A Salute to Breast Cancer Awareness

I lean her tiny frame against my chest as I see her thin reflection in the bathroom mirror. I know she will not ask for help. Still, she has become so weak, so frail, that even the buttons on her shirt have become difficult for her. I slide my arms around her and begin at the top, pulling, twisting, and releasing each taut button through its stitched hole. As I see her profile in the mirror, I recognize the wear on her face, the shine from the vanity light on her head. I pull her shirt down off her shoulders as the water in the shower streams across the tile, beating rain-like patterns on the glass door. My hands move across her back to unhook her bra, and I slide the straps off her shoulders, remove the prosthesis. I run my hands down her shoulders, across her chest, her collarbone, her space where her breast used to be.

The scar from where she fought like a dragon feels smooth–almost silky–on my fingertips. The new form is different, yes, but beautiful still. Even more beautiful.

I help her climb the small step into the steam of the shower. I look through the glass not yet bathed in water vapor, and I see her again for the first time.

These moments catch me off guard.

I feel like I am the one who should fight this monster for her, but she has had to walk a path through darkness and pain I may never know.

My eyes begin to well, but the tears are not full of loss for her breast, her hair; instead a soft smile covers my face as a tiny drop streams down my cheek. I still have the most important thing to me in the entire world.

I still have her.

(This piece was originally posted here. It remains one of my favorite short pieces that I have written, and the images I see when I read it still touch me. I hope you enjoyed it.)

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Images of Who We Really Are

Have you heard Colbie Caillat’s new song? Her video is a collection of powerful images of women, with and without faces covered, hair styled (complete with weave or wig), and otherwise “made up” in such a way to form them to society’s definition of beauty. Here is the link, in case you missed it (or wanted to watch it again):

I can’t watch it without crying. It hurts that we spend so much time trying to please other people…that we don’t feel okay with ourselves enough to let others see us the way we are.

So we make something up…we make ourselves up…and we try to become something we aren’t.

What would have to happen for us to begin again? For us to like ourselves the way we are, when we wake up, without hair done, nails done, makeup covering the blemishes that make us who we are?

When did the trend begin that we couldn’t just be individuals? When did we decide that we have to hide behind layers of “foundation” and eye makeup, lip gloss and blush? Are we feeding a bigger problem when we give in to the urge to cover our flaws? Are we putting up our imaginary walls to distance ourselves from others each morning when we create a barrier between us and others with makeup, clothing, and other superficial barriers? Why aren’t we okay being imperfect?

(We are all imperfect.)

When will I decide that I like me? When will you decide that you like you?

Last…

The last website which was open was a shopping cart from Victoria’s Secret filled with items for their anniversary in two weeks.

The last playlist played on iTunes was simply titled, “dance.”

The last note was a grocery list including items for next week’s menu.

The last phone call listed on her cell was to the school, scheduling her days to volunteer for next month’s fundraiser.

The last food she ate was half of a pastrami sandwich on rye, with Dijon mustard, pickles, and provolone.

The last text message she sent was to her husband, a simple, “i ❤ u, always."

He had sent back an "I love you, too" reply, followed by a request for the new password she set for the email that was recently hacked. After his seventh rapid-fire text, he began to wonder. The children would be getting home soon.

He left his work for a "late lunch" and travelled the roads, winding in, and out, and through, like black ribbons weaving their ways through grasses and businesses, restaurants and car lots. He tried to call. Maybe she was taking a long shower.

He arrived home just before 2 p.m. and felt a flood of relief as the water was running in the shower upstairs. Surely she was out of hot water now, though.

He slid off his loafers by the door and mounted the steps, taking them two at a time–and the last one in a leap of three. He rounded the corner into the master bath, filled with steam that was beginning to settle like fog on the slate floor. She was sitting at the base of the water, with a calm expression on her face, her eyes as still as glass. She did not blink.

He pulled her cold body from the hot water, wrapped her gently in a towel, and called 9-1-1.

I Dreamed a Dream (six months ago)

No, not like Fantine.  Though I did (obviously, like the Academy) find Anne Hathaway’s rendition powerful and moving.

I’m talking about the REM sleep kind of dream.  You know, like the ones you have at night when you are (hopefully) sleeping?  Well, this one was actually during the morning, and I actually thought about fictionalizing the dream itself because it was so bizarre (…like I think of myself as a peaceful type of person, and this dream was really crazy…) that I didn’t want to admit all day yesterday that this is what played out when my subconscious took over for a few minutes (and the dream literally occurred in minutes, between my 5 a.m. alarm and my 6 a.m. alarm).  Read on (but only if you are brave…or if you want to take a guess at interpretation…or if you would like to know how crazy I felt all day yesterday).

We were selling our house, and as such, we had several realtors coming to visit.  Many of them rode together in nice, black cars (think newer Lincoln Town Cars) and approached our home in groups.  All were women of varied hair color, mostly middle-aged, and professionally dressed.  One insulted my work as a “stay-at-home mother” by snickering that I would have other items to attend to during a given day that I wouldn’t be able to drop everything and help them with whatever they needed to sell this house.

The scene changed to a lavishly set dining room (mine?) with a large banquet, complete with some level of servants (and an elevator?), where a beautiful woman about my age with dark hair and gentle eyes wearing a white gown (think Fairy Godmother…or maybe the wedding dress from Enchanted) looks at me, and I know what these realtor women are–witches–and what I must do–kill them.

Let me insert here that I have never killed anything on purpose (except roaches, ants, and a few spiders…and there was that baby lizard one time…I stepped on his tail on the way in from high school classes one day who moved when I stepped, and it died…and that experience brought me to tears because I couldn’t believe I had killed it).  And, I don’t remember ever killing anyone or anything before in a dream, but I digress….

So, I know somehow that to kill these witches, I must force their hands to hold their own throats (I feel like I’m acting in a low-budget mini-series at this point…and I haven’t watched television for years), which will cause some type of chemical reaction (the skin on skin contact at that location produces smoke, or steam, or something smokey/steamy) and ends their lives (what?).  Fairy Godmother Lady is there supporting me, but I must do the deeds.

I begin by hurling large, heavy, (expensive) China dishes toward their throats, but my aim is sadly off target.  Then, I switch to good, old-fashioned, hand-to-hand combat, where I place my hand on one’s neck and as she reaches for my hand to have me release the grip, I switch her hand to be under mine and on her own throat while holding it in place by replacing my hand.

Is this gruesome for anyone else?

Top it off with echoes of these lovely images pulsating through my brain all day yesterday and you will know how happy my Monday began.

 

It’s that time of year… (Flashback Friday)

Here is a post I wrote several weeks ago and neglected to publish then…so, as a Flashback Friday post, here it is!

No, Christmas isn’t here yet (though the retail market has been gearing up for Halloween since August…and I am certain that Christmas decoration sales are fast approaching)…it’s time for an annual office visit that I find terribly perplexing. So perplexing, in fact, that I’ve been singing these words to the tune of LL Cool J’s “Going Back to Cali” while loading the dishwasher this morning:

(In case you forgot the tune, you can listen here. DISCLAIMER: I wouldn’t let my children watch this video–and I won’t watch it again. It’s definitely not Miley Cyrus at the VMA awards, but it still isn’t really appropriate…FYI. If I were you, I’d minimize the video and just take a little listen.)

I’m going to the Gyn-o
Gyn-o
Gyn-o
I’m going to the Gyn-o
No, I don’t think so
🙂

Well, I did confirm my appointment last week…so from a monetary standpoint (and from a health-related standpoint), I probably should keep the appointment.

I am thinking this morning, as a distraction, though, that I will go into the experience as a writing exercise. I have been trying to approach each experience as possible research for writing, and that helps me find value in whatever I am doing when I might ordinarily focus on fear. (And, singing a parody of an old 90’s song helps a bit, too.) 🙂

So, I am off to my day…to face my fear (and the stirrups).

Wish me luck! 🙂

Help a Girl Out…

As I’ve been working on spending more quality time in real (face-to-face) communication, conversation, and support of those I love, I have had a few thoughts.  Maybe because I have been thinking of the many awesome women in my life, and maybe because we just celebrated the connections of mothers earlier this month, and maybe because two of my good friends just gave birth to beautiful baby girls…and maybe just cuz I was vacuuming yesterday (and I ponder through the white noise of the little sucking machine that makes my cute rugs look polished)…but I’ve been thinking of how we need to let go of the catty comparisons and the vengeful feelings we have for other women and help each other walk a little taller.

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Could we do that?

I know I’m guilty of judging others and comparing my own weaknesses to others’ strengths.  I look at other women and wonder, “why can’t I (have/look like/be more)_________________ like so-and-so?”  When I give in to such comparisons, I not only degrade myself but I create contention between myself and another woman.  (And, honestly, she may be saying the same thing about me.)  When we live in Judgementland or Comparisonville, we are never at rest or at peace. 😦

Can’t we just enjoy the good in others…and the good in ourselves…and help support other women in our lives?


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In an interaction with a friend recently, she mentioned that she began saying to the little people in her home, “I love everything about you!”  She said that her little people really responded to those words.  Through her example, I wanted to try it.  Of course, I thought to do it on one of the most disruptive mornings lately…and I was feeling frustrated and felt more like saying to my little people, “I see lots of things you need to work on and change.”  Still, I persisted, trying to find a moment to share this with at least one of them….  I do love everything about them–their idiosyncracies along with their personalities and happiness and even the troubles that come as they learn and grow into who they need to be.

I found a moment with my daughter when we were alone in a room, and I leaned toward her ear and softly spoke, “I love everything about you.”


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She seemed dumbstruck.

So, I said it again.  “I love everything about you.”

She looked at me incredulously.  I affirmed my statement while wondering when the last time (if ever) she would’ve felt that she was completely, incomprehensibly, and absolutely loved.  I have decided to share this idea with her more, along with my other children…and even the other women in my life, as many of them struggle (as I do) with feeling worthy, accepted, and loved.

Are you in this boat with us?  And can we work together to stay afloat and reach the shore and live in the cities of Love and Acceptance together…the way we are now.


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It’s not easy being thin…

Try singing those words in your best Kermit-the-Frog-It’s-Not-Easy-Being-Green-voice, if you please.

In case you forgot the tune, here’s Kermit the Frog singing it in all his green felt glory:

I was thinking of this post several days ago after a conversation of a few women I passed in a corridor.  One, remarking about a woman she once knew, said–as best I could hear–something like, “And of course, she’s like a size 2…” and, a little lower in voice, “…one of those women we all hate.”

Maybe she said dislike.

I don’t know, really.  And I know she wasn’t talking about me.  (At least I hope she wasn’t…but I’m sure part of me wonders.)  I am not a size 2.  I’m not sure that I could be if I tried.  But, I am thin.  And, (because of my height and hair length/style), I probably appear thinner than I am.

Here is my question, though.  WHO CARES?????

Who cares what size dress you wear, what your hair looks like, what size your foot is?  Really?  Isn’t that part of growing older and wiser…to be able to look past the surface to see people as they really are?

Then someone very dear to me wrote something recently that she once thought that people who were thin had high self-esteem.

Guess I missed that gift.  Thin body–check.  Tall body–check.  Self-esteem–maybe one day?  (I am working on that facet of existence….)

I’m not writing this as a rant (okay, maybe just a bit…), but I do want for us to pause for a moment to THINK about our perceptions of others.

At my daughter’s school kindergarten end-of-year party several years ago, a female student came up to me (kindergarten, okay?) and said to my daughter, “Wow.  Your mom’s really thin.”

She shared her words with contempt in her voice…a similar tone to what I heard in the corridor among those few “grown-up” women recently.

WOW.

We all make judgements of people when we see them.  And sometimes we share them with others.  But can we PLEASE STOP JUDGING PEOPLE based on exterior value judgements such as size, shape, hair color, sexual orientation, style preference, number of children (or lack thereof) and just remember that we are all individuals (thank heavens) in this life trying to enjoy another day on earth?

Please?

Every person I have ever encountered on this earth has something to offer…no matter what he or she looked like on the surface.  I find that when I allow myself to become overwhelmed with appearances (my own or someone else’s) that I miss opportunities to learn and grow and love.  I’m sure we all need this reminder from time to time, but I’d like to take a moment to send a shout-out to women, who I think may struggle with self-deprecating thoughts a little more often than men do (but I’m open to others’ insight on this subject).

Every woman is beautiful, and I encourage you to take an opportunity to remind a woman in your life today that she is amazing.  See what she does.  Tell her she is beautiful.  Tell her she is important.  Tell her she is valued.  Eventually, no matter what her external features are, she will believe you over the condescending voices around her and within her.  And have her sing the chorus to this song…over and over and over…until the message sinks deep into her soul.

And here is another one, just for smiles. 🙂