We were studying literature from the Brittanica encyclopedia.
It was an old Red Cross building. Old like I found newspapers from the ’40s when I went with the cleaning team.
It was our own school. Sometimes later I would call it Hogwartz because it wasn’t a normal school. It was very private. Like our own world.
But the Brittanica had now entered our world.
And now we were learning about Alexander Pope and John Donne and most importantly (to me) James Joyce.
I liked learning about them and their writing. I liked alliteration. But I loved the concept of stream-of-consciousness writing that I learned about in James Joyce’s Ulysses.
stream of con·scious·ness
noun: stream of consciousness; plural noun: streams of consciousness; modifier noun: stream-of-consciousness
a person’s thoughts and conscious reactions to events, perceived as a continuous flow. The term was introduced by William James in his Principles of Psychology (1890).
a literary style in which a character’s thoughts, feelings, and reactions are depicted in a continuous flow uninterrupted by objective description or conventional dialogue. James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and Marcel Proust are among its notable early exponents.
(Definition from Google)
I eagerly tried it, happy to start playing with the idea and making it my own.
Just a small problem. I didn’t feel I could write what I was thinking.
It bothered me that I didn’t want to write my thoughts. A lot.
One day I would. In the meantime, I’d write books in my head. If I got real good at understanding my consciousness and what compelled me, one day I could write my books in real life. I suppose publishing was a more accurate goal. I’d publish my thoughts from memory.
Because it’s all in there, right? Just a matter of accessing it. One day.
This mental writing of my personal journey was encouraged more by ideas like automatic writing. I saw that in the TV show Alias when an agent had information coded into her mind.
Virginia Woolf inspired me too. And other artists like photographer Diane Arbus. Araki was another one.
The magic in the mundane, the raw, honest depictions of fringe societies and activities.
Mostly I would forget about this idea. I’ve even created characters to oversee the work in my head. I’d think of it every now and then, usually when I needed to express something. Still, mostly I didn’t feel it was that compelling to bring to fruition.
But some intentions seem to come to life.
Twenty years later, like Anais Nin wrote…
…the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. – Anaïs Nin
I feel I’ve been bouncing around a lot in my writing (but maybe it’s just my mind!), and maybe some of you new to my story might be wondering what’s going on. (Sometimes I wonder too. :P)
So just a quick recap of where I’m at in life:
Recently cancer free – hoorah!
On May 8, 2015 I was diagnosed with breast cancer – invasive ductal carcinoma. Mother’s Day weekend. I stopped by the doctor’s office on my way to surprise my mom.
I had planned to do a personal training session and leave later in the afternoon. But I needed to get on the road and just be alone. I told anyone who called or needed to know that day.
And then. Josh Groban on loop. Feeling nothing. Crying. Driving from Nevada to California.
My next priority was to get on Medicaid. I had just come off because of my income level being too high. Thankfully, there is a breast and cervical cancer program and I worked with DWSS over the phone to expedite enrollment.
Decisions about treatment…
I come from a Christian, faith-based background. I have faith… in faith and love. I think that love can work anywhere, and that makes it incredibly intelligent and flexible.
Still, what did that mean practically for me when I made decisions about treatment.
I have had a rough few years and there were times I thought I would just get my soul right and pick some nutritional route in response to my cancer. I felt I had something I’m meant to accomplish here, whether I came up with it myself or it was destiny, I definitely felt I had unfinished business. So maybe just test that faith, I thought.
Worse case scenario, I would be wrong. Maybe business was finished and I just didn’t know.
Then I wondered, if I believe things like the sayings about how life is worth something if you bring a smile to someone or change someone’s life… by that, my life has been worthy.
What I mean is, I made peace with death. It was not the first time.
But I was not looking for death, as afraid as I sometimes was of living. There have been other times I stared death down. It didn’t seem it was my journey.
Peace with death was important to me because it gave me more energy to put towards healing.
I felt that the sickness was a gift as far as a chance to go inward and really heal all aspects of me that needed healing – besides the cancer.
I believe that the new person does not need the old disease. I heard this from Louise Hay and have seen this myself in smaller ways up till now. I intended to change whatever I could about myself that no longer served me. Sometimes I find it easier to change when other changes are going on. Full immersion. But there’s a method to the madness.
Not to get ahead of myself.
With so many emotions and thoughts, I tried things on for size for awhile, through the waves of feelings, to see what felt right.
Someone asked me about chemo. They assumed I would be starting. I wasn’t sure. My mom believed I had the power to heal naturally, but she supported me in whatever I believed. I didn’t think I wanted to do chemo, but surgery I was okay with. Lots of people refuse chemo. I liked my surgeon and her staff.
I listened to Louise Hay’s audio book on cancer. Bernie Siegel’s “Love, Medicine and Miracles” audio book. I started listening to Emperor of Maladies.
I started feeling if I could change my perspective on chemo maybe it would be okay – somehow it felt right for me. Bernie Siegel confirmed this for me when he talked about how patients who saw chemo or radiation as positive energy had better outcomes.
Part of my decision to go through with chemo had to do with the fact that I was determined to have a breakthrough in my life even before cancer came along.
I felt like cancer was saving my mind and my heart which both felt so broken. Thankfully, my body is pretty healthy – and I believed that my cancer came from stress and, as I joked, riotous living.
I made so many compromises in my life and at a certain point I was so depleted.
There is a quote from the classic, Dr Zhivago, which I love.
The great majority of us are required to live a life of constant, systematic duplicity. Your health is bound to be affected if, day after day, you say the opposite of what you feel, if you grovel before what you dislike and rejoice at what brings you nothing but misfortune. Our nervous system isn’t just a fiction, it’s a part of our physical body, and our soul exists in space and is inside us, like the teeth in our mouth. It can’t be forever violated with impunity.
Boris Pasternak (1890 – 1960)
Source: Doctor Zhivago
I felt that the things I had kept in and the ways I had not been true to myself challenged my nature on a cellular and energetic level.
I didn’t feel the answer was going to be just to change my diet or go on some solitary fast – I needed everything – I needed help from others too. I needed to rest my mind which had just been running almost continuously.
I needed to let other people take care of me.
It had been so important with the things I had been through (learned helplessness included) that I did things on my own, that I got back up after I had fallen. On my own.
But I knew I needed to take charge of my decisions and let other people who were not depleted, look after me. I believe the medical system is full of good people who want to help others and I focus on that. It was ok to let others look after me.
I also wanted a positive environment and the information available on alternative treatments has a lot of negativity in it sometimes, and I didn’t want to have to wade through that on my own.
And when I talked with my surgeon, she said “Why not do it all?” Yes! Inclusive, comprehensive, integrated solutions. Love this.
We talked about how I’d learn so much as a personal trainer going through breast cancer to help others. I was excited. Opportunities and a reason to focus on myself, but for others. It made it easier to look after myself.
Fast forward to now – March 29th, 2016. I am cancer free and the unfinished business I felt I had, is well underway.
Things are very different, of course. Because my cancer was HER2+ I was a good candidate for chemo and targeted treatment. I am still going through treatment, but the “red devil” portion of chemo is over. So is the bilateral mastectomy.
I have a great support team on the health side, compassionate and practical friends, upbeat family, and between everyone and the financial assistance for cancer survivors, I’m very grateful.
I’m planning on getting back to work soon – personal training will be different for a bit, but writing and consulting – and some new projects, because I’m coming’ back with the thunder! To paraphrase Leona Lewis.
My chest is tight these days – the right side feels like it’s burning right now, probably from
the typing. I get sparks on the back of my arm some time if I get tired – processing information like a one hour phone call today was tiring and then sparks flicking the back of my arm. I feel a lot stronger in my arms though and have good range of motion.
Learning my new pacing. Getting more dancing in … stretching the arms gently. Learning to rest in between activities.
Still taking selfies and writing on my phone when I’m tired. (I write on my phone a lot and have for years.) Connecting with the cancer community in new ways. Getting interested in dance therapy.
But first while I’m doing a lot of physical resting, I’m getting started on my story here for starters, which brings us back to transparency.
Transparency Tuesday because transparency is one of my values. I think in a world with so many cover-ups and hidden agendas and shadiness that it’s refreshing to be transparent. It’s a lot simpler too.
Or maybe I just like it because I’m a rebel.
Tata for now,
PS: My goal for this week (it’s already Tuesday) – an assignment from my life coach: to buy a juicer. A masticating one because it’s better for keeping the enzymes in the juice. The challenge? Buying it!
Let me know at miko hargett at gmail if you can help. In the meantime … I think I’m gonna write a juicy book about what I’ve learned about juicing, and other juicy things.
Alliteration continues for this week anyway – in my titles at least.
I keep thinking about how to write my story – and then I remember it’s not just a story but it’s stories, which makes it seem different somehow – and then I remember I’ve already written a lot of it.
Thursday is not the only thoughtful day. Pretty much any day is open to overthinking – until my mind gets tired, or unless it does.
But now I’m tired enough from all the treatments and the relaxation that came from being cancer free (and very very tired 😉 ) that I feel better and can think for longer without needing to have that “stare at the wall” healing time as often. It was really challenging in the beginning.
Sometimes being tired enough is a good thing.
The last time I experienced this poignantly, I flew inside a wind tunnel. It was October 2014. I went at a time when it was just me, so I got personal instruction. And not a lot of breaks! Indoor skydiving is a workout.
Finally when I was so tired, from trying to hug the air, my arms gave up. Finally, I could fly from my core.
That’s kind of what this feels like.
Sweet, sore freedom from tension. I can fly.
Now we can revisit “scary”.
Sometimes scary is thrilling.
I forget the book now, but it was about anxiety – I vaguely remember the cover, bright and cheerful I think. Anyway, in it the author talks about his mother overcoming anxiety by going into it. Not on purpose. She was on some type of outing with some elderly folks and I think there was some kind of car trouble and she had to step way outside her comfort zone and take charge – and that helped her. She didn’t even have the capacity to be anxious, because she had to focus.
Sometimes I like to put myself in that situation too.
Once I even googled if I had a fear fetish, because I didn’t know why I kept finding myself in these circumstances even while I tried to avoid them. Did I have some kind of fetish that I was conflicted about?
That googling session got interesting. It was kind of inconclusive, but I think the real evidence is always in life – what a person does and their patterns.
This applies to me too … definitely I like to go in to the challenge at some point and go in deep. But it’s important to be in the right condition.
As my therapist reminded me – and I continue to remind myself when this voice comes up in my head that I need to just “soldier on” – it’s important to also have a supply line. You don’t soldier on without proper resources, ideally, and not forever. And if you use up all your resources, you have to get more, so there’s pacing – and letting your beast out for a good run too now and then.
So I’ve learned as I still figure out my new self, what resources I need – we’ll see if I still, after all this, have a “fear fetish”, haha.
I do love excitement. And having been so fearful for much of my life, there is a certain comforting familiarity with newness – it’s a challenge.
But resting and relaxing is important.
Nowadays that’s my focus. I know what I want to keep moving forward on, but I also know – and can feel now, like many people said – that I’m super duper tired, lol.
But this tiredness is awesome because maybe now my mind will slow down, I’ll just relax into things, and actually tell the stories, scary or not. Like I’m doing now, meandering if I need to – because my focus is on showing up wholeheartedly, being authentic, transparent, getting through, and then paying it forward.
Some things are scarier than scary stories sometimes – like publishing them. Haha.
Even writing them. I felt like the things that I wanted to write mostly about were maybe too scary.
For awhile I couldn’t stand the word “too”. When I heard I was “too” this or “too” that, even when it was from a kind place with good intentions – or at least I believed it was – I would just flip out inside when I heard that.
“You’re too deep.”
I would be stunned momentarily and then … must find my safe place.
When you’re consumed with triggers like that, it’s the scariest of all to me. It’s like being in a land mine (figuratively obviously) where you never know how you’re going to feel and if the nervous system is going to be able to take it.
I thought once for sure I could handle anything with just enough grit. I was right, but it’s a lot easier with heart and with help.
Fear takes a lot of energy though. I thought I knew fear, the kind I could push through – but then I got to know gripping fear.
And shame. That heavy musty cloak. Tons of energy gets trapped with that.
But I think the thing I was afraid of most was anger – or the cocktail that anger and fear and shame could make, seductively empowering, insidious, tricky, deceptive. Anger makes you feel invincible sometimes, the clarity of that feeling. It’s very hard to just sit in it.
I was afraid of anger because I was afraid of harming someone and feeling the pain of not only intentionally harming them, but suffering with them while I felt what I had done – as I should, I felt.
I set the bar so high for myself in some things, that I was in defiance almost at times, of my humanity. I was afraid of revisiting the pain I felt, but I knew if I did it a certain way it would be healthy – and it wasn’t revisiting it to dwell on it that was the goal, but as my loving ritual of releasing it.
Still, sometimes it felt like dwelling. Standing at the bottom of this high standard I had for myself, was how I saw it. Trapped by perfection, supposedly, but then I realized it wasn’t perfection I was trapped by.
Perfection is completion – and I am complete.
I wasn’t trapped by my completeness. I was trapped by the feeling of inadequacy, by my own conditioning to behave a certain way, to think a certain way – because the things we think become the things we do after time – and when you add intensity, the game changes.
I was trapped because I felt trapped, because the things I thought and heard and read, pointed to my inadequacy and it stung. It stung. I followed the threads of those moments deep into my body, into my soul, and recognized fear and anger.
I was not okay with any more conflict. I had so much inner conflict I didn’t know where to begin to sort it out.
Isn’t this the place where people find religion? What if you already have strong beliefs? I didn’t feel like questioning anything.
I just felt like I could hardly breathe, but I looked in the mirror and I could fog it up. I was breathing.
I felt weak but I could do a handstand against the wall. Blood to my brain. Much better. Hold it till it hurts and then hold it some more. Something to shift that feeling of suffocating when I wasn’t actually suffocating.
Suck it up buttercup, I remembered hearing – and I wanted to. But I felt I was unraveling much faster than I could suck it up, and my biggest fear was what I was going to do when I couldn’t contain myself anymore.
When unraveling like that, I felt the best thing to do was give into it.
Big breath. Mind’s eye. Go in.
I knew I was going to die a few times, in very unusual ways, before I would become more alive than ever.
Still, most of the time I was worried about how. And then worrying would feel good, peaceful. Peaceful felt frightening. It was all upside down and backwards.
“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible in us be found.”