Monday, July 27, 2009

Battle of the Amazons

There's a stinky little fillip many women get along with their breast-cancer diagnosis—an invitation NOT to join the club. If they have DCIS (very early stage) or lymph-node-negative or hormone-positive cancer, they are deemed by some women to be not sick enough to play with the big girls, and they are cast out and ostracized. I read about this cliquishness all the time on the breast-cancer discussion boards and hear about it from my DCIS friends, who have found themselves unwelcomed at support groups.

A breast-cancer diagnosis is a trauma, period.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


What's a sedate old lady like me doing up at 4 in the morning, you might ask. Well, I'll tell you. I'm living the life of an 18-year-old—vicariously and badly. That is, she has the fun. I have the worry and fatigue. Delightful as it is to have C home for the summer—and it is wonderful indeed—I am remembering the downside tonight: the late hours, the worry, the cell-phone turned off. Will I ever be able to truly let her go? Not as long as she's in sight.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Beginning again

Lately my ordinary clumsiness has become more pronounced. My handwriting has deteriorated. The actual content of what I write fails to hit the nail on the head. I drop stuff. I have to throw away sewing projects—and cooking projects too. At first I thought it was the inevitable downward slide into age-related feebleness, or residual neuropathy with a side of chemo brain. And perhaps it is. 

But I'm thinking that the solution is a return to what yogis and Buddhists call "beginner's mind," an attitude of openness and absence of preconceptions. In yoga, a wide-eyed beginner is superior to a seen-it-all adept.

So I'm trying to approach even the most mundane tasks afresh, as though I were learning them for the first time, slowing down, paying attention to all the details, refraining from multitasking. Not easy for a Type A-minus woman with a to-do list extending into next year. But I'm trying. 

And I'm trying to apply the same method to yoga, which I'm re-entering after another herniation-induced hiatus. Go slow, pay attention to details, watch the transitions, get it right—but forgive myself if I get it wrong.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Birthday fatigue

Has this ever happened to you? You're all excited because you found the perfect birthday present (a $150 Le Creuset frying pan) and the perfect birthday card ("You really are a bastard") and you're taking your kids out to the perfect restaurant (Soy & Sake, a kitsch-vegan eatery for the vegan) for a perfect birthday dinner. And the kids spend the entire two hours trading stories about what a shitty parent you were: the time you spanked (once, and you stopped when she cried), the degree to which you hyperbolize (reportedly a lot—but I stand by my story that I was summoned to rescue one unnamed child from a friend's home, where he was screaming in terror from, no lie, a fruitfly), the abusiveness you allowed one child to commit against the other (uttering the words "fucking moron"), the unequal degree of permissiveness you imposed (which set the scene for one child to get drunk with his friends every Friday afternoon—and vomit on the very expensive mattress I had bought him and then had to replace—while I was at work, which resulted in the hiring of a chaperone for the other till she was 14), and so forth. They were serious, and it made me feel so tired—the ungrateful wretches.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Whither the words of yesteryear?

How come no one "bloviates" or engages in "transgressive" behavior anymore? The continual iteration of those terms was irritating, but I'm getting really sick of "artisanal," the new It word, and feel wistful for them now. 

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Now I'm really screwed

Working while chemo-ing would have been impossible were it not for my friends on the job. Two of the most loving and helpful have summer birthdays. So in the spirit of payback, I impulsively volunteered to host a small birthday dinner. Big mistake!

First off, I don't cook. Sandwiches test my limit (how much mayonnaise?). Salads are possible (even I can run water over lettuce leaves and then tear them up). Meat is not on the table (I once tried to make a hamburger, and it was deemed so spectacularly inedible even by my very obliging son, that he left it untouched on his plate and never asked for one again).

Second, each of the birthday girls has a dealbreaker food proscription. One can't eat raw vegetables. The other can't eat garlic or beans. No biggy about the beans, but no garlic? Even I know it's not possible to cook without garlic.

Third, these friends plus the other invited guest are sophisticated foodies who have many, many times feted me with sumptuous feasts. So the level of discernment is high.

I feel like I've wandered onto the set of a reality show. And broadcast time is tomorrow at 6. I'm going to have to be really, really nice to Other for the next 36 hours.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Blame the victim

When I first got to New York, I met a young woman who had been raped four times within a single year. The first time, she said, her friends were sympathetic and supportive. The second time, they were aghast as well as sympathetic and supportive. The third time, they asked her whether she was dressed provocatively or was in the wrong place at the wrong time. In short, they blamed her. The fourth time, they simply didn't believe her. 

I'm beginning to feel that my family's endless litany of troubles is testing the sympathy and credulity of my friends and colleagues. But I swear, it's all true. 


This week my friend's father died, my son lost his job—on his birthday!—and my younger brother was diagnosed with colon cancer. What is going on here?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Infinity in all directions

My friend JB pointed out the other night that although we humans worry a lot about the infinity that follows our death, we are not at all concerned about the infinity that preceded our birth. 

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Is this going to jinx it?

Remember the way you felt when your child was first born, and it seemed like the purest, most innocent, most guileless creature on earth? And everything you did pleased it and made it break out in those toothless beatific smiles? And it was ecstatic just to see your face? And a little smugly,  you thought you had created this perfect being and wondered what other parents did wrong that ruined their children and turned them into such awful wretches?

And then as your child got older, it got naughtier and less thrilled with your every move and always seemed to be wanting something more? And you began to feel as if you'd botched it, but you couldn't figure out how. And eventually, by the time it was in its teens, it hated everything about you and was embarrassed to be seen with you. And even though you now knew that this was normal development, it made you feel like a failure. How could you have started with a being so perfect and happy and ended up with one so difficult and miserable? What on earth had you done?

All of that happened to me—twice. But the little miracle that occurred with my son a few years ago is now taking place with my daughter. She is becoming a beautiful, pure, cheerful, confident person. She is reverting to the delicious goodness of her infancy. I'm gradually beginning to trust her again, feel less wary of unpredictable moods, less prone to the worst kind of wee-hour terrors. It's as if she's been reborn—and maybe this time I won't fuck it up.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A weekend in the country

Sure, there was the dog drool, the obligatory tick walk, the oversweet scent of Skin-So-Soft (and the certain knowledge that it has never, ever deterred a single mosquito). But then there was the earthy smell of dirt after a rain, the psychedelic-green carpet of grass, the cadres of tree trunks marching as deep into the woods as the eye could see, the absolute silence and pitch darkness of the nights. And there was the pretty-darn-impressive county fireworks display—enjoyed while eating "fried dough" (these country folk call a spade a spade!)—and the sky-haute cuisine served a maison by our hosts D and J.