Jerry Orbach Dreams… or, The Elephant in the Vardo

Last night I dreamed I was talking to Jerry Orbach at a workshop and telling him about the first time I ever sat through the credits of something to find out his real name. A young man kept trying to interrupt and would not stop when I motioned for him to wait just another moment for me to finish. I finally turned to focus my attention on him and he started berating me, telling me I communicated poorly and needed to expand my vocabulary. I lost it. I mean, really lost it. How dare this kid in gangsta gear, who couldn’t figure out that a waist band goes above the ass (not below), tell me in words so broken they were almost unrecognizable as English that I communicate poorly?!?! He towered over me but I grabbed him by the shirt and pulled his face down to mine then just started screaming like a banshee about having breast cancer, going through treatment, chemo brain, losing my home, just everything. I was so shocked by my own behavior I bolted upright in bed, startled awake.

Anyone who knows me understands how much this dream would bother me. I do not lose my temper much. I tend to stay very level and controlled. I rarely raise my voice in anger, much less, scream in rage. Logically, I understand exactly what the dream was about, and what inspired it to some degree. I’m not sure I can explain it completely without making this an unbearably long post. From 2007 to present my life has gone through so many major changes. I went from being as happy as I thought I would be allowed, quitting my stressful job and taking a part time job from home, an amazing trip to Burning Man with my husband, to returning home only to discover in the 5 weeks between my 40th birthday and 5th wedding anniversary that my partner needed to “leave or die”. Those things were closely followed by being laid off, then the breast cancer diagnosis a month later in April of 2010, surgery, chemo, the disappearance of people I thought were friends and, loss of my home in November of the same year. It was a lot to process and was complicated by the fact the poisons used to treat me turned my brain to mush. I could not think clearly or communicate. I used to write daily but my vocabulary was gone. I was feeling so many things but could not even put them into words. Luckily for me, with a lot of help from my friends, when I hit rock bottom I bounced.

What they don’t tell you about chemo brain is that it can take months, or years, to really recover. When I finally broke through that heavy veil in the spring of this year my head was so flooded with words it took months to sort out the constant inner chatter of processing my experience. By then I was pretty sure no one gave a damn about something that happened so long ago and I was overly self conscious about writing again or sharing my thoughts and feelings. Somehow, I had gone from being a strong and confident woman to being a terrified wallflower. Healthy but not yet healed. I’ve never fully talked to anyone about the “elephant in the vardo”.

Yesterday I was truly inspired by a woman I have always admired but have been out of touch with for quite some time. Her name is Sarla Nichols and I met her as the instructor of Sunday morning yoga classes before my entire world fell apart. Her class was always the highlight of my week and during all of these challenges I have craved that peace and calm but could no longer afford to go. My image of her was one of complete togetherness, balance, accomplishment, and serenity. Anyway, I was up early as usual yesterday and happened to be on Facebook when she shared a blog post. It was a beautiful reminder that we never know what goes on, or the struggles, in the secret lives of others or how sharing might help reignite someone else’s faltering flame. For me, it was another click of the tumblers unlocking a new level what I refer to as the Perpetual Lesson of Letting Go. I have to thank her once again for being an inspiration and adding to my courage bank. I have to thank her for reminding me why I end all of my posts with “Namaste & POLO!!!”. I am not alone and by sharing my voice I let others know they are not alone.

Thank you, Sarla! Thank you, Universe! Peace and light to all…

Namaste & POLO!!!

Vardo via The Enchanted Creatrix

From Bald to Badass in 2.5 Years

I have not written much about the experience of breast cancer. Chemo brain is a very serious and unsettling side effect for someone who likes to play with words. I lost about 75% of my vocabulary and communication was nearly impossible. I cried, a lot, and fought back by reading the dictionary and my thesaurus. Thankfully, I have gotten most of my words back. I cannot begin to describe the joy of being able to play with words again.

Anyway, here are some before, during and after photos.

DSCN0300This was taken about 7 months before I was diagnosed. We were at MFM and this was the last year before the con moved to the new hotel. I was completely bald the next year at MFM and had just gotten home from a 14 day stay on the Oncology Ward at Baptist Hospital.

DSCF4594This is me with my soul sister, Giddy Kitty, on the night Exene, Mike Dees and Jason Pulley played a benefit at Murphy’s to try to keep me afloat. I’d just lost my childhood home but I ended up in a fantastic home with an awesome family. This photo was taken in November of 2010.

GypsyCat Dreams 055

I almost always wore short hair before so some friends who have not seen me in a while will be surprised how long it is now and how curly it came back.

GypsyCat Dreams 057My best friend, Heathen, took this photo and there is no telling what smart-ass thing was about to come out of my mouth.

GypsyCat Dreams 059This is the gorgeous barrette my friend Jesse gave me for my birthday last year from the Ornamental Metal Museum. I love the way the color works in contrast with my hair.

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Excerpts from a letter to a friend…

It is early Sunday afternoon. The sun is shining, the wind is blowing, and the temp is perfect with a hoodie. Everything is quiet except for the wind in the trees, the wind chime behind me, and the birds above. It is so peaceful and serene. I’m sitting on the brick border of the bed along the shed and watching the flower heads dance on their stems in the wind while the chimes play us a song and the birds sing along. These images are what make me want to write children’s books and blog about gardening. I haven’t written much in such a long time. The chemo stole about 75% of my vocabulary and I was in a dark place for a long time. Finding my words and feeling the desire to write again fills me with a kind of bliss. Life isn’t perfect but it is a work in progress. The most important thing is that I am living life now instead of some unknown time in the future.

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This is my favorite part of spring. The weather is still a little unpredictable and some days are still on the cool side. In between the winter storms that start pushing summer weather our direction and those tornado storms (right before the hell that is summer in the South), there are a few perfect spring days. Days like today. Every spring I have always let the back yard grow a bit taller than I should. I love all those different shades of green as everything bursts into chaotic life. And, I can never cut the grass too early because it would be a crime to behead thousands of regal wild violets.

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moss buddha

Today is a Zen day. A spring breeze in my hair, the sun on my face, the song of nature in my ears. I used to be afraid of happiness. Learning to let go has been the hardest lesson to learn and the most valuable.