Embracing My Inner Storyteller – At Long Last

“The shortest distance between truth and a human being is a story.” ~ Anthony de Mello

Beginning this year, I’ve vowed to shorten the distance between myself and others by telling more of my stories here on Once a Time a Time. I constantly have an myriad of insights, observations, memories and, yes, stories rolling around in my mind, longing to be expressed. Yet I always seem to find reasons to avoid actually doing the writing: I’m too busy with my day job; too stressed; too distracted… But at this point in time, I’m stepping up and committing to myself to become the writer I really, truly am. To have this talent to write and fail to utilize it to a greater degree is unfair to myself and to those who may benefit from or at least enjoy what I have to offer.

I’ve always found it a natural mental exercise to put my feelings into written words – whether the result is funny or profound. Lately I can’t escape the feeling that life is giving me an abundance of subjects to ponder deeply. In fact, I’m reminded of these clever lyrics; maybe these recent hardships will inspire some words of wisdom of my own…

To life! (L’chaim!)
from Fiddler on the Roof

Our great men have written words of
Wisdom to be used
When hardship must be faced;
Life obliges us with hardship
So the words of wisdom
shouldn’t go to waste.

Besides, this fortune from May 3, 2017 encouraged me to go for it…

Posted in Inspiration, One Writer's Passion, The personal development of Gina | 1 Comment

And the Results are In…

A happy us

Literally, as we pulled into the parking space at the gastroenterologist’s office, the radio began playing the first few notes of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ The Waiting (is the hardest part). Scott’s response, “Ha, like that song hasn’t been on a constant loop in my head for the last couple weeks!” To which I replied, “Yup, mine too, Sweetie.” Then we chuckled a little. “See,” he said, “We can still laugh.”

And yes, we could. We always can. Apparently, no matter what. And with that, we entered the medical building for our appointment to learn what was going to impact the rest of our life: the results of the CT scan done yesterday on the mass discovered during Scott’s colonoscopy.

“I’ve got good news.”

Those were the first words out of Dr Robinson’s mouth after offering us each a hearty handshake. At which point I heaved the heaviest sigh of relief ever. I think I was making up for all the breath-holding I’ve been doing since the morning of  October 18.

And there was no “and some bad news” to follow. It continued to be the best news possible in this situation.

He reported that the CT scan showed no indication of Scott’s cancer having spread into the colon wall, nearby lymph nodes or liver, which was the purpose of the test to determine. That being so, he said he was no reason that Scott could not be CURED by having the affected portion of his colon removed. No chemotherapy. No radiation treatments.

We were quite stunned initially but I felt a smile coming on and a warm sense of encouragement that I hadn’t felt in a couple weeks. There have been SO many fears and concerns unearthed; wild fits of “what-ifs” experienced; numb silences endured… So all those questions scribbled in the spiral notebook I’d brought into the office were – for the most part – answered within a few moments or were no longer applicable to the situation. A couple, though, were still worth asking: What kind of cancer was this? Answer – Adenocarcinoma. It’s actually the most common type of colon cancer, being the culprit in 95% of cases. As to the question: What will recovery from surgery most likely be like? The answer indicated that it is relatively not too bad, especially due to the location of the mass in the sigmoid (lower) colon. Things can be reattached and rarely is there any change in function.

Of course, he made the disclaimer that, should the surgeon who performs the operation see something when in there that did not show up on the CT scan, that could change. But for now, we are taking this as the best, most positive report we could have received.

Excuse me while I take another deep breath. Still processing here…

Ok, so we left the office with a referral to a surgeon with whom I will make an appointment tomorrow when his office opens.

So for now, we are guardedly optimistic that this could be over and done with – just a brief, sour memory – very soon. And we’re perfectly fine with that. I have no doubt that this ordeal will stay with us forever, etching the importance of physical diligence and medical testing deeply into our psyches. Health is nothing to be taken for granted – and it can vanish in as little as one sentence spoken by the right person.

From the bottom of our hearts, I want to thank everyone who has reached out with a message, gave or sent hugs, prayers, positive thoughts or even took a second to hold a good thought for us. It’s not over but we are so deeply relieved that, not only do we know what we’re dealing with, but that it’s not as bad as it could be.

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How Our Life Completely Changed in Two Hours

Writing about this has been on my mind because that’s how I process information best. But writing about this means that I have to accept a cold, hard fact: A malignant mass has been found in my Sweetie’s colon.

He had his first colonoscopy last week and the growth was discovered then. A hungry, healthy man walked into the doctor’s office with his wife and an overwhelmed, bewildered couple walked out two hours later. A biopsy was performed and the results came back confirming the malignancy yesterday. So indeed, it is a fact that, at least for the time being, Scott has cancer.

The stage and scope of the disease will be determined by the results of a CT scan scheduled for the 31st. Many scary questions will be answered on the following day when we have a consultation appointment scheduled with the gastroenterologist. That’s the day we’ll learn what we’re really up against here, including the state of the cancer (has it grown into the colon wall/spread elsewhere?) and next steps.

The dynamic duo who is us!

We are gobsmacked, to say the least. And frightened. And sad. And distracted. And confused. And angry. We feel as if we’ve been punched in the stomach, in our minds, spirits and bodies. The time between now and next Thursday afternoon is going to feel like an eternity. And as gut-wrenching as this waiting period is going to be, we fear what we may hear. We want to know and don’t want to know simultaneously. It’s agonizing.

I’m worried about Scott. Scott’s worried about me. How are we feeling about/coping with/bearing all this at any given time? We, of course, are trying to stay calm and think positively for each other as well as for ourselves. We’re trying to keep our minds and hearts focused on the “what is” rather than let them spiral forward into even more scary scenarios. But I have to tell you, it’s no easy task. Lots of breathing, meditation and comforting hugs are happening around here (yes, more than usual…). As much as we’ve been through in our 26+ years together, this past week has been far and away the most challenging and heartbreaking.

We’ve already told a select few about what’s been going on. And now I feel I can broach the subject, reluctantly, with the rest of you. It’s not that it’s any kind of secret but it was really hard to talk about. The support we’ve garnered these recent days has been staggering; the good wishes and prayers deeply appreciated.

Our strategy to weather this storm is to cling to one another, depend upon one another and never hesitate to share our feelings with one another, however sad or frightened. We will arm ourselves with as much information as we can gather and give ourselves permission to feel overwhelmed – or positive – as needed. It’s the only way we know how to get through things – and it’s always worked for us in the past. So don’t knock a good thing, right?

I recently heard from my mother-in-law Sharon, herself a three-time cancer warrior, say that the moment you are diagnosed, you are officially a cancer survivor. That sentiment right there is where we’re hanging our hat.

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The Calendar is Not the Boss of Me!

It’s that time of year… we’ve all heard it; even more so when it is indeed, this time of year. Beginning every November, “tis the season” for gratitude, generosity, a desire for peace on Earth and that things are merry and bright. These are undoubtedly lovely sentiments but each and every year it becomes even more clear to me that saving up all the well-wishes for the end of the year is not only artificial, but stress-inducing.

What if… our reality and the calendar don’t jive?

What if we’re feeling down for some reason at “the most wonderful time of the year.” We put ourselves through a wringer of despair and blame, that’s what. We wonder what kind of a jerk would have the audacity to have an emotional, health or financial Issue in his or her life at a time when, seemingly, the rest of the world is celebrating and spending wildly, all the while feeling cheery and hopeful?

What if family, rather than being a haven of security and unconditional love, represents a tangle of conflicted feelings, sorrow, shame, regret and anger. Those pining to be home for the holidays with their family don’t seem to appreciate that your memories of home and hearth aren’t as rosy as theirs. In your reality, being with family, the people who are supposed to bring you comfort and connection, instead, remind you of bleak and confusing times.

What if you don’t celebrate any of the many holidays that have been dumped into the end of the year “Happy Holidays” bucket. Rather than bringing you a sense of connection to your fellow humans, seeing everyone celebrating “something” underscores the fact that you are celebrating nothing – and a sense of isolation meets you at the end of the year.

It’s incongruent scenarios like these that have over the years affected me personally at this supposedly “magical” time of year that make me think ponder the legitimacy of this social construct. Some of the darkest days in my life have been between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. No matter how hard I tried to “get with the program,” I did not experience a sense of holiday joy. What made it worse was the sense that everyone else had. Why, I’ve come to wonder, do we make these pre-designed emotional boxes that dictate to us how to feel, what to feel and when to feel it?

I’m all for the “spirit of the holidays.” Consider me a big fan of the whole generosity, peace and warm wishes toward others thing. I just don’t understand why those feelings are delegated to one time of the year – and then made to seem mandatory. A holiday commercial this year mentioned that this was the “season of love.” Why can’t they all be seasons of love? (I’m just such a hippy…)

It seems to me that depending upon the calendar to dictate our priorities can sabotage our sense of peace and life satisfaction. Instead of giving the power to that arbitrary, monthly separation of a year, let’s celebrate the power WE have every day, any day, to embrace our innate ability to create the reality we want.

We’ve got the power!

While the holidays are still fresh in our minds, I think this observation is particularly apt. It’s in regard to the holiday “miracle” of spirit and action that supposedly happens every year. I’m struck by the fact that this so-called miracle is really the product of everyone having the same objective and, wait for it…working diligently, tirelessly, rampantly together toward that goal. We collectively create the miracle – a beautiful world of good deeds and dreams fulfilled – yet the very people responsible for it attribute it to something other than ourselves; a gift from on high, if you will. Why, I wonder, do we shirk taking responsibility for personally creating the very miracle we desire? I would go farther, to say that if we could embrace our personal power to pull off a miracle every December, why not in August – and dare I say, all year long?

So let’s break free of the calendar!

Have we become emotionally lazy by, rather than digging deep for our own inspiration, relying on external influences to supply it? I sincerely hope we are able to get in touch with our own, authentic emotions. Perhaps it’s a matter of blind conformity? While it’s not always easy to chart your own course, I hope that we can find the inner bravery to act in ways that are true to ourselves, regardless of what others do.

My deepest sense is that we suffer from a lack of realization that we have more control over the state of our lives and inner contentment than we are willing to recognize. I propose that we try to see ourselves in our own context, apart from that page of dates that tries to dictate how motivated, hopeful, relaxed, grateful or exuberant we are.

Maybe today you feel energized and present. Great, go with that, whether it’s the new year, when you’re expected to be gung-ho for making those resolutions come to life, or it’s October when the calendar says we should be already reaping what we’ve sown earlier in the year. You’re neither early nor late. You are where you are and that’s all that matters. Perhaps it’s June and, instead of having “fun in the sun” on your mind, you’re deeply entrenched in an emotional or health-related downturn. Kick the “I should…” out of your life – it’s no friend to you. We don’t need the seasons making us feel out of sync with what we think the rest of the world is concurrently experiencing. It’s artificial, random and it puts us to a test we’re bound to ultimately fail.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t heed the rhythm of nature, as the natural creatures that we are. The frigid, dark days of winter certainly make me (at least some days) dream of hibernating rather than creating. Just recognize that the calendar does not get to choose what, when or how you feel – or how you feel about how you feel. That, my dear, is completely and utterly up to the only one whose opinion counts: YOU.

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Playa del Carmen: A Retrospective – Day 4

Memories of August 10, 2016 – Wednesday morning was here – time to catch the bus to Chichén Itzá with about 50 other tourists. We boarded our very comfortable air conditioned coach and headed off through the Mexican countryside. The ride was pleasant, expertly navigated by our driver, Francisco. Our personable tour guide, Felipe was assisted by the efficient Jesus. Felipe made a point of pronouncing Jesus’ name with a hard “jee” sound, rather than the Spanish “hay” sound. Funny guy – little joke for the American turistas. After a light breakfast of Mexican pastries and orange juice, Felipe passed out name tags to each of us with his name on them. This was a bit confusing until he explained that, when we arrived at Chichén Itzá, there would be dozens of similar buses and, should we become separated from our group, we could be reunited more easily by knowing that we belong on Felipe’s bus. Ah, ha – made sense. Today, we are all Felipe.

About 25 minutes out of Chichén Itzá, we made a stop at a rambling gift shop filled with room after room of local artisan-made items. As we wandered, Scott and I were both attracted to a fire-glazed black pitcher. Scott did a quick peso-to-dollar conversion and determined that the price was a whopping…$12.00. Well, there was no question that little beauty was going home with us. As we made our way toward the front to checkout, we passed a display of Mexican vanilla. I was thrilled to discover that a liter of the “good stuff” cost only $8.00 American dollars. Thrilled with our finds, we hurried back to the bus with seconds to spare before it headed off the the ruins.

Scott patiently waiting for me to take all the photos I wanted

Right off the bus, Chichén Itzá looks like any amusement park entrance. Throngs of people milled about. Jesus offered us a sunbrella; we would be glad to have taken it at several points under the midday sun. With my “special needs” knees, the pace of the tour was uncomfortably fast at times. I fell behind on the path entering the grounds, but once we caught up to the place where our group had assembled, I was awestruck by the view of El Castillo, the massive pyramid. Once we’d received our initial briefing from Felipe, we had some time to wander the ruins. At several key locations, we assembled again for more information and history – and for refills on water. Despite there being more walking than my knees could enjoy, the rest of me was thrilled for the opportunity to visit the ancient ruins.

On the way back to the resort, we stopped at a phenomenal place for lunch. It was a combination nature park and buffet restaurant – an oasis of a sort in the middle of the Mexico wilderness. We were greeted with a shot of a local green tea that was supposed to have amazing health benefits. It was delicious but I have no idea what it was called. The restaurant was prepared to accommodate our tour group. The food was excellent and abundant. As we strolled through the grounds on our way back to the bus, we were awed by the array of native flora and fauna. Certainly nothing like the “middle America” landscape to which we’re accustomed. So exotic! Felipe showed us waaaayyyy up in a tree an avocado growing – easily grapefruit-sized. When we remarked at how much larger it was than avocados we get in the U.S., he divulged that they keep the big ones and export the smaller ones. Good for them!

There was still more on this day of adventure! A visit to Ik kil Cenote was also on the agenda! For those of you who, like me prior to this day don’t know what a cenote is, here’s a definition from Wikipedia:

A cenote (English: /sᵻˈnoʊti/ or /sɛˈnoʊteɪ/; American Spanish: [seˈnote]) is a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath.

The walk from the parking lot to the cenote was enough for me on that very hot day. An opportunity to descend to water level and swim in the cenote was offered. Not really being water lovers, we opted to watch from above. It was lush and jungle-like here. It was heartening to hear the excited screams and splashing from the divers and swimmers below.

The route back to the resort passed through several small villages, providing a little glimpse of life on a Wednesday afternoon in this hot, desolate area of the world. Many small homes, tiny shops and old cars lined the narrow road through town; life seemed simple there. Hard, yes. Meager, yes. But definitely uncomplicated, the likes of which I sometimes long for. A silly, romantic notion…I know.

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Back at the resort, my knees were burning but so was my imagination for having spent the day in such an amazing place on earth. Upon returning to our room, I was delighted to discover an elephant towel sculpture upon our bed, beside a heart fashioned from rose petals. How did they know I love elephants?

Posted in For this I'm Grateful, Memories | Leave a comment