Seasons

When you are standing at bus duty, in August, in Georgia, mentally willing hundreds of students to GET ON THE BUS, as sweat pools in every crease and dimple – it can be difficult to remember that in only a matter of months you will require 15 layers and an electric blanket to stand in the exact same spot.  Isn’t it strange that, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, it is so easy to think that every uncomfortable circumstance is permanent?

One year, I had a particularly difficult group of students.  Not difficult like too chatty.  Difficult like, and I quote: “Why you always messing with me?  You best leave me alone. You hear me?  Do you hear me???”  This was one student’s daily response when asked to pick up a pencil and get to work.  DAILY.  When the morning announcements stated that it was the EIGHTH day of school – I was so stunned that I just cried.  I thought it was at least the EIGHTIETH day.  It was the year that would not end.

Time is not as straightforward as it seems on paper.

I have never been a good patient.  I am, however, an excellent impatient.

It has been 23 days since I had surgery.  A bilateral mastectomy.  Miles of stitches.  A virtual train track across my entire chest.  Uncomfortable?  Yes, indeed.  I have been mentally willing the healing process to GET ON THE BUS!  It seems like there is NO WAY that it has been 23 days – more like 230.  I wonder if there will ever be a day when I have no pain, and I can go back to work and have my life back.

Then I remember several things.

This is a season.  Seasons change.  Not overnight.  In due time.

I don’t want my life BACK.  I want my life FORWARD.  I want to learn everything that I can from this experience.  I want to remember that in the midst of difficult circumstances beautiful and wonderful things happen.  The year that I had such a difficult class ultimately included some of my most favorite students.  It wasn’t an all or nothing proposition.  And August in Georgia – which is unbearable for anyone who doesn’t enjoy feeling like a marinated shrimp on the barbie – eventually gives way to a spectacularly beautiful fall.

These hard days are not permanent.  They are also not solely difficult.  They are filled with love and support – hope and courage – faith and joy.  Additionally, August – even in Georgia – is filled with expectation of new beginnings.  The school year rolls out from there.  If you can remember (while you are sweating profusely) what all lies ahead, it can be exciting to anticipate.

In the midst of this somewhat uncomfortable season, I am more than excited to know that I have a whole life ahead of me.

 

 

 

 

Teacher

I am a teacher.  In the time that I have been a teacher, I have gone from monitoring earthquake drills (California), tornado drills (Georgia), to lock down drills.  I have huddled in the dark corner of a locked classroom, with students who were genuinely terrified by the THOUGHT of an intruder.  We conducted this drill days after the Sandy Hook tragedy.  It was horrifying.

Today, students are walking out of classrooms across America for 17 minutes.  17 minutes representing the 17 lives lost one month ago today in yet another school shooting.

I have heard a lot of negative commentary about this action plan.  Mostly from the same people who are equally negative about kids today.  They say that kids are entitled, disengaged, self centered, disorganized, unwilling to step up, etc.

Well, today, these kids are united, organized, engaged, and participating fully in their right to protest peacefully.  They are afraid.  They have seen their peers murdered.  They are unwilling to wait for the adults to figure it out.  They are WARRIORS on behalf of a RIGHTEOUS cause.  They are AMERICANS in pursuit of protecting LIFE and LIBERTY.  They are children stepping in where adults have dropped the ball.

All of the arguments which imply that this is yet another act of entitled youth are simply red herrings.  They are not interested in limiting anyone’s rights.  They are interested in preserving LIFE.

I have never been as proud to be a teacher as I am today.

Impossible

I have always loved the Olympics.  Always.  I used to dream of participating one day.  When it became clear that I was not going to make the US track team simply by donning  a beanie (sporting the Olympic rings) while I ran around the block (winded), I began to dream about attending the Olympics.

The Winter Olympics were in full swing three weeks ago when I had a bilateral mastectomy.  With all of my vivid Olympic imaginings, I can honestly say that I never pictured watching from a hospital bed.

My favorite commercial during the games featured a series of amputees participating in high level activities – including Paralympic sports.  The tag line was “Start your impossible….”  I felt such kinship with those amputees.  I, too, had lost part of my body in a rather shocking and stark fashion.  I, too, was left with sizable scars.  I, too, refused to feel like a victim.

Now, I am not suggesting that losing your leg or arm is on the same playing field as having a double mastectomy.  But, I am here to tell you that I do, in fact, feel like an amputee of sorts.  An amputee without a sporting category at the Paralympics.  Although I think that I am now perfectly built for that horrifying sled ride – “Skeleton” – where they flop face down on a toboggan and careen down the mountain.  The flopping would now be seamless – and presumably aerodynamic.

I may not be recognizable as an amputee, but I am totally down with the whole idea of “Start your impossible….”  With faith, everything is possible.  EVERYTHING.  So, now my dreams include heroic endeavors that may not put a medal around my neck – but may make a difference in the life of another.  The draw of the Olympics is coming together for a common purpose.  Maybe I have always loved that because that is how I believe life should be?

 

Scan

I always thought that the word “scan” meant to quickly take a look at something.  “Scan” this document for errors.  “Scan” the crowd for where they are sitting.  A glance.  A speedy visual intake.  Fast.

When you have cancer, and the doctor says “scan”, speed is the very last definition that suits.  You hear the word and time down warps into somewhere between standing still and laying down.  I don’t know why that one word sparks instant terror in my heart – but it does.  So, in a zippy twist of fate, time becomes virtually motionless at the exact same moment that I am launched into an all hands on deck – aaaahhhhOOOOOOgaaaaa – state of alarm.

This is not good.

I have tried to be rational about this process.  A scan only shows what is already there.  It doesn’t create a problem.  It identifies a problem.  I recognize that “scan terror” is a close cousin to “step on the scale at the doctor’s office terror.”  There is no denying that the problem already exists.  We are just HIGHLIGHTING it.  In the middle of the common area.  At least now, scales are digital, and I no longer have to go through the humiliation of the changing of the steel plates in 10 lb increments – slide – slide – slide – incredulous look – slide – slide.  Still – I am terrorized by the process.

The WAIT is agony.  Wait for the test.  Wait for the results.  All in slug slow-mo.  Is there a reason that I catastrophize my way through every possible outcome?  Why not idealize?  Why not imagine the most amazing and positive results?

During my recent bone scan, I was particularly unnerved.  The tech was NOT a talker.  When I am nervous, I need a talker nearby.  I need dialogue, Baby.  I need distraction – particularly while strapped in a tube that shrinks to fit.  No such luck from Silent Johnny.  So – this is what I did.  I envisioned every prayer said on my behalf as light.  The light of love.  The light of God.  God is love – so – same thing.  Then I envisioned that light in every cell of my body.  I talked to myself (since Silent Johnny was an epic fail).  I said, “I am breathing in the light and breathing out anything dark.  I am breathing in health and breathing out sickness.”

It was remarkable.  Prayers just flowing in.  Love just lighting up.  God at work through us and for us.

Maybe scans are actually holy ground.

 

 

Sight

When you have a cancer diagnosis, an interesting thing happens.  People look at you with extremely sad eyes.  They are afraid for you.  They are afraid for themselves.  I want to be clear that I totally appreciate the love – I do.  But the fear and sadness – gotta go.  Folks – your eyes need to tell a different story.

I remember once reading about a group of men who were interviewed regarding behaviors that made them feel demoralized as men.  They were all very simple and small things.  When a woman crossed the street to avoid passing them on the sidewalk – or hugged her purse more tightly as she walked past.  Those small actions told these men that they were perceived as potentially dangerous.  This made them feel terrible.

When someone looks at me with utter sadness – in my heart I know that they just hate that I have to go through this – BUT – it makes me feel as though I am in a situation that is far more perilous than I realize.  It is the old “the monster is behind me – right?”   I have news for that monster – this ain’t my first rodeo.

I have a list of illnesses and surgeries that frankly makes me look like a pathological liar when I go to a new doctor and have to fill out yet another form (as – apparently no one ever actually KEEPS a form, or FILES a form, or transposes your information to a file on a newfangled device like a COMPUTER).

Here is what I know.  Ultimately – illness is a gift.  You have the opportunity to see life for what it is – precious and fragile.  You recognize the beauty in others far more readily than anything ugly.   Illness is a fantastic way to kick your priorities into place.  I would bet my last dime that internet trolls are the healthiest people (if not mentally) on the planet.  In the midst of illness, you just don’t have the time to argue with the world.  Your faith is tended and watered – and it blooms.

Is it difficult? Yes.  Is it scary?  At times.  Would you wish it away?  Maybe not – when you know the kind of growth that will be yours resulting from the process.

So – instead of those sad eyes – how about we agree to see through new eyes together?  Maybe brainstorm for ways to be more kind?  Look for beauty?  Pray in faith – believing the BEST?  Plan for healing, health, and strength for us all?

See how beautiful that is?

Coiffed

Board Pic 8

I can still feel the rifle-like recoil of my head as my mother attempted to get a brush through masses of curls and tangles.  By the time I had two pigtails, my head was sore and so was I.  Hair care bore a distinct resemblance to the camp meetings we attended during family week.  There was weeping, wailing, and my hair was deep and wide.

By the time I was in middle school, everyone involved was OVER my hair.  One day, my mother plaited it down my back, cut the braid OFF at the nape of my neck, and unleashed the Kraken.  Armed with the only tool of hair maintenance I had ever known – a BRUSH – I effectively fanned the afro flames into a full on burning bush.

It took 24 hours to determine that I was going to have to grow it long again.  This process would take roughly 7 years.

During high school, I deferred to my mother’s expertise on hair straightening.  This meant utilizing tools and products from circa 1950.  DIPPITY DO.  ROLLERS WITH PINS.  You may ask, why would a person with impossibly curly hair – ROLL her hair?  I will tell you.  In theory, turning tiny curls into big curls was straightening the hair.  There is the tiniest truth in this theory.  Straighter and straightened are markedly different.

The size of the rollers.  The sleeping on those bad boys.  All to produce a look that was pretty close to Rosanne Rosannadanna.

My adult life has been a series of random hits and misses.  Pixie cuts that inspired my husband to beg me to grow my hair.  Growing my hair for said husband – only to reach the end of what was reasonable – cut my hair – and have my CARDIOLOGIST comment, “Thank goodness!  You look human again!”  This is not an alternative fact.

With this hair history, you would think that the idea of losing it all during chemo would not phase me.  HOWEVER, if I am completely honest, being bald is only second to having cancer on the “OH NO!” scale.  Now, I have NEVER seen a bald woman and thought anything but BRAVE, BRAVE, BRAVE.  But, when I think about ME being that bald woman, I think BALD, BALD, BALD.

Ultimately, in the beauty school of life, I had to come to learn to love my curls – to be good with me.  My curls reflect the wild, messy life that I LOVE.  I also love peace, quiet strength, simplicity.  Bald can be like that.  Bald is pretty straightforward.  I like that.

RollersRoseanna