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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Full catastrophe living...

Those of you who are following me on facebook already know that I reached a new low this weekend. I crashed two times in two days on my bike. Needless to say, I'm feeling like a complete idiot. Not to mention that I'm sore, scraped up, bruised, etc., etc..... But it doesn't take much for me to realize that I need to quit whining.

All it takes for me is spending some time on facebook myself and reading about someone else's loss or trauma to put it all into perspective. A quick perusal of the newspaper's front page or just a phone call with a co-worker is really all it takes. I moderate the "Newbie" message board on the Young Survival Coalition website. That is the place where young women who are newly diagnosed, or waiting for their diagnosis go. They are scared, rocked to the core, and they are looking for a lifeline of hope, or a virtual shoulder to cry on, or just simple answers and advice. Some days it's pretty rough. I am always relieved if I or one of the other wonderful survivors who frequent the message boards are able to help with a supportive word, some helpful info, or just a listening ear.

So when I say I am constantly reminded of how lucky I am to be here, I really, REALLY mean it.
Crashing and shaving off a little skin is a joy if I choose to make it one. It means my heart is pumping, my body is working, I am alive.

More excitement and some might say treacherous adventure is going on at our house. My daughter is leaving for college in two weeks. I admit, I am dreading it. I am having an internal pity party. Of course all Moms love their kids and don't want them to leave. But I am keenly aware of how tight our bond is; how unique and special she is; how much I consider her in many ways my closest friend. I think this is because she is so like me. I have been struggling, trying to celebrate that I am alive to see this day come. I am astutely aware that when I was diagnosed I spent hours and days crying and praying that I would be here to watch my kids grow up. And here I am. This is something to celebrate! She is spreading her wings, and I know she will fly high! But the brain and the heart are not always in sync. In my mind I am celebrating and imagining all the adventures ahead. In my heart I am heavy and thinking of all the adventures past.

But it has occured to me just now...as suddenly as a light bulb being flicked on: all of this, the sadness, the self-pity, the excitement, the adoration, the breaking heart, and longing for more time....all of it is life. True life. I am comforted in the knowledge that I am living. Not surviving, not making it another day, not hanging on for dear life, but truly, deliciously, painfully, and without restraint living.

To me the hardest thing about living life to its full capacity is allowing your heart to break, allowing yourself to fail, experiencing sorrow and failure, and still being able to mend a broken heart and revel in the sunrise or the way the light filters through the trees, continuing to love again and to allow yourself to be loved. Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD is a scientist, author and teacher who educates us on learning to live in the moment. He is the father of the science of mindfulness-based stress reduction. One of his books is titled "Full Catastrophe Living". Long ago, I fell in love with the title. It embraces the idea that a full life is one that is a catastrophe; a cacophony of joy, sadness, exultation, fear, hope, loss, and gain.

I am proud to say that my life is a catastrophe. No matter how many times I crash and end up bruised and battered, I will still ride. I will never choose the flat, even course. I will take the route with threatening hills that break into life affirming downhill sprints. I will keep going and I will allow myself to experience it all. Because I want to live.

Okay people...it doesn't get stranger than this. After I was done writing, I searched for Dr. Zinn just to make sure I spelled his name right. Please visit his website here and see what he has to say. I am especially fond of his closing quote: "Even in the midst of darkness, there is this other element: of beauty, of symmetry, of the natural world." I have chills.

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