Category Archives: Epiphany

All Saints’ Day

Today I put a gold star on my calendar and noticed that it was All Saints’ Day. Not being especially religious, I had to look up the significance of the day and discovered thanks to Wikipedia that today Western Christianity commemorates those that have attained beatific vision. Wow. Let me just say, I’m not there. However, the placing of the star on the calendar for me today has taken on something akin to communing between the individual and the universal. Today marks the 1 year anniversary of me quitting smoking.

This is a deeply personal day and entry in my life. First, I should just say to all of you non-smokers out there that you may want to suspend judgement or stop reading. I, more than you, do understand that smoking is by and large a self-inflected torture and slow suicide. So, if your impulse is to say “well you shouldn’t have been dumb enough to smoke in the first place” you are correct. Bravo. Good for you. Now shut it. Talk to me about addictions that you may have (chocolate, work, sex, cocaine, heroine, anger, exercise, coffee, TV, food, etc.) And if truly you have lived your life without a crutch or addiction, then I still ask you now to just be quiet. Because this isn’t about you.

This is about everyone else.

Addiction, especially in the case of tobacco, lives in the psyche and the body. On many levels, the psyche is the hardest place to scrub. The body will eventually forget. But the psyche will cling to the crutch and I wonder, even a year later, when it will stop seeking the soothing beast of nicotine. Just last night I had a dream that I was lighting More’s for a friend of mine (a friend that in reality doesn’t smoke). The guilt and shame of that act lingered even upon waking. Smoking is still that powerful.

So, today, a year out, I am celebrating the long road I have ahead of me of learning how to live without a crutch. And one way I’m going to do it is to provide a little bit of advice on how to quit for anyone out there that may stumble upon this post.

Quit everything at once. Go online and find what is usually called the elimination diet. It is a diet that was created mainly to find out what food allergies you may have. The goal of the diet is to eat 3 main foods (chicken, turkey, rice with a few acceptable greens) and that’s all you eat for about 3 to 4 weeks and then you slowly add food back in and see if you react to it. (I tried to find my doctor’s version of this, but all of the ones online allowed more than I could eat. Seriously, ground turkey, rice, baked chicken, water, lemon and spinach are the only foods I could eat.) I had to do this last year and decided to go ahead and make it a pure test and to quit smoking. I can’t emphasize this enough — quitting is tough. I tried it several times and several different ways. But quitting everything (even pepper!) is brutal. And so, I think that’s one way it worked for me. The nicotine demon was competing with a whole lot of other demons. The simple fact of the matter was that after 2 weeks of that lifestyle, the thing I wanted more than ANYTHING in my life was pepper and spice and flavor. Easy? Absolutely not. Effective? Well, I wouldn’t be writing this entry if it weren’t.

My other advice is to surround yourself with compassionate and supportive people. As hard as it was, I avoided my few friends that still smoked. I had to. And, when I did see them, I made it very very clear that not only was I not going to, but I wasn’t going to be around them smoking. Quitting all foods and flavors takes care of the physical addiction, but what really got me through the inner struggle was having 1 or 2 close friends that I could talk to and they would cheer me on. Yes, cheerleaders do help.

And that’s it. Will it work for everyone? Probably not; you have to really be ready to let go and that is something no diet or advocate can do for you. That’s all you. But, just so you know, as someone on the other side, I have replaced one deadly habit with being more active, smelling like the perfume I put on, having more money, walking up hills or stairs, not hiding, having no shame, feeling clean. Being happy. Most of all, being free.

Happy All Saints’ Day! Go out and quit something you should. Let me know if I can help.

Winter haze

Looking out over 75/85 and a power grid, I can almost pretend it’s August in Atlanta. There is haze masquerading as smog and uncertainty. If it weren’t for the small bits of snow and ice clinging to the shadows, I’d almost believe the mirage.

It’s a universal occurrence, really. The people I talk to are forgetful or unclear of what is going on. My friends are all lulled by their dreams into shadow realities. Keys disappear from their rings. Longtime residents of a city suddenly are lost. I don’t know if the weather is causing it, or if we are harnessing our doubts and releasing them into the stratosphere where they gather north of Atlanta in a grayish, pinkish surreal layer.

Who knows which came first. More importantly, who cares? Seize it. Open your mind wide to the shroud around you and embrace the unknown murky depths, the hidden or erroneously placed thought. Just roll in the fact we know nothing, we forget everything and a cold wind still blows.

supposed to

Today is June 5th. A significant day in US history, as it marks the anniversary of Robert Kennedy’s assassination. The Tienanmen Square protests ended violently 20 years ago yesterday. But I’m not really wanting to talk about the past. I’m more concerned with what I’m supposed to be doing today.

In about 8 hours, I’m supposed to be getting on a plane to Pisa via Gatwick. But I’m not.

The lure of spending time with Luigi and catching up with Lexie and having a drink with Frank, seeing Kelly as a happily married woman, having a real coffee, eating, reliving the parts of my Italian life, hearing the sounds I miss so much — all of it — can not get me on that plane.

My only reasoning is that I’m just too tired to feel that emotional pull. The thought of spending my first week off of work running, navigating everyone’s schedule, travelling — well, it’s exhausting to me. Sure, people think I’m crazy. I’ve thrown away money on 2 tickets, I’m not going to see those I love — maybe I am crazy. That’s the point. If I can’t even imagine relaxing in Italy, then I need to work on some things in my life.

So I’m keeping my vacation. I’m running to the hills. It’s soul searching time — and deep down, I know that’s exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.

My sincerest apologies to those I’ll not be seeing. I hope you understand.

Incidental discoveries

Probably most of you have not noticed my preoccupation lately. It is one of the benefits of a virtual relationship — the fact that there are screens and wires and space between us. You can’t see the bags under my eyes or all of the stress that lives in my brow. For that, be thankful, because I’ve had a nasty habit of putting my friends and family through hell this year.

Not intentionally of course; these things start off small. A minor gripe in the stomach, a call to the doc. Tests are run. In short, on Jan. 8th I was told I had a lesion on my pancreas. The lesion began to change names. Some called it a mass, some a cyst. In the end, my good doctors and I settled on calling it a cyst. Others still think of it as my speck.

I really am not educated in bodily functions. The basics I have down, we eat with our mouth, see with our eyes . . . you get my point. But the deep down gooey stuff I’m really at a loss. Imagine my surprise then when I began learning about the small strange looking thing that attracted the attention of a cyst. The pancreas is a bit of a prick. It doesn’t forgive you, it’s stuck in its ways, it will not operate once it’s pissed off at you. With this knowledge, combined with the awful revelations about Patrick Swayze and Justice Ginsburg in the pancreatic news front, I began to panic.

After the blood, fecal, endoscopic, ultrasound, CT scan and the final endoscopic ultrasound (!) tests the end result was a 5.5 cm cyst behind the pancreas which was drained (almost all the way) last Wednesday. Today, today being the birthday of Darwin and Lincoln, today my new hero in a  white coat told me that the 33 cc’s of thick protein filled fluid is benign. (And yes, if James Lipton ever has the chance to ask me what my favorite word in the english language is, I will say “benign”. )

There are several beautiful things that have happened because of all of this. My favorite is the introduction of the term “incidental discovery” — the pain that brought on the doctors and the tests and the knowledge  is probably not my pancreas at all. Turns out that my juicy cyst is an “incidental discovery”.

So here are a few of my own incidental discoveries during this process: 1. Certain words can stop you dead — “mass” being one of them. They also have the power to change your life. 2. We are not isolated creatures — everyone needs their hand held sometimes. If you say you don’t, you probably haven’t heard the right words. (and no, I never knew that for certain before). 3. Parents are the most unfortunate people in the world. However, they will hold your cold feet when you are so scared you feel like your heart has stopped beating. And so they are also the best people in the world. 4. Perspectives change, the world shifts, the things you want now will not matter later and everything really will be fine, no matter what. Or it won’t, and that’s ok.

So, I’ll try to be more honest in the future, but this was not something I was going to blog about until I knew what was what. Try to find some discoveries on you own this month — just avoid doctors in doing so.

My birthday wish

I’m not going into why I’m here or what got me here. This is a public space and as long as I’m alive, some of my stuff should only to be shared with a select few. Anyway, I woke today with a sudden realization or urge — I don’t know why I can’t separate the two — but this is both (so stay with me).

Lots of this I already know. That is to say, I don’t. Wait. Stop.

I’m just going to quote the email I sent Shelby this morning:

Anyway, I woke up happy and confused and frightened and all of that I’m embracing. I’m embracing this strange patchwork of a future. I’m embracing the gray and the unknown and fear and love and all of it. Because it is all life. That’s my birthday wish — to remember that even when I know, I don’t — that everything changes and to love the change.

And it may seem silly or obvious, but it’s the embracing of it that I’m going with. I should add too that it’s not just what I don’t know, it’s the things revealed, unearthed and stark white roots in my daily muck. I’m going to study every malformed or intricately constructed gift the days come to bring me.

A gardener once told me that a weed is anything you don’t want in your garden. Maybe I ignored the point for too long, which is that the gardener is the one deciding. So now I’m deciding.

loosing weight

And so, here we have it.

Deciding to go home (again) has spun me into a dizzy emotional carnival ride. I’ve been told I am “quitting the country” and most days this does feel like breaking up with a place. I listen to the advice of my mother “take it one month at a time” and my friends “you can always return” and my boyfriend “you need more than being another working poor of Italy” and know that they are wise.

Unfortunately, they do not have to think about packing.

And having been here on and off for almost 3 years, I have a lot to pack.

Envisioning all of the tokens of my life here, lined up on the spare bed with my suitcase open, I immediately feel sick. Not just sick, full. After Thanksgiving dinner full. Eating a kebab and drinking a beer full. Dark chocolate and potato chips at 3 a.m. full. I want to vomit.

And that desire has lead me here to this working Saturday with a bit of clarity and some regret (regret being the ugliest word in the English language). I have to loose weight. Not just physically, though that would help, but all of my items are weighing me down with their importance (real or imagined). So I have to let it go. And not just them, all of the little things I haven’t and will not get to. I want to let them all go. Book ideas, sets of sheets, fantastic novels, travel plans, beauty products, little stones gathered here and there, tacky jewelry, market bought clothes, chance encounters, familiarity afar, tolling bells — I just need to let them go. Because the memories and the friendships and the honest connections I’ve made with this place and most of all the bizarrely beautiful love that I’ve found, well that is more than I need.

And for once, I’m going to trust my memory and life to keep giving the good stuff back to me.

Befana

It’s the day before Befana here. La Befana is a witch that belatedly goes out searching for the baby in the manger and she is more popular in Italy than Santa Claus. Needless to say, I love her. The night before the Epiphany she leaves children treats or coal — depending on their behavior. Sound familiar?

Her popularity seems unexpected in a place where beauty is idealized. Obvious proof that a good story can sway public opinion. And she is the official end of the holiday season. (Of course the Italians celebrate longer than the rest of us!) So, take a moment and reflect on the good stories in your life and enjoy a bit of wicked with your spiritual self.

Consider that your treat, from me to you. And now for the lump of coal:

Unemployment sounds warning about the economy.

sorry, I had to.