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Step by Step

I’m tired.

I’ve been writing this blog in my head all week.  I just can’t seem to find a theme I can stick with for more than a paragraph or two.  Or, if I’m honest with myself, a sentence or two.

Cynthia Wallin in Memoriam

Regular readers will know a friend of mine passed away and her memorial service was this last weekend.  I’m in the second or third tier of mourners.  Tier one – the decision makers and those truly being overwhelmed with waves of grief.  Tier two – the organizers.  The ones asking the decision makers what they want and striving to make it happen.  The people whose grief makes them prickly, rude, short-tempered, unclear and perfectly sure they have everything in line because keeping things in line is how they cope.  Tier three – the support system for the first two tiers.  The listeners.  The worker bees.  The one’s who are distant enough to put off their mourning until it’s convenient (at least a little more effectively).

I helped prep and man the buffet table. Yes, I have trays… and coolers.

Having the memorial made it real.  That’s part of the point of course.  Being gifted some mementos makes it real and personal (which it has always been, but denial is so convenient).  Having nothing left to “get done” means there is no longer an excuse to put off the emotional response.

Cancer Sucks

I’m sure the death certificate doesn’t say my friend died of cancer.  But it is certainly the undiagnosed and untreated cancer that caused the heart failure.

I’m grateful my friend didn’t die alone at home, but had people around her who cared about her.

I’m grateful my friend went quickly, all at once, rather than having to slowly and painfully waste away.

I’m grateful her very elderly mother dared to get on a plane and put herself in the hands of a community of her daughter’s friends whom she had never met.

I’m grateful for the presence of people who spoke about areas of my friend’s life that I wasn’t privy to.

One of the many, many things Cynthia made by hand were candles. We all took some home to burn in her honor.

I’m angry that a cancer that large and impactful goes undiagnosed for so long.  I’m angry that the complaints of a large woman (both exceptionally tall and not willowy) are dismissed by our medical community as always being about weight.  I’m upset that no matter how good the insurance you’ve got, unless you know what to ask for medicine is practiced according to the insurance company guidelines rather than actual medical need.

I had breakfast today at Gilda’s Club.  It’s a sort of monthly social event.  At Gilda’s I am surrounded by people living with cancer, many of whom know they have no hope of a cure.  I am always buoyed up by the spirit of care and acceptance.  I am reminded that there is pain and sorrow, but also hope and joy.

I met Gayle at Gilda’s Club about 4 years ago. She continues to smile through her cancer journey.

I’m putting one foot in front of the other.  Step by step.

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Darkness

It’s not been a “holly jolly” kind of year.  In this season, the struggle to maintain without being overwhelmed can be particularly difficult.  Some of it is of course the darkness.  For those of us who live in more extreme latitudes the difference in the length of days between midsummer and midwinter is considerable.

North of the Arctic circle (or South for the Antarctic) We have the land of the midnight sun.  At the summer solstice the sun never sets.  That means at winter solstice it never rises.  Think about that for a minute.  A day where the sun doesn’t rise.  It’s kind of creepy.

Even a little bit of color helps

I will tell you truthfully that even here on the 45th parallel there are winter days when it’s so dark and overcast it feels as though there is no sun.  The snow helps.  It reflects what little light there is and bounces it so things seem brighter.  The holiday lights help.  They add not only brightness but a little color to the black and white photo landscape.

The darkness can also be emotional.  Birthdays during the season that get “lumped in” with everyone else’s celebrations can be great.  They can also build a lifetime of resentment.  A death during the season can bring people together.  It can also be a wound that gets reopened every year.  Being overwhelmed with Christmas Cheer, especially when that’s not part of your religion, can be an opportunity or an oppression.

Then there is the demand.  There is a huge demand on time, both socially and for many people, because of year end, on the job.  If you work in retail or in the food industry you can wave goodby to days off for awhile.  There is a demand on the pocketbook.  All that socializing costs, as do the expected gifts.  When the bills are already scary this time of year can be devastating.  Despite all the seasonal sales, somehow it seems that expenses still go up and up.

Even thinking about a fire seems like a lot of work.

I lean heavily on just do it.  Daily Practice becomes focused on small nitty gritty things.  Cleaning up the kitchen before I go to bed is not always easy, but better to do it than not.  Making my bed in the morning when I get up (even if I might want to go back) makes it less likely that I will go back.  Even paying the bills is better than the alternative.

So I put my head down and write the blog, clean the kitchen, make the bed.  I make the phone calls and appointments.  I meet the obligations and shop the sales with an eye on my budget.  I put in a few extra hours where I can hoping for some extra padding on the weekly income.  I wait in eager anticipation of the Solstice.  Because after the longest night each day has a little more light.

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