Happiness Is..

Bold Steps.

I was completely honoured to be selected to read a WeCanRebuildHer.com post at Blog Out Loud Ottawa, last night.

This reading followed an extremely low week for me and I had barely scraped myself together enough to attend the event, let alone participate.

I’m immensely grateful to the many friends and magical powers that got me through this week of self-inflicted torment.

And I’m grateful to Lynn and the BOLO gang for including me in this fabulous evening.

Wishing you health and happiness.
Andrea
xo

Happiness Is…

Surviving and thriving.

That’s us, to the right. Two years ago today.
Moments after sharing the bad news with Luba.

So early in a surreal journey.

Behind that smile, a big part of me thought life was over. All of me hoped it was just beginning.

We headed to Quebec City that week. As planned.  I tossed and turned in the hotel bed, hoping I’d somehow fall asleep before Lucy, Bayla and Mark finished watching “The Corpse Bride”, “Beetlejuice”, “Edward Scissorhands” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas”.

I was awoken, one of those nights, by a ringing thought: This was the beginning of “The Spicy Me”.

Before this ordeal, my aim was to get through life. To make it to some far off end without losing any of the fabulousness I’d stumbled into. New territories and aspirations were reserved for Luba. As a matter of course.

Two years ago today, I opened my eyes.
I became alert. Aware. Present.
Grateful plus.

I started examining. And choosing. And imagining more.

The two years since then have brought trauma and mourning, recovery and joy. I’ve made friends. I’ve taken chances. I’ve explored new territories. I’ve become the Spicy Me.

I’d never choose cancer. I never want it again. For any one.

And I’m supremely grateful for the efflorescing goodness I’ve been treated to since that mind-boggling beginning. Two years ago today.

I’m aspiring to many, many more good years.
By the way.

Am I Touching Something?

“You can keep them bottled up, but they will come out, Michael. Sometimes in the most unexpected… Hey, where the @!*# are my hard-boiled eggs?!

– Tobias Fünke. Good Grief! Arrested Development 2004.

My life is brimming with beautiful people. Wise, interesting, creative, curious, passionate, compassionate, generous, articulate, level-headed, fun-loving people.

I’m lucky.

So I’m always shocked at the hair-trigger hostility I stumble into. Seemingly reasonable people who spray me with hatred over a sideways glance.

It confuses me.

Are they stretched to the breaking point struggling to maintain some decent facade? Are they barely bottling up frustration, dissatisfaction, loneliness, insecurity, envy and rage? And why bother spewing venom at inconsequential me?

In the online world, it’s especially easy to lay out and examine entire interactions. And I’ve often done just that. Weighing a scant response from me against the lengthy and personal ferocity that results.

And my confusion remains.

But I’m learning to scrounge up some compassion for their barely bound pain. Beam some healing, happy vibes.

And move on.

Looking for Me

In January, 2009, I was a busy woman. A stressed-out Nortel software designer. A hard-working mother to 7 and 9 year old girls. A passionate kidlit advocate publishing four podcast episodes a week.

I exercised tonnes. I moved fast. I hardly slept.

In April, 2009, after 26 years of systems analysis, programming and design, I leapt to a short-term technical writing position. I’d never identified with my occupation but without my high-stress, high-tech job, I did kind of wonder who I was.

But I was Andrea Ross of JustOneMoreBook. I was creating stuff. Life was exciting. And the twenty-minute walk to my cushy tech-writing job was lovely.

I was fine.

In September, 2009, in midst of that six-week diagnostic stress, I kicked our beloved podcast to the curb. Before that identity loss had time to hit, I’d been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Thus began another busy year.

In September, 2010, I returned to my short-term technical writing position. But the pointlessness, plodding pace and poisonous co-workers soon put an end to that too. On April 14, 2011, I quit. Ending almost 30 years of constant full-time employment.

And here I am. No podcast. No job.  And two tween-age kids who consistently resist me.

I could cook or clean. But I don’t.
I could get out and do stuff. But I can’t think what.

I know I’m lucky.

Now, who am I?

A Top Notch Tenning

The weekend Lucy turned ten, I found that lump. Fully dressed, amidst Lucy’s festivities, some tingling vibration drew my fingers. And there it was.

With a puff of cold steam, a new world was born.

Today, Bayla turned ten. Twenty-two months later.

Today was a good day.

Lucy and Bayla spent most of it on their own together, being tweens: browsing their favourite shops, doing each others’ nails, exploring Bayla’s new DSI, painting pottery, strolling down to DQ to split a Blizzard.

And we ended the day with the end of Harry P. In 3D.

Today I did a lot of thinking back ten years. And back two years. And looking ahead.

Looking forward to many happy years of great memories behind and ahead for us all.

And feeling very, very grateful.

First Person, First Class

As our enjoyable BOLO evening ended, last week, my friend Laurie and I sprang to our feet, hoping to dash to the exit before throngs of bloggers clogged our path.

But the packed room was gridlocked.

I shrugged. This would to take a while.

But Laurie was dauntless. She raised her eyebrows, smirked and assured me that her “pointy elbows” would whisk us across that floor.

And they did. In a flash we were strolling down Preston — me admiring her finesse. “You’re amazing,” I said, “I stand invisible for ages trying to squeeze through crowds.”

“Oh, me too,” Laurie chirped, “I can only do that for someone else.”

Far. Too. Familiar.

In the wise words of my friend Janice, “Good God woman … Be even kinder to yourself, as you have to live with you.”

Two tier service just disgusts me yet I foist it daily on myself.
So, I’m trying to stop.

Thanks to both women for the reminders.
I must be worth first class self-service — judging by the company I keep.

And now for those last few cobwebs…

“The first thing to remember is this: as long as you make an identity for yourself out of the pain, you cannot become free of it. As long as part of your sense of self is invested in your emotional pain, you will unconsciously resist or sabotage every attempt that you make to heal that pain. …because you want to keep yourself intact, and the pain has become an essential part of you… [The pain] is the living past in you, and if you identify with it, you identify with the past.

A victim identity is the belief that the past is more powerful than the present, which is the opposite of the of the truth. ..The truth is that the only power there is, is contained within this moment.”

— Eckhart Tolle, “The Power of Now“.

More forgiveness musings here.

Familiar Rings

Our wedding ring revamp began with a visit to Zeal Metal in May, 2009. We’d chop up and combine our three wedding rings into a fresh, funky set of two.

Disorganization delayed the decision until October 2009.

The weekend before my diagnosis, we decided: If the news was good, we’d go ahead with the revamp. Otherwise, we’d shelve it.

Following my diagnosis, October 2009, we came up with a third option. If treatment went well, we’d revamp our three rings into a set of four. For Lucy, Bayla, Mark and myself. To commemorate. To celebrate.

More than two years later, the project is still in progress. Here are some visuals from along the way…

June 17, 2009

Initial Design.

The diamond is part of the plan.

March 19, 2011

Ready for remake.

Sans diamond (my teeny diamond disappeared on December 8, 2010).

March 31, 2011

Spinner ring stamping options.

Lucy chose North-South-East-West. Mark chose tilted. Bayla and I chose spiralling.

May 16, 2011

In progress.


June 10, 2011

All four rings are done!

And beautiful!

July 2, 2011

Back where they belong.

Huge thanks to Nicole Horlor of Zeal Metal.

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Material Girl

My dreams are typically downers: Dreaded relapses into severed relationships. Transportation tragedies. Elevator quirks.

But the past two nights have been lovely.

Wednesday brought me racks full of luxurious, dressy new clothing. Last night, a freshly built, spacious new home.

In both, I was resistant. Then accepting. Then thrilled.

My real-life interests are different. My home is small, ancient and cluttered. My favourite clothes reconstructed or just plain old.

But I loved the expansiveness. The excitement. The fresh new starts.

That’s four good dreams, now.
I think I’m on a roll.

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