Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fighting for Us

This weekend we battled. All the ingredients were there: hungry, tired, bad traffic, a long car ride, a difficult family member, my expectations, his assumptions.

Later, after the swearing was over, we talked about what happened. I need to speak up. He needs to ask questions. We need to plan for the emotions that are provoked by family. I need to take it less personally. He needs to take it more seriously. We both apologized.

But still later, after the make-up sex was over, we talked again and came to this new idea: When we fight we need to fight for the relationship and not against each other. Yes, easier said than done in the heat of the moment, but a new idea, that makes us allies --even in war.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Spiral Worries

Ugh..the worries spiral. Work, relationships, work, relationships. When I’m sad I don’t want to work, when I don’t feel like I’m working well, I worry about losing my job, when I think I could lose my job I worry about what will happen to the relationship if I lost my job. The spiral goes faster until I cry or get so mad at him and me, mostly me.

I know that prayer and faith is the answer but I fight to trust God.

That feels like my task today: slow down and trust God. Even though it seems like the most counter-productive thing to do.

I don’t know where else to put this but in God’s hands. And when it gets—I get—like this it’s the most impossible thing to do.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Holding Our Own: Art and Death

Tonight in our class on Death and Dying we watched an extraordinary video called “Holding Our Own”. The subtitle is “Embracing the End of Life”.

This documentary is about fabric artist Deidre Scherer who creates fabric “paintings” from real life sketches of people who are dying. Her work is extraordinarily beautiful and her craft amazing in the ways she creates super-realism in portraiture using fabric. But the other beauty is her belief and philosophy about the role that death plays in life.

The second focus of this film is the Hallowell Chorus in Burlington Vermont. Hallowell is a group of amateur and professional singers that participate in Hospice in Burlington. They come to homes and hospitals to sing to and for people who are actively dying.

These artists speak about their feelings and beliefs about death and what they have learned about their own lives thru the experience of singing for and creating art with the dying.

This video was produced by Paul Newman and it’s available from Netflix or can be purchased on Amazon. It’s a fabulous intersection of creativity and death—which is to say generation-- or life and death.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Baseball and Safely Home

Sports, like religion, offer these consolations: A diversion from the routine of daily living; a model of coherence and clarity; a heroic example to admire and emulate, and a sense of drama and conflict in which nobody dies.

In baseball we begin and end at home. Home plate is not fourth base. Our goal in this game is to get home and be safe. Home is a concept rather than a place. Home implies safety, accessibility, freedom, comfort. It’s where we learn to be both part of and separate. The object in baseball is to go home, and to be safe.

When a runner charges home we lean forward to see the home plate umpire slash his arms downward signaling that the runner who may have crashed onto the ground in, in fact, safe. Isn’t that what we all want? I do. In my daily life I want whatever is bigger than me and whoever is judging me to see how fast I run and how precariously I slide and to say, as I slip and slide, “She’s safe!”

Those who believe, whose faith is strong, accept that umpire/God at his gesture and stand up relieved. Some, like me, despite wanting it are afraid to believe or struggle to trust. I have --over and over-- sensed that “safe” signal, but I am unbelieving. I run the bases again, skidding and scuffing. Again he signals, “Safe!”, but again I go to bat. What baseball offers that life does not is the agreement that we will believe it when we are told that we are home and that we are safe.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Courage Sex and Cancer

Tonight, for the first time, I feel like I really get what courage means in CancerLand.

I was part of a panel at The American Cancer Society Hope Club in Latham, New York. We were bravely and boldly discussing what sex is and can be when a partner has cancer or/and is receiving treatment—or what happens after treatment to men’s and women’s bodies.

Much of my perspective is represented on this blog—the crazy hunt for honest and frank information, my belief that sex is so important especially during cancer—that when a couple is faced with the pain and fear and just plain crap of cancer that a healthy sexual relationship is a way to keep love strong and to boldly defy thanatos—the death wish.

So I read and spoke to all of that. And then…

And then Vicki Yattaw, RN from the CR Woods Cancer Center spoke about sex and cancer. Oh my God—this was the sex talk that every woman wants to hear—with or without cancer Vickie had the info, advice, perspective and loving humor on everything from how to have sex in every possible way, during every kind of health crisis, how to boost your own libido and help a partner boost theirs, and even “BoBs”—battery operated boyfriends.

Her information blew me away. I thought I shocked the crowd by sharing my story of having to ask John’s oncologist, “Can I swallow?” (The doc didn’t know). Vickie not only knew—(wait 48 hours after chemo) but she explained how people with colostomies have sex (they do and it can be great) and how orgasms decrease nerve pain and make you look younger. Yes!

I’ll share more of her info here in the next few weeks. But I have to say now that the best speakers of the evening were the participants in the group: some couples and many singles who had or have cancer and who want a sexual life now and later. People spoke so deeply and honestly—because Vickie set the stage for all of us to use sexual words—and showed me that everyone—young or old, plain or pretty, coupled or not—want good sex lives.

And thanks to Tracy Pitcher, MSW—Director of The Hope Club and Vickie Yattaw RN—there is the start of open conversation about love—and sex!--in the time of cancer.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sex Ed for Cancer and Caregivers

Next Monday night The Hope Club (formerly Gilda’s Club) in Latham New York will host and evening of Sex and Cancer. It will be a panel presentation and open discussion about the anatomy, physiology, chemistry, etiquette, hope, fear and what real people really do when they make love in the time of cancer. I’ll be part of a panel that will provide information, education and lots of opinions and laughter too. And refreshments!

The panel includes Tracy Pitcher, Director of The Hope Club and Outreach for the American Cancer Society and Vickie Yattaw, RN—nurse educator—who does lots of education around sex and cancer. So bring a friend and come join the discussion.

Monday June 13th 6 to 8 pm at The Hope Club One Penny Lane—off Wade Road—off exit 6 of Route 87 Latham, New York

Monday, June 6, 2011

What the Living Do

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won't work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven't called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It's winter again: the sky's a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living-room windows because the heat's on too high in here and I can't turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I've been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss--we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I'm gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I'm speechless:
I am living. I remember you.

"What the Living Do" by Marie Howe