Friday, December 21, 2007

Memory's Trail of Breadcrumbs

When sifting through the memories of my life, in order to pinpoint a time frame or my age, I try to remember the event in relation to some significant event in my life. For example, when I think about the winter when we didn't have electricity for a week or two as a kid, I was eight years old. I know this because my dog, brute bit my neighbor that fall and my parents took him to put him to sleep when I was in school that day. Trying to remember when I became friends with Anita, I know that I was ten years old. I must have been in fifth grade, because fourth grade was the last year that I went to Webber school, before the farm was sold to a developer and we spent a summer homeless. That is how I remember when Anita reached out to me on the first day in my new school. I think the pessimistic part of my nature uses the loss of a home that I loved as the memory marker of that time instead of the moment when Anita looked at me from across the lunch table, introduced herself and immediately made me feel welcome as a very shy kid in a brand-new school. Maybe I need to try to re-order that time of my life around that moment instead of the day the rich lady in furs walked into the farmhouse and demanded of my mother, "When are you moving out?", without even saying hello.

I know that my summer of cancer is going to be one of those memory markers. From now on, I know that I will categorize events in my adult life by whether they occurred "BC" (before cancer), or "AC" (after cancer). I hope I am wrong. I hope that other significant points will help me to remember my early days of cronehood. When I finally finish my undergraduate degree (right now, I am on the 23 year plan), when my goddaughters start their periods, get their drivers' licenses, kiss their first love, graduate from high school. (One memory marker I have in relation to them was when they invented the poop scooping game and the song that accompanies that game.) Again, I think that the pessimistic part of me will choose illness as a memory marker instead of the victory of being cancer free.

Shortly before being diagnosed, I thought that this year's primary memory marker would be my trip to New Orleans. I fell so in love with the people and the city there, I thought I would be altered for life. Now that I've had cancer, I realize that where I live is insignificant. What is significant is living life to the fullest extent possible wherever I am. What is significant is to love as much as I can each day. What is significant is to try to see as many sides of a situation as possible and still make up my own mind about it. What is significant is to know that I am loved and that I love.

Last night was my second shift back at work. It was so great to see everyone again and to know that people cared about how I was doing. I find it interesting though, that when I asked folks what I missed, the typical answer was mainly: "not much". A couple people going to days, a couple of others coming to midnights. A change in duties for some of the higher ups. Like I said, even though those things are important, love and life are the things that really count. Last night One of my co-workers whom I hadn't seen or talked to in 5 1/2 months greeted me not with the question, "how are you doing?" Instead, the first thing he said after "hi" was, "I had a baby while you were gone!" I was tickled that someone else was more excited about his new beautiful baby girl than about my former cancer. One of his memory markers will be the moment that Iris was born. What a beautiful memory to have as a reference point. I hope that their life is full of memory markers focused around joy. I hope that most of us can have more memory markers of joy than of sickness or trauma.

Now that I am cancer free and back to work and only have some small physical discomforts, I have been struggling over whether or not to continue blogging. I was talking with a friend at work about it last night. She reminded me, just as I had written in one of my early entries, that there is so much more to talk about than illness and losing my mind to steroids and hormone insanity. There is my garden, my soon to be starting classes, the books that I read, the people at my church, my animals (of course, always the bed hogs), my partner, my friends, my blessings.

Sometimes gratitude comes automatically, and other days I have to really work on it. I think that it is time to change the path of this labyrinth of words into one of living and loving instead of fearing and hurting. Not that fear and pain aren't parts of living (and loving), but that they are just that, only parts. There are other parts to share. So, I will try to continue to share my fears and pain, but mostly the gratitude, love and excitement that living brings.