Sunday, November 26, 2006

Gratitude Attitude

(orignally sent as e-mail on 11/22/06)

I am in denial, despite the holiday ads, the relentless profusion of holiday foods in the supermarket, and the fact that I have already shipped holiday gifts to my nieces and nephews. I cannot believe that tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Wasn’t it just a month or so ago that the first cool crisp fall air made me smile? Mid-October (the 20th to the 22nd), we traveled to Western NC (near Asheville) to attend the Leaf Festival (on Saturday) and watch the leaves turn their brilliant colors on what seemed liked thousands of trees?

Now, not only does it feel more like winter is truly approaching, but tomorrow, we are going to be celebrating Thanksgiving. The temperatures are so variable, from very chilly when leaving for school in the early am to warming into the 70’s some days. Very odd. But a few heavy duty rainstorms have taken most of the leaves off the trees for the season. So now I am more comfortable about getting the leaves blown off the lawn (or whatever the heck you call all this land) and bagged. It seems a weird thing to do month to month leading up to this time, as they simply fall down again. What exactly is the point of blowing them week to week? Still one of those cultural things that baffles this ex-Californian.

This season, I am truly celebrating, in a most profound way, the year that has been, and still is, 2006. What a path to travel in a short span of less than a year.

Last year about this time, I truly doubted that I would be in NC to celebrate anything at all this time of the year. I was sure that we would be back in CA, where our spirits and hearts felt at home. But that was not what the year had in store for me.

In March, with one ultrasound, my world was turned around. The diagnosis of cancer is a scary one and although I was blessed to have a “good” diagnosis, caught early and treated aggressively, it was still a life-awakening event. And so in March, the path veered quite a bit from the plan to pack it all up and move “back” and slowly I realized that I was planting my roots in Southern soil. Granted, at this advanced age, the rooting might take a longer time, and perhaps there will still be doubts from time to time, but the rules of the game changed last March. And I cannot ask for a “do-over”.

When you have cancer, you become, in this crazy world of private insurance, a much higher risk. So if I were to be self-employed again, I would be too expensive to insure myself! At first, I felt that this was like a bad hand of cards I had been dealt. But now, in retrospect, I see it differently. Perhaps the universe was simply telling me to just let it be, to stop trying to un-do the move, the whole east coast thing, and to just settle in or down, or something. Whatever it was, I don’t feel like I am fighting anymore.

This year, tomorrow, Sofie and I will join friends here and celebrate that we have relearned what “family” means, that I have learned to trust again, in a way I was sure I would not, could not do, that I have begun to feel settled in a place that seemed an impossible fit a year ago, and that I have taken in the kindness, caring and generosity of many, which I hope has made me a better person. I had to allow that to happen, to let myself receive when I needed to. It took the cancer diagnosis and treatment to make that happen, but whatever the reason, I am profoundly grateful for little things, and for the big thing, that I am still alive, feeling almost like myself again, that I have eyebrows and hair, and that Sofie made it through this period apparently unharmed by all the fears, changes in routine and visible signs that I was sick. And she entered the first grade just like any other little six year old.

I want to take this time to thank all of you, each of you who wrote encouraging emails, made phone calls, brought me to chemo, gave me a massage, took Sofie for a few hours, stayed with me for a week at a time (thank you Sue Hirshon from Los Angeles and Carrie Helser from San Francisco), and generally entertained me through the five months of treatment and discomfort. I will always remember this time, and mostly in a very positive way, as being, well, life changing and very enlightening.

As you gather tomorrow to celebrate (or in Brenda’s case, board a plane to run a marathon in Italy!!!) please take a moment during your day to feel deeply appreciated and loved. I plan to send out that energy all day tomorrow, non-stop, so that everyone who is reading this might feel it just a little bit. You are all part of my circle, my safety net in life, and for your presence there, I am most grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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