I am going to my first meditation class ever tomorrow night which for a super type A personality is sort of a big deal. I am not even sure what meditation entails but I think I need to calm my overactive mind. I promised myself during the cancer experience that I would learn to meditate so I signed up on Monday and am taking the plunge. I say this as I write at 3AM! My internal clock is totally screwed up – I have always been a night person but this is sort of a disaster and the fact that my apartment is about 90 degrees isn’t helping! Gotta love the idea of a coop-op – the board gets to not only choose if you can buy and sell your apartment as well as your neighbors but also decides when the heat and a/c work. All for a large monthly fee. It’s perfect.
Also, the Dutch psychic left my house about an hour ago – it was a long evening. She got back in town from her weekend away and, as we had emailed several times to follow up on our initial “meeting”, we agreed to have her come over. I didn’t know it was going to be a “work” session that included my dog’s past and then mine. Apparently, I am supposed to open my mind to becoming some sort of “media queen” to disseminate information in a different, more relevant manner via an innovative platform that I allegedly will create. Maybe it will come to me when I attempt to not think of all the things I could be doing or should be doing while trying to meditate.
I will admit that since I was in high school I felt like I have been put on the planet to make something significant happen or as I generally say to change the world in a meaningful way. I never have been the “get married, buy a house, have two kids, take two week vacations annually and die” sort of person – no offense to anyone who has done or is doing all of that because I think it’s great. I just know I would have gotten bored. I am still looking for the love of my life though so let’s not set that aside. Nor was I the person who in 8th grade said I know I want to be a doctor like a classmate did and she is now a very successful physician. I have always been trying to figure out what I am meant to do and perhaps that’s why I have always found solace in volunteering my time.
Anyway, we will see what comes of the Dutchy’s predictions. I will have to re-listen to the recording. Yes I recorded it – I will never remember all the shit she said – are you kidding me? Not only was it was long, in-depth and, at this moment didn’t sound all that accurate but also she used some other worldly terms that I have never heard. Quite a learning experience at a minimum! But I will continue to share – if nothing else it’s amusing.
Monday night I realized how grateful I am to be in the place where I am now, how far I have come from one year ago and how fantastic it is to look toward the future. I spent my evening listening to stories of cancer patients and survivors being read aloud by actors at Sloan-Kettering. I volunteered at Sloan-Kettering for the last 12+ years and, only last year as a patient, did I learn about this wonderful program they have called “Visible Ink”, a one-on-one program for patients to write and to be mentored. I suppose one bonus of having cancer was that I was privileged enough to become a part of this wonderful community of talented writers. This was it’s fifth anniversary and annually they publish an anthology of stories that “honor and celebrate the human spirit.” This year’s book is 325 pages short. Sadly, I am not included because I couldn’t get it together by their November deadline as I was going through treatment. But next year for sure!
As I sat on the steps of the auditorium (I was late and all the seats were filled), I laughed and cried as I listened to many funny, witty, sad, reflective, courageous, loving and painful stories about people’s lives that included love, loss, relationships, coping mechanisms, bonding experiences and cancer. My life has changed in so many ways in the last 18 months and there is some comfort in hearing about others whose lives have been changed by this insidious disease. I was particularly touched by one story of an eight-year old boy who was given two weeks to live before he arrived at Sloan and told his story through the lens of his 23 year old eyes.
At the reception after the reading, I spent the majority of my time talking to Kayla who happens to work for my oncologist. Kayla was one of the cheery voices and faces that got me through last year but I never really had more than a brief conversation with her until that night although apparently I offered to give her my dog at one point – I don’t recall this but he was even more difficult than usual last year so I assume it was true. I met her boyfriend, Peter, who was warm, engaging and also, it turns out, a fellow cancer survivor.
A little while later I found myself having drinks and a bite with Kayla, Peter, a new Aussie friend of mine who I was meeting (whose daughter works at Sloan apparently I learned) and another guy Sam who Peter had befriended (another survivor I surmised). We shared some stories and chatted. Just before Sam left he mentioned something about his specific cancer and being 8 when diagnosed. I immediately knew it was the boy from the story and confirmed this with him while walking around the corner of the bar to give him a hug. His story of being a child with cancer who just wanted to play but instead saw many friends pass was told with such humility and courage that I was thrilled to meet him. I later sent him an email that included the following:
“I admire your courage and your ability to skillfully convey your gratitude and your pain all at once. I did read your ‘reach the day speech’ and having volunteered in pediatrics for years I understood it and know that all kids want to do is still be kids. Even when they have cancer.”
I am just starting to figure out who I am again and grasp “the new normal” as people call life after cancer. I am not sure what that phrase means but I have heard it repeatedly of late and I am starting to think that perhaps I should Google it. I imagine it is probably different for everyone so, for now, I am taking it a day at a time and starting to enjoy picking the paint for the blank canvas of my life. I think my goal is to make my “new normal” surpass the old not-so-normal by leaps and bounds! I am starting the climb….