Archives for posts with tag: change

“Change is the essence of life. Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become.” -Jawaharail Nehru

Change. It’s not a word we all embrace. Sometimes we make conscious attempts to change: we resolve to lose weight, go back to school, get out of debt.

And sometimes, life makes the changes for us.

The Universe throws us that dreaded curve ball and we find ourselves grappling for some semblance of control. Life’s daunting and inevitable hurdles become flung in our determined paths and seem to thwart our most valiant attempts to control our destinies. That preceding statement is perhaps even more relevant to those of you out there who might suffer from a chronic need to control most–if not all–aspects of your lives.

Life recently made a change for me.

Two weeks ago, Friday, March 4, 2011 at 4:48 p.m. I received a phone call that rattled me. It changed my life in the truest, most literal sense.

It was a radiologist who was calling with the results of a recent breast biopsy. “We got the pathology report back on those lumps you found. The tumors are malignant. You have cancer.”

Cancer.

Whoa. I did not hear that correctly. Malignant? Cancer? Those are not words that have any right being attached to me. I don’t want to have my own cancer. I don’t want to be in possession of tumors. Yeah, even a girl who has everything doesn’t want that.

One minute and seventeen seconds. That’s how long the conversation with the radiologist lasted. That’s how long it took for my life to change. Completely. Irrevocably.

I am 33 years old. I am in very good overall health. And I have cancer.

What a stupid thing to have. What a lame addition to my life’s resume.

I have an abundance of highly-supportive family and friends; a surfeit of loved ones. I understand now with unerring clarity the most poignant meaning of the somewhat cliched term, “outpouring of love.” There is not better way to describe the glut of concern, love and affection I’ve received from wonderful people. I am so infinitely blessed to have such a wealth of remarkable people who band themselves together to form the world’s best cheering section. And yet….

I am completely alone. Cancer is isolating. I am in a solitude that this disease imposes upon me. It’s not unnerving most of the time; it’s just inescapable. You can’t ask other people to carry the baton. You alone receive the diagnosis. You alone fight through the uncomfortable tests and anxiety-ridden doctor’s appointments.

Even knowing that, however, I am consumed with a most surprising sense of peace; a reassurance that all these truths of cancer’s tendency to segregate me from the society of caring loved ones who encompass me, will be nothing more than a  blip on this portion of my life’s radar.   That despite cancer’s propensity to alter a person’s view of relationships, mortality, wellness, love and purpose; it does not possess the ability to rob you of your spirit.

In fact, I’m inclined to think cancer might just be helping me find more of mine.

It’s not that cancer’s not–even in a best-case scenario–utterly terrifying. It’s just that it’s eliciting a change in me that is not unwelcome. I feel like I’ve wandered through a debris field and that suddenly–by way of a conversation that last just over a minute–I watched as a plume of darkened debris fell sharply to the ground leaving nothing but a clear, halcyon sky in my view.

That moment was one of those that changes you; that changes your core. It altered my perspective on everything. Everything. And not for the worse. For that I am phenomenally grateful. I like what this has contributed to the architecture of me; the inner structure of my soul.

There’s a lot more to come on this subject and I will be covering the details of cancer–it’s detection, treatment, and the details of my journey through it–on a companion blog dedicated specifically to it. I will include a link here.

XOXO

hollie

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” – Fredrick Douglass

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“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams; live the life you imagined.”-Henry David Thoreau

Inspiration is everywhere. Everywhere. It lies dormant in every fragment of the human experience and in the simplest, most mundane of interactions. I found a sliver of it recently at

Taco Bell.

Recently my hunger-ravaged tummy found itself jonesing for a Beefy 5-Layre Burrito, so I took Agnes, the Rover, for a short drive to the nearby Taco Bell. (Spelling layer, “layre,” makes me feel like I’m eating foreign fare rather than something that is likely laden with trans fat and sub-standard ingredients. Is it obvious yet that I have a tendency toward over-thinking?)

Because the drive-thru line was abnormally long, I ventured into the establishment in hopes of procuring said burrito. Made nearly opaque with grimy fingerprints and smears of heaven knows what, the glass door presented a germophobe, such as myself, with a serious quandary: do I forgo burrito bliss in an attempt to avoid touching the handle that without a doubt harbors at least as much bacteria as the door’s windowed surface? Or do I chance dying of some communicable disease spread by people who at best wash their hands every other day then go to public places and insist on spreading their disgusting germs for all of the rest of us to contract? Yes it’s mean, but so is spreading E. coli.

I felt like I was in a “Choose Your Own Adventure,” book (which, consequently, I consider to be some of the finest American literature to ever hit bookstores) and was faced with a decision that could either lead me to the unraveling of a sordid and exciting mystery, or guide me to a certain death.

I decided to take a chance and enter the fast-food, “restaurant.” Does anyone else think that when fast-food establishments are referred to as, “restaurants,” that perhaps that’s a liberal use of the term? I generally reserve the term, “restaurant,” for places where the “furniture,” (another liberal use of the word) is not composed of some hard plastic that likely will be discovered to exude copious amounts of carcinogens.

At any rate, after braving the door handles of not one, but two doors (why do they have to have double doors? Is is just to ensure that you have double the opportunity to contract H1N1?) I headed in the direction of the counter. Bedecked in a color scheme of teal, mauve and a lovely shade of peach, Taco Bell was the perfect picture of late-eighties, southwest decor. Planters teeming with faux greenery that unsuccessfully attempted to “cascade, ” from their boxes, adorned the tops of pony walls designed to guide throngs of eager eaters into a serpentine line where they were expected to await their turn at ordering all the tacos and burritos their expanding waistlines could handle.

As I waited for the woman ahead of me to conclude her ordering, I watched as the employee struggled with the cash register. “I’m sorry,” the employee apologized. “It’s my first day.”

There are certain things that a person can say that will IMMEDIATELY garner my complete understanding and unparalleled sympathy. “It’s my first day,” is one of them. I have had enough jobs (I often tell people that short of pole-dancing and prostitution, I’ve done it all. Hyperbole, of course, but it certainly elicits an entertaining response.;)) that my heart goes out to anyone making a concerted effort to forge a path for themselves in a new, “career.” Again, perhaps liberal use of the word, but to each his/her own.

Once my turn arrived, the employee and I engaged in the banter of ordering and discussing the difficulties of beginning new employment when, out of the corner of my eye, I spied a woman–the manager–watching the exchange. I noted immediately the high cheekbones and fine brow of the manager. She also had the most beautiful eyes. They were a crystalline shade of smokey gray and had the most indefinable twinkle.  Her lips were this pale shade of mauve and curved to a perfect pout.  She looks like a she could be a model, I thought. I hadn’t noticed that she had been studying me as closely as I had her.

“You are such a beautiful young woman,” she said to me. “And you have amazing eyes.” Okay, so that was weird. She was thinking some of the same things about me that I had about been thinking about her. You know what else was funny? That the most flattering thing about her compliment was not that she called me, “beautiful,” but rather that she called me, “young woman.” I guess my vanity’s leaning in the direction of preserving my youth at this stage of the game.:)

We began a brief, but enlightening conversation in which I returned her compliments with even greater emphasis than she had delivered hers.  Then things became decidedly unexpected. Delightfully unexpected.

After I told her for probably the third time how beautiful her eyes were, she said matter-of-factly, “I used to be a model.” Well duh, I thought. Of course you were. That much seemed obvious. The trainee who had rung me up, however, found this little revelation to be shocking and made no attempt to disguise that fact. Her mouth parted and her eyes widened and the surprise her face wore was nothing short of insulting. Turning to address her subordinate, the manager spoke with an amusing sense of irony.

“I haven’t always worn a Taco Bell uniform,” the manager said, her voice barely able to contain a cynical laugh

I haven’t always worn a Taco Bell uniform. The words bounced around in my brain like an echo in a cathedral. Sure, that was clear, but there was something in the way she said that incredibly obvious statement that made it seem so much more poignant. Something only her voice, her tone, her inflection could convey.

And I walked, then, my steps heavy with thought. I absently planted myself in a hard, plastic seat enmeshed in layers of filth and bacteria and assimilated the story that I had just heard. I cannot look at people and not wonder at their stories. I can’t help but find my mind meandering down silly paths of, “I wonder if…” But this woman and her life, the twists and turns it had taken that seemed nothing short of unexpected, they somehow struck me with a surprising impact.

As I waited for my number to be called, I watched a man and two sweet little boys arrived. With eyes the color of ash, there was absolutely no mistaking the parentage of the boys. The man and two children were the manager’s family. She beamed at them as she took a break from work to enjoy this unexpected surprise and I watched the scene with rapt attention. There was no wistfulness, no regret, no insecurity in her gray eyes. If there was ever a doubt as to which path she should tread, it seemed to have flown with the arrival of her children.

I just found myself feeling sad, not because I would be arrogant enough to know what’s best for someone else, because the older I get the more that becomes a moot point. And, as I’ve blogged in the past, I would NEVER trade being a mother for anything. The thing that was just a little heartbreaking was that she seemed to have given up on her dreams; that she had written off any life that diverged from her current one.  I think that anyone who works hard to make an honest living is someone to be respected and Lord knows that I’ve had far crappier jobs than nine out of ten people you’ll meet (not, unfortunately, hyperbole) but, I just hate seeing people discount their ambitions and relegate them to a place of impossibility. The annoyingly persistent optimist in me refuses to let that idea go. I understand the need to be realistic and to put food on the table, etc. I have made sacrifices I would never want anyone I care about to have to make . But I know–I know–that there’s something more; that life is more than some pragmatic need to live hand to mouth. It’s not easy–I know that better than most–but I just want so badly to see people move in the direction of their dreams.

At any rate, I guess I just had throw this tale out there into the great recesses of the cyber universe; to know that other people had heard the story of this beautiful woman and her current circumstances. I suppose I just had to express my hopes that, whatever her life becomes, that somehow her dreams find some small place in it. Maybe I’ll be able to use it as an effective reminder to make room for some dreams of my own.:)

XOXO

hollie

“Even if I don’t reach all my goals, I’ve gone higher than I would have if I hadn’t set any.” -Danielle Fotopoulis


“People change and forget to tell each other.” -Lillian Hellman

Memory’s a funny thing. We often index  past events into distinct compartments; defining and cataloging them with definite purpose. We have these mental tally sheets of good and bad, right and wrong. And even the most open-minded of us often can find ourselves cramming our impressions of people into equally restrictive spaces.

As I reflect on the most recent portion of my life, I find myself musing over the unexpected and often bizarre turns life tends to take. I think I can say with a great deal of certainty that very few of us have found ourselves in the precise place we had once planned. We evolve in ways that are surprising and unexpected and, in embracing this fortuitous progression, can create a person of quality and substance.

In understanding this principle as it applies to me, I’ve found that extending this to those around me has provided me with something akin to having a super power. That super power is: acceptance. For someone like myself, endowed with a hearty helping of stubbornness, acceptance can, at times, seem counterintuitive. The compelling need to fight things tooth and nail can sometimes take hold and thwart any attempt at achieving acceptance. However, embracing it as weapon in your arsenal  with which you battle your way through life, will do nothing short of liberate you.

As one year after another fades into our memories, we become embroiled in the day-to-day of life; constantly striving to meet the demands of careers and family. We somehow freeze the events of the past like an aging snapshot steeped in nostalgia and catalog them under specific headings in our brains. Archived there, they lie dormant and untouched except for the rare revisiting of them on occasion.

While there’s nothing at all wrong with this method as it pertains to events and most generalizations, it can prove to be a disservice with regards to the people we’ve been blessed to know. Sometimes as we grow and evolve, we tend to forget that those we knew in these bygone eras, have changed and grown as well. We can recall with impeccable clarity the cruel actions of a class bully to the extent that part of us imagines him the same way now; as though he goes to work, punches a time card then proceeds to spend the eight-hour work day inflicting swirlies and wedgies on his coworkers. Perhaps that’s a mild exaggeration, but it’s for dramatic emphasis. I am not above employing hyperbole when it suits my purpose.

I ran into a girl once in the mall with whom I had attended high school. She was physically rather unchanged, as we had only graduated a scant two years prior, but there was a very definite shift in her demeanor. She had in school been rebellious and disrespectful, but I’d be lying if I said she wasn’t amusing. Her fights with the teachers were legendary and she possessed a tendency to back-talk that, while lacking in respect, did often supply her peers with an ample amount of entertainment.

I  called out her name and she glanced around her in surprise. Her eyes settling on mine, she seemed alarmed at first, then ashamed. As I approached her, she cast her eyes downward in embarrassment. I wondered what she could have felt so ashamed of. I hadn’t known her well enough to have merited any reaction nearly so personal. As she again raised her eyes to meet mine, I saw in them a vulnerability that was rather unexpected. It seemed to flash across her features like a restaurant marquee announcing the dinner special.

We made small talk for a minute or two all the while she fidgeted nervously. Finally with a ragged breath, she attempted an awkward smile.

“Look.” she practically spat the words out in her impatience. “I’m not the same as I was in high school. I’m a mom now and I’m not into the stuff I was into then. I’ve changed.” That’s what she had been embarrassed about. She was afraid that I and everyone else would forever remember her as being some trouble maker like she was in high school; that we would never assimilate the progression into adulthood that nearly always leads to maturity and change that she had experienced. She wasn’t giving herself  or anyone else enough credit.

But it touched me. The way she had endeavored so hard to change and to grow; much of which I suspect was the result of motherhood. And I realized something then: it wasn’t fair to pigeon-hole someone into some compartment just because it once seemed to have fit them. It was a disservice to that individual as a human capable of change, to deny them the opportunity to be recognized for that change. But, it was also a disservice to me if I didn’t allow my interpretation of that individual to be as fluid as their growth would inevitably be. I would be depriving myself of having wonderful friends who just became wonderful-er with age.

How would you feel if  everyone associated you with the worst thing you ever did? If they endlessly identified you as being whatever you were at your lowest point?

It made me think a lot that day and a lot since. I thought about the courage it takes to change and the confidence it requires to shake off the tags and labels people–including ourselves–seem so wont to affix to us. That we can change every day; that we can shape and control the people we become, that’s another super power. (Wow by the end of this post we will have developed two!)

So when we choose to accept people we take them in whole–the good and the bad. We accept them as they are now and as they’ll be in the future. We accept the worst they are with the best they are. And we give people the opportunity to surprise us. Because we’re more than the failures and fears and we each deserve the opportunity to prove that. I’m just phenomenally grateful that those closest to me have afforded me that chance, even when I didn’t feel I deserved it.

XOXO

hollie

“The curious paradox  is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” -Carl Rogers

“I would give the world to you.” -Ian Axel

For some people who are not parents, becoming one can seem  not only daunting, but repressive; that the responsibilities it entails are so limiting that there’s no place for it in a life of excitement and independence. I won’t argue that parenting can be restrictive.

Gone are the late nights of freewheeling abandon and the ability to engage in social merriment at the drop of the proverbial hat. But that’s only because it’s how the Universe opens you up to something else.

Sacrifice is giving up something good for something better.

Trading in a bustling social life for early bedtimes and parent teacher conferences can seem, to many, to be a little…unappealing. But, if I’m being honest, those were some of the reasons I was terrified of becoming a parent. I knew I would miss the freedom to do as I pleased when I pleased. And, while this is not everyone’s reason for not having children, it was a particular fear of mine. Call it selfish, but there it is.

But those aimless years of flitting from one social event to the next, of having no one who relies upon you, become emptier with time. The  glitter fades. The ability to invest one’s time and energy according to whim and fancy is a vital part of the human experience; a crucial part of growing. But as a long-term goal, it lacks substance (George Clooney.)

Don’t get me wrong, parenting is not for everyone. There are plenty of people who lead richly rewarding lives who never foray into the adventure of parenting. And likewise, there are plenty of d-bags who become parents who I’d sooner seen drawn and quartered. The evening news is replete stories of abuse and neglect at the hands of undeserving parents.

But, ideally speaking, I wish every good person who wanted children, would have the opportunity to join the fray of parents far and wide; that every person of good character with a kind heart could bring a child into their home to raise. I wish that every wonderful person I knew who wanted children and couldn’t have them, for whatever reason, was able to. To have the chance to have a person depend upon you for–literally–everything is humbling and fulfilling.

It is nothing I would trade and something I often wish I could have had the opportunity to do again.

I have an indescribable love and appreciation for my daughter. She gives me purpose in a potentially rudderless world. She embodies the hope and optimism that seem to fade as we age. She is Prozac in human form; I take her daily.

Her blue eyes and smattering of freckles are priceless art to me. She grows and evolves hourly and as I become excited at this prospect, I daily mourn the loss of each stage of her development. I have these ridiculous moments where it hits me: she’s not a baby; she’s not a toddler. I might never have that again. Even as I type that I cry.

And when I clean out her closet and cast out the clothes she’s outgrown, I cry more. Because she’s growing and shedding those years of childhood. And because I’m succeeding to no small degree in achieving one of the main things I believe the Universe had planned for me: helping her become the incredible woman she was intended to be.

I may not be prolific in my mothering, but it’s quality not quantity that are imperative here–and in that quarter I’m doing a damn fine job.

She is everything good in me and everything good I wish was in me. I finally understand unconditional love. There is nothing–nothing–that she could do that would ever diminish my love for her.

I think that’s the gift of being a parent. That’s the gift she gives me every day.

XOXO

hollie

“In the end we have each other, and that’s at least one thing worth living for.” -Ian Axel

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