Thursday, October 31, 2013

What happens next

I spend a lot of time wondering what happens next.  Who doesn't?

Last night, I dreamed about Luke.  It was a funny little intrusion from my subconscious, because I haven't been thinking about him and I don't really miss him.  But apparently I miss the idea of him, the fantasy that I had created that he was a part of, because in my dream we got back together, only everything was different: we were playful and laughed a lot, and in the dream we were snuggled together, less sizzling chemistry (which is what real life offered) and more playful companionship.  He was asking me questions, really getting to know me at a whole new level, and I was running my fingers up and down his chest, and I just felt - happy.

Except it wasn't like that in real life at all.  It was all smoldering chemistry and intensity, nothing playful at all, and the dream made me realize that he did NOT ask those deep questions about who I am, and that to have the feelings that the dream evoked, he'd have to be someone.....not himself.

It made me wonder what happens next in my romantic life.  I'm living like a nun these days, albeit a nun with a sultry imagination and such, and I'm not okay with my nun-status, but I don't know how to break out of the rut.  The problem is not being asked on dates - online dating provides plenty of that.  The problem is that I both crave the connection that I dreamed about (not with Luke, but the feelings that the dream evoked) and am completely closed to it.  The problem, in other words, is me.

How will I break out of this conundrum?  I have no idea.  I took myself off online dating a couple weeks back, and while I miss the ego rush of the attention (shallow but true!), I am clear that I need to be focused on other things at the moment.

But when will I next meet the man who makes my heart skip a beat, who makes me want to climb into his sheets, who makes me long for candlelit dinners, who makes me want to invite him on long runs or hikes or snowshoe trips?

I don't know.  Tomorrow?  Never?

And work.  Oh, dear God, the work thing is getting to me.  Here I am, sitting at home at 7:45am, my daughter already on the school bus, and I wish *I* was on my way to work, preparing to do something meaningful to me, contributing to a team, meeting a friend at the office to casually mention our Halloween plans, thinking about project deadlines, clients....

Everyone tells me it will happen.  Everyone says that if I just keep at it, all will be well, and I'll get the call that will change it all.  But when will that happen?  Tomorrow?  Never?

Never is not an option.  Just to be clear.  When I hit "publish" on this, I'll continue making phone calls, writing cover letters, and hoping that The Dream Job I've got my eye on finally calls me.

The not knowing is so hard.  Sometimes I feel that if there was a date on the calendar, with a list of actions that I needed to complete in order to make that date happen, I could happily move the right direction, fearless.  Wouldn't that be great?  What if on November 17 I was to get the right job offer, and all I needed to do between now and then was learn the industry software, clean out my attic...  What if I knew that I would meet my future love on X date, couldn't I then put aside all thoughts of it until then?

This, of course, is not how life works.  My life is full of uncertainty, and it's my job to work through it.

So today, I will set aside my dream, filled with longing, and simply try to ignore or forget it.  I will do the work that must be done to move forward with job seeking.  I will prepare for Halloween tonight (and the annual party that I host).  I will try to hold the faith that all is as it should be, that I am learning my lessons, that it will turn out in the end.

The thing that is keeping me sane right now is running.  All this uncertainty about what happens next is enough to make me insane, and running keeps me on the right side of that thin line.

The thing about running is that it has such beautiful, clear, clean cause and effect.  I get up and go, and my body feels different....every single time.  I trained as I was told to train (by books, websites, and runner friends), and I was able to run a half marathon.  Running gives me the promised endorphins, every single time.  My body is lean and strong, just as promised.

After the half marathon on Sunday, I didn't stop.  Monday I did yoga to stretch out my aches and pains, and I've run the past three days.

I can't control everything, I can't predict the future.  But I can run.

Thank goodness for that, at least.

Monday, October 28, 2013


This weekend, I hit several milestones.

First, a cancer milestone.

Hidden in the back of a bathroom cupboard, behind a box containing Ace bandages and such, I have had a grocery bag filled with prescriptions left over from cancer.  Lots of painkillers, some muscle relaxants, some anti-emetics, a few Aromatase inhibitors, some tamoxifen.  I haven't opened the bag in years, but I felt its weight.  I didn't know why I didn't get rid of it - was it fear that I'd need its contents once again?  Fear that by getting rid of it I was tempting fate and that the cancer would come back?  Was it a reminder of where I'd come from?

I don't know what it was, but it was powerful, and it held some kind of power over me.  Every one of those drugs made me feel awful, even when they helped me.  Some people love pain killers - the street value of those drugs is apparently high - but I do not, because they make my brain foggy and my whole system shuts down when I'm on them (gastro-intestinal woes that I will not share here).  I hated them, and I always went off them as soon as I could manage it, and had many partially used bottles of them as a result.

On Saturday, there was a drug drop off day at the police precinct, and I delivered all of them.  I handed the bag to an officer behind a window, and just like that, they were gone from my life.

What a weight lifted.

And then a divorce milestone.  Hidden in the attic, behind a bunch of camping equipment, was a big box that contained my wedding dress.  I'd had it professionally cleaned and placed in an archive box after my wedding, with the thought that maybe one day I'd have a daughter who would be interested in it.  Many years and one divorce later, it still sat there, and it, too, was a weight in my chest.  I would never want Katherine to marry in that dress, as the marriage it symbolized wasn't good for me, and it made me sad to think of all the possibility it held but did not live up to.  Interestingly, the dress never felt "right" to me, even though I chose it, and the metaphor there is loud and clear.

This weekend, I pulled the box down, broke the plastic seal, and lifted it out of its waves of tissue.  While Katherine slept in, I tried it on.

It didn't fit.  It was far too large - I could grab handfuls of it against my back to tighten it, and I recall it being difficult to zip on my wedding day.  So strange: I was married at 29, in perfect health, but now all these years later, I'm 44, a mother, a cancer survivor, but I am so much healthier in so many ways, and my wedding dress seemed like it was made for someone else, certainly not me.

I took it off, laid it on the bed.  Katherine awoke, and I told her that it was time for me to give it away if she didn't mind.  She didn't mind, but she wanted to try it on.  She told me it was beautiful, and she admired herself in the full length mirror as I held the back of the dress to scrunch it tight against her tiny (by comparison) body.  She smiled at this vision of herself, and still said, "It's not really my style, but can I keep the veil?"  Sure, honey.  Fair enough.  Her image in the mirror caught my breath, a glimpse of the woman to come, and I knew that this dress wasn't hers, that she would have a different path than mine, and that made me smile.

And then I loaded it up, along with some clothes we didn't want and some random household items that we didn't need, and took it to the donation station.

Another weight lifted.  The man at the donation station said, "You don't want this?" and I smiled and said, no, the marriage hadn't lasted and the dress needed to go to someone who could make it happy again.  The man smiled at me and said, "I hope your next marriage lasts forever."

Another burden, another weight gone.

I felt like I was lighter for the rest of the day, as if stones had been removed from inside me.

There was one more milestone, this one a big one.

On Sunday morning, I ran my first real half marathon.  I finished "sub two" - under two hours, which is a milestone time.  13.1 miles at just under a nine minute mile is no land speed record, but it made me incredibly happy.  I'm pushing my body in healthy ways, not just to stay alive.  This body has carried me so far, kept me alive despite the odds, and I am appreciative of it.

When I was sick, I used the mantra "healthy and strong" as a breathing exercise through the tougher times.  I'd sit in the chemo chair, or lie in the hospital bed, and think it over and over again "healthy and strong, healthy and strong, healthyandstronghealthyandstrongohpleasehealthyandstrong" and it was a prayer more than anything else.  Yesterday, around mile 10, running in the cool and rain (which made me feel cold, damp, and slightly miserable, with my muscles tight) I had the "you've got to be kidding - this is impossible!" thoughts, but then it came to me: I *am* healthy and strong.  It is not a wish, it is reality.

My reality is that I am healthy and strong.  Most people will never complete a half marathon in their lives, and most people won't run under nine minute miles in their forties.  But I can.

I can.

I finished the event relatively strong, and got my sub two time.  I still have a grin on my face.

In June, I could barely run three miles without panting, and now I can complete a half marathon sub two.

Anything is possible.


If you're struggling, and you're reading this, wondering how on earth it applies to you, I have two pieces of advice:

1)  Go find your bags of pills and your wedding dress, and get rid of them.  Of course, you might not have bags of pills or a wedding dress, but you've got burdens that are represented in something physical, and every time you see it or think of it, it makes you slightly sick.  You know what they are, because most of us have them: is it a box of paperwork that you never dealt with, some clothes in a size you know you won't ever wear again, old love letters from someone who wasn't good to you, incomplete projects that make you feel bad whenever you see them?  If you've got something that you have outgrown, or that doesn't serve you, go get rid of it.  I can't tell you how good it feels to lift that burden, and how much lighter you'll feel afterwards.

2)  If you're going through a hard time - I think my unemployment officially counts! - get out and exercise.  Everyone has a different standard for what is hard, but whether yours is "complete Ironman, win first place" or "walk around the block without passing out" just get out there and do it.  Work towards a goal, and don't give up on yourself.  Not only will you see incredible changes in your body (I still can't get over my size four self!), you will feel like anything is possible, and it will help you with all the other struggles in your life.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Getting Unstuck

I would like to say, just for the record, that feeling stuck has been making me ANGRY.

I have been working so hard on my life for so long now, and thought I was doing it "right" (whatever that means), and so to feel despairing of my ability to figure things out makes me not only sad, but also angry.  Am I really having to deal with this kind of garbage?  Doesn't the garbage ever go away?!

I've been taking some deep breaths.  I've been looking for the silver linings.

Yesterday I moaned on the telephone to a friend about how stuck I was, and how I was ashamed to admit that I'd been watching television in the middle of the day.  I'm generally pretty anti-television, and goodness knows I've got enough tasks before me that I shouldn't even be thinking about being so slothful.  My friend laughed, and dismissed my words with, "Pretty soon you'll be in an office, wishing you could lounge with TV.  Enjoy it while you can, it will be gone soon enough."

This friend is "together" in a way few people are.  Her life sometimes looks like a page out of Real Simple magazine, in a beautifully polished casual way.  I can not even imagine her sulking on the sofa with a laptop running TV shows while the yard fell into disarray outside.

Somehow, her words were a balm.  Permission to slack a bit?  Did I need permission?

I have gone from feeling on top of the world to feeling like I'm a total sham, and like my career aspirations are a joke and I'm going to lose it all because of them.  And then I feel angry because of those feelings, because I know they won't get me where I want to be, and then I feel sad, and then I feel stuck, and then I go back to the sofa and try to disappear.

But I am finding some ways out of the stuckness.

Just do it.

Yesterday I put out several good job applications.  I have my eye on several more for today.  I am going to play the numbers game: there is one job that I reallyreallyreallyreallyreally want, that I think I'm qualified for, that is for a great employer, that would be intellectually stimulating as well as personally fulfilling, and I've pinned all of my hopes and dreams on it.  Unfortunately, that has had the side effect of not only dreaming the "how great would it be!" thoughts, but also the "if I don't get this, I'm screwed" and I've been so scared of the latter that it's consumed me.

The only way out is through.

So, though my heart is in that one job, I'm putting applications out all over the place, for jobs that MIGHT be just as good.  If I get turned down by Dream Job, I'll have other irons in the fire.

Getting off the couch is hard right now.  Everything is on the line, to the point where it feels like I'm walking on a cliff, and at any moment I could tumble off.

If you're going through hell, keep on going.

Being an unemployed single mother is its own form of hell.  Mine is better than most: some unemployment and some meager savings are keeping me going, and my parents have already said "call us if you need help" and I know that I could do that and they would have the means to support me to bridge a gap.  Worst case scenario, I could sell this house and I have enough equity that it could keep me going a bit longer.

But I'm sick of worst case scenarios.

I am not dead.  I am not currently fighting cancer.  I survived my divorce.  My daughter is thriving.  I'm physically more fit than ever before.

But I'm making progress again.  I'm pushing through the ugly feelings, and I'm just going to make this happen.

I want a job working for a world class employer, surrounded by smart people who want to do good in the world, where my skills and talents are used and appreciated, and where I can experience career growth.  I want to earn a decent wage, with excellent benefits, and I want stability both financially and professionally.  I want to show up for work each day with a smile on my face, excited to get things done.

I want to show Katherine that this is how it's done, so maybe she can learn from me, so that maybe she can avoid some of the mistakes that I've made.

When I told Katherine that I was going to pursue work that would change the world and feed my soul because that was my dream, she smiled and said, "Of course you should do that.  That's what *I* am going to do when I'm older!" and I am holding that moment close.  Katherine believes that this is the natural order of things, that all is well.  It's my job to show her that's true.

I refuse to be stuck.  I feel incredibly stuck, but I am fighting that feeling with everything in me.

Today I'm going to go make some things happen.  I'm going to keep networking, and I'm going to do it with a smile on my face, and not even a hint of desperation.  I'm going to find passion to infuse my cover letters, so that the spark of light within me will shine through them and potential employers will think "there's something about this one..." and call me.

"Stuck" is just a feeling.  It's not real, it's just a passing thing.  I will NOT let it rule me, even though I've felt its reign. 

Fake it 'til you make it.

Several dear friends have smilingly told me "It won't be long until this is behind you, and you won't even remember these feelings, because you are certain to find success.  Soon enough you'll be working away at a new job, loving it.  Could be that this time next month everything has changed!"

I sure hope they're right.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


I am a super motivated person.  I've got a zillion things on the go, I'm full of ideas, I have more energy than most people.

Except that unemployment appears to be sucking that out of me.

It's exhausting!  Why is that?!  I want to crawl into bed and wait for....I don't know what.

I would rather be working.  I miss many things about work: scolleagues, contributing to a bigger cause, personal growth.  I am good at working and I stay pretty focused.

But at home?  My house is messier, not cleaner, and my yard is a wreck, and I have no excuse.

I applied for two jobs today, including the job that has me all twitterpated, and afterwards I felt like I'd just completed some incredible feat and needed to rest for about a million years.  The process is exhausting, and the risking rejection, and the knowledge that it's all on the line....well, it's enough to make me crazy.

I feel crazy, actually.  Unemployment is making me crazy.

I keep hearing from people who know me and who hold some great jobs that I am a fantastic candidate, that I can do this.

But it's so, so scary.

That's all.  I don't have anything profound to say today.  I'm scared, and worried, and I feel stuck a lot.

This too shall pass, right?!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fabulous or Awful?

Right now my life is fabulous.

I mean, I'm in the best shape of my life, I have amazing friends, Katherine is doing well, I have a roof over my head and food on my table, men ask me on dates, I have the support of my family, a great education, and all the hope in the world.

Or maybe right now my life is awful.

I mean, I'm covered in cancer scars and my left arm aches, I'm divorced and unemployed, my daughter is entering puberty and snarky, and I have no idea when things are going to stabilize.

I have days when I'm riding on top of the world, convinced that anything is possible, and I have days when I don't want to get out of bed because I fear that I will never be able to get it together.  I have days when I feel wise and capable, and I have days when I wonder what the hell is wrong with me that things are such a mess.

The truth is in the middle, I think.

My life isn't perfect.  I am trying to allow room for imperfection, while still moving forward.  I think that the trick - if there is one - is to both acknowledge the joy of living and all of its goodness, while making room for the uncertainty and the discomfort of that.

I have no idea what my life will look like three months from now.  Will I be able to make my mortgage payment, or will I be on my hands and knees before my parents?  Will I be putting my house up for sale and quaking with fear, or will I be doing work that both moves my soul and pays the bills?

The truth is, I have no idea.  How terrifying is that?

But I am going to hold tight to the scenario in which I make it through this.  "Because you are alive, anything is possible" says Thich Nhat Han.  I didn't think I'd be alive to get into a mess like this one, so I'm already ahead of the game. 

Today I've got to shake the malaise that is holding me back, and make progress.  I can do it.  I am determined to do it.  I'm going to make this happen, and I'm going to take risks and face rejection.  I'm going to go after my dreams.  I almost said "I don't have a choice," but I do: I could give up.  But I'm not going to give up, ever.

Please send love and prayers.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I can do that?

I've been running.

I started last November - or, re-started, as I've done running here and there for years, but not normally more than three miles at a time, and not that fast - and haven't stopped.  I spent six months just cultivating the habit, and then late last spring I started pushing myself a bit more.  This summer I pushed harder.

This fall, I'm on fire.

I've gone from huffing and puffing and stalling and restarting for a simple three mile run, to the ability to run twelve miles without stopping.  I'm on target to complete a half marathon at the end of the month, and unless something goes wrong, I'm set to do a time of around 1:55:00, or as runners say, "sub two."  Apparently getting under two hours for a half is the time where it gets interesting.  I know my times aren't record breaking.  Not close, not even in the same league.  I want a sub 1:55 half, but check out the world record holders (from Wikipedia):
The official IAAF world record for men is 58:23, set by Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea on 21 March 2010 in Lisbon, Portugal, and for women is 1:05:50, set by Mary Keitany of Kenya on 18 February 2011, in Ras al-Khaimah, United Arab Emirates.   But I'm not racing them, I'm racing myself.

In August, I could run six miles.  In October I can run twelve, and soon that will be 13.1.

Today I ran a mile in 7:23, and I think I can do better than that.  I've been working on distance, not speed, but today I stretched out and that's what happened.

I have no idea where my limits are.  What am I capable of?

The first hardest thing I've ever done is vaginal birth, no pain meds, on Pitocin, with Katherine's hand above her head, while flat on my back because of pre-eclampsia (and required bed rest, even during labor).  It was painful beyond description.  I was holding back until my unborn baby's heart rate dropped and my blood pressure spiked, and they called in crash carts for both of us and the room filled with doctors.  My gynecologist made sure that I knew it was all on the line, and I pushed that baby out even though I knew I was going to tear.  I tore, and I allowed it.  I did it for Katherine: I would have lifted a car in that moment if I thought it would save her.

Lots of women have similar stories.  Childbirth taught me that I was capable of enduring, and surviving, unimaginable pain.

But apparently I didn't learn my lesson, because I needed a bigger lesson.  Cancer: the worst thing I'd ever done.  It was worse than I thought it would be, and I did the unimaginable more times than I can count.  That one was a tougher lesson on every single level: it wasn't hours of pain, it was years.  I was fighting for my life, and for the right to mother Katherine.  I don't wish that on anyone.

And then divorce.  A whole new kind of pain, and an emotional mindbender.  So many of my dreams vanished, and my life's whole paradigm in question.  A stay at home mother "forced" back to work (and then loving it), I had to test my own limits in entirely new ways.  I didn't know I could do it, and it hurt more than I thought it would (I never want to re-live last October, ever), and I survived that, too.

But running: wow.  Running allows me to take all that strength that I learned I had, and pour it through my body, and push myself to do amazing things.  I'm not fighting for survival: I'm fighting to better myself.  I'm doing this for ME.  I know how deep my reserves are - I know that I can do the impossible, because I've done the impossible.

I'm just barely getting started.

And it feels incredible, even when it hurts.

Running pain is so much better than the other kinds of pain.  I listen to my body - I don't want injuries, in part because they'd keep me from running! - and don't go past my limits, but I push myself hard, and I'm amazed that my body responds.  I say "one more mile!" and if my brain doesn't get in my way and say "no!" then my body puts in another mile.  After a while of learning that, my brain started to say "More!"

When I first started running, I thought that a half marathon was practically unattainable, but I thought it could be a great destination.  Now that I'm close, though, I realize that I haven't gotten close to the unattainable yet, because I keep blowing past what I thought was impossible.

I'm not aiming to finish a half marathon any more, I'm aiming at sub 2:00.  Or maybe I'm aiming at sub 1:55.  I no longer know, but I will listen to my body, and go for it.  I'm already planning the next half marathon, and I have my eye on one in January.  (Wouldn't that be a great way to keep the holiday pounds off?)

And I don't think that a half marathon is the end game, I think that a marathon might be.  I've got my eye on that, too.

And then, with a marathon under my belt, and half marathons under my belt, I can work on my times.

I can not believe that today I did a 7:23 mile; my best before that was an 8:00.  I can't believe it.  And I know I've got more in me.  How much more?  I have no idea, but I'm going to try to find out.


This isn't a running blog, and non-runners who are reading this might be shaking their heads and thinking "whatever."  But I want you to know something: this is big stuff.  This isn't about running shoes and tacky shorts, this is about making me into the best person I can be, and living that life.

I'm going after that dream job.

I'm going after that dream man, and together we will give Katherine a new kind of family that will model beauty and love.  (What I do with that dream man when she's not around is none of her business.  ;-) )

I'm going after those dream vacations.

I'm going to change the world.

And because I'm doing "silly" little runs, I'm starting to see what I can do, what I'm capable of.

I'm besting what I thought I could do, and I'm realizing that I've not come anywhere close to my potential.  The metaphor is powerful, and I realize I haven't come close yet to achieving what I am capable of in my life.

I'm harnessing the pain of my life - the lessons of childbirth, cancer, and divorce - and I'm turning it into something.  Running is a tangible reminder of that, and I'm paying attention.

I'm making it happen.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

New Phase?

I didn't see this phase coming.  Surprise!

I went out on a breakfast date last weekend (nice enough guy, terrible match), and then yesterday I went on a lunch date.  I've been surfing OkCupid per the usual, and every now and then someone catches my eye.

And yet...

I'm so, so, so bored with all of it.

Yesterday's date was quite nice.  Handsome enough, smart enough, interesting enough hobbies.  He wasn't smarmy, he wasn't rude.  He smiled, he listened, he asked questions.  We both joked about the nature of online dating.

It should have been great.

It wasn't great.

I just don't seem to care any more.  Well, that's not it.  I care about LOTS of things.  My daughter.  My friends.  My family.  Running. CAREER.  The environment.  Health.  Living my best life.

But dating?  Not so much.

When did this happen?

I've been on perhaps 20 first dates, and I've chosen to go on a second date with precisely ONE person (Luke) in the past two years.  I'm great at first dating, and I've learned how to weed out the weirdos before we even meet, so the men I meet aren't bad guys - they're nice people.  Not an axe murderer in the bunch, as I like to say.  But my attitude is getting progressively worse.

I'm blasé about it.  I'm not terribly all.  As I sat across from this nice man, who may be some girls' dream date, I felt....nothing.  Impatience, even.

It's time to stop dating for a while.  I want my dream man, sure.  I really, really, really want him, actually.  I want to walk in the door and see his smile, the one that makes his eyes crinkle.  I want to have wild sex with him.  I want to sit across the table from him and debate where to go on vacation.  I want to curl up on the sofa, leaning into him, his arm loosely draped around me as I read The New Yorker, occasionally looking up to say, "hey, listen to this!"  I want to watch him fall in love with Katherine, maybe picking her up and tossing her in the air sometimes (she's a lightweight - he could do it!).

But I don't have the energy for it.  I don't know if my standards are too high, but nobody seems to meet them.  (If I met Luke again, he wouldn't meet them either.)

I shut down my OkCupid account again.  I told Mr. Nice that I'd go out with him again, but I doubt right now that I can follow through.

Work interests me.  Running interests me (half marathon in less than two weeks and I'm so excited).

But enough of this already.  Enough.  I'm done with dating and men for a while.  I need to be less bored with dating to meet Mr. Right....I'm pretty sure about that.


I am filled with longing - a yearning deep in my belly that feels white hot and sends tentacles of desire through me, making me shake with need.

But this time, I'm not talking about sex.

I am deep into my job hunt, and having some beautiful progress.  Part of that progress is within myself: I'm determining what exactly it is I want.  I know the "general" job description I'm looking for, but we all know that the devil is in the details, and I want to get it right.  This won't be my final job, but it's a big leap, and I want that leap to put me on my true path, and not be some meandering deviation.

I've found an organization that I long to be a part of.  I don't know why I didn't think of it before, but it came up in conversation during one of my networking coffees, and it hit me like a thunderbolt.  I am meant to be there, and to make it my life's work.

What if, in addition to growing professionally and making an impact on the world, supporting myself and my daughter, and doing work that is interesting to me....

What if I could save my own life, and my daughter's?

There is a job opening at a local cancer research center, and I think that it's perfect for me.  Perfect.  To say that I would show up for work with passion is to understate it: I would have the opportunity to spend my life's work contributing to ending cancer, and the idea fills me with joy and energy and a kind of delirium.  I WANT THIS.

I want to go to work every day knowing that I'm doing my part to save Katherine.  To look into her beautiful blue eyes and think that maybe I can save her from what I have had to do.

As I type this, my right "breast" is bleeding.  I'm okay, and it's not a big deal, but I had to have my tattoos re-done, and the right one isn't healed yet, and part of the scab came off, and I woke up with bloody pajamas as a result.  In terms of what I've done for cancer treatment, this is NOTHING, but it's still not okay.  I miss having real breasts, with actual nipples on them.  I try not to be resentful that I rely on tattoos to give the illusion of nipples and areolas.  I try not to be bothered when I have to deal with the leftovers of cancer.  When I go running on my long distance runs, I have to be aware of tingling sensations in my left arm, where I get lymphedema, because I know that intense exercise can bring on another episode.  (I'm the only one on the trail running with my left arm over my head sometimes, and I can assure you that it is harder to run that way.)  I went on yet another first date yesterday, and thought how, if it ever came to that level (doubtful) I would have to explain to the handsome man in front of me that my body is covered with scars and that my breasts are just allusions to the real thing.

But that's not the important stuff.

The important stuff, is that I nearly didn't get a chance to sit here complaining about my strange body.  I nearly lost it all, and my daughter would have lived a life where nobody reminded her to do her homework and she would watch TV for hours every day, because that's how her dad is.

The important stuff is that though I have made it this far, there are no guarantees that, at any moment, the other shoe can drop.  How do single working moms get through chemo?! 

What would Katherine do without me?  She is entering adolescence, and we have conversations about being kind to boys (even the ones you don't like), and about work ethic, and about taking care of our bodies, and giving back (she is trying to get a volunteer position at an animal shelter).  She needs me to cheer for her at her gymnastics tournament.  She needs me to make her dinner, to take her shopping for her Halloween costume, to take her to the pumpkin patch, to invite her friends over for a sleepover to make chocolate chip pancakes.  Don't tell me that she doesn't, because she does.  She deserves all that, and I need to be here for it.

And I need to be here.  There are stories yet unwritten, literally and metaphorically.  I need to know what it's like to finish a half marathon (I'll find out in less than two weeks), and maybe a full marathon.  I need to throw pennies in a Roman fountain, to hike the Alps, to lie on a white sand beach in the sun.  I've never surfed, and I need to do that.  I need to know what it is like to love and be loved in the way that I know I am capable.  I want to wake up with my lovers lips against my neck, in a tangle of sheets.

I want all that, and cancer tried to take it all away from me.  It still might take it from me.

And it might go after my daughter, with her perfect, beautiful, healthy body.  Her long, lean body that doesn't have a single scar, with her gorgeous streaky blonde hair that touches her waist.  It is unbearable - UNBEARABLE - to think that her body could contain the string of DNA that would throw her into hell.

I can't just stand there and watch that happen.  I need to do something.

I want this job.  I want to spend my life's work eliminating cancer, for myself, my girl, and the whole world.

Nobody is more passionate about this than I am.

Please send out good wishes, prayers, light - whatever you call it, I gratefully accept it.  I want this job, and I feel like I'm in good position to get it. 

I long for it.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Wednesday Dinner

(Two posts in one day.  That hasn't happened in ages!)

On Wednesdays, it's Katherine's evening with her dad.  He only takes her for two hours, from after work until bedtime....because he doesn't want her overnight at his place, because then he'd have to do the did-you-finish-your-homework-brush-your-teeth-put-on-your-pajamas-read-for-thirty-minutes-and-is-your-hair-clean-or-do-you-need-a-shower routine, which he simply does not do.  (Don't get me started.  I have chosen to be smug about the fact that I can do all that, no problem, rather than focusing on his ineptitude.)

This year, Wednesday's also Katherine's gymnastics night, so Bryan picks her up right after work and takes her there, watches her, and then delivers her home.  Since I'm not working, I have taken to feeding Katherine before he comes in order to make it all fit together, and since I'm home (panic! wait, that's the subject of the last post...) I can manage it.

But I've also taken to feeding Bryan.

For over a month now, every Wednesday, our family, such as it is, eats at my kitchen table.  I'm the sort that makes a real dinner most nights, and we sit at the table and eat it off real plates, with cloth napkins.  It's not fancy and it's not a grand affair, but it symbolizes stability to me, and I work hard to make that little moment happen.  Katherine and I listen to music (her music, 95% of the time), and Katherine is in charge of setting the table and getting the drinks out, and it all feels very homey and "family."  I've read all of the research about families who eat together and how that impacts kids, and I grew up where at 6pm we all sat around the table eating food my mother prepared, and so in that sense it comes easily to me - it's what I've always done.

In my marriage, I cooked every meal, unless we ate out.  It was a major point of contention: if I was sick (and God knows I was sick!), if I was volunteering at Katherine's school all day, if it was the weekend or a holiday when Bryan was home....I cooked, and he did not (and when I was really sick with the cancer stuff, my friends delivered meals to me, for which I am eternally grateful).  I didn't mind the 'regular' days since I was at home and he was working, but for the life of me I could not figure out why on the weekends he was lounging and I was cooking, serving, and then cleaning up meals three times a day.

One of the joys of being divorced is that I no longer feel like a kitchen slave.  Katherine helps me, or does her homework while I cook, and I feel the burden of bitterness lifted from my shoulders, and I feel so much lighter.  I don't feel as if I'm being treated as "less than" in the kitchen, and life is altogether more pleasant.

Today, being Wednesday, I again prepared a meal for Katherine and I, and made extras for Bryan.  Bryan walked in the door just as I was plating the food, and for a rare change, we were having his favorite: steak.  I'd marinated the steak all day and I cooked it on the outdoor grill; additionally I had rosemary oven roasted potatoes, roasted green beans, and sautéed mushrooms.  When Bryan walked in the door, the table was set, there was wine poured, and a candle lit.  (This is no sign of romance, and he knows it.  In the fall/winter/spring, I always have a pillar candle on the table, and I light it every dinner.  It's my thing.  And he drinks wine with every meal, and I had a bottle open.  Trust me, there was no sending of the wrong signals here.)

He sat down.  He ate.  He gave me some jabs - he told me that I talked too much, he made fun of my running schedule, etc. - and ate.  He ate all of his meat and said, "Is that all there is?"  (Yes.  Steak is expensive and not that great for us.  There were tons of veggies and potatoes.)  He pushed his green beans to the side, nearly scornfully, refusing to let them pass his lips.  He rolled his eyes at me - literally - when I told Katherine that she needed to eat all of her veggies if she wanted dessert.  He encouraged Katherine to feed the dog from the table after I said it wasn't okay.

When he was done, he got up, pushed his chair aside, and said brusquely to Katherine, "It's time to go."

If Katherine behaved this rudely in anyone's house, including Bryan's, I would think that I'd failed as a parent.  I know Bryan's mother, and she is a delightful woman, so I can't blame her for Bryan's behavior.....but I found it appalling.

Rude rude rude.

I think that Katherine sees it for what it is, but I will not point it out to her, or discuss it with her.  If her dad wants to be an oaf - a boorish, rude oaf at that - then it's his prerogative, and certainly I have no control over him.

But I'm going to continue having him for these dinners, and continue not saying anything.  I wish it just rolled off my shoulders without a thought - let alone a blog post dedicated to it - but I'm satisfied for now that I'm not rising to the bait, and that I'm letting Katherine see me modeling taking the high road.

I'll let him come back.  I will buy, prepare, serve, and clean up this one meal per week as long as it remains practical to do so.  When I watch them walk out the door, I notice our daughter's smile.  She likes it when Dad comes to dinner, and she gets a "normal" family for a bit; she likes that I play nice.  She doesn't need to be nervous that I'm going to respond to the jibes - because I simply no longer do.  (When we were married, I did protest, and he always denied that he'd been rude.  Side note: mutual friends of ours visited this weekend, and he jibed me in front of them.  Our friend turned to him and said, "Bryan!  Don't be an asshole!" and when he denied it, she firmly looked at him and said, "No question, that was an asshole statement," and it was all I could do not to chortle.  She's more "his" friend than "mine" and so it was all the sweeter!)

Let him gobble up giant steaks and potatoes and refuse to eat green veggies - he's clearly having to shop in specialty stores at this point to find large enough sizes, and at 5'7" I'm wearing a size 4 thanks to all my running, so let our daughter see those choices.  Let him teach his daughter to sneer, but I will model kindness and cheerfulness.  Let him believe he's taking advantage of me by getting these free meals, if that's what he likes.  Let him feel the smallness in his behavior, because at a gut level, he's got to understand that his sniping at me when I'm offering a kindness doesn't make him look that good, whether I point it out or not.

One day, maybe he'll say "Thank you," or "That was delicious," or even "It's very kind of you to do this when you don't need to," or "Thanks - you making dinner really makes my time with Katherine more pleasant because we're not rushed."  Or maybe he won't.

But every time he's that rude, I get my own reward.  A very happy but slightly evil voice in my head repeats, over and over, "Smart girl!  This is why you got divorced, and you made the right decision.  Way to go!"  And that, I'm afraid, is priceless.

Cha cha

I'm getting a chance to test my optimism these days.  I suppose we get that chance every single day, but right now I'm really feeling it.

I have been not-blogging about my unemployment because it's a tough pill to swallow.  Today, let's talk about it, shall we?

Crap.  This is hard.

I have not worked in 39 days.  My savings is small.  I am a single mom with a mortgage.

That sentence might be read differently.  You could read it as "HELP!!!  I JUST SAW A MONSTER UNDER MY BED!" because the feelings behind it are the same, except that my parents aren't going to come down the hall to rescue me.  It turns out that I'm going to have to slay the monster, or scare it away, or tame it, all by myself....but my unemployment is a monster under my bed.  I'm sitting on top of the covers, eyes wide, lights on, but if I ever want to sleep without nightmares I'm going to have to deal with it.

If only I could imagine it away!

I know I'm going to conquer this, because I've met and conquered some pretty fierce monsters before, and not only survived to tell the tale, but come out ahead of the game.

That doesn't mean it's not scary, though.

I know courage.  I really do.  It doesn't take courage to get cancer, but it takes a lot of courage to go to chemo, and even more to go back to chemo after it put you into anaphylactic shock.  It takes courage to ask for a divorce when there's no money in the bank and you haven't worked in eight years.  It takes courage to go on a first date when you thought your dating days ended on the day you got married.  It takes courage to look your lover in the eye and say "I've had double mastectomies, and before you remove my blouse I need you to know that my breasts aren't like normal ones..."

So, yes, I've got courage, and I've got proof that I have courage.

But that doesn't mean I'm not scared.

I'm scared.

Really scared.

Everything is on the line, and I have worked so hard to get to a place where I feel good in my life, but if I don't figure out the employment thing, it can all come down, crashing about my ears.

Deep breaths.  Trying to breathe without hyperventilating, actually.

I'm making progress, just more slowly than I'd like.  I had a meeting today where, once again, I was told that I was a good candidate, and that there is a job opening coming up that I'm a great candidate for.  I have another meeting on Friday.  I heard of another opportunity today.  I am making steps.

But readers, I have to confess something.

Some days I am absolutely frozen in fear, and when Katherine goes to school I practically curl into a tiny ball and just wish the day would end and that I wouldn't have to think about anything.

That kind of day is not going to get me a job, and after a week or two of that - a week or two I could not afford, and did not enjoy in the slightest - I'm trying to get back on my feet.  Making calls, making progress.

Please include me in your thoughts, and send out your good wishes.  I can do this.  I know I can.  Except that I forget, and then I am sure that I can't.

Two steps forward, one step back.  Last week was two steps back, four steps back, six steps back.

But I'm trying, and I'm working on it, and I'm going to push through.

Off to do what scares me.  Thanks for your thoughts, prayers, wishes, white light, or whatever you call it.  I'm open to all of it, and I feel that I need it.  Saying I'm going to do what must be done doesn't make it any less frightening, and I will take all the help I can get.  Thank you.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Plenty of Fish versus OkCupid, Part II

A while back I wrote a post comparing the free online dating websites Plenty of Fish (POF) and OkCupid, and I'm coming back today to revise what I wrote.

Plenty of Fish is a much bigger website, with a lot more people on it.  In theory, this is a good thing, because with so many users, surely there will be one who suits me?  I was very excited to see my messages piling up, and to get chosen through their "Wants to Meet You" feature.  (The feature doesn't really mean someone wants to meet me/you.  It means they think you're hot, based on your pictures, but doesn't mean that they've even looked at your written profile, or that they have any intention of contacting you.)  In about two months, I received over 300 "Wants to Meet You" suggestions, and pages and pages of messages.  (Shoot, I just deleted my account, and I forgot to count them before writing this post.  I'd estimate at least 100 messages - they came in ten a day at first, and then slowed down after the pool of users had checked me out, so that in the past few weeks I was getting maybe two to four per day on average.)

The problem is - the user group on POF isn't at all what I'm seeking.  The average user contacting me had completed high school and held a blue collar job.  (This sounds snottier than I'd like.  I'm just over-educated, and I really value education, and I want to share that with a partner.)    Additionally, the average person contacting me didn't share my interests or lifestyle.  (For example, I love to read more than watch TV, and my outdoor time is spent hiking not SUVing.)  Hundreds of users looking at me, tons of messages....and I just couldn't get excited.  I went on a nice handful of dates that weren't all that interesting, with nobody I'd consider meeting for a second date.  Good guys, but not my guys.  I had a few better matches that lived 50-75 miles from me, and I've got to be honest and say that just isn't going to happen.  Drive three hours round trip for a coffee date?!  No thank you.

OkCupid has a much smaller (by comparison) pool of users, but they appear to cater to a different demographic, and if I had to guess, I'd say that they have a higher average level of education in their users.  Additionally, the search features on OkCupid are better: I can search for users of a particular type, including education, whether they have kids (I'm interested in dating single dads, given my single mom status), and distance.  (OkCupid lets you search on distance, and their search parameters allow a much tighter circle.)

On OkCupid I get some highly inappropriate messages - like a 22 year old who lives 3000 miles away - but I just ignore those, as they're a small percentage of the total messages I receive.  After the initial rush of messages upon signing up, the deluge went down to more like a little stream, and I receive anywhere from zero to ten messages per day, averaging probably two messages per day.  (It seems that there is a weekly cycle: at the beginning of the week through Thursday, I get the most messages, and then barely a trickle on Friday/Saturday/Sunday.  Makes sense to me, actually.)  The thing is, most of these messages are from "suitable" users.  That is, they are (on average) from men around my age who value some of the same things that I do and share some of the same interests.

OkCupid has a ratings system which I find sort of offensive, but also helpful.  If I rate a user highly (four or five out of five stars), they get a message saying "Pollyanna likes you - go check her out!"  If we rate each other highly, we each get a message saying "You chose each other!"  That message is how Luke and I first "met".  Then, it was up to us to contact one another (and Luke sent me a message, and the rest is history.)  As a woman, I've decided that I really like assertive guys, and I don't want to be the one leading them - I wait for them to send me the first message most of the time.  However, giving a nice rating is a way to smile from across the room - if he notices my smile and likes it, he'll come over.  If I rate a man well, then he rates me well, and then he doesn't do anything about it, then he's not assertive enough for me, and I shrug it off.  (I know, guys, you'd like the women to ask you out more often.  Sorry, I can't help.)

This week I'm engaged in two conversations on OkCupid that are interesting to me, and I've got a date lined up for next week with one of them.  Both gentlemen are educated professionals, dads, fit, and share interests.  Both know the difference between "your" and "you're".  Neither of them says things like "u r hot" and both seem confident.  The second gentleman is from the area but living in Europe, moving back here in a few months, and I've realized that I don't want to keep talking to him right now because I don't have months worth of conversation with a stranger on my "to do" list, recognizing that we might meet and really find it's not a connection.

There are a lot of the same users on OkCupid that were there when I started, and that's a bit depressing....for them, and for me.  It's a much smaller user pool, so I see the same people over and over, and it's only the new users who seem interesting now.

That's another difference between OkCupid and POF:  On OkCupid, every time I click on someone, they can see that I clicked on them.  On POF, I could only see the first time someone clicked on me.  If I'm interested in a man, I might click on him several times - like flirting across a room.  On POF, it's more like passing in the street, never to see one another again.  I like the OkCupid method better.

And this is how it goes.  My date next week looks promising, actually, though I certainly wouldn't make a bet on it.  But at least once a week on OkCupid, someone catches my eye and holds my attention for a bit of conversation, and sometimes those conversations lead to dates.

Bottom line?  I recommend signing up for both sites yourself, just to try - neither of them is difficult to use, and since they are free there is no problem there.  I actually saw a lot of people on both sites, so there is some overlap.  When I signed up for POF, I felt more popular than I'd ever been in my whole life, and that was certainly fun, and worth it.  In the end, though, I want quality, not quantity, and I think that OkCupid is the better bet.  Ultimately, after two months on POF, and nearly a year on OkCupid (WHAT?!), I just deleted my POF account.  I'll stay on OkCupid for now, until I throw up my hands in frustration, meet someone there, or meet someone in real life.


What are your online dating experiences?  Did you prefer POF, OkCupid, or something else?  I'd love to hear your stories!

The numbers game

I am still on Plenty of Fish (POF) and OkCupid.

It's GOT to be a numbers game, right?

I estimate that I've gone on 20 first dates, the most recent of which was on Saturday morning.  Every day, gentlemen contact me.  On Plenty of Fish, today I hit the 300 mark of "Men who want to meet you."

Except I don't want 300 men, most of whom are wildly inappropriate matches for me.  I want one really fantastic man.


I continue my running adventures, and this weekend I ran my first double-digits run.  Ten miles in 1:27:30, and I couldn't be prouder of myself.  Six months ago I could barely run three miles, and I could barely imagine ten miles.  My half marathon is in a few short weeks, and I know that (barring injury) I'm ready.  I'm hoping for a sub 2:00 time, and if I'm honest, I'm hoping for a sub 1:55 time.  If I got a 1:50, well, I'd be ecstatically happy.  But anything under 2:00 is great.

It's really hard in running not to come out of the gate fast: at the beginning of a run, when I feel fresh and proud of myself for getting out there, I feel a burst of speed within me, and I want to stretch and just put my whole heart into it and go as fast as I can.  Of course, if I do that, within a short distance I find myself gasping for breath and thinking that it's time to stop.  This isn't unlike dating: when I meet a "nice" guy, online or in person, my inclination is to think "this is the one!  let's dive in!" when the reality is that doing so nearly guarantees that in a short distance, I'll find myself wondering what I was thinking.

I know what I want. 

In my half marathon, I want to get my best possible time, and right now that means that I have a pacing plan.  I'll come out of the chute a bit slow, pick up my pace in the middle of the race, and sprint the last bit.  I believe that doing that will give me the best possible chance at a great time, and that finishing strong will feel amazing.

In dating, I want the man who makes my soul sing and sets my body on fire with a glance.  I have a pacing plan for that, too: I'm honest with myself about those early conversations, I move slowly at first, and I'm pacing myself.  I asked for a divorce over two years ago, and he moved out over a year ago, and I'm pleased that I started off at a slower pace.  I feel like I'm in the middle now, and I'm running at tempo, having more and more first dates, refining what I want even more.  I'll have to see how my body feels as I pass the mile markers, but I'll know when it's time to sprint for the finish line.


One thing that's great about running is that it's much more predictable than dating.  I put in the effort, I follow the rules, and great things happen, on a pretty predictable schedule.  I'm fortunate in that my body seems to say "thank you!" for my runs, more than "what are you thinking?" and there is some magic there I can't explain.  I need that same magic for dating: a gift from the Universe that sends the right person into my path when it's time to make that finish line sprint.

It'll happen when it happens.  Until then?  Keep running!

Friday, October 4, 2013


I spend a lot of time thinking about bodies lately. 

I think about men's bodies, of course.  I think about broad shoulders and long legs and flat stomachs and the touch of a man's hand on my hip and my knees get weak.  Mmm, yes, I do think about that.

I think about cancer, and how it changes a body.  Just this week I had to go in for touch-ups - my nipple tattoos had faded and the natural skin was showing through and the effect was strangely orange in color, so I went in and had them re-done.  A glance in the mirror as I am dressing reveals all the changes cancer has made to my body - the long scars across my back, the strangeness that is my chest.  The tightness in my arm where scar tissue pulls every time I lift something, or raise my arm above my head, and how I've decided that I will act like it doesn't hurt because otherwise it makes me sad.

And of course, I have the usual issues in aging.  Laugh lines that didn't seem to be there last year, a bit of a gray streak in my hair.  A softness to my belly that I can not explain - surely it will firm up like the rest of me has?!

But mostly, I'm thinking about running, and how it makes me feel, and how it has altered my body, and how it is altering my mind.

I've become a bit obsessed, and my own obsession surprises me.  I've run for over 20 years, on and off, and I've never felt the least bit obsessed by it.  I've thought it was  healthy habit, I liked it when it kept my body a reasonable size, and I was always glad when the run was over and I didn't have to think about it for a couple more days.  I spent more time procrastinating on my runs than I did actually running them.

Last spring, I decided to sign up for a half marathon.  It was a leap of faith, because three mile runs weren't feeling that great, and I wasn't getting faster, and I didn't feel like I had a lot of extra endurance in me, but I was feeling sick of my plateau, so I signed up anyway.  One of my best friends is a regular running, has done a half dozen half marathons and one full one, and it was easy enough to talk her into signing up with me.  (I think she said "It's about time," actually.)

I went online, pulled up a half marathon training schedule for novices, and plugged it into my Gmail calendar.  More or less, I've followed that schedule, altering for life's schedule or bad days or vacations etc.

And now I'm thinking about my body all the time.  Everything has changed.

First, what's on the outside.  It's shocking. 

I've dropped down to a size four.  WHAT?!  Yes, a size four.  I have spent my life being ecstatic if I fit into a size six, and I've spent most of my time at a size eight, and during cancer I was a size twelve (thank you chemo and decadron).  I have never had the goal of being a size four, and it has never crossed my mind that it was a possibility.

I'm not on a diet.  I didn't have a weight loss goal.  I just wanted to feel stronger and more energetic.....and I'M A SIZE FOUR!!!

None of my old clothes fit, including the new work wardrobe I invested in all last year.  Financially, that's a disaster....but I can get past it. 

I walk by storefront windows, see my reflection, and do a double take.  That's ME?!  Do I really look like that?

And the male response - wow, we are visual creatures, we humans.  I put up a couple recent pictures on my OkCupid profile and suddenly I was Ms. Popularity.

I'm enjoying it immensely.  How could I not?  It's nice to get male attention (although now I have to filter out those men who only want me for my figure and don't care about my mind - uhhh, that's a new one for me!), it's nice when I feel good about my appearance, it's nice not to have so many lumps and bumps.

But that isn't the best part, not at all.

The best part is that I feel reconnected to my body, and my body is reminding me of just how much is possible.  It's another of life's great metaphors:  I never thought I'd be so slim....and so healthy.  There is nothing in the least anorexic about me - I look like what I am, an active woman who is fit.  My concept of what my body is meant to be has utterly transformed, because I really feel "in" this body.  I absolutely love the feeling of pushing my body up against new boundaries - of adding distance to my long runs (this weekend I will do my first ever run in double digits, and on Sunday I will conquer 10 miles), of improving my pace, of upping my weekly distance.

I feel like anything is possible.

I feel like I could conquer anything, if I just set my mind to it.

I feel like this body is cheering for me - a traitor no more, this body is calling out, "Live.  Live.  LIVE!"

This body, this body that I've lived in all these years, doesn't want to let me down.  This body wants me to live deep into old age, and she's reminding me that it's NOT all downhill from here.  This body reminds me that though she's covered in scars, she still strong.  And she's still sexy, too: this body loves it when a handsome man gives a discreet appreciative glance.  This body knows how to enjoy sex.  This body knows how to carry me to the top of a mountain, to the middle of the lake, to the finish line.  This body keeps me going to do the run, clean the house, mow the lawn, make the dinner, review the homework.

This body is the one who gave birth to the child of my dreams.  This body is the one that got me to the other side of cancer.  This body is the one who knows how to have fantastic sex.  This body carries me to the tops of mountains, to the middle of alpine lakes.

I feel like I'm finally getting it, that this body of mine didn't let me down, it carried me through.

And we're just getting started.

I hope that I never forget these lessons, as it's so easy to do.  I'll run my first double-digit mileage run this weekend, and my half marathon is at the end of the month, but I'm thinking ahead to my next events already.  (Another half marathon, to try to get a PR?  Or aim at a full marathon?)  I don't want to lose this momentum, and I don't want to lose this body, either.

If I can be a size four without dieting, and feel great in a body that I once thought was trying to kill me, then maybe anything is possible.

Anything is possible.  And that is the best thing of all.