Many thoughts about the world, meditation, parenting, Judaism, pregnancy, teaching, cancer survivorship, moving from West Coast to East and more.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

7 Years

7 years ago I had the privilege of spending 9 months completely engrossed in my own healing.

I spent the year well,writing, resting, walking, talking, sitting in silence and learning meditation.

It was a life changing year, but not one I'd like to repeat. On my best days I felt physically fine but was constantly conscious of how Cancer Patient I looked with all my hair gone and anxious about how best to convince the world I was fine-fine-just fine-angelic-look-at-how-we'll-she's-taking-all-of-this-fine or enjoyed the steroid-induced insomnia that gave me very exciting and lucid nights. (Wrote a whole story from start to finish on one of those nights.)

On my worst days I was fatigued, nauseous and high on extreme doses of prednisone that sent me through an emotional roller coaster similar to someone on speed. Sometimes I even hallucinated. A few times I went for walks and actually timed myself taking 20-30 minutes just to get up one neighborhood block and back again. In the hours right after a chemo I could not walk at all without support and had to be taken out of the hospital in a wheelchair.

During all of this I had to give up teaching. There was no way that my body was up to the strain of teaching and my immunity would be so low post-chemo that it wouldn't have been safe for me to even enter the school.

Ironically, this was good for my mental health in general, as my diagnosis came during a particularly challenging year, only my second year into the profession. It was a year of fear and failure and hopelessness at how little I could do for kids with severe problems in their family lives. I would have been limited in any circumstances, but especially as such an inexperienced teacher, my ineffectiveness felt devastating.

Early in my illness a friend insisted on doing some energy healing work with me. She waved her hands over my body and stopped at my chest. "Is there were the cancer is?" she asked. "Are you a perfectionist?" I keep meaning to call her to explain that to me... how the location of my illness helped her know that perfectionism was part of the picture. Not the cause necessarily, but somehow feeding into my illness.

As I entered deeper into the year and into the process of healing I learned a great deal about meditation and my own strength. I learned about when to fight and wise ways to surrender and became more perceptive about myself and about others.

It's 7 years later now. I look at who I become and see how I've changed or evolved or become more like whatever I already was. It's hard to say what about who I am now came from cancer, but I'd like to talk about some pieces, not all of them good.

-I get scared sometimes. There's a clip on the Simpsons when Homer receives advice that one step towards success is living each day as if it is your last. In the very next scene we see him sobbing on the ground saying, "I'm going to die tomorrow!!!!" I'm a little bit like that sometimes.

-To compensate, I try to do everything now. I want to parent and teach as many children as I can and write and play music and bike and guess what... it's not possible to do all this with any normal level of sanity or health. I spoke to an elderly lady once who said, "You'll have plenty of time for all that later. You have no idea how much time," to which I responded, "You're right. I have no idea how much time."

-So unfortunately, I continue to be perfectionist in certain areas of my life. If something doesn't get done now, I feel impatient.


-All that time meditating and learning about living moment to moment taught me a lot about how important it is to back up and be part of the Oneness of the world. In my left-brained mind I try to get all this stuff done in a finite lifetime. But when I go into my right-brain, eternity is right now. Whatever my goals are, are being achieved at this very moment. Nothing is before now and nothing is after. This process of going inside myself and opening is one that I would describe as continually healing.

In the parsha this week, Avraham is healing from receiving a bris, but then jumps up to run and greet guests, despite the physical pain it obviously causes.

I used to really hate when people talked about that passage because it sounded like Avraham was a poster child for unhealthy overachievement.

I have a different take now.

Avraham knew his purpose in life was to reach out to others. And he couldn't stand to be stopped from achieving his purpose. He needed to be needed in order to help him heal. In fact, the thing he was healing from was a bris. The role of the bris is to seal a covenant with Hashem, to say "I am hear to work with You." With that in mind, I think that Healing and Purpose go together. You can't completely heal without purpose in your life, and the act of finding and carrying out your purpose requires constantly stepping back and healing.

During the time that I was healing, I enjoyed concentrating on myself, I enjoyed meditating. I needed it. But it got boring. Really really really boring. I needed some purpose in my life beyond myself.

A friend hired me to tutor her daughter and I began to look forward so much to that one hour each week.

Many people have a hard time finding their purpose in life. I'm so fortunate that my work as a teacher and my Purpose are in sync.

I just also know that for my work to continue to be meaningful, I have to have healing time for myself as well. I need to simply Be in Now sometimes -- not out of fear of how few days we have, but out of celebration of what is right in front of us every moment.

May I have the opportunity to do exactly what I'm doing now, and later, perhaps, to help others to learn how to heal more daily. Please G-d may I do this for another 70 years. But assuming that's too much to ask, may enough moments of my life be so filled with Presence that they feel to me like islands of eternity.

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

More Wisdom

"When you scratch your head and it doesn't hurt it means you're thinking."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Reb ND

Two Jewish moments to share from ND:

1. On the first night of Sukkot, ND declared she was not tired, but in fact was SO tired that she fell asleep in my arms at the table during bentsching. We told her about this the next day and she wanted to try again. So during the second night she sat on my lap, shouted out "I'm not tired," then threw herself backwards into my arms. She did this many many times.

2. Breishit. At school they obviously read a book about creation. She told me they had read about Hashem creating the world. We talked about that a little, how Hashem had created plants etc. Then she said, "Yes, Hashem created the fl... fl... fl.." Obviously she was mimicking her teacher priming the kids to say what was in the picture from their read-aloud. So I said, "Flowers."

"Right," she said. "And Hashem created the g... g... g..."


"Right. And Hashem created the t... t... t..."


"No!" with utter disdain in her voice. "The tomatoes!"

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