It is official: I have my house back.My daughter and her family moved out, right on schedule, to their new home.I needed to take off for a business trip the very next day so I actually did not get to enjoy the solitude and potential tidiness until my return fully six days later.They even had to come back with a second rental moving truck, mid week, to get most of the stuff they left behind the first time.There was no rental truck big enough to take all their belongings in one trip so back they came.Despite repeated warnings on my part, my daughter was still openly astonished at how much was left.
Yes, I know.
First, just to get to my son-in-laws’s beloved bar-be-que in my backyard, they had to haul to the dump a couple of cubic yards of old, rotting wood from the deck renovation project.Just to clear a path.Once that was done, they cast a look around and to my daughter’s shock and honest dismay, 70 percent of everything in my house STILL belonged to them and STILL had to be transported.
Yes, I know.
I was not there to help; I was in Las Vegas, dealing with logistic nightmares of my own like everyone else who braves the biggest electronics show in the world.But I could well envision my daughter’s expression of horror, trying to come to grips with the fact of just how, so much of the actual ‘stuff’ in my house, was all hers.
This is because I am the family minimalist.I always have been, having been the only child of five forced to do hours upon hours of housework and childcare from such a young age.Thus, I learned very early on that the less stuff you had, the less you had to dust, wax, clean, polish, and generally tend to.I carried that over into my adult life until I had a child of my own who, through the luck of the murky depths of the family gene pool, happen to inherit my father’s clutter DNA.He only sees clutter that someone else needs to clean up, never anything he should have to pick up and to be fair, my daughter genuinely does not see the stacks and stacks of CRAP that I see being as all hers.She’s been that way since childhood and I long ago accepted it as part of her nature but when she and her growing family moved back in for a spell, waiting on a new house, the clutter overwhelmed me at times.
My BFF, in her quest to forge an even closer relationship with my one remaining cat (who already clearly loves her best), walked into my house while I was away and called me.“Do they even guess at how much of this stuff is actually theirs?”
I responded with a short huff, meant to pass as a laugh.“Not a chance, they are completely clueless.”
“Are you enjoying this as much as I think you are?”
“This is one of those joyous moments of motherhood,” I replied thoughtfully. “You know, like when the baby has a screaming tantrum and I get to hand her back over to my daughter?It’s sort of like that only without the toddler sob fest.”
“I would not be so sure about the sob fest, they are going to be crying plenty when they see how much they have left.”
“I will send them a check list,” I said, warming to the idea.
“You are seriously evil.”
Yes, I know.
So, I thoughtfully texted my daughter a non-judgmental, very basic check list of all the items she needed to make sure made it into the moving truck this time around for the haul back home.Initially, this gesture went over exceedingly well.In fact, she thanked me for being so thoughtful and detail orientated.Ah, but then she and her husband drove up in the moving truck and the visual reality hit home.She quickly realized just what, “garage items” and, “all of your bedroom furniture and boxes” really meant.
It meant a whole lot of stuff.
“This is a disaster,” my daughter wailed in her call from my house to me in Vegas.I mentally imagined her in the mist of chaos.
“Yes,” I agreed calmly. “It certainly is.”
Then I told her I loved her and hung up.I had to go to work, chaos not withstanding.
I am better with chaos than I used to be.I roll with the punches better than BC, Before Cancer.Very little, in short, surprises me in the least.And this when a terse or careless word from some high-strung executive I hardly ever interacted with was the sort of stuff that used to keep me up nights.No longer.I shrug and move on because life is short and I’m good at what I do for a living. I also realize because of my daughter, I’m pretty good at calmly and sympathetically calming people because my kid is, as I write this, knee deep in boxes still trying to figure out how her clutter got so out of hand. But she's no longer freaking out.
I let things go these days.
There was a time when I would have flipped out over my daughter’s mess in my house and worried endlessly as to how she was going to get everything moved.I would have interfered, I would have micro-managed and totally mucked it up.Cancer taught me to finally only fight the battles I could actually win.And my kids’ deeply embedded clutter DNA isn’t one of those battles I can ever win.I now let her rail on about how I am clearly overreacting, how there is ‘nearly nothing left to get’ and how overly sensitive to, ‘just a few boxes’ I truly am.I let her figure it out on her own.I don’t even expect – but still often get – an acknowledgement that I was actually right all along.I just let it go because it isn’t worth the, “I was right and you were wrong” angst that so many people seem to get riled up about.
So to that end, I say that cancer is a very good teacher.Cancer can teach one to distill down to the important only.To roll with the punches, to let the unnecessary and the extraneous go. It can teach you how to be happy because nothing beats beating cancer and nothing is worth getting upset over like cancer upsets.
Heroes come in many shapes and sizes and apparently, ages too.My son’s little girl, Emma, is 12. I guess most people refer to him as my step-son, former at that.But in the divorce, I kept the son and the honorary title of secondary mom.His biological mother was always generous enough to share him so I figured, I wasn’t giving up the easiest kid I ever had.Then he grew up and had a daughter of his own, Emma.
Twelve year old girls are supposed to be narcissistic and self absorbed.They are supposed to be consumed with boys and their looks and the latest style and when oh when is their mom going to relent and get them the latest cool phone?They are not supposed to spend literally, half of their life, growing out their hair only to donate most of it to Locks of Love. But that’s the kind of child my son raised.
If you figure that Locks of Love takes at a minimum, a ten inch donation, Emma has been growing out her hair for literally half of her young life (she ended up with below the shoulder length hair post donation). The generosity of spirit and sacrifice did not go unnoticed by those of us who keep FaceBook up and running, just so I know what is going on in my inner circle. As I read about her gift, I felt my breath catch in my throat, it was such a hugely adult thing to do for such a young girl.And so breathtakingly selfless and fearless that I felt tears well up in my eyes.
I know what it feels like to lose your crowning glory, your hair.When my oncologist told me, none too gently, that I would require chemo, he was savvy enough to also blurt out that the worst of it would be losing my hair.Like most cancer patients, reeling from the news that the cancer had spread, I only was able to take in the fact that I would be losing my hair, not fighting for my life.The fighting for my life came soon after of course but initially all I could think of was how was I going to cope with losing my hair?It was unfathomable.Even in my 50s, I had retained beautiful, finely textured hair, my crowning glory indeed. All my siblings ended up with female pattern baldness (or, in the case of my nearly bald brother, I suppose it is the male version) and as a result, very thin, scraggily locks.I was the sole survivor of good hair, a genetic luck of the draw courtesy of my father who, in his 80s, still has pretty darn good hair.Then I lost my hair. By round three of chemo, it was gone, at least most of it.I resorted to the wig and hat, uncomfortable as it was.I kept up the pretense of looking ‘normal’ which, considering how I felt most of the time, was a feat in itself.
Most women have a very complex relationship with their hair at the best of times. I personally cannot imagine cutting off ten whole inches.I remember the day my hair started to come back in and I have jealously guarded every single glowing lush inch, not allowing my hairdresser to cut it since.Straighten, colored, styled, yes, but not cut. And probably not cut for a very long time to come.
I admire Emma, look up to her and marvel at her gift.I just wish I had the words to explain to Emma just what it will mean to some child, fighting for her life and how her gift will help repair battered self-esteem.Remember, little girls from 8 months to 88, we have a thing about our hair and looks in general.Emma, however, seems to know at the tender age of 12 that true beauty comes from within because the gift she gave is far more beautiful than any new make-up or fashion trend could ever be. Stunning as her hair donation is (blond, thick, wavy − she is a hairdresser and wigmaker’s dream), what Emma did transcends society’s narrow and often painful concept of beauty.
What she did came from the heart and that in itself makes Emma more beautiful than all the pageant queens in the history of the world.
I am really big on New Year Resolutions. These days,I am mostly concerned about resolutions that revolve around such enthralling goals mainly summed up with the mantra of: “do not get cancer anymore’. That’s the goal for 2012 and beyond. As part of that I know that I have a couple of things I need to attend to, primarily losing some weight though my oncologist keeps reassuring me that it’s not an easy thing to do on the meds I take that significantly decrease the chances of the cancer returning.So, I’ve come up with a plan, eat less, exercise more, be crabbier but ultimately get thinner. Simple enough formula but it’s all in the execution and that part of my personal theme for 2012: execute.Execution is what I believe will help me achieve my goals.
I’ve read that it takes 20-something times to instill a new habit but I believe it’s actually far more than that because I’ve flossed my teeth 20-something times in a row and I still get the twice-annual lecture from my dentist because apparently 20-something times every six months isn’t the same as every single day.Flossing ─ a very good health practice ─ continues to elude me no matter how often I attempt to make it a regular habit. And I know that cardio, which is what I need to personally lose weight, is what also triggers incredibly painful bouts of lymphedema so I am going to get thinner but while enduring more pain.Story of my life.
Meanwhile, I don’t grouse when on business at really dreadful trade shows in places like Las Vegas.Think consumer and you will know which one I mean.It’s a spectacular logistical nightmare and one I don’t care to repeat if I can help it but meanwhile I endure the long walks (miles and miles every day which totally count toward my new exercise goals).I tolerate the even longer taxi lines without complaint.That’s because despite the unreal crowds and general total and complete lack of organization, the hotel room is a luxurious nightly retreat and the shopping stellar.
I lost my mind for about 20 minutes and bought a pair of the shoes you can see in the photo below.I know, I can’t even touch them, they will cut me the spikes are so sharp on them but I had to have them and yes, I can walk around in them just fine.I think they were tailor made for some future board meeting or a guest spot on Nadia G’s Bitchin’ Kitchen. She would appreciate these shoes.I remember when I looked at them, thinking, when am I going to be able to buy such amazing shoes? Cancer treatments messed with my balance for a very long time, forcing me to (uncharacteristically) wear flats.Serviceable but definitely not my style.I am more of a four-inch stiletto open toed scarlet red pump kind of girl.And I have the foot problems to prove it.But after cancer, I find that I occasionally have to do crazy (though within budget, despite their appearance the shoes were well under $100) things.As the great Sheldon Cooper (character on The Big Bang Theory) once said, what is life without a little whimsy.Though I am sure he didn’t mean shoes.
Which brings me to my real point, my most important resolution for 2012 is simply to add more whimsy into my life.Cancer took away my nativity, the ingrained belief that that life was mine for the taking, that I would always have time.Time for grandkids, time to make a dent in my mental bucket list, time to master a cheese souffle, time, time, time.Cancer made me grow up and realize that time is actually gifted to no one, life is a random crap shoot at best and that one can do everything right and still get hosed.So, I have changed my tune. I now believe that time seriously waits for no woman least of all a cancer survivor such as myself. I therefore grab every moment I can, savoring every opportunity.I take no chances and I buy the insane shoes because life – and an insane pair of shoes, are guaranteed to none of us.