30 June 2017

The Crossing Guard

There is a crossing guard near my house who dresses up as Elvis. I don’t even know if this is legal, but he wears the regulation orange vest, and has a big red stop sign instead of a guitar, so I guess it’s okay. At Christmas he dresses up as Santa, and around Easter he wears a big pair of furry ears.

His job is to take care of all the tiny souls that cross the street. Like a heard of turtles, they amble across the road lugging giant backpacks. They are too young and too distracted (and too weighed down) to really understand danger, and their only real job is stay between the white lines and not fall down.

I take my basset hound for a walk just before kiddy rush hour – but the crossing guard is standing there, holding his sign. He sees me walking slowly down the street with my short-legged buddy, who stops to smell every blade of grass, and every drop of dew. Sometimes the dog gets lucky, finding a discarded sandwich in the hedges, and like lighting, I stick my hand in his mouth and grab it. One of my hands is usually covered in slobber.

The crossing guard watches me. When I’m about ten feet away he blows his whistle, marches into the crosswalk, and hold out his big red sign. Traffic halts, and the lucky drivers in the front car get treated to a bunny, a Santa, or the King. It’s fun for them for about a minute. Which is about how long it takes for us to actually reach the road. And when we do, the crossing guard has stopped all oncoming traffic, and is quietly whistling ‘you ain’t nothing but a hound dog’ as he waits vigilantly for us to cross to the other side.

This is when I feel the safest. Not just safest during the day, but the safest, ever. Seeing this man (and many other guards) standing, beckoning, waiting, and bringing to a standstill thousands of pounds of metal is impressive. The fact that he withholds danger is amazing. And the fact that he devotes his time to bring people safely to the other side makes me want to cry.

I need more crossing guards in my life. I need at least three right now that I can lend out to my friends and family, especially  to one gorgeous soul in particular. Life is not stable. One lousy phone call can bring the strongest person to their knees. And when that happens you need someone who will stop the oncoming madness and make sure that you land safely wherever you need to be.

 Mostly, we need someone who will keep us from harm. A six foot Easter rabbit who will watch us as every step of the way. A lookout. A guide. A protector.

Now my dog and I are on the other side of the street.  Safe from harm, and exactly where I want to be. I wish for everyone to be so lucky.

14 February 2017

A Journey? That's Bull.

The barista at Starbucks told me my coffee order was ‘awesome’. Then, when I told her my name, she told me it was ‘amazing’. Seriously? Since when has my two syllable super-waspy name ever been considered amazing? It’s not amazing; it’s not even interesting.

With my ‘perfect’ non-fat latte, I headed for a doctor’s appointment. I’ve been having some weird pains in my arms and I think it might be a side effect of the annoying aromatase inhibitor drug that I’m on for the next several years. My regular doctor was on vacation (again), so a teenage intern was looking through my history, and getting up to speed. ‘Wow,’ she said sweetly, ‘You’ve been on quite a journey.’

I wanted to punch her in her sweet little face. I can listen to the words ‘awesome’, ‘amazing’, and ‘perfect’ without losing my mind, but when it comes to overused and offensive words, ‘journey’ takes the prize.

A Journey
‘Journey’ is Miss Daisy getting into the back of a big old comfy car with her valise. On this journey, there will be maps and rest stops, and lots of pretty things to look at as the car rides nimbly past lovely white farm houses with wide front porches, and sun drenched fields of corn. 

 Real Life. A Rodeo
What was on the chart in front of my doctor bore no resemblance to a journey. No sir! What was in front of her was a Rodeo. A full-on rodeo with a massive bull, and me, the rider, hanging on for dear life as it tried to kill me. There was no f*cking valise. And there were no meandering paths. There were tears, and terror, and desperate attempts at safety, and lying on the floor staring into flaring nostrils, trying to escape sharp smelly hooves, and still, STILL, finding a way to get back on the bull in spite of the fear and in spite of the bruises.

And I’m certainly not alone. In the greater scheme of things, my Rodeo hasn’t been particularly horrendous. I know people who have been trampled to death. And those people aren’t around anymore to talk about how their ‘journey ended badly’. Because they were in a Rodeo where they didn’t stand a chance against their formidable opponent.

Journeys don’t promise to take you somewhere, and then throw you on the ground. Journeys don’t have cowboys that stagger around barely able to move one foot in front of the other, trapped in an arena that they can’t escape until there is a winner. No ma’am, that is a Rodeo.

So don’t look at my chart, like it’s a travel blog, or a scrap book. Look at it for what it is. An awesome Rodeo. And by that I mean the true definition of ‘awesome’, which is ‘causing an overwhelming feeling of reverence or fear’. As opposed to my baristas definition of ‘awesome’ which is something I can’t be bothered to figure out.

Although to be fair, my non-fat latte was pretty close to ‘perfect’.

8 February 2017

Mouse Cleaning

The great thing about surviving situations that f*ck with your mind, is that you get to know your brain. And the main lesson is, that you can control it.

I was a doubter of brain control for most of my adult life. After years of yoga, I’d never understood how mediation could be useful. For starters, I couldn’t do it. My mind is constantly chatting I could never get it to shut up long enough to relax. And trying to resist the chatter doesn’t work either - in fact, it makes things even more stressful.  So I gave up trying to be ‘still’ and let my mind wander to imaginary conversations with my ex-best friend, or my acceptance speech if I won the Nobel Peace Prize.

It was when I discovered ‘Guided mediation’ that I realized that I could actually take my mind to a different place. I practiced learning it before I was to undergo a 12-hour surgery and was desperate for security. It worked, and it is amazing. Yet, at the some time, it is also a tremendously boring subject for people can’t relate. Like talking about day-care to childless people.  Or hummus, to a carnivore.

My second form of mind control came when I was trying to cleanse my body of any possible bad cells. I’d lie spread eagle on the floor facing the ceiling, and picture a giant paint brush full of white light going slowly up and down my body, sweeping it clean of anything bad. Again, I never discuss that one too much. I practically roll my own eyes when I talk about.

Why have this...
Today I was at the dentist. Since it’s been a while between cleanings, the hygienist used a supersonic high-performance tool with a horrid high-pitched squeal. Even before it was in my mouth, my toes were curling. I didn’t know how I’d last half an hour with this machinery. Then my body switched gears, and surrendered itself to my fabulous brain.

I can’t explain how this happened (insert eye roll here) but it was awesome. Without any conscious effort, a tiny cartoon mouse popped into my head. He was wearing a white lab coat, and wiping my teeth with Windex. That explained the squealy sound. And then there was a second mouse, also in a white coat, wearing aviator glasses and brandishing a tiny hose. Then a third mouse, with an itsy bitsy ice-scraper, scratching away at the tartar. My cartoon mouse cleaning, which lasted almost 15 seconds, was enough to make me relax, and stop resisting the cleaning. It was a delightful surprise, and a reminder of my own super powers.
...when you can have this!

‘So! Any plans for a winter vacation?’ my hygienist asked, as she jammed something n my mouth. And just like that, my mice disappeared, replaced with a supersonic torture tool. ‘Cu-ha’ I told her. She smiled, ‘Oh Cuba! That sounds nice!’

I closed my eyes. I’d been temporarily transported. She asked me where I’d be staying. Seriously? I tried telling her that I couldn’t talk with the drill in my mouth but it came out as ‘ Ikatok cuza  illi ow’. Or, it could have been, ‘I can’t talk cause of little mouse.’

Either way, it had been nice being carried away for a few seconds. A short trip, but sweet, nonetheless.

6 January 2017

Granny Park

It was a blissful day in the dog park, until another dog owner decided to strike up a conversation. ‘How old is your dog?’ he asked. Twelve, I said. He raised his eyebrows. ‘Twelve! An old guy!  How long do those types of dogs live?’

I looked at his big friendly pie face, and pictured myself ramming a steel rod through his eye. My imaginary vision of his big cranium crashing onto the frozen earth with a piece of metal sticking out of it was so much more satisfying than any conversation I could ever have. But I couldn’t even talk. I couldn’t have this conversation.

Of course I think about how old my dog is. I think about it a million times a day. The thought is small dark cloud that is constantly seeking access to my brain, but I immediately make it disappear. Gratitude is a much stronger force than fear, and I use it to nudge the cloud away. Why think about the unknown when you have this day?

Somewhere in the last five years, and due to spending much time in the hospital, my thought process has changed. There is a long story (which boring to everyone but me), but the short one is that I am much more able to live in the present, and much less likely to get swept up in the anticipatory anxiety of the unknown. It’s working quite well as long as I stay in my own head, but I haven’t evolved to the point of incorporating  it  into stupid conversation.

My throat was closed and my mind was racing. Now I was picturing the same guy sitting on a park bench with his granny. He with his round jolly head, and she, a little apple face doll in a pink hat that slightly resembled a tea cozy. They are in a ‘Granny Park’ and someone walks up to him and says, ‘She’s a cutie. How long do you think she’ll live?’

Now, about your Granny.....
Now it’s back to real life. He’s still looking at me, waiting for an answer and his smile had started to fade. I’d been staring at him for at least ten second without blinking. ‘I’m sorry’, I said, ‘Did you say something?’

‘Um,’ he said, with a lot less jocularity, ‘Your dog. The basset hound. How long do they usually live?’

I summoned all the little tricks I’ve learned over the last few years. Clearing my mind. Filling my heart with a smile. Acceptance. Understanding. And arranging my face into a pleasant expression until it starts to feel real.  Sometimes this works, but sometimes people are still assholes that you want to jab in the head with a stick. So I answered his question.

‘Forever’,  I said. And walked away.