An Unsteady Upwardish Path

Perhaps you’ve wondered what happened to me. I know some of my friends have. I’ve been busy surviving.

I had a lot of plans. As did my mom. But in the first days of June, we got a shock. Doctors found a mass in her brain.

First there was the brain tumor and the surgery to remove it. Then the diagnosis: Anaplastic Hemangiopericytoma, an extremely rare brain cancer about which little is published. Recovery from the 7-hour brain surgery was not yet complete before six weeks of daily radiation therapy treatments began. It’s been a rough 2011 in our house.

We have a great community of family friends and we use a LotsaHelpingHands site to communicate. Family is far,  the relationship complicated and the support minimal. A single mom and an only child, we’ve always made a great team. Mostly I miss my own friends, many of whom live in SF (~90 miles away) or LA (~350 miles). Few friends have made the trek to visit; communications are stalled. In truth, I’ve avoided the minefield. I don’t really want to talk about the brain cancer battle rocking our house or my job outside of my passion. After all, if you don’t have anything good to say, you should say nothing at all, right? I can’t stand to hear any more advice on how I should be better taking care of myself, my mother, her house, my dog… you get the point. People mean well, I know, but we’ve got things under control in our own way.

My mom is focusing on her goal of moving to Venice, Italy (and establishing a Gertrude Stein-like salon for local and traveling reform Jews and artists) — a goal which keeps her motivated but stirs restless impatience. Though moving to Italy (ideally as a destination wedding planner or a writer) is a dream of mine as well, I’m focusing on the shorter term for now, sticking with my trice annual assessments and goals. Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year in September). New Year’s Eve. And My Birthday.

Make plans, G-d laughs. Too true. Well I’ve made fewer plans this year, just taking each day one at a time (a phrase that’s always bugged me… as if I could possibly take more than one at once). Perhaps the trick is to somehow worry less about the next one. In any case, life has been difficult enough without adding more responsibility. More days than not have been a struggle. Yet, I could not let the Jewish New Year go by without consideration.

Driven by a recognition that I needed to take better care of myself, I began a new exercise routine around Rosh Hashana. It’s only 25 minutes long, but it’s an intense workout. I can’t say I quite enjoy exercise, but my body is finally craving it. The scale and I haven’t been friends for a while so I can’t tell you exactly how much I’ve lost, but I can tell you that none of the pants I’d been wearing fit anymore. I finally broke down and made the dreaded trip to buy new jeans. Armed with the knowledge of exactly what flatters my figure and the help of a savvy and fashionable store clerk, I found jeans I love that fit me perfectly — and they’re 3 sizes smaller than my old ones! There’s more to go, but I already feel stronger, leaner and more fit. I’m determined to make exercise a solid habit before turning 30 next April, in the hopes that it’ll stick for life.

Sometimes taking care of oneself is in the little things… a playlist to pick you up in the mornings, a walk with the dog, a lovely relaxing bubble bath, a good laugh with a friend. It’s funny how easy it is to forget to take care of yourself when you’re busy being a caretaker (I’m sure this is a ‘duh’ for most moms, but I’m not a mom yet… rather a 20-something solo caretaker for a parent).

Fortunately my mom’s latest scans showed the radiation significantly shrunk the remaining brain cancer cells and it has not regrown or spread yet. This, of course, is great news with a pause on the yet. The trick is to focus on the great news — not the yet.

As the New Year approaches and I strive to focus on the great in each day, I’m once again thinking of my goals. How shall I improve my 2012? I’ve missed writing (editing, too). It used to be a big part of my everyday work and since then… well, since then, life has been a minefield. I’m considering making daily writing my new goal, but it may prove too much to maintain. Ultimately, my new goal is to think happy and be happy, not be afraid. Once again seize life’s opportunities and seek out happiness. This too is a solid habit I hope will stick for life.

I’m pleased to report that seeking out happiness is exactly what we did this weekend on a wonderful, impromptu trip to Carmel-by-the-Sea.

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