A few days ago, I posted about the loneliness of homeschooling, and the struggles of being excluded from homeschooling groups. I put it out there because I had been holding it in and pretending it did not bother me for a very long time. I was just plain sick of this situation keeping hold of me. I had done my yoga practice with the intention of letting go, I had done the work of Byron Katie, I had shed a few car tears, read every inspirational FB post, and taken some intense walks/hikes, which are my way of cleansing when I am out of control. What else could I possibly to do clear my heart and head?
What an amazing shift I have had. I have such relief and lightness, both from comments and emails here on the blog, to actual shifts in my personal relationships with local homeschoolers. I found such clarity. I am in this homeschooling/unschooling thing because it is what the young men in this house thrive on. My relationship with them is the one that matters, and if I am true to why we are here doing this, all else will follow.
A while back, my 12 year old mentioned that he likes getting into small groups and solving problems. This is what he has asked for. My job is to make it happen. We have gathered 2 families with sweet, talkative, energetic kids, ages 6-13. My job is to come up with a problem for them to solve, provide some materials, and step back. They have an hour to come up with their solution. The kids want minimal adult participation, they just want us to come up with the challenge, drive them to the location, and then butt out. (The first challenge was to come up with something that launched marshmallows, the second challenge was to build something that would roll down a slope.)
Yesterday, as I explained the challenge, the anticipation in the room was electric. We had done this just the week before, to try it out, and they all loved it. When I said "go" the room was instantly in motion, ideas flying, tools collected, groups forming, and I looked around and realized that this was it. This is why we do it, this is the moment I need to appreciate and allow.
It is not about me, although I am important. This homeschooling thing is about letting us all be who we are, not forcing ourselves into some mold that others have defined. Homeschooling is hard when we try to be other than who we truly are.
And here is where exclusion from groups fits in. We have been so clear about who we are and what we like, that others recognize it and have responded to it. It took me a while to see this. I got caught up in my insecurities of not being good enough, being judged and not found worthy. This is not true (I asked Byron Katie and she confirmed it). We are hands-on, we are small group, we are creative and loud and in motion. We like to make our own mistakes and learn the hard way, we don't want to be told how to get to the end by following a path slowly.
Back in 2008, when we first ventured into homeschooling, I strongly believed I would develop a small, but solid, group of women friends who were also homeschooling. I believed that there were other moms out there with similar interests to mine, we all would have active and curious kids, many common goals, and we would bond, share meals, spend time together and become not just acquaintances, but real friends.
As the Christmas holiday came and went this year, I took a look at my wall of cards and realized, quite sadly, that not one was from a homeschooling family. For many reasons, I didn't send any cards at all this year, but I admit, that even if I had, I probably wouldn't have sent any to any homeschooling families.
Homeschooling is a lonely business. It takes thick skin most days. I have had my share of tears over not feeling a part of any solid group. We don't fit in. And although it is okay most days, there are days when the feeling of "different" is overwhelming. It may be admirable to be taking the road less travelled, but it is just that, less travelled. Less travelled roads have fewer companions.
This "school" year has been particularly hard. The group of homeschoolers I thought we had connected with and started down the long road of friendship with purposely excluded us from a group. This has been painful for me, as I try to diplomatically explain to my boys why we aren't joining certain activities their friends keep bringing up. Each time I think I have made peace with this group of parents, some new trigger comes up and puts me in a full-fledged anger attack. I remind myself to breathe. I try and step back and see the bigger picture. I do yoga. I go for fast and long walks or hikes. I sign my boys up for activities where I know there are no homeschoolers, hoping to develop new friends. I try and vibrate these people out of my life.
I am still in the process of figuring it all out. I am not there yet. I hope by writing about it, I can move forward and beyond this anger and hurt that has been lingering for months and months. I know there are homeschooling families out there that are in need of friends and support, and I don't want this toxic situation to keep me from being open and ready to see them when they appear. My instinct is to withdraw and avoid, but that is not in the best interests of the boys. And this is not how I want them to see me deal with adversity and conflict. I have been forced to change in many ways since becoming a mom, but this may be the biggest challenge yet. Open my heart, find forgiveness and peace.
Quote from the Dalai Lama: Be kind whenever possible; it is always possible.
“I believe that the very purpose of life is to be happy. From the very core of our being, we desire contentment. In my own limited experience I have found that the more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. Cultivating a close, warmhearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. It helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the principal source of success in life. Since we are not solely material creatures, it is a mistake to place all our hopes for happiness on external development alone. The key is to develop inner peace.”
I am ready to move forward. I am going to let the Dalai Lama help me.
The little kid who could not sit still, who fell off every chair ever made, who has not sat through an entire meal EVER, who escaped my watchful eye time and again, who jumped off every high surface he could get up onto, who was reprimanded by more strangers than I care to remember,
who grew his hair long and was confused for the wrong sex almost daily since the day he was born,
the kid who drew criticism because unschoolers have no discipline.
Thank you for being so clear with me, little man. You have always been certain of your path, and I can now see how some of the pieces are falling into place. You are a little (very little), force of nature, pure and driven.
I am happiest when I am working toward a goal. Last year at this time, I was fully committed to becoming a yoga teacher; I had the courses planned out, the hotel reservations made, and an end date to look forward to. I loved it. The breast cancer thing got in my way, but it did not stop me. In May of 2012, I finished my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training with Todd Norian and Ann Greene. I made some amazing friends, started teaching several classes, and now I am doing it. In the next few weeks I have two different yoga series starting up and they are both full! Very cool.
I should feel content, right? But of course I am not. It must be my inner life-long learner. I am just not fully happy unless I am in pursuit of something!
I have been playing around on the internet trying to find my next thing. I have been watching videos and reading books. I love to travel, and while this is sort of a goal, it doesn't feel quite like a goal I work toward.
So I asked my family what they thought about hiking to Everest Base Camp. Of course they think I am a crazy person, especially since I am not fond of the cold, but still, I think this is something I could really get into!
I am officially a pathetic blogger. I know this to be true, because it took me three tries to log into my blog - I had no idea what my password was!
I actually like blogging, and would do so more often, if MY laptop hadn't been taken over by the youngest member of this family. I have been demoted to the smallest, least expensive, completely underpowered computer in the house. Why? I am not a gamer. The gamers in this family need speed, power and good video cards. Therefore, I am on the computer without any whistles; I cannot load pictures or watch a DVD. So I skip the blogging and head straight for facebook.
What have we been up to. Lots and lots of good stuff. Gymnastics, tennis, Sumobots, chess and gaming pretty much rule our world. And for me, add in yoga and PT. What is not happening is dinner. We hardly ever manage to make a dinner at any sort of normal time. Tennis ends, gymnastics starts. Yoga starts, gymnastics finishes. You get the picture. I don't see this changing anytime soon.
The boys are getting so independent and their interests are evolving. It is strange to see them develop independently of each other, but I know it is good. I am so proud of them. It is amazing to see each of them find a passion and go for it. We are getting ready for our first gymnastics meet ever. Boys gymnastics are hard to come by in a small rural state, so lots of travel is in our future. And the youngest man here is playing tennis almost every day, another sport VT doesn't excel in, but we will help him get as far as he wants to go with it.
Yes. It has been a while. A long while. A time to step back, reflect, restructure and now, move forward.
I have many thoughts on how I want this blog to flow, but I can't change everything in one day, or even one month. Real change takes time, effort and space.
For today, my inspiration is coming from Leo Babauta of zenhabits. I love how he breaks things down into simple steps, and how he has really cut away at the frivolous stuff and found what really matters in life.
I strive to simplify my life, set and achieve goals, help my kids find their passions and be life long learners, be happy. Creating a happy home sounds so easy, and in some ways it is. But not always. Some days taking a step back and appreciating is hard. Some days stepping back and breathing isn't enough. But I believe if I practice it everyday, especially when it is easy, I can more easily open my heart to those around me and free myself from the fantasy life when life is challenging and kids are changing.
I love historical fiction. It is my thing. I love getting lost in a book, or TV series, based on fact, with colorful characters interspersed with real historical figures.
I was lucky to have stumbled across the OUTLANDER series by Diana Gabaldon right before my cancer diagnosis this winter. Lucky, because I had my Kindle Fire with me at every appointment, in every waiting room, and in bed at night when my mind wanted to run amok. Claire and Jamie took me away, helped me escape, and let me forget about my stuff for a while. But alas, seven big books later, I finished, and book eight doesn't come out until spring 2013.
There is a mourning period after the end of a good book immersion. Mine took about two weeks. I then felt ready to jump back into something absorbing.
And now I have a new show! Two friends (I have such great friends) suggested Downton Abbey to me. I have a history of getting lost in Tudor history, so I guess they both figured anything historical and British-y would do. They were right! I stayed up and watched the ENTIRE first season last night. I love NETFLIX, really I do. And I have to say, it works best when I use my eldest sons' Xbox. I can't wait to get season two on DVD.
I also squeezed in Mitch Albom's book Have A Little Faith, a very small, quick read. I am a bit fascinated with religion, comparative religion and spiritual journeys. I must be on one myself, but haven't quite figured it out yet.
I have a tendency to make light of situations I perhaps should not. This may be one of them. You have been warned.
I am a bit over 7 weeks post mastectomy. Boob-free. Scar heavy, tight skinned and still lacking in full shoulder range of motion. I have returned to almost all of my activities, but am still struggling with full wheel position (back-bend) and shoulder stand. I know, this is not something all 43 year olds feel the need to do, but I do. I can, however, do a cart-wheel, and I have put a few tight yoga tops on without even paying the slightest attention to my chest. Big breakthroughs.
I find myself thinking about breast reconstruction, as I have many times in the past, as I spent 7 years quite lop-sided. I have always been "small", as in, training bras were my staple. I have never given "enhancement" any thought, other than, "why the hell would someone DO that????". I could not understand why someone would put a foreign body into a healthy chest. I admit my bias has been toward breast cancer - keep away from potentially cancerous substances being put in the body.
So here I sit. Flat chested beyond words. My sternum sticks out. It is like my boobs were scooped out with huge ice creams scoopers and left craters in my chest. I didn't really know how this would look. I guess I need to pump up my pects.
I could meet with a plastic surgeon and really go over my options. Muscle flaps or implants. Neither option is appealing to me. I am still not willing to part with any muscle (abdominal or latissimus dorsi) in order to enhance my chest, and between the radiation I had on the right and my current aversion to silicon, implants are not likely. So....breast-free?
There are some real benefits to being breast-free. No bras! Really. NO BRAS! I believe many women forget how annoying bras really are. They itch, move up, stretch out, and interfere with many good outfits. I don't have this issue anymore. I can buy all those cute summer tops and not wonder how to hide bra straps. I can bend forward as much as I want, and I am not going to fall out of any top. I can wear strapless, backless and unsupported anything. Very cool.
The question becomes: Can I be a "real girl", can I be "sexy", can I feel good about my body without those frontal bumps our culture has given so much value to? Well,
why the hell not?
Breasts do not the sexy me make. I refuse to give breasts the power to determine my loveliness, my desirability, my self-esteem. I am a breast-free, cancer-free mom force. I will dance, run, walk and do yoga to my hearts content, without a bra, and quite happily. And I will tell other women how incredibly wonderful they are, just as they are, no more surgery required.
I am 6 weeks post surgery. Life is sort of getting back to normal. It took longer than I thought it would. It has been a whirlwind of emotion and experiences, and I hope to settle down and get grounded for a bit.
We went on our annual road trip to South Carolina two weeks ago. What a great trip! The weather was AMAZING. We were able to go to the beach every day, ride bikes, golf, walk, rent boats and fish. We crammed as much as we could into our 7 days there. And we drove, which was once again a great adventure. When stopping at a gas station in the Blue Ridge mountains of N.C., one of the kids, upon hearing the strong southern accent, asked, "what country are we in?".
Once we returned, I spent a day at home doing laundry, shopping and repacking, as I headed right back out for my second 5-day yoga teacher training. I just got back Sunday evening, and I am still whirling and spinning from all of the information I received, the emotional journey I experienced, and now the harsh reality of freezing cold weather. I really like 70.
I want to thank all of you who sent love, good wishes, prayers and positive energy my way over the past 6 weeks. I have felt so much love and support, so much awareness and understanding. I am getting used to my altered image in the mirror, and doing my work to figure out how to love it. It is a bit like learning to love stretch marks and loose skin after having kids. You know it was worth it, but it doesn't seem quite fair.
I cancelled my yoga class this afternoon. I am tired and a bit sore. It is frustrating. Healing is a strange beast.
Yesterday I woke up feeling great. Not exactly "my old self" but certainly up and ready to go. I made a showing at my usual Saturday morning yoga class, knowing I would have to modify many of the poses, but between being a Physical Therapist and being 2/3 done with my yoga teacher training, I figured I better know how to modify the poses. And I did. I realized about an hour into the class how tough I was being on my surgically altered body, so I spent the last half hour being careful to conserve my energy and drink some extra water. I could feel the swelling move into my chest, but I found it to be healing rather than alarming. I thought, "My blood is flowing! My damaged cells are being flushed out of the area, new cells are forming and scar tissue is being molded into straight bands, not jumbled knots of tightness!"
All of this is true. What is also true is my need to take an entire day off after doing one day of exercise. I have tried walks, outings with the kids, and now yoga. If I am out and about for any length of time, I then need the next day to recover After a day of full rest, I am ready to go again. So today is a day of rest.
The funny thing is, I KNOW this! For years, I have been telling my PT patients how healing is not linear; there are good days and not-so-good days, and as healing occurs, the good days begin to outnumber the not-so-good days, until finally you find yourself back doing the things you love. Setbacks happen ALL OF THE TIME, and TO EVERYONE! I also realize how frustrating it is to just sit and rest when sitting and resting isn't in your nature.
So breathe. That is all we can do when the path before us looks different from the one we thought we were heading out upon. This is MY path, and your path is YOUR OWN path. Own it, love it, embrace it, rest on it, run on it, scream on it and enjoy every tiny footstep on it, even the hard ones and the steps you would rather not take. Today I will breathe, rest, hydrate, sit in my sunroom and enjoy the sunshine. Tomorrow, well, you know the Robert Frost poem I am thinking of.
Really? I can't understand myself. I should be having a bad week. I had surgery to remove both of my breasts, I hurt and I am uncomfortable. My yoga love, Anusara, has blown up and disintegrated before my eyes. All of my teachers have left Anusara, and my upcoming teacher training is on shaky grounds. My teachers, Todd Norian and Ann Greene, have both resigned their Anusara licenses. I completely understand, it is just going to be strange to go to an Anusara Teacher Training when no one is signed on to be a certified teacher anymore.
But I am in a surprisingly good mood. The breast cancer stuff is a no brainer. The pathology reports came back yesterday, and I am good to go, no invasive cancer found, treatment is done. I am able to make plans again! I had been fairly concerned about the need for chemotherapy, to have it off the table is a huge relief.
Am I sad or angry about removing my left breast now that I know it did not have any cancer cells? No. I am excited to be done with this surgery. It has not been a pleasant experience. But to be able to choose surgery, and to heal at a time when I feel very healthy and strong, is important to me. I no longer have to wonder when/if breast cancer will reoccur and interrupt my active life. No more biopsies and mammograms. I have been aggressive, but not without good cause. I thought long and hard about how I would feel waking up with one breast removed and the other intact, and the feeling was not one I felt confident living with. I now feel very confident. And symmetrical. And flat.
I still have drains in both breasts (former breasts?). The drains are not painful, but I have an awareness of them. I believe they limit my activity and I am beginning to suspect my doctor is leaving them in here to keep me confined longer. It's a conspiracy to keep my home and under control!! It is true, without them I would probably be doing more than I should. As it is now, I look a bit like a robot all hooked up to lifelines. It's a pain in the ass. I can't wait to sleep on my stomach. My wardrobe is limited right now as well. I have big long tubes to hide.
My family and my friends are absolutely amazing. I have been so well taken care of. And so many people have prayed for me. I am not a prayer person, not religious in any sort of way anyone defines, but I do believe in positive thinking, the flow of good energy, and the power of intention. I have felt comforted at unexpected times, and I have felt supported and not alone in the slightest. I have not gone through this alone. I have had so many people right here with me. How could I not feel good?
The kids. The boys have had an interesting week. Being home with me while I haven't been myself has at times been challenging for them. They have matured this week. I would have been so lonely without them here. I had hugs from them constantly. They carried things for me and talked on the phone when people called. I have had my hair brushed and my ice packs delivered then returned to the freezer. They have kept me in check, making sure I am not doing too much, but letting me know when they needed me to be mom and step it up a bit. My mom has been here running them around to all of their usual activities, and my dear husband stayed home almost all week. Today he may stay at work the entire day, we will see.....he may need to come home and check in on me early once again.
I am blissed out. I have so much to do and enjoy. This crazy life is full of contrasts, highs and lows, the beautiful moments next to moments of despair. It is all here to be experienced and fully felt. I can only feel this much joy, because not long ago I felt this much fear. The pendulum swing is amazing.
Thank you for being here with me this week. I honor you and send you my love. I hold you in my heart, and hope to bring you joy.
My surgery on Monday went well. I checked in bright and early, 5:45 am. Everything went smoothly from what I could tell, and at 1:45pm, I headed home, bandaged and bundled.
My family and friends have taken care of all my needs, from lunches to dinners and especially desserts. My dog is even getting a vacation from us, getting some much needed attention and exercise with my sister and her husband.
My mealtrain is up and running, I just need to keep track of who brought what in what dish. So much yummy food coming in.
I could share details, but not today. I am just happy to be home, loved and headed to bed.
How do I part with both of my breasts? How does it make any sense at all, the cutting off of two beloved, former baby-comforting, perhaps slightly sexy parts of my female anatomy? How will my clothes fit? Will I cry when I look in the mirror and see my new and less curvy upper torso? When I gaze down in the shower, what will I see? Not the roundness of two rather small breasts, but perhaps protruding ribs formerly unnoticed? A tummy marked by the stretching of childbirth? Unwanted scars?
Will my yoga poses feel the same, when I open my chest to the sky and open my heart? When I take long walks, will my awareness wander to my empty chest and mourn the lack of slight movement? Will I comfort myself by wearing a small sports bra to keep the familiar snug feeling around my upper body?
Or will I smile? Will I feel light with the lack of fear of tiny cancer cells multiplying maliciously beneath my skin? Will I experience the freedom of wearing a T-shirt without a bra and run around unhindered? Will I embrace the flat look of my chest, knowing my clothes look different, but not worse.
Will I always be able to embrace my body with love and reverence, for my body is part of me, but it is not me. Will I find a way to feel comforted by my new figure, see it as a reflection of self-care and determination, just as I admire a newly tightened muscle I have worked hard to develop?
I will not do this with anger, but with love and intention. I will mourn, but I will celebrate. I will share, and I will push some limits. I will say YES to my ever-changing life. My new sexy is waiting, unique and undefined.
Breast cancer as a chronic disease, my new perspective. There is no cure, there is no war, there is nothing sexy about it. Just as I was facing my second breast cancer diagnosis two weeks ago, the Susan G. Komen foundation decided to drop the ball and implode. Maybe the foundation has breast cancer. It works like that. You seem healthy, everything is moving along as it should, and suddenly, it all falls apart.
Here I am. 43 years along on the path of my life, with diagnosis number two. Same breast, different treatment. I go in for a mastectomy Monday morning. I am recovering from the biopsies, mammograms and Ultrasounds I have had over the past few weeks. I have a team, a plan and a great support system. All is good with me.
Except the distractions. As I said, the Susan G. Komen foundation has faltered, and I am saddened by this. I first ran in a 5K Race for the Cure when I was in my early twenties, honoring my mother, who had gone through the ravages of breast cancer treatment when I was 14. I was proud to be doing something "for the cure". But over time, and with my eventual diagnosis at age 36, I started to loath the pink ribbon and the crap it was printed on. I often wondered how on earth money from a pair of pink socks ever made it to the foundation? It probably didn't.
I am glad to see the powerful voices of reasonable women challenged this idiotic move and all appears to be restored (the money that is), but not resolved. You won't see me wearing a pink ribbon. Please don't send me any. I know I will get some, and the giver will be forgiven for not understanding, but may it not be you.
I have much more to say, and I am ready to begin the process of sharing. It took a few weeks. I have been recording my journey in a private diary this time, as a recurrence is something different than a first diagnosis. I am making peace with the journey I know is before me. The first time around, I had some hope of having overcome breast cancer. I now know better. I am in this for life.
My message to you, my dear friends and family, is this: find a doctor you love, get your annual mammograms, get intimate with your breasts and do your self-exam, and when something changes, don't stop gathering information until you are satisfied with the results.