Sometimes, you just start feeling...differently.

I'm down to two first degree blood relatives. My next-to-last has now been diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer. Five year survival rate for her type overall: 1%.

I've got the stubs of about three different posts bubbling around my head, and the hell with my inner copy editor, I can use this journal with narrative inefficiency if I goddamn well please.

1. Those of you who know me well know that I often channel an oddly upbeat form of dark humor about the various downswings that life has had to offer me and mine.

However, today, I'm all out of cheerful wryness. I'm scared, and I'm sad, and I'm worried, and feeling guilty.

2. Nursing someone through cancer treatment, whether palliative or curative, is physically and mentally difficult, as well as time-consuming. I know that, not only as a nursing professional, but as someone who stepped up to do exactly that for my mother. It is really best done by a mutually supportive team of people.

My sister has not made choices that leave her with any such team readily available for her at this time. I did it almost solo for my mother, and that was a really, really costly choice for me. I don't have the same drive to do this for my sister that I did for my mom, either. It would cost me dearly, and I don't expect it to be anywhere near as emotionally valuable.

I don't think I have the juice to do this for my sister. Whether I have enough juice to do it for my niece, however, is another question. Leaving her unsupported to do for her mom what I did for mine does not sit well with me. However, perhaps the solution is not to Lone Ranger my way into the picture. Perhaps, maybe, are there enough local people with ties to my mother, and my niece, and my sister, to step up and build a team that I can help with, without having to do a single-handed rescue?

3. Yes, my niece and I have both made wildly different life choices than the remainder of the family, and could very easily end up dodging the lethal end of the carcinogen holocaust. But. We both had extensive second hand smoke exposure, and lived for years in the same region as a Superfund site.

My grandparents' generation was quite long-lived, but the chain-smoking generation has pretty much all died at an early age, and I'm afraid, via second hand smoke, they may take the rest of us with them.

I am, apparently, not yet emotionally prepared to feel really angry about this, apparently that anger is a bit too scary for me to take out of the box. But I think I'm going to be honest enough with myself to admit, by name, that there is quite a bit of anger there, and quite possibly, really valid reasons to feel it.

4. I finally, at the eleventh hour, find myself feeling both angry and sad about the impending death of our entire branch of the family. I mean, I know we were flawed humans many of whom made bad choices about tobacco and alcohol. But, everyone dying off? That seems harsh, or unfair, or something like that. I am not yet ready to go into a zen "it is what it is" space about this. I think there is value for me, in acknowledging that our line was a thing, and distinct from the actual people, that line is, also, dying. Good, bad, or indifferent, acknowledging that and grieving it may be a thing I need to do.

Cultural blind spot.

I grew up in an area where every winter, the temperature would, at some point, drop below zero and stay below zero, usually for several consecutive days.

When one of my housemates stated that if the temperature went to five below, she (of course!) would be calling in for work, I stared at her in confusion. My cultural reasoning was, after all, that with clear roads, cold is simply cold. Layer up, of course. Be outside at little as possible. But there is nothing in below zero temperatures that presents a non-remediable safety hazard to travel and work.

She pointed out that such things are relative. An inch of snow in Atlanta has people calling in and businesses closing.

And I realized there are both equipment and architectural considerations taken for granted in northern New England that just aren't true here. Not everyone has a plowing contract. No one has a trickle charger that they hook up to the car overnight to make sure it starts. Hell, the roof slants are lower, and garages are less common.

I'm more knowledgeable than I realized. I have a deep cold weather survival knowledge base that most people do not. Even if I don't use it, I have it. This makes me quietly happy.

Hello, me. (:

For starters, I'll just quote my Rumi piece for today wholesale.

Birdwings

Your grief for what you've lost lifts a mirror
up to where you're bravely working.

Expecting the worst, you look, and instead,
here's the joyful face you've been wanting to see.

Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
you would be paralyzed.

Your deepest presence
is in every small contracting and expanding,
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
as birdwings.


I'm returning to something I at one point enthusiasticaly embraced, and, also, walked away from. It feels awkward. I think I'm standing in judgment of myself over transience. I think I'm reacting, emotionally, not to my Livejournal lifetime, but to the waxing and waning and waxing again that is a pretty common across systems and living beings on this planet.

I seem to have deep emotive wiring that says "to be inconsistent is to be shameful and wrong". While there are obvious theories, I'm not, at the moment, choosing to feel sure about when and how that was installed. But I'm going to look at this for a bit.

First of all, musing directly to myself. Is consistency, constancy, a grounded, only subtly-changing, mountainous self what I feel is most true to my deepest nature?

My resonant response seems to be a no. Perhaps a bit wistful - apparently, something in me really and truly loves, and respects, and is awed by those who dwell as mountain and plain. I want to sink my roots deep into their solidity, but I am, even at rest, far less sessile than they.

My way of being, my nature, is to reach high, in ways they cannot, absorb sunlight and air, and pass that light, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, through the gates of transformation deep within my cells. I am nourished by those products of transformation. I want to drink in all that I could possibly need to stand strong, and reach out, and most of all, live with vitality.

But, almost always, there is abundance left, often quite a lot. Some gifts I release above the ground, but the richest overflow, I let sink downwards, into my roots, and through them to the soil. I can see it, in this world's trees, as sugars, nitrogen, nutrients. I am not as sure of the chemistry of what I store, in those rich and grounded places which hold and support the roots of my spirit or soul. But I am sure that I stand stronger, when I mindfully, in times of spiritual excess, breathe and send that overflow down, and down, and down.

I think I would like to learn, again, to cherish the consistent, the constant, without criticizing myself for being, amazingly and beautifully, otherwise. Earth grows hard-packed and sterile without my roots burrowing in and seeping the gifts of sun and air into their pores and crannies.

And perhaps, in winter, we simply twine, together, in mutual rest, appreciative.

Invitation; Winter Holiday of Choice (WHoC) 2011

Consider this your official invitation to come spend any time you might have available on December 24 or December 25th at Chez CatFarm with Tracy Worcester, Rain Donaldson, Pam Benetti, and Cathy Klessig and various random other interesting people! (:

To those of you who aren't familiar, this is a two day gathering on December 24th and 25th, alternate codename Waifmas. For more details, see the FAQ at the bottom of the mail. Come see folks, hang out, eat tasty food, and have fun.

NOTE: BY REQUEST OF ONE OF THE HOSTS, THIS YEAR, WAIFMAS WILL BE ALCOHOL FREE.


IF YOU WILL BE ATTENDING, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE RSVP to tracy.worcester@gmail.com.

Who: You and anyone you want to bring along. Please spread the word to anyone you'd have fun being around, as I'm getting invitations out late.
What: WinterHoliday of Choice (WHoC) 2011!
When: December 24th, from 4 p.m. until late
December 25th, from 1 p.m. to whenever
Where: 10670 Ford Road, Ypsilanti, MI 48198.
(734) 239-4400
Why: Socialize! Snuggle a cat! Dodge your family gathering! Eat tasty food! Share goofiness with fun people you don't see anywhere near often enough!

What should you bring? Shared food is welcome, as are board/card games, musical instruments, and folding chairs. Other implements of public amusement are also welcome.

FAQ:

* But I don't celebrate Christmas. Will it be stuffed down my throat?
No. This isn't a Christmas thing. It's held on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day because it's hard not to be depressed if you're alone on those days; the culture is rough that way. We want to give people someplace to be if they want one, and increase our odds of company.

* Will you be offended if I'm busy?
No, not at all. We just don't want people to be alone, and we enjoy throwing a party. (:

* What cultural winter holiday things will I see?
Probably a tree, and glittery ropes, and possibly lights. They're only religious if you feel like you've been oppressed by the pagan majority, and probably not even then. (:

* Do I need to bring a gift?
No. Gifts will not be inflicted on random attendees. Food to share might be helpful, though; we don't have much money for provisions this year. If you really want to provide a house gift, well, don't wrap it in WinterHoliday paper, and we'll honor your intent. (:

* I can't be there for the whole thing. Is that a problem?
That's fine, we expect some people to be there for most of it, and some to only be there for a couple of hours. It's all good.

* I'm an atheist and/or cynic. Must I be filled with holiday cheer?
No. You must, however, be filled with normal year-round politeness. And if you've got the ability to have fun, that would be good, too. But you don't have to be filled with the joy of any particular season. (:

Job update: death.

Today was the first patient death I've had since I started working for hospice. I wish I had something truly poignant to say, but I don't. I am sad, but I'm not at all devastated. I suspect, unless a patient is so flagrantly suffering that death is a clear escape, I will find each death sad.

Some folks have been worried about me taking hospice on in the aftermath of my mother's death. To be honest, I was somewhat worried, too.

This was close to anticlimactic. I was gently pleased that I was part of keeping this person comfortable through his death. I was gently sad to see the family he left behind, grieving with grace, but still hurting.

Ah, well. Digging to see if there's a delayed-reaction emotional tsunami coming is part of why I pay my therapist. (:

Yard sale reschedule.

Okay, it looks like I'm going to have to move the yard sale off of this weekend. Which weekend it is going to is not yet determined.

On an only peripherally related note, it continues to look very, very likely that I'll like this job. (:

State of the Tracy, Wednesday, June 15.

About a week and a half into the new hospice job. Still in orientation, unsurprisingly, but, if all goes according to plan, I'll be following a full-scale, at-work, hospice nurse around beginning next week. While judging from this point is difficult at best, what I can say with certainty is that I really, really, like and respect the people who've hired me.

If you've ever worked for a large organization, or even a small organization that involves health care, you will likely be able to bring to mind the hours and hours of lectures given to make sure your employer was in compliance with regulations about the Things All Employees Are Supposed to Know and Do.

These folks actually went out of their way to connect the quality of our compliance to the quality of our patient care. The people giving those lectures? They not only understood their topics, but they cared, and were able to make me understand why I should care.

I know, I know, it sounds like I've drank the Kool-aid, and possibly I have. But I really *do* want to go read the policies and procedures that apply to me.

Anyway, I'm coming home exhausted, and expect I'd better plan on that for at least the next few weeks. This is steadily improving, but I'm holding off on all my normally scheduled activities, so if I need to call in dead, no one has made plans around me.

Still. Health is good. Cats are well. Housemates are all essentially well. Life's pretty good, and heading towards getting even better.

*hugs* to you all, and safe travels until I see you next.

Want to get rid of your crap?

I'm hosting a yard sale on the weekend of the 18th. If you'd like to drop off your unwanted clothes, books, furniture, or other things, I'm willing to try to foist them off on others.

If you're willing to help work the yard sale, I'm willing to keep track of which stuff is yours and get you the money you earn. Want to make your stuff go away without participating? Sure thing! However, unless you negotiate otherwise, I'm not keeping a tally for you. (:

If you want in, let me know.

Don't remember...

...if I posted about the fact that I got a job offer that I'm going to take.

I'll be with a local hospice, working midnights at their on-site facility (not in people's homes). They're a very, very good hospice. Having them be my first hospice job, learning my standard of care from them, is something I'm very pleased about.

The only other hospice I've seen that impressed me to the same level is just west of Flint. But that commute would be quite a killer, so better these folks, regardless.

The midnight part is not my absolute first choice, but my body does midnights just fine; it just interferes a smidge with my social world. But nowhere near enough to be a deal-breaker.

I've gone from my initial insane, ear-splitting levels of squee to a steady, happy anticipation. I'm a little nervous, since I've not had regular work in a year, and my mind and body may be out of practice. But I *like* working, so I suspect there's going to be as much relief as start-up stress.

Small personal victories.

There is a yoga pose called sarvangasana, or shoulder stand ( http://t3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRZGIl6kMho3itCru1oZahN849jpbF5AK8dHUamVQY5N-t-IrKW ).

I lost the ability to get into this pose unassisted when I gained weight after my mom died. I stopped trying for a while. Yesterday, I tried again and managed it without any trouble. (My form is for crap, but you can't *improve* form when you can't get into the pose at all.)

Yay. Move done. Job hunt moving forward. Body slowly but surely getting back on track. Light dating resulting in no blood, flames, or wailing.

The forward progress feels turtle-slow, but I am suspecting that the progress is also turtle-solid.