Some mornings I wake up realizing that all night long I’ve worried about stuff in my dreams, hashing and re-hashing things over which I have no control.
Last night was one of those nights.
I woke up early this morning, my mind racing with everything to do. And I was stressed out before the day even began (this, on the heels of a day where Stijn said that I was finally looking relaxed and “myself” again…). My morning fears were confirmed as I realized that my extra leg battery had gone missing and that it hadn’t charged overnight.
Sometimes I feel so vulnerable, where the inability to charge my knee will mean a loss of mobility and heaps of frustration (and pain). I’m not sure what to do with that vulnerability except to recognize it for what it is and to check (once again) that my batteries are charged and at the ready. I can’t plan for everything that might go wrong, but somehow I will still keep trying to do so.
The wooden ceiling of an ancient Beguine chapel.
But of course there have been days that everything has gone wrong (I’m thinking of that trip to China a few years ago when my new bionic knee completely malfunctioned) or those random moments where I’ve completely lost my charge or just a few days ago when my foot fell off while I was walking home from the market and I had to zombie-drag myself two blocks while leaning on Stijn’s arm. So far, I’ve survived just fine. Every time.
So why do I still spend so much time worrying?
radishes, farmers cheese, chives and toast
Today’s simple pleasures: fresh cheese, good bread, and local veggies. Yes, please.
As I stretched this morning I felt a warm burn in my belly and realized that I was starting to pull against some of the scar tissue from my surgery last year. I hadn’t realized just how tight I’d become, from that. And I’m trying not to be (already) discouraged about just how much work lies ahead as I regain my former flexibility. I knew that I had a significant amount of scar tissue to work through in my lower leg, but I hadn’t considered that as a lingering issue for my abdomen, too.
Today was the first official day of my summer sabbatical. My goals for this time period are legion and include many plans for writing, reading, relaxing, reconnecting, and letting some of the stresses of this past year roll off of my shoulders.
But my largest goal is to stretch, everyday.
My shoulders and hips and legs are so tight that I’ve been in nearly-constant pain for the past 4 months. I’ve had too many hours at my desk, too many hours commuting by car. And when I have been exercising, it’s generally been a power activity like canoeing or rock climbing, and not an activity that increases my limberness.
So today: yoga.
Gentle restorative stretches to ease the tightness in my lower back. It’s humbling to realize how far I’ve drifted from my previous, flexible self. And things weren’t going so well with the yoga stretching (ouch) until I realized that I’d forgotten to breathe. My jaw was still clenched tight, my mind remained focused on some stressors that I can’t control. My hands were tight fists.
So I stoked the coals in my belly and started to send the heat out to my aching muscles.
Inhaling and exhaling from deep inside.
And it worked. I got looser (a bit). I stretched for an hour and then I spent my 10 minutes of shavasana focusing solely on breathing. When I sat up afterwards, the pain was definitely decreased, and I felt more alert, more hopeful, and more ready for what lies ahead.
I began the day by reflecting on my past few birthday celebrations, each of which has been special in its own way…
2011: birthday #40(!), spent the morning at the Farmer’s Market, the afternoon in Laguna Beach, and then an evening party with friends. The day marked Stijn’s first return to the U.S. after having been gone for 6(!) weeks.
2012: a morning wander around San Gimignano, then back to the Fortezza di Cortesi for an afternoon swim. Dinner was a simple meal of olives, bread, and cheese in the gazebo. That this happened in Italy was all part of a last-minute adventure that began when we boarded a train bound for Cologne a few days before, and then found ourselves bound for Zurich and eventually Italy via the Alps.
2013: a drive to LA to the Spanish market in search of spices for paella and a special bottle of Rioja. I was not feeling particularly well–with my first surgery of the summer happening a few days later–but we managed to celebrate and dream and enjoy the serendipity of finding just what we needed at the Spanish market.
2014: and today, things are a bit hectic as we pack up the house & simultaneously host guests from Europe, but I’m especially happy that there’s time for a bit of celebration because it will be awhile before I get to hang out with my local friends.
As for the future…I have no idea where or how I will celebrate my day next year….but that’s okay. I’m becoming more and more accustomed to that feeling.
It was 30 years ago today that I was diagnosed with bone cancer. I shared that story with my daughter as I drove her to school this morning, not realizing that I’d never told her before how it happened.
My life completely changed that day, and in the days that followed. On the 21st I was diagnosed, on the 22nd I had biopsy surgery, on the 23rd I learned that I would lose my leg, on the 24th I had my first chemo treatment, and on the 25th I celebrated my 13th birthday by sipping 7Up and puking birthday cake in front of friends and family.
I remain amazed that I am still alive and relatively healthy, three decades later…
The Middle Earth dorms at UCI, where I first lived when I moved to Irvine.
“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep, leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance.”
― Beryl Markham, West with the Night
There is a momentum to everything that’s going on in my life right now, that seems to be spinning faster and faster everyday. Work, home, family, friends, and self are all in the midst of change–most of it too personal or too complicated to explain here.
Probably looming largest above everything is the realization that in a few days I’m leaving the community where I’ve lived for 25 years, where I’ve raised my children, where I’ve found “home” in so many different places–from my first dorm room in Hobbiton to our current family-sized house in University Hills. In addition to moving from Irvine, I’m taking a summer sabbatical from my work Chapman and will be on the move (i.e. homeless) for a few months. And when I return it will be to an “empty-nest” because both of the kiddos will have moved on to college.
It’s a lot of change in a short span of time, and I don’t think that I’ve ever packed my stuff up for moving without knowing where I would be living when I was unpacking.
I’m not afraid of what will happen when I return in the fall, but I am feeling a bit melancholy about the move because I know how unlikely it is that I will find a home that I enjoy as much as the one where I live now. The Markham quote above rings true to my feelings, that the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance. It is quite formidable not to know the where and when of what one’s life will be.
But perhaps Markham is also right by saying that it’s good to make big changes quickly and without too much time available for sorrow or worry. To just leap ahead and know that whatever will come will be new and different and probably even better than whatever I imagined it would be. I also know that I have a great job and wonderful OC friends to come “home” to, no matter where or what that actual home ends up being…which brings a great deal of comfort in the midst of such a whirlwind.
I’m not a huge fan of Mother’s Day (too much commercialism and shmaltz), but it was still a joy to spend a few minutes on Sunday looking through the photos taken at my mother’s surprise 70th birthday party last December. The uber-talented D’Arcy Benincosa was out photographer, and she did such a great job of capturing the smiles of my siblings and Mom. Everytime I look at these pictures, I am so happy (note: click on the images to enlarge them).
I also enjoyed a quiet moment considering what my Dad might think of these if he were still alive. Given that one of the last efforts before he became ill was to throw a secret 50th birthday surprise party for my Mom, I feel fairly confident that he, too, would be pleased by knowing that we traveled from the four corners of the US to do that same for her 20 years later: