Monday, March 27, 2017

Needing My Zen

This past Saturday was a wonderful day. Liz had organized a diverse crew of friends from every corner of the DC metro area to mulch my yard. Now, please understand that this annual ritual is one I personally look forward to. Over the course of 10-some years, Liz and I alone hauled (well, let’s be honest LIZ hauled), opened, and spread 70+ bags of mulch, plus, the other spring tiding up of cutting the tall grasses, trimming the butterfly bushes and pulling the god-awful weeds and dandelions that had sprung up, in about a two-day period.

Over the years, my yard has become my sanctuary. It is a place a go to sit, to be still, to enjoy the birds and to breathe. It’s a place I can find my Zen. I can lose myself in tending to plants, sowing the soil, and being proud of the end result. I can spend hours of back-breaking work stooped over pulling weeds and be perfectly at peace.

So when eleven big-hearted folks show up in your back yard to do all that FOR you, it’s a bit overwhelming. There was friendship, love, laughter, warm chocolate ship cookies and warm sunshine on Saturday. Its hard work and yet not one compliant or wandering off, or sitting down. I could barely get them to take a water break. And all through the day, I was able to chat and catch up with friends I hadn’t seen in years, and neighbors who I hadn’t had the opportunity to really talk to.

What took Liz and I at least two days, took the crew three hours to complete. In the end, the Casa grounds never looked so good. And every shred of mulch was put there with love. You just can’t beat that.

The next day, the weather had turned overcast and almost 20 degrees colder than the day before. I was feeling pretty good physically, and decided to work on my fish pond. The pond I had dug out myself while in-between jobs years ago. Full of once-25 cent fish from PetSmart that have grown over the years into koi-size goldfish. The water fall I had turned off prior to the usual winter freeze (that never materialized) needed to be turned back on for spring. The grasses and other plant life surrounding the pond needed trimming, its filters needed cleaning, and the pond water needed to be treated. All in all, I was putt-sing out there for a couple of hours. Glorious hours, where I literally forgot I had cancer. I felt “normal” again. It caught me by surprise, really. For a short few hours, I did not have cancer. I wasn’t nauseous, I didn’t have to take medications, I didn’t have to gear up for the next chemo treatment, I wasn’t concerned for my life. And it was wonderful. Alas, the feeling didn’t last long. And when “real life” returned, so did the tears.  Damn it.

But here we are. Here I am. In the fight for my life. I did not choose to be here. In this space. With cancer. But here we are. Many times, Saturday I was told how brave I was. How courageous. My response? And while I understand – and appreciate – the thought very much. I don’t feel brave. Is it “brave” when there's no choice to be had? When there’s not a pick between being valiant or a coward? There’s NO choice in this. I will fight this fucking cancer. Unwelcomed. Not invited. And forbade to ever return. With everything I have.  

But to be clear, folks fighting cancer ARE brave and courageous. This is no easy contest. It takes a good amount of guts to tough out the effects of chemotherapy day in and day out, to fight off the demons who swirl around in your head at night. To get up and do it all again – for weeks. All with the horror that if this doesn’t work……..

Call me brave. Call me courageous. I’ll take it. I need it. And I’ll need my place of Zen, too. The place I will go to find peace, to find strength, to not be reminded I have cancer. For this place, I have my motley crew who showed up last Saturday to thank. And I cannot thank them enough. Namaste.

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