Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Don’t Take Offense.

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Girl Warrior. Don’t take offense. This may be one of your greatest challenges. One you’ll not only need to work on every day but possibly every minute of every day. For being offended, insulted or indignant by another’s words or deeds happens so easily. Sticks and stones may break the bones. But words can hurt. Sting. Smart. Sadden.

Thoughtless, unkind, reckless, or flippant words are often the most harmful to our psyche, to our spirit, to our soul; but only if we allow or give them permission to do so. Therein lies our power. Therein lies our potency. Therein lies our potential. We are at the controls here. This is our command central. How we feel. How we think. How we react. And most importantly, how we act after receiving such a blow is everything. This is the “big tell.” This is the pivotal moment when more is revealed about our character than that of the offender.

Our egos are bruised. Our hearts are broken. Our feelings are hurt. Our spirits deflated.

But they needn’t be. Know this Girl Warrior, you have the power to A) neutralize your emotions and B) control your response. Both are critical and integral here. You don’t have to be upset, insulted, angry or wounded. You are not a victim. In fact you are just the opposite. What others say to you, or about you, is actually none of your business. Not your concern. It has no bearing on who you are. It’s their stuff. Not yours. Others will say or do what they will, often without even realizing the impact or the consequences. And so will you. So will you. That’s the hard pill to swallow. We are all guilty.

But you can fix this Girl Warrior. It is your job, your mission, to get at the truth and own it. Examine the intention of the offense. Malicious or not, forgive everyone including yourself, so healing can begin. For that is how you get over being offended.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Fairy Dust and the Heartbeat of Oneness.

Halloween Mel as Princess

Do you ever wonder why some things in life appear as though they’ve been sprinkled with the enchantment of fairy dust? Why do some people, places or things touch our hearts in a way that is utterly ethereal, inexplicable and mystifying?

What causes this heart connection?

It could be anything or anytime or anyplace when this connection occurs. You’re watching one of those ubiquitous television programs like America or England or Japan’s Got Talent and some awkward kid comes on stage and starts singing like an angel. At that moment, we’re touched by the kind of grace that only The Divine can deliver. Not only is our heart affected, but our spirit as well. Our emotions are fully engaged. Quite simply, we feel like better people for the privilege of witnessing this singular moment in time. We know intuitively that we are part of something much grander than ourselves.

We are all breathing in tune to the Heartbeat of Oneness. This is the transcendent flash. Our knowing. The sudden awareness that our prosaic humanness is also magnificently divine. We get a glimpse into the soul of another. And what an honor this is.

You can’t force or manipulate these things either. You can’t define them. Direct, determine or describe. There are no words that are truly adequate. Impossible to articulate, communicate or enunciate. For if you could, then the magic would turn to vapor and disappear. There would be no fairy dust.

For this is the beautiful inherent intangible, the essential enigma, the precious paradox.

boo ballerina

Aimee Prima 2.

baby abby in white dress (1)

Abby on stool in purple

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Walking the Tightrope.

While Ma was lingering in her last weeks, and then days on Earth, I was walking a tightrope. It was surreal. Dreamlike most of the time. It was a delicate balance. How do you keep precious hope alive while you’re slipping headfirst into the long dark tunnel of despair?

The heart wants what the heart wants. But the head knows the hard cold truth. This cruel candor resided in the belly of the thin black line I traversed every minute of every one of those final evanescent days.

It was as though I was walking high above this fragile life that was unraveling. Thread by thread. Bit by bit. One piece at a time. Tiny fragments dissolving into dust.

There I was, out of my body. Looking down. A witness to my own personal heartbreak.

The line was taut. The emotions tauter. I was neither light on my feet. Nor was I nimble. There was no grace in my step. I was just there. Trying to breathe. Trying to keep it together. Whatever “it” was.

The multi-layers of tyrannizing fear permeated ever fibre and pore of my body. Suffocating my soul. Strangling my spirit. I was bound and gagged by the evil twins, anguish and anxiety.

Fear of losing Ma. Fear of life afterwards. Fear of going on without her. Fear of falling apart. Fear of my emotions and what they could do if unleashed. Fear for my family, especially my children. Fear that my heart would never be the same. Fear that I could not go on. Fear that I would.

Fear. Fear. Fear.

With each teetering step, I wondered if this was the defining one. The tripper. The one where all equilibrium was lost. The pivotal point where standing meets stumbling. The place where I falter. Then free fall.

Down. Down. Down.

Eventually, and inevitably, I did fall. It was inescapable. I couldn’t stay up there forever. I had to come back down to earth. Face the other inevitable. Ma was dying. And there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it. Except be there.

In the end, falling was an epic relief. I would have let go sooner had I known that I had a safety net. It was there all along.

Yes, for I fell sweetly and safely into the arms of everyone who loved me.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Unfinished Business.

IMG_0676It was inevitable. Bound to happen. I’d reach a certain age and life stage.  Then bam. Smack. Thump. I’d start thinking about unfinished business.

Well here I am. Signed. Sealed. Delivered. Right on track.

On the one hand I think, ‘Yay for me. Look at all I’ve done. Little Miss Smarty Pants.’  Then the grim reality sets in. The ugly truth. The road ahead is shorter than the road behind.  Then I think, ‘I’m just getting started. I haven’t done anything yet.  Shit.’

Age and stage notwithstanding, two things over the past year triggered this obsessive unfinished thinking.  E’s cancer diagnosis.  And a painting of Ma’s that I pulled out of storage.

Dealing with E’s cancer has brought me to my knees on more than one occasion.  I’ve felt a rainbow of emotions.  From fear to anger to sadness to joy.  And now gratitude.  This experience has reminded me of the fragile and fleeting nature of life.  How quick it all passes.  The cliche is true. Time flies.  Especially the older you get.  I can barely catch my breath on some days. I just want to scream, ‘slow down!’  I want to freeze frame the good stuff.  Fortunately, the older I get the more I realize it’s all good stuff.  Regardless of how it may appear on the surface.  I want to hold on tight.  Squeeze the life out of every last thing.

I’m overwhelmed at times by the immensity of this thing called life.  The fact that we’re here at all is utterly astonishing when you think about it.  Big bangs and creation debates aside, it’s mind blowing.

Then there’s the insignificance of my little life in the grand scheme of things. My humble place in this mysterious cosmic eternal universe.  We are all less than a blip on the radar of time.  Practically nothing.  Or perhaps not?  Why are we here anyway?  I don’t know.  But I want to know.  This, and the answers to about a million other philosophical and spiritual questions.  I’m a seeker.

I’m pretty sure that this pursuit will be the biggest business I’ll leave unfinished.

Then there’s Ma’s painting.  The unfinished one.  I found it in the attic at 204 after she died.  Vibrant yellow and orange color streaks across the canvas with etherial wisps and airy brushstrokes.  From a distance it looks finished.  A bit abstract for Ma’s typical style, but done. It’s only when you get up close that you see that it isn’t finished at all.  Not by a long stretch.  You can see that the yellow and orange were just the beginning.  The first few layers.  The background for the real painting.  Up close you can see the pencil marks where she had sketched in the foreground images.  The Sleeping Giant on the horizon.  Sail boats reflected in the water.  I don’t know for sure.  I only know that this painting was intended to be so much more than what was left behind.

Over the past year, I have spent time contemplating this painting.  I have struggled with the desire to finish it.  Complete this one little piece of her work here on earth.  But I won’t.  This is her unfinished business.  Not mine.  And quite frankly, none of my business.

But this painting is a gentle reminder of all the things that are my business to finish.  Truth is, I know I will go to my grave with tons of things left undone.  Not sure I’m okay with that.

Ironically, I love lists but I’m not a bucket list person.  At least not in the formal sense, with an actual physical list.  Like the one I make at work every day. I think I’m too lazy to sit down and compile such a thing.  Or maybe mine would be too long.  Endless.  From here to eternity.  It would take me forever.  When people talk about checking something off their bucket list, I’m perplexed.  Where do they find the time to both make the list and do all that shit on it?

Having said all that, I do have things I still want to do.  I also have things I wish I had done when I was younger.  These are the things that require a much more youthful body and brain.  C’est la vie.

So I focus on what I can still do.

Instead of attempting to accomplish, achieve, attain or actualize, I focus on what really matters.

When do I start?  Here.  This place.  This present moment.  As much as possible, I try to stay in the now.

What can I do right this minute to have a more meaningful life?  It doesn’t matter.  Meaning can be found in anything. And everything.  Doing the laundry.  Mowing the lawn.  Climbing a rock.  Soaring from the top of a mountain.  Lying on my back gazing at the sky. Kissing my love goodnight.  Holding the hand of the broken hearted.  Eating spaghetti. Writing a song. Running barefoot through the grass. Standing still.  The list is endless.  And very personal.  That’s the supreme beauty of it.

Who can I surround myself with?  Who are my people?  My tribe?  My dear ones?  They’re already here. Every last one of them.  And more will come.  Some will leave when our business together is done.

Where do I need to be to make a difference in the world?  Make it a better place than when I arrived?  Improve someone’s life, even in the smallest way?  Everywhere. Anywhere. People need help all over the place.  In my own home.  At work.  Down the road.  Across the street.  The country.  The ocean.  The earth.

How do I get it done? One baby step at a time. Occasional giant leaps.   Little tiptoes.  One foot in front of the other.  Maybe I’ll strap on a cape or sprout a pair of wings.  I don’t know.  I just know I’m going to die trying.

Why bother with all of this hullabaloo? Why not?  Just because.  That’s all I got.

I’ll take a crack at some dreams.  Hatch a few more schemes.  Make a new plan or two.  Write another story.  Wish upon a star.  Cause a ruckus.  Blow out a few more candles on the cake.  And keep going down the road.  For as long as I’ve got.

Will I die with some business left unfinished?  Most undoubtably so.  I am a work in progress, after all.

Just like Ma’s painting.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter. Mad as Hell.

Scary FaceThis post comes with a WARNING.  What you’re about to read may make you uncomfortable.  Or mad.

I’m mad.  Mad as hell.  What do I do with all this seething anger?  I could hold it in.  Suppress it like an unpleasant sneeze.  I could let it fester, bubble and boil for the rest of my life. Or I could just dump it here.

Sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes this Big C walk with E is way more than I signed up for.  I want to be the Good Wife.  The benevolent devoted soul mate.  I do.  But I’m not.  Don’t get me wrong, I am kind, compassionate and caring.  But there are times when the fire breathing dragon and the monster under the bed emerge.

What am I angry about?  That’s the thing.  I don’t even know half the time.  Everything and anything.

Am I surprised by the anger?  Absolutely.  I didn’t expect this.

It hasn’t simply been a steady build. Or slow burn. A crescendo ending with a crashing forte of rage.  Random acts of anger.  Unexpected outbursts.  Irrational displays of irritability.  Non-stop wrath or fury.  Annoyance or aggravation.  It has been all of these things. Thankfully not all at the same time.  But there are days where I simply move from one crappy angry emotion to the other.

Quite frankly, I can’t pinpoint what has my dander up and caused my blood to boil.  Why I see red.  And often black.

Some of the things I’m angry about make perfect sense.  At least to me.  Like the slowness of the medical process.  A year ago, at his annual check-up, E mentioned this irritation he had in his mouth.  Possibly it was a canker sore or a benign lesion.  Or possibly it was something bigger.  More sinister.  Who knew.  Certainly not us.  We’re not the experts.  This initial ‘mention’ to the doctor was followed by several trips to the neighborhood walk-in clinic where E was given cream to rub on the sore.  Months would pass before a biopsy was performed and a diagnosis given.  That was just the beginning.  More months would pass before his surgery.  A year later and the road ahead is long.  And winding.  Exhausting.  Draped in weary.  I’m angry about this.

Then there are the list of irrational things.  These cover the gambit, the full spectrum of the rainbow, the various degrees and levels of my anger.  Everything from the petty and trivial to the foolish and inconsequential.  The paltry, piddling and pettifogging.  All those shabby emotions that once expressed, or even thought, leave me feeling small, spiteful, mean, and just downright unkind.

Everything bugs me. Going right back to the early days. Until this present moment.

The botched biopsy.  Inconceivable. The breathtaking beauty of the Oncologist. Distracting. The daily crosstown trips to the hospital. Tedious.  The smell on the seventh floor.  Sickening. E’s feeding tube dangling from his nose.  Disgusting. The color blue of his hospital regulation issued PJs. Unfashionable. The ear-to-ear scar on E’s neck.  Frightening.  The size of his tongue.  Unfathomable. The disruption to our daily lives.  Unwanted.  The long lonely nights where sleep was a stranger.  Disturbing.  The lousy meals, fast food and frozen dinners.  Repulsive. The sound of the blender.  Irritating. The clutter, mess, dust and dog fur in E’s man cave.  Infuriating. The smell of soup in the microwave. Revolting. The way E speaks.  Incomprehensible.  The flowers and plants that need planting.  Frustrating. Taking out the garbage and doing the recycling. Enraging. Doing chores that E used to do. Exasperating. Being nice.  Impossible.

How could I think, feel, say such nasty things?  I don’t know.

I wish I could be more like Mother Theresa. All saintly and good.  But I’m not.  I’m Helen Keller before Anne Sullivan came into her life.  Groping in the dark. Punching the air. Kicking and screaming at anything unfortunate enough to cross my path. I stumble carelessly into the abyss.  I hiss and curse unapologetically. I breathe fire.  Rant and rave like a freaking lunatic.

I do all that. Then I have the audacity to shed my skin like a snake.

And start anew.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Alphabet Soup of Emotions.

40456_420805066265_3600090_nI feel so many things. I’m a mixed bag of sentiments since this cancer thing with E began.  Maybe like Lady Gaga, I was born this way.  And E’s illness has just magnified, and brought to the surface, this alphabet soup of emotions.  I’m all over the place.

Soaring with the angels one minute and groveling in the mud with the devil the next. Optimistic star gazer.  Down in the dumps. Trashy and foul-mouthed.  Elated and deflated. Giddy from good news.  Depressed by delays and dark days.  Happy as a clam before it’s tossed in the chowder.  And overwhelmed by inconsolable grief.  Frightened out of my skin.  Fierce as a mother lion. A Warrior Girl.  And a motherless child. Whimpering and whining.  Feeling abandoned and sorry for myself.  Mad as hell. Patient as a saint.

I am all these things. I feel it all. Every stinking last one.  Every glorious sensation.

And I do not apologize.

These feelings are all part of this very human fragile, and yet magnificent, journey that I am on.  I own it all.  The messy and the sublime alike.  From A to Z.

A = alone + abandoned + angry + afraid + appreciated + alive
B = bad + brave + bored + bold + bitter + bitchy + beautiful
C = courageous + crappy + caring + crazy + confused + cheerful
D = depressed + deflated + despondent + despairing + determined
E = elated + excused + evolved + enervated + exhausted + energized
F = forgotten + fatigued + failure + fucked + frazzled + funny + feisty
G = good + grateful + gritty + gone + giving + giddy + glum + gutsy
H = hungry + happy + harried + here + hopeless + helpful + heroic
I = impossible + indifferent + irate + indignant + invisible + incapable
J = justified + jittery + juggler + juvenile + jackass + jealous + joyful
K = kind + keeper + knowing + knotty + kooky + kickass
L = lonely + lost + loser + loved + large + leaving + last + loving
M = messy + monstrous + meek + moved + mad + magnificent
N = nothing + nasty + numb + nowhere + neglected + nice
O = open + outcast + off + old + offensive + overloaded + optimistic
P = painful + picky + pretty + pathetic + pessimistic + patient +  plucky
Q = quiet + quitting + quarrelsome + queer + quirky
R = reasonable + raw + ready + revolted + rejected + redeemed
S = sad + silly + shitty + small + sorry + self-righteous + strong
T = terrible + tiny + tearful + tenuous + tight + tragic + tired + tough
U = unsettled + upset + unloved + unnoticed + used + ugly + up
V = vulnerable + vacant + vague + vain + victorious + valued
W = worried + weak + wanting + wonderful + weepy + warrior
X = x-rayed + xeroxxed + x-rated
Y = yearning + yucky + yappy + yeller + yellow + yummy
Z = zombie + zapped + zilch + zero + zip

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter. What Were You Thinking?

E before he quit smoking.

E before he quit smoking.

I’m not a mind reader.  I don’t have X-ray vision. No telepathic abilities that I’m aware of.  I’m definitely not a clairvoyant and the last time I checked I don’t have ESP.   But on occasion I do have an acute sixth sense.  Like Spider Man.  Sometimes I just know something’s up.

Such was the case the night we went to visit a gravely ill friend at the hospital.

After two decades together I thought E and I shared everything.  Our thoughts.  Feelings.  Fears.  But I learned that with this cancer thing, that wasn’t true.  Fact is, no one really knows for sure what’s going on inside another person’s head.  Nor do we know the things kept tucked away in timorous hearts.  Our interior worlds are ours alone. We share what we share.  Give what we give. Reveal only what’s comfortable or safe.  We’re transparent at times.  But more often than not, opaque.  The proverbial window into a person’s soul is often dirty.  Foggy.  Obscured. Dark and scary.

We rode up the hospital elevator to the seventh floor in easy silence. Each in our own private world. Elevators have this affect on us. I watched attentively as the red digital numbers over the doors changed.  Floor by floor.  Thankfully no one else joined us on our ride upward. I wasn’t in the mood for company. A fleeting thought of our sick friend crossed my mind.  Followed by an unsettling twitch of anxiety in the pit of my stomach.  I took a gulp of air and let it out with flapping lips.  I sounded like a horse snorting.

Just before the doors swung open, I glanced over at E.  There was something about his expression that concerned me. Did it bother him to be back in a hospital?  Was he looking down the road to the day he’d have to return?  Was he afraid?

The doors opened.  We stepped out into the bright glaring lights of the corridor.  A startling contrast from the dimly lit elevator car with its hypnotic hum.  The steel box that confined and contained our emotions.

Boom.  Reality hit.  Raw.  Intense.  Chilly.  I couldn’t hold it in anymore.

“How do you feel?” I blurted out.

“I’m fine,” he auto-responded.

“No, how do you really feel?” I persisted.

“I’m tired,” he exhaled fully, releasing weeks of held emotions.  “And depressed.  I don’t know if I’m tired because I’m depressed.  Or depressed because I’m so tired.”

“I understand,” I said.

Finally some truth.  A place to start.

For the first time in a month, E fully understood that he wasn’t alone.  He had me.  No matter what.  Although the cancer was inside his body, the journey was ours.  We were in this together.  The good.  The bad.  And the ugly.  We were a shameless spaghetti western.  Clint Eastwood, this movie belonged to us.

The next day I sat down at my computer and wrote this poem.

The Truth About This Thing Called Cancer

Yesterday when we got off the elevator at the 7th floor

And we were heading towards room 721

To visit our friend who was back in the hospital

Having a blood transfusion

In preparation for surgery the next day

His third in nine months.
His body was covered in scars

From years of cuts and mends

Repairs and retribution

A missing foot

An ulcer on the other

Now in peril.
But this isn’t about him.
I asked you how you were feeling

Really feeling

No fake bullshit

No more keeping secrets.

 

I’m a big girl

I can hear the word cancer

The Big C

Without wanting to dive

Into the river of terror.
I’m your love

And you are mine

We’ll do this together.
So you confessed.
You said that even though

You laugh and joke

Put on your happy face

There are times that you feel tired

And depressed.
You sleep

Because you are tired

Which makes you depressed

So you sleep

To make the depression

Go away.

 

You can’t tell

The cause

From the effect.
I told you that I understood.
But the truth is

I only understand

Half of the equation.

 

I don’t know cancer

But I know depression

And the desire to sleep it away.
I know love

And the power it wields

The healing it contains

For both of us
I told you right from the start

That all I ever wanted

Was for you to

Tell me the truth.
And that goes for this thing too.