Timing, togetherness and tiny bits of brokenness….(or, why I’ve decided not to have surgery right now.)

“Our wholeness doesn’t bring us together”.  – Richard Wagamese

As soon as I sat to listen to this author speak I knew I had landed in the right room at exactly the right time. Out came my notebook, so that I could try to remember the lines that flowed out of him with such ease, and wound their way directly into the living, breathing bits of me. Richard’s story is terrifying, shameful, sad, frustrating, inspirational, beautiful and empowering, all at once. He tells the story of his trauma with grace, with strength, with beauty. He tells the story the way that I dream of telling stories. When he said that it isn’t our wholeness that brings us together, but the broken bits, I wanted to weep. I wanted to stand up and cheer. I felt relief. I felt hope. Because he’s right. For me, he’s right, anyway. I remember the persistent phrase ‘I know something you don’t know.’ playing over and over in my head, silently, but always there, once I was diagnosed. Being broken, in whatever way that may be, carves out some depth that allows you to understand others who are also broken. Who have had to put themselves together again. Who may have to do so down the road, again, because, as Richard so eloquently put it, sometimes there is a tiny “untended little bit of brokenness” that decides, unbidden, to rise up and stop you in your blissful tracks.

He also spoke about the perfect combination for him – the two things that helped him through his healing – ceremony and therapy. Right away I knew my perfect combination: Forest bathing, and counselling. I’ve continued to walk every day, getting stronger and stronger, and talking things out with a counsellor once every few weeks. It’s working.

I know it’s working, because gradually, over the past month or so, I have thought a great deal about healing. About getting stronger, physically and otherwise. About moving forward. About feeling hopeful. Consciously changing the way I speak to myself. About believing in my strengths and focussing on what makes me happy. My physiotherapist gently suggested ‘There’s no such thing as too much healing.’ Again, I wanted to weep. To stand up and cheer. Because I want more healing time. I need more healing time. I need to change the way I see myself in the mirror, and change that from ‘broken’ to ‘healing’. To ‘stronger than yesterday’. To ‘strong.’

How can I do that if I allow myself to be cut into again in just over three months? How can I allow my body – worse, force my body back to square one when I’m just starting to make progress?

The answer has come to me gently and slowly. It’s simple. It’s obvious. I cannot. Not yet. Maybe not ever. But definitely not yet.

Richard looked at us and pronounced: “I don’t want to be resilient anymore.” And I understood. I don’t want to be constantly tapping all of my resources just to survive. I don’t want to be ‘handling the pain really well’. I don’t want to be popping painkillers every four hours so that I can function with my children. I don’t want to launch myself into another potential disaster where I’m on antibiotics ten times over the course of a year. I want to heal.

And then:

“There’s a field out there where I can bark and laugh and play.” 

Right?? I want to bark and laugh and play! (Well. Maybe not the barking. But you know what I mean.)

Actually, depending on what the moon is doing, there could be some howling. But I digress.

So. My surgery was booked for September 4th. I haven’t cancelled it officially yet. But I’ve decided that’s happening tomorrow. And I will tell my surgeon that I’m not ready. That I don’t want to rebook at this point. That I will let him know. And I will decide when and if it happens. When I want to have the operation. I will take control of this one thing.

I will be okay with, maybe even celebrate, the reality that it is not our wholeness that brings us together, but the chips and cracks and scars and stories.

I had a lovely moment today on my walk. The bottoms of my feet and my shins were screaming at me. The pavement is hard on my feet. So I moved over the 30 cm I needed to in order to walk on softer ground. And my body answered instantly. Yes. That’s what I need. A soft place to land.

Softer places.

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Timing, togetherness and tiny bits of brokenness….(or, why I’ve decided not to have surgery right now.)

“Our wholeness doesn’t bring us together”.  – Richard Wagamese

As soon as I sat to listen to this author speak I knew I had landed in the right room at exactly the right time. Out came my notebook, so that I could try to remember the lines that flowed out of him with such ease, and wound their way directly into the living, breathing bits of me. Richard’s story is terrifying, shameful, sad, frustrating, inspirational, beautiful and empowering, all at once. He tells the story of his trauma with grace, with strength, with beauty. He tells the story the way that I dream of telling stories. When he said that it isn’t our wholeness that brings us together, but the broken bits, I wanted to weep. I wanted to stand up and cheer. I felt relief. I felt hope. Because he’s right. For me, he’s right, anyway. I remember the persistent phrase ‘I know something you don’t know.’ playing over and over in my head, silently, but always there, once I was diagnosed. Being broken, in whatever way that may be, carves out some depth that allows you to understand others who are also broken. Who have had to put themselves together again. Who may have to do so down the road, again, because, as Richard so eloquently put it, sometimes there is a tiny “untended little bit of brokenness” that decides, unbidden, to rise up and stop you in your blissful tracks.

He also spoke about the perfect combination for him – the two things that helped him through his healing – ceremony and therapy. Right away I knew my perfect combination: Forest bathing, and counselling. I’ve continued to walk every day, getting stronger and stronger, and talking things out with a counsellor once every few weeks. It’s working.

I know it’s working, because gradually, over the past month or so, I have thought a great deal about healing. About getting stronger, physically and otherwise. About moving forward. About feeling hopeful. Consciously changing the way I speak to myself. About believing in my strengths and focussing on what makes me happy. My physiotherapist gently suggested ‘There’s no such thing as too much healing.’ Again, I wanted to weep. To stand up and cheer. Because I want more healing time. I need more healing time. I need to change the way I see myself in the mirror, and change that from ‘broken’ to ‘healing’. To ‘stronger than yesterday’. To ‘strong.’

How can I do that if I allow myself to be cut into again in just over three months? How can I allow my body – worse, force my body back to square one when I’m just starting to make progress?

The answer has come to me gently and slowly. It’s simple. It’s obvious. I cannot. Not yet. Maybe not ever. But definitely not yet.

Richard looked at us and pronounced: “I don’t want to be resilient anymore.” And I understood. I don’t want to be constantly tapping all of my resources just to survive. I don’t want to be ‘handling the pain really well’. I don’t want to be popping painkillers every four hours so that I can function with my children. I don’t want to launch myself into another potential disaster where I’m on antibiotics ten times over the course of a year. I want to heal.

And then:

“There’s a field out there where I can bark and laugh and play.” 

Right?? I want to bark and laugh and play! (Well. Maybe not the barking. But you know what I mean.)

Actually, depending on what the moon is doing, there could be some howling. But I digress.

So. My surgery was booked for September 4th. I haven’t cancelled it officially yet. But I’ve decided that’s happening tomorrow. And I will tell my surgeon that I’m not ready. That I don’t want to rebook at this point. That I will let him know. And I will decide when and if it happens. When I want to have the operation. I will take control of this one thing.

I will be okay with, maybe even celebrate, the reality that it is not our wholeness that brings us together, but the chips and cracks and scars and stories.

I had a lovely moment today on my walk. The bottoms of my feet and my shins were screaming at me. The pavement is hard on my feet. So I moved over the 30 cm I needed to in order to walk on softer ground. And my body answered instantly. Yes. That’s what I need. A soft place to land.

Softer places.

Softer places.

Caves, cacophony and catharses (Or, yay Spring.)

I have to. I should. I need. I can’t. Of course.   I want. I don’t want. I can.

This is the basic message that has been floating around in my head over the past 24 hours or so. Banishing these phrases from my daily vernacular, twisting my brain around, stretching it this way and that, rearranging thought patterns. How fascinating to realize that somehow over the course of my life I have learned never to buy a lotto ticket because I’ll never win, never to roll up the rim on a Tim Horton’s cup because I’m not lucky, never to repair things that need repairing in my house because I can’t do home improvement. How I cringe at the word selfish, and physically recoil when it’s suggested that I practise saying I want. That I use the refrain ‘of course’ when things break down in my car, or my dishwasher, or my fridge. Because obviously, if something’s going to go wrong, of course it’s going to happen to me. Cacophony.

How cool is it to call bullshit on all of that?

Seriously, though, this therapy thing is amazing. Everyone should do it at least once in their lives. Even if for no other reason than to have someone sit across from you and help you stretch your brain. Because I’m telling you, it’s like massage therapy for your head.  Sure, it hurts a bit to get to the really tight knots. And some knots are way more stubborn than others. But when those knots release – ahhh… relief.

So my goal right now is to see if I can work toward eliminating that awful negativity from my self-talk. It’s a word game. I’m good with words. Challenge accepted, and all of that. So maybe more than one goal.

Move. Pick apples (the stretch I do faithfully three times a day that has allowed me to reach the top shelf of my spice cupboard without a chair). Create space. Breathe.

Move. Pick apples (the stretch I do faithfully three times a day that has allowed me to reach the top shelf of my spice cupboard without a chair). Create space. Breathe. This was taken on the day I was two years cancer-free. Yay. Still here.

Another goal involves sort of an unspoken agreement I’ve made with a friend. Move. Not houses, necessarily, but our bodies. Often. Consistently. Purposefully. And it’s quite beautiful.

It's difficult to say 'I can't' when looking at beauty like this.

It’s difficult to say ‘I can’t’ when looking at beauty like this.

Yesterday I had what could arguably be the most perfect kick-off to a weekend. Physiotherapy at 3:30, counselling at 4:30, walk around a lake at 6:00, pasta and wine by 7:30. When I told my therapist that I had some bruising after the last session and that I felt like I’d been hit by a truck the following day, he winced and asked if he’d gone too hard on me. I assured him that he had not. The same went for yesterday’s session. Hard work. A little bit of bruising today. And tomorrow, I know I’ll feel fantastic. He assured me that everything he’s doing is good for me. And it is. I can feel the change in my body already. It’s a slow process, but when I realize that it’s been awhile since I pushed myself up against a door frame in an effort to dig the frame into my muscles enough to provide some release, I know good things are happening. Yesterday, during our walk when I told my bff that I had just finished those two appointments, her reaction was ‘Whaaaat?? Why would you do that to yourself??’ because she knows how much pain both can cause. My response: ‘Are you kidding me? It’s the perfect way to start a weekend!’ Space between my shoulder blades, space in my head. Bring on the weekend.

We have walked over 80 km in the past two weeks. Almost daily, between 5 and 10km, clearing our heads, and getting stronger. Today, I went for three walks outside. One, 5.6km around the lake – the box-ticker of a walk that says I’ve exercised for an hour, which is, according to my oncologist, as effective as chemo. The two others, to play. To bring a friend to see what someone brought me to see a few days back – the seemingly impossible ice cave over rushing water. Seeing how much less ice there was today (twice) compared to a few days ago begged some reflection. Ice, stuck there for months (and months) of winter, freed and then melted by the rushing of water, and the persistence of sunshine. It lines up well with what’s happening with me. My body has been stuck, and is gradually being freed from what has felt like a cage. My mind has been stuck, and there is space being made there. Still some ice left to melt, but I can see that once the freeing process starts, it can happen quickly. The key may be to see the beauty in all of those stages.

Under the ice cave. It won't last long. But we walked on it today, in 18 degree weather. It's stubborn.

Under the ice cave. It won’t last long. But we walked on it today, in 18 degree weather. It’s stubborn. And very beautiful.

IMG_5440

In front of the ice cave. Last week that tree was surrounded by ice. Today, it’s almost free. I kind of like that.

I might go back tomorrow to check on its progress. Because I want to, and I can. I should don’t want to do laundry instead. I need want to do this.  And so I will.

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.

Decisions, desensitization and desert-island drugs

Little man, on recovery day one. So tired. Made it to the dining room table, and not much further. I get it now.

Little man, on recovery day one. So tired. Made it to the dining room table, and not much further. I get it now.

My son was ill all last week. Everything hurt, and he sounded like a frightened seal when he coughed. I have been watching my students drop like flies with this killer flu they gave all sorts of creative names, including ‘bone flu’, which I thought sounded very exotic and suitably frightening. I tried getting him to go to school one day last week because I didn’t want to miss work (my eldest son found this very confusing) and when he cried his way into the parking lot yelling MY BELLY HURTS AGAIN I knew I had to park him in the office, arrange for a supply teacher and take him home. Battle lost. All week I marvelled to people at work about how I haven’t been sick since chemo – not a sniffle – and somewhere in the back of my mind I knew I should be knocking on something-or-other to make sure I wasn’t jinxing my good fortune. I didn’t.

Guess who’s sick?

Yep. And as refreshing it is to be just-plain-old-sick instead of glued to the couch recovering from chemo, radiation, or surgery, It kind of sucks to be missing work right in what is supposed to be my transition back to full time. Thank goodness for Advil cold and sinus, my desert-island-drug of choice, and a house full of quiet that I can sleep in.

And hey, why not catch everyone up on my latest decision?

I finally saw the local surgeon for my second consult. I meant to go into the appointment with my decision firmly made, but the truth is I waffled back and forth all month wrestling with the pros and the cons of both the Diep-flap surgery and the Latissimus Dorsi flap surgery. The fact that I had gained almost 15 lbs in hopes of having the Diep flap surgery done, and was still told that an implant would likely be necessary anyway was starting to lean me toward the back flap, but it wasn’t until I sat down with the doctor and he started talking to me about the possibility of blood supply microsurgery being risky because it was possible that there could be damage done to my blood vessels because of radiation that I landed firmly on my decision. I just can’t take the risk of another failed surgery. I can’t face it for several reasons, the biggest of which being I simply don’t think I’d be okay after another reconstruction fail. Latissimus Dorsi it is.

So. I walked out of his office, with his very reassuring failure rate of 0% in mind, and a whole lot of space created in my head, which had been very pre-occupied with all of that waffling back and forth.

When I was diagnosed, I said to my mother and sister that we would all get a day or two of mourning, of tears, and then I needed my team. And I sure got it. In spades. That team carried me through that entire year plus of surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, and the aftermath of a reconstruction fail.

Tanya's 'Tigers' - it's funny; I was going through a bag of clothing my sister was going to give away a couple of weeks ago, and this t-shirt was amongst several gems I snagged. She picked it up, looked at me and said 'You don't want that.' And I answered 'No. I don't'. And away it went.

Tanya’s ‘Tigers’ – it’s funny; I was going through a bag of clothing my sister was going to give away a couple of weeks ago, and this t-shirt was amongst several gems I snagged. She picked it up, looked at me and said ‘You don’t want that.’ And I answered ‘No. I don’t’. And away it went.

Now, I find, I need to build a different sort of team to pull me through this next phase of healing. And making my decision to stay here and have the local surgeon do my reconstruction surgery was a big part of that. I trust him. My mother trusts him. I have spoken to one of his patients who speaks very highly of his care. I know other people who have dealt with him and have spoken highly of him. He thinks what I went through in Winnipeg was barbaric. This makes me like him even more. I don’t think he’d cut me open on a table hidden from the hallway of an outpatient clinic by only a curtain. I know that if anything went wrong after surgery he wouldn’t leave me to residents for care. I need to go into surgery trusting this man. He is bracing me mentally, physically and emotionally for the biggest surgery done at our regional hospital. It will be 8-10 hours long, and the recovery will be about three months. It’s a big deal, and there will be no trivializing any of it with him. I appreciate that.

Next on my team is the clinical psychologist I just started to see, who has confirmed the PTSD diagnosis and feels strongly that EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy will do wonders for me. Used on police officers and soldiers with much success, it won’t make me forget what happened. But it will hopefully allow me to put it in the past, where it belongs. I have told him I don’t think about it consciously that often, but I need my body to forget, because I seem to be always crouched at the ready for the next hit. It’s good to know how normal this all seems to him, and to have someone give weight to what still seems like a very surreal experience to me.

Team member #3 – a physiotherapist in town that is known as ‘The Body Whisperer’ on my staff. On my first visit to him, without seeing my body, as I was covered in a sheet, he put his hands on my stomach and knew that I had had C-sections. He did some work on my fascia, and the next day, my incision sites, which have been scorching hot since my very first surgery, were cool to the touch. Yep. I’m a believer. I have been seeing him twice a week, and already I feel much more relaxed. That keen tension / pain between my shoulder blades that prompts me to push myself into door frames and jam tennis balls between my back and a wall to try to release some tension is significantly lessened. I told him I noticed the other day that I only aimed for one door frame, which I found amazing. I know he’ll get me ready for surgery, and I know he’ll be there to help me recover as well. I’m in good hands with him.

Walking again. Doing yoga again. Reconnecting with that part of me that's really been missing since I went back to work.

Walking again. Doing yoga again. Reconnecting with that part of me that’s really been missing since I went back to work.

And finally, Team member #4. Me. Now that I’ve made the decision regarding surgery, I can lose this weight. I can go back to doing the things I love so much. I did yoga every single day last week, and already I feel stronger and more like myself. I started tracking my exercise and food in an app called My fitness pal, which makes me feel purposeful and like I’m taking control of something, which I have very much needed. Things have been taken out of my hands so often in the past couple of years. It’s so good to turn to mindfulness and point myself toward solid ground rather than treading water and having no idea where to find land. I know it’s a big buzz word right now, but the practise of being in the here-and-now, and consciously trying to stay there and fully experience each moment – mindfulness – is really helping me right now. This book is now full of my usual sticky-note jot-notes, and one of my favourite analogies in it thus far is on rushing.

I like this book because every chapter is written by a different author. All sorts of interesting perspectives woven into a tapestry.

I like this book because every chapter is written by a different author. All sorts of interesting perspectives woven into a tapestry.

Rushing does not particularly have to do with how fast you are going. You can feel rushed while moving slowly, and you can be moving quickly and still be settled in your body. Learn to pay attention to this feeling of rushing. If you can, notice what thought or emotion has captured your attention. Then, just for a moment, stop and settle back into your body: feel your foot on the ground, feel the next step.” – Joseph Goldstein –

I guess that’s what I’m trying to do. Settle back into my body. Feel my feet on the ground. Take the next step.

Oh – and for a bit of levity, a friend of mine (in the above team photo with curly hair) brought me a sample of a product called Mixed Chicks, which kind of tames my frizz. It may seem trivial to you, but the freedom to sometimes wear my hair curly is pretty exciting for this girl!

This was my first attempt - and a pic I sent to my friend to say I didn't totally hate it!  Some people get a different colour, some people go grey, some go curly after chemo. I, obviously, went curly.

This was my first attempt – and a pic I sent to my friend to say I didn’t totally hate it! Some people get a different colour, some people go grey, some go curly after chemo. I, obviously, went curly.

Perfect timing! This little package just arrived at my door.

Perfect timing! This little package just arrived at my door.

Spanish, Cedar and Surfacing (Or, PTSD – not just for the shell-shocked)

I knew something was up when I started to jump at loud sounds. I started to make a mental list of the new symptoms I was feeling a few weeks after the second ‘awake’ emergency surgery. It went something like this:

I’m not sleeping. I can’t nap. When my body tries to fall asleep I am jolted awake by what feels like an electric current, every time.
i have NO patience. I go from 0 to 100 in seconds. Things that I can normally navigate are making me exasperated. Angry. Irritated.
I can’t handle being around a lot of people at a time. I break into a sweat and feel twitchy and want out.
I am jumpy. Loud noises make me feel that electric current feeling. I physically jump and startle at anything unexpected, even a hello from someone that I’m not expecting. I want to turn the volume down on my phone.
I feel like I haven’t taken a deep breath in weeks.
My neck and back are so tight that it is beyond sore – deep tissue pain. I know this is where my body holds all of my stress. Usually.
When people ask me how I am, I am often unable to talk about it, and I cry.
I’m not writing. Can’t write.

My system has taken a hit, in more ways than one. When I went in for my physical with my doctor, I brought some of this up, and fell apart, completely, in her office. The words that kept coming out of my mouth were the same.
‘I’m not okay.’
‘I’m not myself. This isn’t me.’

40 minutes later, I left her office with prescriptions for massage therapy, physiotherapy, and an anti-anxiety medication. And maybe a little bit of hope.

I have some pretty strong feelings about these types of medications – I do feel that they are over-prescribed. I do think they can be bandaid solutions. Also, I like to think I’m strong enough to handle just about anything. And I am. I also think that there are some times when some sort of chemical re-balancing needs to take place in order to get ourselves to the state where we can do the things we need to do in order to work some stuff out and move forward.

Now is that time for me.

I was worried about taking it. I was scared it would zombify me, numb me out, change my personality, take away my fire, flatten me, kill my libido. The pharmacist suggested I start by taking half a dose, which is 5mg. I dutifully cut my first pill in half and told myself I would give it two weeks and see how I felt.

I really hesitated to share this part of my journey. Worried that others would see it as weakness. Concerned about the stigma I feared would attach itself to me. Now, a few weeks in, I think, like much of the other super-private-bordering-on-gory-personal detail I’ve chosen to share in this forum, someone else may find it useful. I have already had two conversations with people who are going to their doctors to check it out because they need a bit of help coping with the relentless anxiety that hovers constantly.
I have stuck with the half dose, because I like what it’s doing and I see no need to go to the full dose. My doctor agrees. What I have noticed thus far is this:
Four days or so after starting it, I was standing in my kitchen at about 4 in the afternoon and I yawned. Stretched. Felt like I could lie down and take a nap. In my pre-cancer life, I was always tired in the late-afternoon. It was the first time in almost a year that I felt normal fatigue, at a normal time for me. To feel my body relax enough to yawn actually brought a smile to my face. And some joy. It felt so normal! I took note of it and moved on with my day. Later that night, at about 9:30 or so, I felt it again. Normal tired. (!!)

Over the next few days, I did have a couple of dizzy spells. I had two days of persistent headaches. They’re gone now.

Here’s what I find really interesting. In the past two weeks:
I have cleaned out closets and drawers.
I cleaned out my basement.
I moved my son’s bedroom.
I filled 5 recycling bags and several boxes of things to give away to the Sally Ann.
I had a door that’s been broken for weeks repaired.
I did my taxes.
I have begun to learn Spanish and have completed 20 lessons and corresponding quizzes and oral labs.
I have done yoga.
I have done pilates.
I have walked approximately 50km in the past two weeks.
My television has not been turned on this week.
I feel productive.
I feel (most of the time) like I’m in control.

Whew.

Having spent the last couple of months in recovery mode (anxious-twitchy-healing-bandaged-not-allowed-to-‘resume normal activity’-being-un-bandaged-and-then-re-bandaged-and-barely-keeping-a-lid-on-things), I cannot say enough about how good it feels to get back to doing the things I love. To sleep in in the mornings. To organize my day around exercise and getting into the woods or close to rapidly melting ice and fast-moving water. To cook. To plan. To look forward.

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I was in the woods today, on a messy-muddy-icy-wet hike with two girlfriends, and I stopped in my favourite spot on the trail and told them this was the part I liked the most. One of them, in on a visit from out of town, noted that we were standing in a cedar grove. It’s funny; I’ve never even thought about what kind of trees they were. I like that it feels dark, haunted, that the ground is almost always black littered with yellow. I like that the trees are almost all uniform. I like the bark. I feel small there; the trees are tall. The light is at best filtered in that grove; in the summer it’s always just a bit cooler than on the rest of the trail. The air changes. It feels quieter, lower than the hillier part of the trail. It’s almost always a place where I stop and take a few really deep breaths, in through the nose, and breathe in the smell. There is something about the smell in that one spot. I have always been drawn to dark, woody smells. Sandalwood. Patchouli. Cedar. They make me feel connected. Being in that particular cedar grove, I feel like I’ve been invited in on someone’s secret. I love it there.

When I got home today I thought it would be worthwhile to look up cedar and see if there was anything new I could learn about it, something that would tell me why I am so drawn to it. I found some of the information interesting, and it made me smile.

Cedar trees often live a long time. (I like that.)
They are used for making canoes and other boats, boxes, bowls and baskets. (My nest is full of baskets, and the canoe is an obvious connection for me.)
The wood of cedar trees is very resistant to disease. (Sounds good to me.)
The wood of cedar trees has a very pleasant smell. (Maybe I’ll look into adding this to my perfume concoction in France?)
The part about mature trees cedars often having hollow trunks was not, I found, without its irony. (I can still find the funny. Check.)

I feel, overall, like I’m starting to surface. I feel, almost completely, like me.