Monday, June 15, 2009

On a much lighter note!

This email says it all. When dealing with hardship, one can always find the lighter side. It may take some effort, but it is always there.

Subject: On a much lighter note
Date: February 21, 2008

It is a brilliant Thursday (February 21, 2008) afternoon in eastern Washington, with the temperature hovering around 40 degrees. The snow is sparkling, the air is crisp and the sun is warm. I can smell Spring and my daffodils have sprouted scouting the friendliness of the weather. My spirits are lighter than they have been for quite some time and as important as it is to share with you the intensity of this process and its seriousness, it is equally as important to share with you the joy, the happiness and the light.

Aria has been having a GREAT two days. Yesterday was her best day by far. She was cheerful, and playful. She had enough energy to walk up 2 flights of stairs and play with Reo in our playroom. She hasn’t done this in a month and I was euphoric! Her appetite remains hearty and her cravings are tapering off and changing slightly. She’s off the noodles, bread and butter and onto hotdogs! All I have to say to that is, “ugh!!” There it is. Today, she is having another super day. She is feeling well with no complaints of her tummy, no fatigue, no malaise and just a general contentedness that I haven’t seen in some time. It is so reassuring. I am thoroughly enjoying it because I know that tomorrow everything will change again. We face the beginning of Consolidation and all that that brings. It is in plain view and difficult to ignore but it helps to see it as a bridge that I am slowly spending the day walking toward. There is no hurry to reach this bridge, nor am I in any hurry to cross it. It is simply there, solid, well worn and waiting for us. I know that tomorrow we will be upon its threshold and we will take our first steps. However, that is tomorrow, so for now I am going to savor the sweetness of today.

To change the subject almost entirely, a few weeks ago it struck me that the music I have chosen to play over and over and over again in my car is somewhat unlike me. I rarely play music in the house, preferring to listen to my own voice babbling in my head! Seriously, silence is something I enjoy a great deal and with 3 children it is a precious commodity. However, I do enjoy music in the car. I find instrumental music very soothing and calming and it is what I play most of the time when I am creatively inclined. Given our current circumstance it would seem very fitting to pull out this kind of music now but I can’t seem to stomach it. It is so odd. What I’ve been playing repeatedly for weeks isn’t heavenly harp music or dulcimers or flutes, but the raw gritty music of The Black Crowes and their “Shake your Money Maker” album; specifically the song “Hard to Handle”. I’ve been thinking of the obvious question, “why this song?” and the answer that comes to me makes me laugh. The song is, as I said, gritty and it is sexual and a little naughty. That’s the key word here. Naughty. I’ve come to realize that this song appeals to my naughty side, which has to be exercised once in awhile to balance out my nice side! Aria’s cancer has thrown me around, knocked me out and shaken me batty! I have sensed myself as a pressure cooker at times and this song for whatever reason releases some of that pressure so much so that I almost hiss. The beat of the song makes me want to run and the only reason that I can ever imagine myself running is if someone is chasing me. But this song adds some fire and spice to my wilted spirit. It ‘revs’ me up and reminds me that I am alive.

Being naughty does the very same thing and I think it is an important quality to explore. It is a full spectrum quality and individually defined to be sure. For me, being naughty is perfectly characterized in the beautiful porter (beer) I drank with my lunch this afternoon. It was a completely decadent thing to do and I loved every single drop. I understand that one beer doesn’t allow me to swim with the big fish and their martini lunches and I recognize that by their standards I’m but a guppy stuck in a bucket. However, to my standards of nice and naughty, it was a nice-naughty thing to do! To further the trend, I regularly indulge my naughty side by eating sweets! Oh, heaven, I could eat sweets breakfast, lunch and dinner and sometimes I do. Naughty me! I’m not talking about faux sweets either. I’m talking about the really good naughty stuff. The kind of chocolate or ice cream that after you’ve eaten it, you need to drink a great big glass of water. Yessirree, indulgence galore!

I know this sounds ridiculous to describe but I believe it is such an important piece to understanding how I cope the way I do, how I process as I do, how I adapt, and how I attempt to be flexible. I have to remind myself that just a little more than a month ago, I had so little pleasure in life because of what was happening to Aria. It took monumental strength just to smile let alone find the sincerity to do so. It has taken every single moment of this past month to get to this lighter place where I’m indulging my other senses while putting sadness and worry slightly aside. They are still there and I’m learning to befriend them but I’m now allowing a few harmless quirky desires to caress my spirit too. I believe it will help me feel balanced when so much of what is happening is so grossly off- scale. The need for balance is so obvious sometimes and I wonder as an adult how it has become such a struggle to maintain. I see it all around me; light and dark, day and night, rain and sun, heaven and hell, life and death, white and black and so forth. I am a creature that survives not at either extreme but somewhere in the murky middle. It is balance in virtually everything that I seek and this includes that side of me that follows the rules and plays nice-nice and that side of me that enjoys the thrill of naughtiness.

Last night, I saw the most incredible lunar eclipse. It was so beautiful and we were all watching it very closely. As the earth’s shadow covered the entire moon, Doc encouraged me to head outside and see it through his binoculars. I am so glad I took him up on it because the color of the moon was so unusual and not something I could fully appreciate looking through the living room window. The moon had a foggy orange-red tint that was dull, which was surprising in some ways. The starry display was equally breathtaking and I found myself staring upward as I have not done in a long, long time. I was standing at the end of our driveway just slightly in the road when I noticed that the fog was beginning to settle. It was a low-lying vapor like an apron to all the pine trees in the surrounding pasture. It was still and quiet. I took a deep breath and the air was chilly but fresh. Suddenly, I was completely overwhelmed by a crazy naughty urge. Right then and there guessed it.....I mooned the moon!

Here’s celebrating the goodness of what’s nice and of what’s naughty!

A conversation with Aria

Aria was beginning to emerge from the steroid cocoon she had sheltered in for more than month. It was marvelous to see her again, to hear her humor and to witness how she was coming to terms with everything that had already happened to her. I’m in awe of this child.

Date: February 20, 2008
Subject: A conversation with Aria

Despite a few ups and downs in the last few days, Aria is really beginning to emerge once again. Yesterday, she laughed for the first time since around Christmas. It was a hearty belly laugh too, which is music to my ears. She’s also started telling stories again. They go something like this; “Hey, mom, one aunt and my uncle will take me to the beach for a picnic and I will say, ‘Bye Mama, I’ll see you tonight!’ Then you will say, ‘Oh, Aria, I will miss you!’ Then I will say, ‘It’s alright Mama don’t be sad, I’ll see you tomorrow.’ Then you will say, ‘yeah, I feel happy again!’ Then, I will say, ‘That’s great!’ “ This is spoken as if its a run-on sentence and almost in a single breath. Makes me smile to just think about it!

This morning Aria and Reo had a conversation on the way to school that just made my day. Aria isn’t attending school but Reo is so we were dropping him off. By the way, Aria hasn’t yet expressed any interest in going back to school. I suppose when she starts talking about it again, we’ll consider it. Right now, it isn’t even an option for another few months. She may go for the last week or 2 of school for a morning or 2 and that’s it. We’ll see. It seems like a long way away...

So we’re driving along in some really dense fog when Aria says, “This ‘frog’ sure is blocking the sun! Hey, when the sun comes out it will melt the snow. Then it will be Spring! Then it will be summer and we can open the pool! Hey, guess what? I won’t need my lifejacket anymore, cause I’m a big girl now!”

Reo says under his breath, “You sure are, Aria.”

I then add, “Hey, Aria do you want to know something funny?”

“Yeah, what!” she replies.

I tell her, “You know how in the summer we have to use sunscreen so we don’t get a sunburn? Well, you’re going to have to have some sunscreen on your head because you won’t have any hair! Isn’t that amazing!”


I’m thinking, “Holy crap, someone’s got his undies in a wad! What is the big deal here! I realize that its ‘Mr. everything-has-to-be-as- predictable-as-possible’ so sunscreen on the head is just way too weird!” I took a deep breath because what I wanted to say was something like, “Gee Whiz Reo, what’s your problem?! I wasn’t even talking to you, so just zip it!” I know better than to add fuel to the fire, so I breathed again and very calmly said, “Reo, honey, what I said was that since Aria’s hair is falling out, she will have to use sunscreen on her head or she’ll have to wear a hat. Is your hair falling out?”

Very quietly he says, “No.”

“Do you take medicine for your ‘sissles’ (this is what Aria calls her leukemia..that’s another story) that makes your hair fall out?” I ask.

“No.” he replies with resignation.

Aria chimes in, “Yeah, Reo, you do not have sissles. I have sissles, so my hair is gonna all come out!..pause…Hey Reo, you do not have diarrhea in your butt!”

Reo says in all seriousness, “I sure don’t, Aria.”

At this point I’m laughing so hard but I have to suppress it a little, actually a lot, because Aria is being so serious and straightforward. This is the first glimpse I’ve had of her process and what a doozie!

Aria is coming back and life is that much happier for us all!

Aria and Hair Loss

Hair Loss and baldness is like a name-tag that shouts, “I HAVE CANCER!” It is a visual reminder of just how sick people are when they endure this kind of treatment. It is also yet another thing one must let go and I think for many, this is very challenging. I didn’t know it at the time, but hair loss was going to be the least of my concerns. People were trying to prepare me for it but it always seemed rather dismissive and flippant. At the time, it was almost the only thing I completely understood and it was so hard to accept. Imagining Aria bald meant that I had to accept her cancer and I did but only on a superficial level. Hair loss meant that I would have to go deeper and I hated that. Hair loss meant that the world would know about Aria and that she had cancer. It meant that I would have to face their fears and learn how to reassure them as well as I was reassuring myself. It was a scary and daunting new phase that I had to face and embrace fully. I was about to become Aria’s number 1 advocate, an educator about leukemia from a mother’s perspective and a support resource for those who fear this as their own fate. I knew that the more accepting I was, the more accepting everyone else would be as well. Aria was my focus and making sure she was ok about the process she was about to endure was all I could think about.

This email liberated me from the illusion that hair loss was a bad thing. It simply is part of this process and is neither good nor bad. It is another simple example of ‘what is.’

Subject: Aria and hair loss
Date: Tue, 19 Feb 2008

As you all know Aria losing her hair has been an unfortunately difficult reality to reconcile. I have fully accepted it and I have finally found some peace. I realized just yesterday, Sunday February 17, 2008 that the thing that was missing in terms of the process of her hair falling out was ‘beauty.’ All the descriptions I had heard seemed a little harsh, despite their truth. I kept imagining vast wastelands with “clumps” of grass or “tufts” of weeds or “itchy” prickly plants and so forth. There was nothing beautiful in what I saw or in how the process was described and I was conflicted by that because Aria is so beautiful and the process we’ve been experiencing hasn’t been harsh at all. Nothing seemed to fit, until yesterday.

I’ve noticed that I can see much more of Aria’s scalp now and the texture of her hair is different. It is coarse and dry. Her hair is not patchy but there is a definite thinning going on. I have not noticed large amounts of hair on her pillowcases or on the places where she sits. I have noticed some hair on her pajamas and on her car seat but that’s it. I haven’t seen any hair flying around as we carry her or as she takes a few steps. I have noticed some hair in the comb but it is not dramatic. In fact, it seems like the downy softer hair that lies closer to the scalp is what is coming out first. I wonder if that’s the thinning process where finer hair near the scalp falls out first and then the more developed hair, falls out later. Overall, it has been an incredibly gentle process.

I was driving to Luna’s yesterday to get some more bread and I was thinking about an image. I needed an image, a metaphor, to describe what it has felt like because the wasteland imagery just was not working for me. I was driving down a road that is heavily wooded when it hit me.

Think for a moment about a live Christmas tree. Think about all the needles on the Christmas tree and imagine that tree at the end of the holiday when you are taking off the ornaments. So often, as the ornaments are removed you may notice some needles falling but it isn’t until you look at the floor that you realize just how many needles have come down. Occasionally a few needles land on your sleeves or your hands but it is always silent and gentle. It is also a glaring reminder that the tree has died and its loss of needles is simply part of that process. After all the ornaments and lights have been removed it is interesting to take a few steps back and look closely at the tree. I have always found that the tree itself is still very much intact but I can see the trunk a little more distinctly. I can also see the smaller twig-like knobby branches that are on the larger branches closer to the trunk more clearly. But the tree and its beauty and magic are still very much there.
This is Aria. Right now, she is my Christmas tree. She is full of magic, gifts, beauty, splendor, twinkle and joy. Her hair and the cells that create and hold her hair are, however, slowly dying. She remains, however, just as she’s always been; solid, grounded, continually growing and majestic. To imagine Aria, my Christmas tree, in a forest of her peers is the beauty I so desperately sought after spending so much time alone in a wasteland.

Back in time.....The nitty-gritty of Aria final chapter..

This email basically documents the end of Phase 1 called INDUCTION.

There are many, many opportunities to interact with all kinds of people. Not all of these interactions go very well. In the world of serious illness for example, people are stressed, information is lacking, and sleep deprivation sets in, among a host of other emotional deterrents. This state of mind and being isn’t conducive for healthy interactions and I’ve discovered that it is under these circumstances that I tend to fall prey to the desire of blaming others. It is taxing to be this broken and have to constantly examine my thoughts and reactions, but this is must. It is the only way to heal and to strengthen the soul and this is what will see you through anything.

I’ve been reading the words of mystics, and healers and gurus and religious leaders for years and years and I have been putting their words into practice on a somewhat small scale. This experience has accelerated that practice for me in many ways and I suppose in some perverted way, I’m grateful for it. I’ve read over and over how we cannot blame others for our reactions and emotions. I’ve read how we must look deeply and examine ourselves but I’ve not encountered the step-by-step insight on how to do that exactly. Everyone is different in terms of how they process so there is no formula to follow but the email I wrote I think shows one example of how that process can happen.

As I read it again I realize that what I had written was a complete interaction. Someone said something that rubbed me the wrong way. My emotional triggers were activated and I was consumed with negativity. I arrested that downward spiral almost immediately and began a thorough investigation and dissection of myself. In the end I came up with a marvelous solution, one that I had never shared with anyone before. However, it is one that does the trick every single time!

Subject: the nitty-gritty of Aria (final chapter)
Date: Mon, 18 Feb 2008

It is Monday Morning President’s Day February 18, 2008. It is a foggy frosty morning. There is a stillness in the air that I like very much. This kind of morning is not unique this time of year and I always find myself lighting candles, writing letters, drinking coffee and spending time with my thoughts. I’ve come to realize just recently that I spend a great deal of time in my head as I’m sure most of us do. I find myself carried away with my thoughts while I’m folding laundry, ironing, vacuuming, washing dishes and so forth. Sometimes I am very present to my particular task and this is due entirely to the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh. He offers terrific lessons about being present to the moment. For instance, he suggests that when you are washing dishes, think of nothing but washing the dishes. It is peculiar exercise to stand next to a sink washing a cup and think only of that cup and the process cleaning it requires. I find myself thinking about
water and I become mindful about whether or not I’m wasting it. I think about the soap I use and become mindful of whether or not it is polluting. I think about the cup itself and try to be mindful of its origin and maker. He stresses that one must force their mind in a gentle way, of course, to stop thinking about what needs to be done next and then after that and after that and so on and so forth. Being
present to the moment is being called to exercise mindfulness and mindfulness is the key to peace. I believe this with every fiber of my being, which is why I spend so much time in my head. I’m discovering that my interactions with others give me the greatest opportunities for mindfulness and those interactions that ruffle my feathers are the ones with the most profound lessons. I’ve had all sorts of new interactions lately so I’ve had all sorts of new opportunities to dissect my reaction, my participation, and my responsibility in those conversations that created emotions in me that were difficult. I’m amazed at what I’m learning and these reminders of mindfulness have become extremely handy when dealing with people and managing my stress.

Friday February 15, 2008 was our last day of treatment in the first phase called “induction”. If all of her tests come back as they are expected to and there are no surprises then we head into phase 2 of treatment called “Consolidation”. We don’t know much about this phase, yet. We don’t have our treatment plans or any of the new medications and so forth. We will learn all of that on Friday February 22, 2008. We are awaiting her test results from the past 2 Fridays to determine what kind of treatment we’ll be getting which is based on her level of ‘risk.’ So far, she is a standard risk case and the path for treatment is well worn and well lit. I feel very confident in the direction we are headed.

Friday morning was challenging because Aria couldn’t eat since she was having her 5th spinal tap and 4th bone marrow biopsy. I took Reo to school and was able to update everyone there. I hadn’t been back in the school for a couple of weeks so it was nice to get in touch. When I arrived home, Doc was prepping Aria for her day. She was completely withdrawn and sad. There was no spark to her whatsoever. They took off for the hospital around 10 am and I puttered around making a picnic lunch and so forth. Shortly afterward, I picked up Reo and we went on a special mission. Reo got some money and wanted to buy a new movie, so we went to a bookstore and scored a special new movie for him and for Aria. I had talked to Aria on the phone and told her that I was going to buy her a new pony movie and she was thrilled. Her voice definitely had some life to it and that was music to my ears! Reo and I arrived at the clinic around noon. It was quiet in the playroom, which I was told had been a complete zoo about an hour earlier. Aria was in Doc’s arms with her head buried in his chest. She was a little restless and looked exactly like a droopy bassett hound. Poor thing seemed just miserable.

Her procedure was schedule at 12 45. One of the child life specialists we have fallen madly in love with came in and told me about what happened while Aria was being accessed. (that’s when her port is connected to the tubes where they draw blood and where she receives medication) She told me that as usual her blood draw was sluggish until Aria was allowed to strum her guitar and then the blood flowed nicely. Interestingly, the minute Aria stops strumming the guitar the blood stops flowing. It is a curious positional thing and it happens every single time. She also told me that when they drew Aria’s blood, the color of the blood was a cotton candy pink color and kind of frothy! OK, this is where I start feeling a little wozy! Pink blood and frothy? This isn’t sounding good at all and I’m starting to feel that ol’ beach towel stomach friend of mine happening all over again! I glanced immediately over at Doc, who did not look very reassuring. I didn’t get any, “yeah, weird but it happens when such and such happens etc..” Nope, I got shoulder shrugs and twitchy mouths and perplexed eye gazes. This was not good for my stomach! I was also starting to get a headache. Stress is such an incredible full body experience. My stomach was writhing, my head was aching, and the air seemed oddly un-breathable, as if trying to get air with a sheet over my head. I was thirsty but couldn’t stomach anything to drink and my heart was racing. Pink blood?! What is going on???

Aria’s blood work came back with mixed results. Her white blood cell count was normal, which is awesome. Her hematocrit was 21, which is still wickedly anemic but she’s still holding her own. Her lipids, however, were 100 times normal. That’s right 100 times normal. So this means that her body was so saturated with fat that it couldn’t absorb any more so it remained in her blood! This is definitely a side effect of the steroid, but her diet of noodles, bread and butter, junk food and rich yogurts definitely played a role also. I was in red alert listening to all of this. I was preparing myself for a hospital stay and so forth. I was just hyper-scared and yet Doc and her doctors were completely calm. I kept hearing myself say in my head, “Pink blood! HELLO??!” Aria was placed on a med to reduce the lipid count pronto and they fully expected there to be no problems whatsoever. That was that. I tell you, these doctors, this modern medicine...I am in awe. It is just amazing to me that these people have the brain capacity to understand and what they do. You know, I feel pretty darn good understanding what a hematocrit means, even though I can’t picture what a red blood cell actually looks like, nor can I wrap my head around the idea of millions and millions of them circulating around in my body and never mind me trying to fully comprehend what a liter of blood actually looks like. No thanks! A little tube of blood is about all my little fragile tummy can take these days and I’m pretty darn sure that I want to see it a dark reddish color not some pretend lipstick color!

I was sitting in the playroom feeling proud of myself, thinking of all that I had learned in just this past month. I superficially understand the lingo and how things are pieced together. Yeah, I was sitting pretty with myself, until..until Doc and one of the oncologists began consulting about what things actually mean and what the next week will look like for us. Suddenly I pictured myself sitting in a saddle on some sturdy horse surveying the situation feeling mighty fine but then out of nowhere I was underneath the horse, upside down, still in my saddle with my hair gently raking the ground with only my ridiculous pride for company. It was an awesome moment to turn my attention to Doc. He and this other physician were engaged in ‘med-speak’ and I was captivated considering all they know and aren’t even discussing. Their ability to speak on the molecular level about the body and know in 3D fashion how one thing connects to another and another and another is just beyond my comprehension. It was a humbling moment to listen to them converse and be able to pinpoint a word here and there that I understood and know with complete confidence just how much I don’t understand. The expertise these people have is truly beyond my wildest imagination and in that moment my respect for Doc and this oncologist rose exponentially. I was flooded with a sense of trust that I hope I have earned with my own children. That trust that no matter what, someone is looking after me and in this case, that someone is a medical team looking after one of my most cherished gifts!

Aria’s procedure was absolutely fine. She required a lot more anesthesia than normal, which according to Doc had everyone looking around at one another but she handled it fine. When Doc was describing even that scenario, I was in awe. I would have been sensing the question, the concern, the “what the hell is going on with all the extra anesthesia for this kid?” energy and I would have been sweating and panicky! I know I would have been breathing deeply to prevent myself from passing out. I feel light-headed just thinking about it! I am so glad that I am not a part of that scene yet. I just don’t have the stamina for it. Doc, on the other hand, does and it is so reassuring having him there! Aria senses this, I believe, which is why she seeks him for security. This is teamwork in action!

All was well and Aria was so thrilled to be done. We were in the lobby area scheduling appointments for the next 3 weeks when I asked one of the oncologists if we had a copy of her lab work yet for our records. She got it for me and made sure I understood everything. I was very aware of the time and attention she was giving me and I was so grateful for it. I mentioned that Aria’s white blood cell count was normal and so her ANC level out to be really high too. She calculated it for me and it was great! I was so happy! It meant that Aria had all kinds of infection fighting power going on. It was wonderful and I was thrilled until.....until the doctor looked at me smiling and said, “That number is going to go down....I’m just letting you know...This is great but it won’t last.” wwwrrrriiiiiiinnnng! There it is again! In that moment I was this fabulous beautiful inflated balloon whose air had just been let out. I could feel my face droop and now I was the bassett hound! I found myself speechless and completely dismayed by what she said. I remember forcing my face to smile but I know full well that my expression was some contorted smirky suggestion that something suddenly stinks! I was pissed and bummed. It felt like I had just run a race and reached the finish line only to be greeted with, “hey that was great but needs to be faster next time!” I was trying to celebrate the end of Phase 1 knowing that Aria had done really well. She was beginning to feel better, her counts were amazing and things were going along just fine. This doctor stopped me dead in my tracks and forced me to look ahead at the next phase and know that although things are good now, they’re gonna get worse. It was weird and I was angry.

I remember getting into the elevator thinking, “Man, how could she say that? Doesn’t she get how that might effect me?” The elevator stopped on our floor with a mild bump and at the same time so did my thoughts. I stopped them right then and there. I realized that all of my thoughts were about her. I was pointing a finger at her. I was making her responsible for my reaction. I didn’t know at the time how to process this interaction. I just knew something was askew and that something was me. I told myself that my anger is my own and a valuable teacher and I must spend time with it. I’ve been thinking about it ever since and it wasn’t until yesterday, Sunday, that I finally pieced it all together. I am a s-l-o-w processor!

First and foremost, I have come to fully accept that communication and interactions are not singular. I am a full participant and therefore I bring to the situation all of my strengths and limits. My emotions and triggers are my own and as much as I would like to discard them and place them upon someone else, I can’t. They are mine, so I, therefore, must take responsibility for them. I’ve learned that after I own my emotions and my triggers, the goal is to sit with them, know them, dissect them, understand them and most importantly know that they are the very things that define me. They are my teachers showing me what I can be proud of and what still needs some work.

The first thing I had to do to get myself sorted was to peel enough layers to get to the heart of the matter. The first question I had to ask with respect to this interaction was, “What did she say that bummed me out so badly?” I just had to examine those words, not the interaction itself, not how they made me feel but the words themselves. “That number is going to go down.” Truth. No harm there. “I’m just letting you know.” Information is good. No harm there. “This is great, but it won’t last.” Shit, truth again! Drat it! All she did was speak the truth. She did her job and gave me information and what she said was honest. The problem with this interaction was me! My reaction wasn’t about her truth, it was about my fragile psyche and my inability to accept her truth. It is not her job or her responsibility to strengthen my psyche. It is her job to give me information in a straightforward and honest way. She did this very well and I am grateful to her for not only that but for the opportunity to once again examine where I need more work.

I suppose in some ways this is an example of the blame game. I could have easily stayed mad, keeping the attention on her and what she said and ignored my reaction altogether. However, staying angry and irritated is not my comfort zone. I much prefer to be happy and calm, enjoying the delights of life. This takes some effort. So, I’ve learned a little trick that I’ve never told anyone before. I’ve learned that when I begin to point the finger at someone and I have negative feelings raging through my mind and heart, I have to quickly extinguish those feelings and lighten up some how. It would be easy and so motherly to say that if I find myself pointing a finger at another, I ought to first point that finger at myself. This is very true and ultimately it is exactly what I do but it is such a matronly thing to say that it just gags me! I needed to devise a way to capture that sentiment but somehow add a little humor to it so it doesn’t feel so heavy and serious. I’ve learned that when I find myself wanting to blame someone else for my feelings, particularly when they are negative, and I want to point a finger at them, I turn that around and I give myself ‘the finger!’ That’s right! I flip myself a hearty bird and I crack up! Giving someone “the finger” is by far the most ridiculous thing I think there is. I mean, think about it! It is an angry gesture expressed through a finger flipped up with a sour face. It is so absurd that there is nothing menacing about it whatsoever, so I have found that flipping myself off creates a light-hearted environment for me to begin my work. It doesn’t excuse the point, which is to keep the focus directed on myself, my ego, my psyche and so forth, but it enables me to bring it to a level that is a lot less threatening.

People are people. We simply cannot be all things to all people at all times. We know this, I think and yet we still expect it. You know, when people are really off and their behavior and words are truly vicious and evil it is so transparent that the only emotion that is elicited is the one that says, “run away!” or “call the police, this cat’s crazy!” In most other circumstances, I have found that my negative feelings have less to do with someone else and more to do with my immaturity!
So, there it is. Flip yourselves off, you’ll feel better!