A New Normal

What a long, strange month it’s been!

I won’t go into everything that’s entailed in Nettl’s diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer—you’ve probably read all about that in Facebook—but I will tell you it’s been busy, busy with various doctors’ appointments, tests, surgeries, and now, chemotherapy. The first week was the worst as far as I’m concerned, because we didn’t have a prognosis, but once we were told it’s completely curable things were a little less stressful and frightening. A little. Over the next three weeks things eased up even more, and we had so many beautiful people step up to help us in a myriad of ways, from simply dropping by to see her, to giving her a head-shaving party, to sending flowers, to organizing a meal train for those nights following her treatments, as well as donating financially for all the out-of-pocket and co-pay expenses. We are simply bowled over by the compassion and helpfulness of so many, many people! You’re wonderful and we love you all!

Finally, life has evened out a little. We’re not living our old normal, you know, but we are adapting to the new normal. I may even be able to get back to my projects soon. I confess, after being the primary caregiver for both of my parents before their deaths in their turn, I panicked a little. I have a bit of a “jinx” complex where people dying on my watch is concerned. Unwarranted, sure, but it happens I guess. My own doctor put me on some anti-anxiety meds and I’m feeling much stronger now, and as I said, when Nettl’s prognosis came back as 99% positive, I let go of that old script in my head. Get thee behind me!

So there’s not much else to report. I had aspirations of addressing the revolting goings-on over last weekend, but everyone else has done such a better job and, frankly, I don’t have the energy. Even the threat of nuclear war didn’t faze me much. I grew up with that, and taking care of Nettl while her body’s being nuked by the old Red Devil chemo drug (called that because it literally looks like red Kool-Aid) was just so much more important to me.

Heads Up: I cancelled my September house concert; I can’t even think of doing that until this is all over. She’ll receive chemo until the end of the year and then have surgery followed by who knows how many radiation treatments. I’m looking at about a year. Meantime, I hope your summer was nice and that you were able to get a vacation. Life is stressful for everyone these days.

Have a great week!
Kaye

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Fake It Till You Make It

Nook & Cranny Mercantile, one of the shops I visited yesterday (click to visit webpage)

Since about 2005, Nettl and I have had one car between us and since she’s the one who works outside the home, I’m without wheels every day. Unless I have a doctor appointment or need to run some errands, I’m pretty housebound. That’s not a bad thing, though. I mean, where am I going to go? I used to walk a bit, but with knee surgery looming in the near future, that’s out.  I’m a bit of a homebody, anyway, so it really doesn’t bother me. Yesterday was different. Because Nettl’s supervisor picked her up to go to OKC on business, the car was left here, which didn’t really hit me until I went to the kitchen to get my coffee and I saw the car in the drive. The day was beautiful, warm, and sunny so why not go out?

I didn’t do much, really, but there are a couple of items I’m wanting for our new look in the living/music room (a combined space connected by a lovely Craftsman columned divider), and I decided to hit some antique and used furniture shops. We’re really tired of the cottage look and are now shifting to what I call a “well-traveled Woodstock hippy Zen” look. You know what I mean. Persian area rugs, steamer trunk coffee table, low-profile sofa, comfortable club chairs, tasteful art on the walls, tweed, leather, etc, and little things having to do with eastern philosophy. That. Soon, the lace curtains, the doilies, the hanging “grandma” plates, and the figurines will be stowed away in the garage; we’ve already picked out the new sofa and chair and will be ordering them in the next week or two. Yesterday, I located the rugs, drapes, and the trunk, and they’ll follow soon after.

Anyway, as I drove around town yesterday, the sun roof open and my favorite station playing hits from the Seventies, I felt free, alive, and grateful for the life I have. Yeah, I live with chronic illness and its unpredictable ups and downs every day, but so what? The more I focus on the world around me and feel grateful for all I have (and I’m not talking about possessions here, I’m talking about my family, my friends, and my creative projects), the less in focus illness becomes. I exercise a little Bradley Method over the pain and it all slips into the background. Soon, I’m not focusing on myself at all. I’m noticing other people. I open doors, I allow pedestrians to cross in front of me even when I have the right-of-way and, when asked by shopkeepers and clerks, “How’re you doing?” my answer is, “Actually, I’m having a great day!” Instead of the question being one about how I feel, it turns into one about my mindfulness of the day itself. The paradox is, the less I think about how I feel, the better I feel!

I admit, all this friendliness and love of life is something I’ve had to learn to enact. “Fake it till you make it” and “Be mindful of the moment” have become my mantras over the past decade, and it hasn’t been easy. The secret, though, is that the more I “faked it” and the more I turned my awareness to life around me, the easier it became. Now I’m not faking it anymore. What it took was getting damned bored with myself and my private pity party. I had to stop being negative and start realizing that it’s my body that’s in rough shape, not me. It’s like having a tire that always goes flat and not having a spare or the means to buy a new tire. I can either sit on my ass and bemoan my situation, or I can keep a full can of StopLeak in the trunk. Yes, of course the tire is going to go flat again, but I can keep refilling it. I’m not the tire, damn it, and I’m not even the car. I’m the driver. That’s how I look at my body vehicle and, when this car wears out I’ll get a new one. Meantime, I keep a supply of StopLeak on hand.

Look, I know from my own experience that sometimes it’s nearly impossible to be so positive. I have my off days, too, but at last I’m learning that I am my own self-fulfilling prophecy: how I choose to perceive myself is exactly what I manifest for myself.

“You should feast regularly on the society of joyful minds.
Every day you should associate, if only for a little while,
with joy-instilled persons—those who meditate and feel
the joy of God as a reality. Seek them out and feast with
them on this most vitalising food of joy. Feast on laughter
in the company of these really joyful people. Steadfastly
continue your laughter diet once you have begun it,
and at the end of a month or two you will see the
change—your mind will be filled with sunshine…
Cheerfulness is very important to health.
It is the best antiseptic that you can have—plus
the thought that you are all right.”
Paramahansa Yogananda

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It’s Alright, Ma, It’s Life and Life Only

I’ve been rather absent from the world this week.  Outside of my morning rounds, I’ve stayed out of social media. I can’t say I’ve gotten a lot accomplished, but it feels as if I’ve been resting up or conserving my energies for something. I don’t think something bad looms ahead, though, because I feel extremely positive. So what have I been doing?

  1. I’ve watched the world go by outside my window and have felt no compunction to join in or entertain feelings of guilt for this passivity.
  2.  I’ve watched a fair amount of telly at night, mostly documentaries on a wide variety of subjects from English gardens to the history of China and Mongolia.
  3. I’ve slept, slept, and slept some more. I’ve allowed myself to nap anytime my brain needed to switch off. One morning I took a nap only one hour after my cup of coffee. One night I napped on and off until I finally settled into a deep sleep as the sun came up. Where sleeping and eating are concerned, I followed my body clock, not the one that sits on the bookshelf.
  4. I’ve spent a lot of time with the cats. Or maybe I should say they’ve spent a lot of time with me. I guess I can say I became one of them this week, and they seemed to like this, even tolerating each other to be near me.
  5. I’ve hardly answered my phone, texted only with Nettl, and avoided the internet, except to search things to watch on Netflix and Amazon Prime, or to daydream on Realtor.Com.

In essence, outside of doing some laundry and changing the bed linens, I’ve done absolutely nothing and it was everything I dreamed it could be. But today marks the end of this freeform existence. Tonight I’m making dinner for the guys and me, tomorrow is our little New Year’s Eve Not-A-Party party, and on Sunday evening Nettl returns from New York. On Monday, we’re taking down the holiday decorations, and then life returns to normal on Tuesday.

I’m glad I was able to eventually turn off the voice of the Guiltmaster in my head. It took a couple of days, but I finally succeeded. That alone gave me the vacation I needed; I didn’t realize how much it dominated both my conscious and unconscious thoughts every single hour of my life. It’s an ongoing battle, but as long as I gain new footing and new strengths, I know I’m winning.

And so here we are at the cusp of a new year. Instead of tritely wishing you a Happy New Year, I’ll wish you the ability to make it what you’d like it to be. None of us are victims unless we choose to be, we create our own realities depending on what we expect and feel we deserve. I have good feelings about 2017 despite all the naysayers and Gloomy Gusses. Trump will be inaugurated, some people will continue to abuse each other, and ageing celebrities will continue to die. I’m not focusing on these things as I enter the new year, though, because I also know the sun will continue to rise each morning, some people will go on loving and helping each other, tomorrow’s poets and thinkers will continue to be born, and  that I will continue to write and sing and dance. It is dark ages, after all, from which golden ages spring.

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Leaves, Books, Memories

SK Waller in Fort Worth
Enjoying the hotel life

Getting back into the swing after my week in Fort Worth has been a bit of a struggle. Coming back home to housework, refilling prescriptions, taking care of business, and my usually placid day-to-day lifestyle hasn’t been easy. Okay, I admit it. I really enjoyed the hotel life. Really enjoyed it. I enjoyed working on music with Wade Johnson (who’s in the studio as I write this, recording one of the two songs we wrote together), and I loved going out to hear live music with him and his wife, Terri.  When I was younger I went out like this with friends every week of my life, but these days I’m lucky if I get out once a year. So here I am in my wing back chair with the cat beside me while a driveway full of leaves begs to be raked. Am I going to get up off my butt and do that though? No. Not today. And not tomorrow, either. Probably on Saturday, but it may wait until Sunday. Or next week. I can’t seem to bring myself back to writing, either, damn it. I spent Monday on the house thinking it would free me up to spend the rest of the week finishing Book 2, but it, like the leaves outside, waits. In the meantime—until I can locate my motivation—here are some photos of the night we went to The Railhouse to listen (and dance!) to A Band Of Brothers, a great group that played everything from country to R&B.

kaye_wade_lynette
With Wade and Lynette
terri_kaye_lynette
With Terri and Lynette (Don’t ask about the 13. I have no idea why I grabbed it; it was just our table number)
kaye_wade
With Wade Johnson, my music buddy since 1972
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