Getting Older

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Me and my godson, Joaquin July 2015

Tomorrow at 12:50 AM, I turn 54 years old. Many women do not want anyone to know their age. I remember turning forty and all the angst that led up to that day -such a waste of energy now looking back.  By fifty, I had wised up a bit and  celebrated my birthday by going skinny dipping  with friends. But now things are even more clear. When you have survived cancer, there is a crack in the door of egocentrism that can squeak open to reveal a great deal of light — if you allow it in. I now celebrate my aging with gusto, even if that means a slowing metabolism, greying hair, hot flashes, and an ache here and there (and here and there and here and there!!!).

I am so profoundly thankful for every day of health, for the joy of spending time in the company of really good people, and for my adventures, of which there are many. I am glad that I am here on earth enjoying these things, even when I get tripped up by a modicum of anxiety and fear, probably on a daily basis.

A writing coach is assisting me with the immense task of authoring a book. As I stumble about trying to figure out what the focus should be, what to leave in and what to take out, she says, “Your account of your cancer treatment is too cheerful. I want to hear more about your pain, what you endured.”

Well, you know what? I don’t want to. Plain and simple. It’s not that I went through cancer with  unrealistic cheer. But so many people have written about their cancer struggles. What more could I offer that would make a difference in the world that hasn’t been said already? And it’s not that I haven’t written about some of the plot twists that brought me to my knees. I have certainly approached some of my darkest moments, when I was utterly convinced that I would die of an infection, or when I was immobilized by separation anxiety during my first solo trip abroad post treatment. It has been cathartic and therapeutic for me to pour this out on paper. But that doesn’t mean that it needs to make it into my book. As I read the work of other authors, I see the gems that come from de-centering and moving beyond our small inner worlds of pain to tell the stories of others who cross our life paths.

Kelly, a past student of mine, recommended that I read In a Rocket Made of Ice by Gail Gutradt. Gail does an amazing job portraying the lives of children and adults at an orphanage/hospice for children affected by HIV in Cambodia. She manages to weave in how they affect her life without making herself the center of the story. She is a cancer survivor, but does not hover over the details of her illness. 

I admire the voice that she found, a transparent one devoid of ego. I pray for this balance as I write, and I know it will take some practice to find and develop this perspective. Meanwhile, the song Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield is helping.

“Unwritten”

I am unwritten, can’t read my mind, I’m undefined
I’m just beginning, the pen’s in my hand, ending unplannedStaring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not findReaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten

Oh, oh, oh

I break tradition, sometimes my tries, are outside the lines
We’ve been conditioned to not make mistakes, but I can’t live that way

Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find

Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins

Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten

Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find

Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins

Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten
The rest is still unwritten
The rest is still unwritten

Oh, yeah, yeah

2 thoughts on “Getting Older

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