Cleanup, catharsis, clarification. (Or, Spring clean-up ain’t just for basements)

The mess starts small.

The mess starts small.

Yesterday was a big day for cleaning. On a couple of levels. My best friend and I made a deal this March Break – to keep our activities local and explore the messy parts of our city, and to help each other purge the contents of a messy part of our houses. I helped her out with her office, which she will transform into some sort of creative space. Creating comfort out of chaos. She helped me clear out my storage space in my basement, which resulted in the pile of junk above being removed from my space. Whew, right? With her help I was able to lift furniture upstairs, rearrange my living room so that we actually want to live here, take away two broken vacuum cleaners, because it would appear that my house is where vacuum cleaners come to die, and create some order in my storage space. Everything in its place. Matching storage containers, labelled with words that actually match their contents. This may seem like simple child’s play to those of you who are by nature organized, orderly and innately neat. Those of you who always have someone nearby to help you lift things don’t ever have to glower at a large chair sitting, useless and unused, in the middle of a storage room. Count your blessings, folks. The chair that I am now blissfully sitting on in my living room spent a couple of sad years in the dark in the bowels of my house, longing to be brought to the light. But such is life. I digress.

Something happens when you start to purge spaces of junk. The mess gets bigger.

Well. While I'm at it... I suspect this pile will continue to grow over the course of my weekend. Hurrah.

Well. While I’m at it…
I suspect this pile will continue to grow over the course of my weekend. Hurrah.

And that’s what happens with messes. Once you clean out one space, you look around and notice others that need cleaning. And it’s a long process, and the process seems to get longer as you go, but the light at the end of the tunnel gets a little bit brighter. There are cleared surfaces to shine and polish.

Which brings me to yesterday’s session. I showered, got myself dressed to go to my EMDR therapy session. Felt compelled to tidy up my living room and kitchen before I left. Needed to make some space in my head before heading to work on easing the trauma from the surgeries that happened, wide awake, almost exactly two years ago. Clean up that mess.

Well. That’s the thing with messes.

‘So. What are some discreet moments that we could come up with to work on in our EMDR sessions?’ (Or something to that effect.)

‘Discreet?’

‘Like traumatic?’

‘Like anything?’

Oh boy. Well. That’s messy, now isn’t it? Talk about needing to clear out some spaces. I guess when you look back on the past fifteen years of my life there are a few ‘discreet moments’ that could probably get pulled out of the basement of my brain and thrown out to the curb.

Well. While I’m at it.

There are surfaces to shine in my house. There is room; there has been space created. There is a place for good things to happen.

And now it’s time to create some space for positive things to happen in my head. Time for cleanup, clarification, and just maybe some cathartic change. We all have our own ‘discreet moments’ – piles of memories and messes that get pushed into the corners of our brain to be dealt with later, or not at all. And sometimes, those piles get just a little bit too big, or there are just too many of them, and we have to steel ourselves for the messy clean-up process. Brace ourselves for what’s under those piles. Prepare ourselves to deal with the messes we’ve forgotten. And clean them up. Get rid of the trash we don’t need.  Organize the messes worth holding on to, label them appropriately, and put them up on shelves, and make some space for good things to happen.

Here goes.

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So I sat down to read tonight…

I have a new book-club read to conquer. Looking forward to tackling one of the Canada Reads choices – The Inconvenient Indian. I have read some other Thomas King stuff, and I’m so happy my book-club-cohort decided to lean in my direction and choose this one.

I guess I'll start it tomorrow?

I guess I’ll start it tomorrow?

When I read, I am an avid ‘stickier’, meaning I read with a pencil and a stack of stickies in hand, and I take notes the entire time I’m reading. They can range from ‘rolled my eyes a bit here’ to ‘WRITE THIS SHIT DOWN’. Whatever the end of the spectrum, these days those stickies are necessary, because I DON’T REMEMBER ANYTHING. (That’s a topic for another blog.) So. I went from top to bottom in my house, and much to my dismay, no stickies. Notebook it is. I’ve collected a few of those over the past couple of years. Many people thought (knew) it would be a good idea to journal during my treatment for breast cancer. Some of those journals now hold lists at work (which is really quite appropriate because I need lists everywhere these days, because I’m back at work and I DON’T REMEMBER ANYTHING.) Wait – did I already say that??

Thanks, Martha. xo

Thanks, Martha. xo

Anyway. I grabbed the brown suede journal that’s been sitting unopened on my bed-side table for, well, quite a long time. Apparently since my first Taxol treatment. I often think of the Red Devil as the worst part of chemo, but maybe that’s just because someone gave it a catchy name at some point. Taxol, as it turned out, was way harder on me. I took one treatment, and stopped writing. Maybe I didn’t want to go through the daily ritual of writing down the pain I was in, or the pain that had kept me up in the night. Maybe I just went into survival mode for the second half of chemo, or maybe I just got really good at it and stopped needing to document it. It’s too bad though. Because really, I REMEMBER VERY LITTLE.

Yep. Last entry in the journal. Up until this point I kept track of temperature, weight, side effects, medications, meals, all of it. After this: nothing.

Yep. Last entry in the journal. Up until this point I kept track of temperature, weight, side effects, medications, meals, all of it. After this: nothing.

So this prompted a little trip down memory lane, and some introspection about how far I’ve come from that particular day, and that particular month, and many of the months that followed. Needless to say, I’m not reading tonight. A few weeks ago I went on a quick weekend road-trip with my bestie, and for about a zillion reasons I felt normal. It marked the first time that I went out and met new people, and didn’t introduce myself as cancer girl. I was just Tanya for a weekend, and it was awesome. Also, I got to meet the chef of my favourite Winnipeg restaurant.

This is the chef from Deer and Almond, a restaurant I always make a point of Winnipeg, which is, thankfully, much less frequent these days. I was a wee bit starstruck.

This is the chef from Deer and Almond, a restaurant I always make a point of Winnipeg, which is, thankfully, much less frequent these days. I was a wee bit starstruck.

I’ve just started my third week back at work full-time, which is most of the reason I haven’t sat down to write as of late. These are some full days, folks. (Did I mention I’m now teaching my son?) There was fear leading up to my return, which seemed to sneak up on me and make me feel like I was cramming at 6am for an 8am exam that I had forgotten about. I didn’t feel ready, I wanted more time, I wanted to feel fixed before going back, the insurance plan wasn’t cooperating, I was worried about teaching my son and his buddies, and it was all very very noisy in my head. Long story short, I decided to stop fighting on the Friday before the Monday I was scheduled to return. I didn’t want to return, get back to my class and then leave them again. I didn’t want to mess with the (very patient and lovely) supply teacher who had taken my place for six months. I, frankly, needed to create some space in my head and make a clean decision. Return to work, full time. And do the best I can at it. And I can honestly say I have done that. This is a big week. Almost exactly two years ago I went for a biopsy, during which the nurses were wonderfully reassuring, telling me that most of these lumps were nothing to worry about. Almost exactly five days after that, I was diagnosed with cancer and my life flipped on a dime. That was quite a March Break. I’m really hoping this one will be different. Lots of sleep. Lots of bed head. It’s pretty fabulous.

IMG_4619

The bed head is getting taller. This is progress.

This is a long trip, I am finding out. I’m thankful to still be on the voyage.