my gratitude to you.

I love to write. I write a lot. Pretty much constantly I’d say. 

It isn’t a substitute for talking really. I just feel as though my written words have an authenticity and heart that my spoken words can’t convey. 

This isn’t my first blog either. Actually, I have a private blog with entries I am incredibly proud of. It is so personal, I never share it. It is also from a time that has long since past and because of everything I have experienced in the past 2 years, I have become much more of a person who lives in the moment, than one that rues for the past or longs for the future. I know now that I am only guaranteed this very time, so everything I do must be with a passion for life and a gratitude that I have made it this far.


And so this gets me to my story.


There are many gifts we receive as we walk our life’s journey. One of the most special was a pocket rock, given to me by a close friend named Shannon.  She saw that I had lost my way. I was wallowing, feeling that the roadblocks around me were insurmountable. 

That happens to me sometimes. It is easy for me to sink when I think of all of the stress I endured to find the peace I experience now. I am hard on myself for circumstances I often can’t control. Somehow wishing for things to be different creates a sad longing. I remind myself, I can only do my best. If I knew better, I would do better.

So I made it. The triumph is that I survived and am able to share my story. I have plenty of battle scars and I am proud of them all.


More about this special angel.

Shannon came into my life at a time when girlfriends were few. I was fairly new to the city, enjoying my job and preoccupied with concern as to how well my daughter was adjusting to her new school, friends and environment. There just wasn’t time to seek out and cultivate girlfriends. My priorities were elsewhere.

She walked into our office and I remember being instantly drawn to her strawberry blond hair – “Is she Irish like me?” – I wondered. I noticed that when I spoke with her, she couldn’t look me in the eye. It made me nervous because I felt she was afraid of something I didn’t understand. I had never experienced that before.

At my insistence, she was hired. It was exciting to have another female in the testosterone dominated granite factory. As we learned about each other, we had many differences. But we also have many similarities. Those similarities are core to our essence in that we give, we come from an authentic and truthful place and we love our gift of creativity. We also view our daughters as our greatest gift to this world and take our raising of them very seriously. I can count on her and I know, she knows, she can count on me. Shannon is very bright and forward thinking. I love that because it inspires me to do better.

She is a super mom to Kami in that she is a professional photographer and has taken beautiful photos of her that we cherish. Kami thinks she is pretty cool and let me tell you, that’s awesome coming from a teenager. Thank you Shannon for everything you have done for my little girl.


I missed her birthday (because the gosh darn gift wasn’t here yet) and never got to spend Christmas with her as I had hoped. She has been reaching out to me and I have been busy, occupied, swirling in my life tornado – I did not realize that this would hurt her deeply. It feels very bad to hurt the people you love. Shannon made me recognize that my world was closing in on itself and I was isolating; I do so much better emotionally when I am socially active. Not to mention that I miss her.


So Shannon, I want you to know I am grateful for your honesty. For showing me that I am lovable and forgivable. And most of all for sticking around me when I do these things. I have been known to push people away as a relationship deepens because of my personal childhood trust issues. This isn’t going to happen here.


So remember when I said she couldn’t look straight at me? Well – she does now. It seems she harbors the same hurt as I do for many of her own personal reasons. I love the clarity and beauty that radiates from those eyes and I feel honored she shares them with me. It is such a gift.


Gratitude. I have plenty.

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hey, that hurts!

I had to tell someone I loved today that they had hurt me. More like they had disappointed me. Walking through life we are met with unending disappointments really. But we don’t expect to be hurt by those that we call our closest confidants. When you feel like you are being used, when you really believe yourself to be a close friend, it is one of those AHA moments. You sit straight up and pay attention because it makes you give your head a shake. It causes you to question the very basis of what you saw in this person in the first place.

I have always believed that if you consider the feelings of the person in any situation, and they consider yours, the outcome is the best. Both come from unselfish platforms. Giving places. So there are no losers. Everyone wins because everyone is respected and considered in the decision.

Today – I felt like a second class loser to a television program. I have never come second to a TV show in my life. It truly was a first. And it sent me straight up – I was outraged. I heard, “Your efforts are meaningless to me. Your time is meaningless to me.” And then guess what? “You are meaningless to me.”

So it went straight as an arrow to my abandonment issues. I am still hurt because I believe my words were understood. All that makes me wonder whether this person can really be my friend when they don’t make an effort to understand me. The fact they don’t speak the same language shouldn’t be an excuse for not having the common sense to know you are offending someone with your words.

I am left even more confused. I think I am tired of being taken advantage of. I am overly sensitive and don’t always read things right. But I do know I get taken advantage of more than not. And I am tired of it. I am starting to put my foot down and say how I am feeling.

To this person’s credit, they cared enough to ask and to listen. But I feel shut out and used. I can’t help that feeling. I was led in and dumped – by words that I so wanted to hear. “Wendy, you are important to me. You are my friend. I care about you. I want to be there for you. I want to take care of you. You are a blessing in my life.” All words with little action to back them up.

I don’t know what to believe anymore. So maybe I should shut the emotion off. Stay a distant friend. Stop the feelings of family I had. I don’t know yet – but time will tell.

Like everything in my life. It reveals itself and it usually isn’t good.

untitled

Sitting in Starbucks feeling nostalgic today. I feel like crawling into my soul; I wish to go down deep and hibernate for a time. The past weeks have been incredibly stressful and I know I am not coping well. The pain I endure with arthritis as well and the constant aggravation of those around me who lack any sort of respect for others has combined and turned me into something even I don’t recognize. I am not nice. I am not patient. I forget how to be kind. All these things are so important to me. So I am projecting – almost like vomiting hurt, anger and pain to anyone who crosses me in a way I find disagreeable. 


My heart is empty. I do very little that inspires my heart. Some of the people I call friends are in a space of wanting what they can get from me. I am not feeling loved for who I am and I am finding that hurtful. I have allowed myself to be taken advantage of and a lot of how I feel is self loathing. How is it that I allow this to happen? I am also unsure as to why I believe that modeling kindness would ever have brought kindness back to me when I most need it. 

I am lonely. Surrounded by 100’s of people but incredibly lonely. I know this is self-created but I can’t seem to find a way to open. The lonelier I feel, the more closed I become. 

The effort that it takes to live my life to this date has been incredibly difficult. I think I have had maybe 8 years of my entire life where I have felt self satisfied and blissful in my personal accomplishments. My burgeoning design career, when I was in Calgary, my little white house on 76 Avenue in Edmonton and my beautiful daughter. These three things that I have achieved through MY OWN efforts have brought me incredible joy. They are the greatest joys of my life. 

I need to speak openly about my relationship with my husband. I once would have had him as the fourth however despite all the love I have given him, it hasn’t been a “marriage” in the way I have needed it to be. This works both ways. I am now to blame as well. The more selfish he is, the more selfish I become. The funny thing is that he is my greatest friend. My ally. But when it comes to loving me as a wife, he really never has embraced me sexually or otherwise. I think my own feelings about this weigh heavily in the anger and sadness I carry beneath the surface. He is so into denial about issues he won’t share with me that I likely will never know why he isn’t attracted to me sexually or why he doesn’t treat me respectfully and lovingly like I have needed.  There are definitely issues related to strong women in general. The interesting part is that he selected me. I will go to my grave never understanding him or feeling like he has had an honest conversation with me about his feelings. It is because he just can’t get in touch with them at all. How incredibly sad is that?

I never had the kind of parents that would have nurtured the very best out of me. If anything, my father did his best to inspire me and instill in me a drive to succeed. But I needed loving connectiveness. I needed to feel like I would never be abandoned and I was. Repeatedly. My mother was in her mental illness and my father was in his bottle. 

I have come to understand through time that my grown up fears of being alone are misguided because I truly have always been alone. I parented myself quite often. I was alone even though I had a sibling. I am alone in my marriage. Only my daughter offers me the opportunity to express my deep and abiding, faithful love to another human being. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for her. She is my reason for living. I was born to be her mother and I am so incredibly grateful for that. She has healed me of the abuse and sorrow of my childhood. She has no idea of how difficult my life was, or even how hard being in my marriage can be at times. Kami deserves both of us to be there for her and I work hard to stay calm despite my hurtful feelings. She truly has no idea.

So getting back to this moment in time. I came to the conclusion yesterday that I am valued by others principally for what I am able to “do” for them rather than who I am at my very core. My essence. I just want to be loved and cherished by the people I love. I want to love and cherish the people in my life that matter to me. Why can’t I make something so simple on the surface happen for me? I am really not sure. But I know the past week has brought my deep discouragement to a level that I am having difficulty coping with. 

I think if I were honest with myself, I would take a break for a couple of weeks from everyone and everything. Turn the phone off and disappear. When you’re a grown-up, it is so hard to do. But I know some time in peace and quiet would do wonders for my spirit. I will definitely give that some thought. Life and it’s commitments make anything we need to do for ourselves so difficult. Something inside of me is screaming to be heard. To get out. And I know I need to deal with it before it deals a hand to me I cannot handle.

cancer

I truly chose a general practitioner with no common sense. It didn’t matter to me that she wasn’t proactive. I mean, what would that matter? She would be there to fill prescriptions, fill out camp forms and take my blood pressure. I never realized that having a GP would be an asset when you want things expedited. Researched. Or you simply want to be referred to a secondary physician who is qualified and one of your choosing.

This all came into play as I tried to run up the steps to some sort of diagnosis. I had to call to get my results. And then they were only half my results. And then came the final call. On a day she would be unavailable to speak further.  How do you drop a bomb like this and then erase your compassion? I don’t know. I couldn’t do it.

It was 6:12 AM on Friday, April, 25th. I thought the alarm went off three minutes early. It actually took my mind a moment for the ring to register. And then I said to Gary, “Answer it. I think it’s the phone.” I had been waiting for the phone to ring. I had called the radiology center every day but Thursday. I had called her office twice a day. I had hoped of all hopes that it was good news simply because the pathology had taken so long.

“It’s cancer.”  That was the first word my mind grasped.  “You can expect a cascade of events.”  I wasn’t sure but I thought I heard the word surgeon.

I just sat in utter shock. It really is shock and then immediate and utter terror.  The processing of such a cataclysmic diagnosis had begun.

It was a workday and I slowly got dressed, decided not to wear any mascara and head into the office.  This felt the like the end of the waiting. So scared was I. Now a new kind of scared came into view. The truth that life isn’t forever. That this might be my first entry, not unlike my father’s, into the horrible world of cancer treatment.

In that moment, my life changed forever.

learn this from me

I remember being given one of those self examination cards before. And I’d been proactive about it. I never was overly attached to my breasts – having been a very small and thin young girl. They were a sore spot for me in my middle school years. There was never a bra small enough to fit. There was one boy, in particular, who was merciless about it. He made it his mission to see to it that I be reminded of how desperately I needed kleenex. Boxes, tissues, small packages – they appeared everywhere. In my book bag, my locker, in my instrument case. So I knew from an early age that not having breasts was a clear sign that something was wrong with me. Aside from the popularity that breasts naturally brought you, I personally couldn’t see the value of them. To me – they were extra globes of weight that made it harder for you to run. And at that time, I just wanted to be the fastest 50 yard dash runner in the city.

 

I remember getting fitted for my first wedding dress and being told by a lovely european tailor that the cups would have to be “filled” with something to provide shape. I was all of 100 pounds and very tiny. But I wanted the sleeveless dress and that is what I got. And to be honest, I don’t remember it being stuffed with anything. It made me feel like a princess. I was beautiful that day.

As I continued to age – truly – I remained relatively flat chested.  They weren’t one of my better features, or rather non-features. And that was fine. My style was designer chic – moving from a femininely – masculine suit with a crisply pressd cotton shirt and funky tie (with men’s oxfords to match) to the more flowly and silly Madonna-ish style of big hair with a scarf wrapped in a bow, cool pants and flowing shirts. The 80’s was a time of great fun where I could copy my idols and their clothing. Lingerie was of little interest to me. Fashion was giddy and silly. My body was really a tiny tubular shape – where my dimensions equaled the same from top to bottom. I remember – all 28″.  I just dressed in ways that flattered it in the most joyful of ways. It was a happy time.

When I became a mother, things began to change. I began to dress more like a mother and often less like myself. And with the panic and anxiety that came from moving to the United States came medication that seemed to alter my metabolism. Slowly – very slowly, the weight began to climb. Let me tell you – try to enjoy shopping when the clothes available for your size simply suck. It is getting better, but then I am hoping to be thinner once again some day.

With the weight came the magical breasts. Something I had never thought of as a requirement. But I must admit that my first trip to Victoria Secret was mildly exciting for me! All those pretty bras. The lace, the color. Amazing. And I covet those beautiful ones that I have. There are three special ones. And they are glorious.

Sounds like an ode to the bra. And so it goes. Until this day.

I was being proactive, as I always have been. Finding the lump. Making an immediate appointment. And checking it out. I suppose the one thing that upsets me the most is all of the money I’ve invested in heart disease being the illness that eventually takes my life. Twenty years of Lipitor. I was heavily banking on genetics. My birth families history. You see, there is absolutely no cancer evidenced there. Only heart attacks and strokes. So I feel I am owed a refund. A BIG REFUND.

So much for the self examination cards when despite seeking assistance you are deferred. If there is a lesson out there for any woman, it is not to trust any medical professional with your body and your keen sense of intuition. If you know something is wrong, speak up. Speak up loud. Make them do what YOU deem necessary. And make them do it immediately.

Learn this from me.

hey cancer, fuck off!

“I mean, how many times am I going to have to keep coming back every six months? Nothing has changed since the beginning. I just woke up and found a lump and went to the doctor right away. I don’t understand why we keep looking at it. Shouldn’t it be biopsied? I’ve been here three times for the same tests and I don’t want to keep coming back every six months.”

The young ultrasound tech kept on task but then said, “Do you want a biopsy?” I responded with, “Well isn’t that what you’re supposed to do? Isn’t that the only way we’ll know?” To which she said, “Well I know I would want to know.”

So then just do it. She wasn’t sure whether she could schedule an immediate ultrasound. But in the moment, I knew it had to happen. I reminded me of a conversation I had had with Mary. My nipple was pointed down and had been for the entire year. I had pointed that out the last time I went in for my ultrasound six months earlier. But I was told this was common. I knew it wasn’t common for Mary and in fact, it was cancer. It wasn’t right for me either.

And so the action I have fervently sought over a year ago was finally going to happen.

In the moment, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “What took you so long?”

Let me tell you, that biopsy wasn’t at all pleasant. I did not want to hear about or discuss the logistics of it. I told Tracey, the nurse, that I needed my headphones so I could listen to the loudest music possible. I stumbled around and found Billy Squire’s, “In the Dark.” And it played almost 7 times.  The core needle biopsy sounds like a gun going off; feeling not unlike a large needle, ejecting itself into the underside of my nipple. Only six or so times did this gun go off. And there was blood mixed with iodine everywhere.

I left the clinic feeling as though I had been violated on some level. Raped in a strange way. So incredibly vulnerable. I stood outside the car and felt the warmth of my tears flow down my cheeks. Light snow was falling. It was peaceful and quiet. And then it occurred to me that there was no way I was going to my mother’s for dinner. Even my choir practice seemed like more effort than I had as I drove away from the imaging center.

At least it was over with. Now I could get on with it. Someone would agree to take the damn lump out. I’d only been waiting for over a year.

loss of mind, loss of self

Every year, as dependable as my every breath, another loved one of mine that I encountered in my rewarding work with NAMI can no longer handle the pain of their illness and makes the choice to end their suffering. Always by way of suicide but it is the mental illness that kills them. So there is really no stigma. Because the pain of the illness, while not outwardly visual, is felt to the center of your core. It is like end stage cancer – only it looks so normal. But the brain is riddled with disease.

That’s the bastard that mental illness is. It takes every piece of spirit away from you. Your joy of life, your will to live, your instinct to press forward. It wears you out. You become a shadow of your former self. And while your physical body remains intact and can often look unscathed, inside you ache. Your heart breaks. You feel blood curse through your veins but you no longer feel alive. You look up to the heavens and you see the stars. You can feel the breeze and be aware of your surroundings. But you are dull. You are confused. Your spirit has left you and for whatever odd reason, you feel something you have never felt before. You have no hope. And that doesn’t make you sad. It just makes you numb to the point where your senses are convoluted.

You can’t ever know such pain and fortunately, many will bypass the highway to hell of severe depression. It is most certainly chemically induced and our brains haven’t been studied enough for us to know where to turn except to the rudimentary treatments available in pharmaceutical land. It is like shopping at a market where the selection is limited, unappealing and often creates worse side effects. There are no good choices but you are forced to put all of your fear and faith into the one basket a physician thinks is your best chance.

Can you imagine trying every possible drug combination, finding that none of them work. That your suicidal thoughts persist. You cry endlessly but you don’t know why. You are paralyzed in bed or laying on a sofa. You envision thoughts of how to best end