It’s Good, It’s Bad

Everything has it’s good and bad sides. Strengths have a shadow side of weakness, weaknesses have the possibility of strengths.

What I call the French attitude — like opening your restaurant only when you want to — is an example of good and bad.

Bad that you don’t have control over when you go there. You don’t get to do what you want. Good that it keeps you spontaneous in the moment. Look, it’s open. Let’s go.

More good than bad to practice letting go of what I think I want. More good than bad to be open to what the moment offers.

A theme of this trip.

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Paris in May is COLD and Rainy

We arrived in Paris and the uncertainty of the past days was simply not there anymore. My achy body stopped aching and I had more energy. The toll of stress.

I forgot how much I love Paris, even if it is extraordinarily cold here. We have only a few days. What to do? My acquisitiveness for seeing everything has lessened and I feel free to go with the flow. Just to be present to whatever is in front of us. Let one thing lead to another. So we visited Jean in her new life here and walked around her neighborhood, well outside the tourist areas. We ate in a restaurant that apparently is open only when the proprietor feels like it. There is no menu, only what she has on hand to cook. Very cool. When she learned we were from New York she got her little figure of the Statue of Liberty to show us. Her food was great. Than we went walking in the local markets: the flowers, the chocolate, the fruit, the bread, the fresh fish and meat, the cheese and quince paste. Oh my. A livable city. Of course one must also make it so. Seeing old friends is a pleasure as we recognize one another’s ways with familiarity.

Then, because it was raining, we took a Hop On Hop Off Bus and rode around the city. Learned about the sites. Took a boat ride on the Seine. Ate in Quasimodo’s cave, where I had beef fondue which I cooked in wine.

Margie has left the planning of this trip up to me, which raises lots of complicated feelings. I am proud of myself that I can get around on public transportation, mainly buses. I can pick out what I want to do, which is lovely but then I feel uneasy because maybe she wants to do something different and is not saying. Oy. That is in the realm of manufacturing things to worry about.

Stress works on the body. The mind works on the feelings.

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Vacation 2014

No passport, no flight.
So began our vacation.
No Reykjavik, no Paris.
Air tran, E train, Metro North
Connecticut, not Europe

Shaken, sad, angry,
a stranger offers kindness
She sees that I’m stuck
She frees me from the burden
She says, “Have a cup of tea”

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After cancer surgery

Here is a guest blog from Margie Allen.

One Saturday morning after Linda had recovered enough from her double mastectomy surgery to try some outings, she and Matt and I happened on the Nesconset farmer’s market. We ended up in line for the cashier—Matt, me and Linda behind me—all of us holding an armful of the stuff we bought: green beans, golden cherry tomatoes, cantaloupes, a watermelon, six ears of corn, some yellow zucchini.

I turned to say something to Linda, and…well, I couldn’t help but laugh. There she was, the one with the cantaloupes, holding one in each hand right up against her chest where her breasts used to be. She saw me laughing, and then she started laughing. Then Matt turned, wondered for a moment if it was really OK to laugh (??), and he too doubled over. I got out my cell phone and Linda stepped out of line for a photo, her orange hoodie and pink Keens looking great against the background of orange winter squashes. And then all the women in the line and the folks behind the counter started laughing with us and making little comments.

It was a strange and wonderful moment in which the anxiety and pain and grief of surgery and recovery got trumped by the pure joy of being alive in the company of a small community of laughing people on a beautiful late summer day amid the fruits and vegetables. It didn’t matter that all those women were laughing about being “well-endowed.” There was something ancient and lovely about the sense of solidarity: family, women, food, bodies, laughter, loss, abundance. We laughed some more on the ride home. The whole thing felt sweet, a healing thing for all of us. Later, Linda asked me to send her the photo. I said “Really? You want to keep it?” She said, “Yes, that was an important moment.”

The changes that follow great loss are always tough to bear. The memories of how things used to be haunt us. Meanwhile, the people around you are also adjusting, feeling their way around what to say, where to look, how to help. We all have to figure out how to negotiate the taboos connected to certain losses. . . . And it’s not easy to bring up medical problems that involve parts of the human body that we don’t normally talk about openly and are so closely tied to our core identities: prostate, testicles, breast, uterus. The fact is, though, it is often a huge relief to break through the taboo into a conversation about what is really going on. This photo is a taboo-breaker. We, and you, can talk about it. It is OK.

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