness that this gentle, caring, altogether magnificent grown-up has carried inside her for a lifetime was instantly roused by my unfortunate attempt at easy humor.
Oh boy oh boy. It's tempting to spin off from here into guilt for my own social clumsiness, but the point is that we just go on from our failures, don't we? The moment passed as quickly as a rare whip of wind on a blameless afternoon, and afterward, my friend and I laughed and shared an interesting conversation about how well and how poorly we carry our traumas with us. How they're always there, so very very close to the surface, whether our consciousnesses are aware of them or not. Sometimes it takes only the slightest of breezes . . .
It's time for grown-up me to stop blithering about my failures, all the things I've done wrong. It's time to just get to the business of moving forward. I'll meet you back here next Monday or thereabouts, come hell or a helluva wind.
Sometimes you just need a little break.
I've been away from the blog for a while, I know. Lost days are like candy pincered from a dish: first it's just the one, then there's that second, then another and another and soon enough nothing remains but an empty vessel and one humdinger of a sugar drop.
The week I took off turned into six weeks off. My head's no more full of material, and I've been hauling around a bit of a funk. Thar's the proof in that pudding.
I suspect you all know something about inertia: the old A body at rest will remain at rest until blah-de-blah. Earlier this month I did try to unloosen the necktie of it—the inertia, that is—only to discover that the website gods had reconfigured the toolbox I use to create my blog, a flummoxment akin to switching oven cooking temps from Fahrenheit to Centigrade. My autopilot thusly disabled, I did the only thing that made any possible sense—I bolted. I clicked off the blog and kept the CLOSED sign in the door.
But sometime in the past week I sucked down a big breath (Oxygenate is my new motto), pulled up my big girl underpants and clicked back on. And, well, here I am again. (It didn't hurt that my absence had drawn more than a few complaints. Thank you, Loyalists!)
I can't say I won't get caught in a drift again. What I can say is that it's good to be back.
| |Dear Monday Mornings Stalwarts,
A weekend away at the coast (the ever-fabulous Northwest Poets' Concord) and a desk full of undones has me wrapped in the sticky stuff this morning. Ergo, Thursday will be this week's designated Monday. The blog entry will be off the griddle and steaming on your plate just in time for brunch.
| |Those-in-the-Know know that I've been messing about lately with my collage papers. Cutting and pasting and gluing and cropping zing my brain cells in ways no other activity can. After focusing primarily on writing for several years, the addition of visual media to my bag of tricks has shaken, rattled & rolled my creativity. It's as if I can feel my brain rewiring through this process, both a thrilling and a welcome prospect.
A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to write a few poems to the mixed media work of Robert Tomlinson. My pieces, as well as those of several other poets, were collected in the book, Original Weather, which was published in 2011 by Uttered Chaos. Ekphrastic work was new to me at the time, but now I regularly turn to visual stimuli as the Zippo to flame my poetic pyre. My postcard adventure a few weeks back was one such example of where visual cues have taken me.For some time now I've had the idea to experiment with a parallel blog, one that would offer a weekly writing prompt for poets and others who enjoy the challenges of creating a poem (or ???) from a given cue. I don't intend, necessarily, to stick to purely visual prompts, but I'm imagining they'll be a substantial component of what I present.So what do you think? Is this a project you think might be useful to you? I welcome your thoughts. And stay tuned . . .
. . . STARTING NOW!
Is this an image to make your pen feel prickly all over?
Confession time: I am in love with color.
Passionately, irrevocably. Color blinds me. Makes me want to do the wrong thing.
Most recently, this: I was wandering in a furniture store, testing a few pieces, as usual non-committal. And then I turned a corner and all visions of sofas and sugar plums danced right out of my head. I had come face-to-face with a taller-than-I display of leather swatches, samples of cowhide dyed in colors straight out of a Crayola box.
O frabjous day!
I went straight for the purples: iris, orchid, lavender. The names were stamped on the reverse of the three-inch square swatches, six or seven of each color hanging by their corners from small, gold hooks. A wall of leather diamonds, and no treasure chest in a dental office, no arm-deep bin of pinto beans could give me such a rush. I wanted them. I wanted them all.
I want to be an outlaw. Really, I do. I want to say that my pockets were half-stuffed, that I only stopped due to the untimely arrival of a salesperson nearly catching me in the act. I want to say I slipped out the door stained with guilt but thrilled with the kill. That the smell of leather is still on my hands.
But I left the entire bouquet behind: bluebell and iris, sunflower and fern. My inner scold was with me that day, nag on my shoulder, the finger of accusation tapping on my chest. Fifty-five years old, but the impulses of a kindergartner are still alive and kicking. And that's a good thing, I suppose. I didn't keep my life-slate pristine by succumbing to my every impulse. But oh the disappointment of not being someone other than myself for just one kaleidoscopic moment.
As with the rest of life, there's always a way to compromise. I'm willing to give that a shot. So off to the hardware store I go—the rack of paint chips is calling me.
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