Saturday, January 30, 2016

What Dreams May Come.

What dreams may come.
I have always had a rather overactive subconscious.  My dreams are vivid and complex experiences - set to music or even spoken in foreign languages that slip away the moment consciousness creeps back in.  But they took a decidedly sinister turn in the days when poison and fear laced through my veins.  Soon I came to dread the sleep I so desperately needed.

I began recording my dreams at the suggestion of my therapist - though saying the words out loud would often induce great heaving sobs which would continue the rest of our scheduled session.  Reading these accounts years later, I cannot fathom how I managed to find the strength to continue through treatment.  The only explanation is I knew no other way.

Day 2 post chemo: The wasps plagued me through the night once again.  Heaving bodies crawling across vulnerable flesh.  Never stinging but ever present.  They are an oddly morbid presence with often gruesome attributes - some with wings ripped from their bodies.  And crawling.  Always crawling.

Week 3 post chemo:  I dreamt I found a small duck with a broken neck covered in oily sludge.  I cared for it, gingerly bringing it down to the river to swim.  The weight of its flaccid head dragged it under over and over again, in effect drowning it with the cure.  I refused to give up, could not let it go, yet could not bring myself to kill it.  I kept holding out hope that its neck would heal if only I could let it swim in the water.

I awoke and knew it would die.

At the time I was going through treatment I  would have never dared to talk about the dreams that held me hostage each night and exposed this inner angst.  While still so close to the fire it felt a dangerous invitation to give these fears a name - and it was clear my subconscious was not as sure footed as I liked to believe I appeared.

I share this with you now because I recently began journaling my dreams once again, as I've found  when I record the messages from my subconscious I am somehow able to be free of them.  And thankfully, the terrors which once held me captive have been replaced by much more comforting
Little boy, big dreams.

January 2016:  I dreamt I was pregnant with a baby girl.  She lay still within my body but I knew she was merely resting.  Then I felt her jointed movement stir.  I looked down to check on her and my skin became translucent - lit from within.  There she was - a tiny perfect beauty swimming in a saline sea, eyes closed in restful waiting, dark hair swirling all around.

She is content to wait until her time.  There is no rush to this process.  It is nearly time to be born.


It is no secret our family endured some trying times over the last few years.  But while I wish our steel-y backbones were not forged through such intense flame, I am endlessly proud of how far we have come - and the way we have chosen to mark our path.  This is, in no small part, due to being born to a family deeply rooted in reinvention and the importance of togetherness.

And so, on one of the first snowy evenings in January, our family (complete with my lovely new
Little by little, one travels far.  - J.R.R. Tolkien
sister-in-law) decided to build a new tradition - a tradition of hope.  Armed with our dreams and a cocktail or two, we set off into the frosty orchard which envelopes my childhood home.  Here we lit Japanese lanterns, along with our wishes for the new year until they filled the air and probably confused the neighbors.

And though it was a little dicey until we got the hang of lighting the tissue paper and twine contraptions, I am happy to report not a single hope or dream went up in a flaming ball of fire that night.

All things considered, we took that as a win.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Carpe Diem

If ever there was a time to panic, it would probably be now.

With less than two months to go before embarking on the trip of a lifetime, I have yet to determine accommodations for a third of my stay in India.  I also have not figured out how I will make my way from city to city, in a foreign land where I do not speak the language.  To make matters worse, in India, meeting even basic needs will be at best unfamiliar and at worst, downright hostile.  As a result I've become completely fixated on avoiding "Delhi Belly" (the cutesy nickname for the not so cute gastrointestinal disorders afflicting anyone unlucky enough to drink the water in New Dehli) and use an Indian bathroom (or what I refer to as the original "squatty potty") without managing to get myself into a - literally- crappy situation.

There are vaccines to receive, visas to obtain and a particularly rousing game of "life" whack-a-mole to play as I attempt to stabilize the rest of my world long enough to discover my place in it once again.

To put it lightly, I'm in over my head.

But thankfully, I also happen to know the value of allowing a story to unfold- in both the literal and figurative sense.

In the medical world we don't often discuss how little control we have over the outcomes of the people we devote our careers to helping.  We create endless lists of codes to categorize and make sense of each diagnosis as though naming an ailment will somehow give us power against it.  Yet for all the knowledge we compile, we fall down the rabbit hole of misdiagnosis with patients more often than not.  And anyone who has spent much time behind hospital doors will tell you - this is far from a perfect science.  In fact, though we rarely admit to this, the very best the medical world can possibly provide for a patient is simply the provision of optimal conditions so that the body may heal itself.  

And just when you think you have it all figured out, a patient will prove you wrong and survive insurmountable odds or succumb with the odds in their favor.  The challenge, for those who devote their lives to the medical field, is not in being able to control every outcome - but rather to acknowledge that we cannot.

In medicine - and in life - sometimes the very best way to care for someone is to allow them to heal themselves.  It is there, in the space you hold for them that their story is able to unfold - whether or not it is in the direction you believed it would go.


It's been said every journey has three legs - the trip you plan, the trip you take and the trip you remember.  The trick is making sure these never overlap.  So as I continue to work out the details of the first leg of my journey to India, I will leave you with memories of another.

Two years ago in November, my lovely parents surprised our family with a trip to San Diego where we rented a house on the beach and soaked up the sun with the ones we love best.  It was a blissful reprieve from the demands of the of the world and we loved every minute of it (except the traffic - that we could do without).  The respite would prove to be even more poignant when soon after this my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and we were faced with dark fears once again.

But this - this is what I remember of those precious stolen days between the sand and sea.  And because it's looking pretty January out my window right now, I thought you might enjoy reminiscing  along with me.  Enjoy.

Big Blue.

Good Morning Encinitas!

You will find me where the sand meets the sea.
The Locals.
Catching up on Vitamin D.

Sweet yoga moves with J & B.

The winter sunsets were unlike anything I've ever seen.
These photos are completely untouched.  No filter needed.

The cure for anything is salt water - sweat, tears or the ocean.
~Isak Dinesen