creating comfort

There are two, no, three blog posts that have been hanging around for a while in my head, waiting to be written. One in particular has been hanging around since the first of the year- about hair loss. I keep pushing it to the back of the metaphorical cancer closet because the only people I want to talk about it with are other young women with cancer. It’s just too intimate outside of that itty-bitty circle, which literally has like 4 people in it, plus a wide twitter community. Then there’s the blog post about the Scar Project. That one I’ve actually started writing, but it just seems exhausting at the moment to get into the whole body image discussion, where there are women and scars and and sexy and ugly and images and oh, it’s juicy but I need a good long afternoon after my diss has been sent off to the external examiner. Then there’s another, about the mastectomy decision, and what- and how- I’m deciding, and how everyone has an opinion but the only opinions that matter are mine, my doctors, and Sammy’s, and how often I end up having to comfort other people about my own damn mastectomy, and how no matter what anyone says or does the absolute crappiest decision ever is one where you decide how many body parts to cut off of your body.

So, there’s all those blogs percolating in various parts of my brain. Sometimes I think about them in yoga or write sections of them while I cook dinner. Sometimes I don’t think about them at all. Sometimes when I’m writing and writing my dissertation I only wish I was writing and writing about these things. Sometimes it makes me feel so much better to write about cancer, like once I write it down and send it off in the world I no longer have to hold the space for all these ideas and feelings and worries and experiences, because the interwebs- and you, my dear readers- are soaking them in and making your own sense of them.

I’m not about to embark on any of these conversations today. Today I just am going to write about creating comfort. About what it means to let those big, heavy, important blog posts sit somewhere else while I write and sip coffee and do yoga. I’ve discovered the only way to get through cancer-crisis is to create a world full of comforting things, a world that is warm and familiar and tender and careful. I’ve literally built my day and my schedule and my surroundings around comfort. When I wake up and things are familiar and soft and full of beauty then I can start the day centered. When I do the same thing while I have breakfast and wear the extra soft socks because I like how they feel and drink lots of clean, filtered water because my body craves it I feel more centered, more grounded, more able to reason with my oncologist and go about my day even though there is a glob of cells in my breast that are dividing so fast they are out of control.

Sammy hung an old sheer turquoise curtain in a drape-y way over our bed. I love it. It feels like we get to go to sleep in a secret place that is full of magic. If you have ever lived with me you know I can’t help but leave dirty clothes on the floor, but the sheer-drapey thing feels so comforting when you walk in it even makes me want to toss my dirty clothes in the laundry bin to preserve the pristine feeling of sleeping under a sheer turquoise drape-y thing. When I was a kid, I always wanted a canopy bed. I thought they seemed like they were build for princesses and that they would make the best kind of comfort to sleep, ever. The sheer turquoise drape-y curtain hanging from our ceiling is like the grown up version of the canopy bed. And it’s comforting.

I’ve started reading every morning when I have my coffee or tea or juice. I love it. I don’t open my laptop until after breakfast. I just got a Kindle, so now I”m reading on that, and even when you read academic books on it, its so fun to read on it kind of makes them seem like reading for fun. I guess McLuhan was right about the medium being the message, after all. I’ve come to love this quiet morning time, while Sammy is still asleep and our world is quiet. I sit in the same chair every morning, and stare our the window, and I know I get that time regardless of applications due or conclusions to edit or emails to send. It’s a great little ritual. And it’s comforting.

I go to yoga, and I’ve completely given myself permission to drive to the studio across town or go at a weird hour because I like the teacher better. I don’t care. It’s worth it to attend a class that is familiar and comfortable. The yoga itself, too, is repetitive, wholesome, warm, familiar. Truly, I don’t know what I’d do without the yoga. I don’t think about anything when I’m in yoga, mostly because it’s too hard and body-consuming to think anyway, and I like it that way. During yoga, the body pain fades to a distant memory as I stretch and sweat. It’s the same thing every time, and there are no suprises, which is really awesome because in cancer, there is so little known that there are only suprises. It’s warm, the same, it’s indulgent and it’s a solace where I am untethered from my phone and my computer and everything else. And it’s comforting.

I wear colors that are calming and centering. I wear wigs that reflect my mood. I wrap myself in sarongs and sweaters that feel warm and soft, and I pick turquoises because they are calm and expansive, and reds and oranges because they are fiery and welcoming at the same time, and black because it’s fierce. Sometimes I wear the long, dark red wig to ground myself in the earth, and it feels like I am connected to something bigger, something expansive, something tender. Sometimes, I need a little magic and the best way to channel that is with a platinum blue wig and big earrings, and sometimes, I pull on the long platinum wig with roots to say, “fooled ya.” Colors and clothes and hair and hats have become tools for mediating the space between my body and the world, for screaming back or breathing deep or thinking hard. And it’s comforting.

Permission. I give myself permission to take a break from working, to watch stupid TV shows, to eat coconut ice cream. I give myself permission to think about how all of these decisions are mine, and to know that I will make the right decision for me. I give myself permission to stop comparing her decision and her cancer and her needs to my own. I give myself permission to listen to everyone around me tell me what they think, and then toss their ideas out into the wind because, well, they don’t belong to me. I give myself permission to smile and laugh even though I have cancer, and I give myself permission to change my mind, to ride my bike, to have a glass of wine with Sammy at dinner. And it’s comforting.

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