Category: Conversation


A close friend of ours was recently diagnosed with cancer.  She’s a farmer’s wife who has always been good to us and treated us like family.  She’s a second mother to me and the news hit with a ferocity unmatched by my own diagnosis.  I say that because, as with most things in life, we know what we can handle, but when the same infliction is paired with someone else, the doubt we shelved on our own behalf is more easily recovered.  

And then there’s an anger that resides in the memory of what it was like to survive cancer.  The horror of it, the fear that will emerge and the knowledge you can’t fight it for them.  At the same time, the experience of cancer can draw out strengths we didn’t know we had and it’s a comfort to know our friend will experience, in her hardest battle, a courage that everything else will, eventually, surrender to.  

When you are diagnosed, your battle isn’t to fight the disease, but to fight to remain in the moment; to stave off the need to know what lies ahead, to find solace supplied by each breath unaware, as we all are, whether ill or healthy, of what future we’ll meet around the next corner.  That is primary.

Secondary is our need to survive by whatever means we find acceptable.  And for those co-survivors, there are no sidelines.  It’s our duty to our loved ones that helps us focus on the here and now and survive alongside them.  We find our own courage – a word that reflects a strength that does not come from muscle or brawn, but from the heart.  And again, as I discovered emerging from my own illness, we find ourselves feeling fortunate having come to some understanding that we are all in this together.  And that is something cancer will never destroy.

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I’ve spent the last several months trying to come to terms with Bill’s death.  And when I say this, I don’t mean his death alone, but the complexities of our former time together, how things ended, my behavior, his behavior, our separate paths and what might have been a good pairing of friends, his decision to end his life, the method he chose, his last postings, Facebook, how networking sites function to superficially bridge gaps, etc, etc, etc.  

My textual artifact is the suicide note; my last assignment involved another textual artifact pertaining to suicide and my first assignment was no less cheery.  In all of this, I had spiraled into a functioning depression; struggling to reconcile so much without anyone to talk with who really knew anything about Bill.  

Somehow this mattered to me.  I process through talking and in this case, I just couldn’t find my voice.  In finishing up this final project, I feel like I am finally letting go of everything Bill has represented in my life.  There were wonderful warm feelings, but there was also a lot of regret and wishing I could have ended things with more maturity or handled my life at that stage with greater dignity.  I’ve found myself obsessing over it – night after night of dreams filled with visions from the past, but with no sure way of venting my feelings other than to funnel this process into my schoolwork.  

I’m really fortunate to have patient friends and family.  Though Erick wasn’t around and only met Bill once in passing, he’s been a good support.  He can’t speak to who I was, but he’s wonderful about reminding me who I have become.  And in winding up the semester, and with spring offering a gentle nudge, I’m finding the strength of character to let go of the past and to move on.  

I’ve finally come to accept that Bill may truly have gone to his grave not liking me very much and this was really, truly hard for my ego to acknowledge.  At the same time, it’s so like Bill and that was one thing I loved about him.  I’ll not let go of the positive memories I have of our time together, but the grieving has ended and is being replaced with a renewed sense of responsiblity to those I love.

Yesterday, the bat kept flying into my life.  When the bat flies into your life, it is a signal it is time to bury some old part of yourself that has long ago died, but you have continued to carry.  Last night I was thinking about a time in my life when I was homeless and sleeping on a stiff bench in the Art Department building on campus.  I remember waking up to a class beginning and concerned students leaning over curiously poking at my arm.  The not knowing what will happen day-to-day is exhausting.  

That moment reflects a period of my life when I was filled with a sort of listless wanderlust.  Wanderlust minus destination and purpose.  At the time, I couldn’t afford an apartment of my own and had seriously irked my parents over something.  

A week into my ordeal, my now-husband invited me to Nashville and I quit school and headed down south for a few months.  When I returned, I was offered a beautiful place to live rent-free, which I immediately and shamelessly accepted.   I felt enormous gratitude, but I was still without purpose and a constant thorn in everyone’s side.

In a very real way, I didn’t “grow up” until I got married and settled with my husband into a home of our own.  Our marriage, though rocky in the beginning, offered the kind of security I hadn’t felt before.  And as we began having children, I slowly began to explore my purpose on this planet.  Over the last ten years I have shed my old skin (or killed off cells with chemo), and now it is time to bury that part of me without direction, without hope.  

Partly, this moment is inspired by the election, but I also believe some internal cycle ended long ago was carried along unnecessarily in the form of guilt or shame or an unwillingness to connect with the people of my past.  At this point in my life, though much remains uncertain, I am filled with gratitude and a feeling of hope that accompanies each new, promising hint of change emerging daily.  I feel much like the butterfly bush whose old-growth skeleton as the new shoots come up through and flower.  I have weeded out those branches that no longer serve my purpose for growth.

The energy around the world is palpable this morning. The speeches by Obama, McCain and even Bush were moving and filled with an urging toward unity. President-elect (I’ve waited 10 years to write that) Obama made it clear he would not push a “liberal agenda,” but rather work to heal the nation and renew faith in us by our friends and allies in other parts of the world.

This is why I voted for Obama – Not just to get a Democrat in the White House, but to elect someone in the White House who might have a chance at bringing both parties together for real solutions over the long-term.

According to a CNN poll, 97% of voters called this election the most important election of their life. Not only have we elected a stellar leader who inspires, we’ve also elected the first ever African American president. We’ve proven as a nation that anyone can become president; “The dream of our fathers” lives still.

After 21 months on the campaign trail (longest in history), Barack Obama still inspires.  Please listen to Sen. Obama’s closing arguments (full speech).

The New York Stock Exchange or NYSE began at 68 Wall Street under a buttonwood tree on May 17, 1792 with the signing of the Buttonwood Agreement by 24 stock brokers.  The signing of Buttonwood marked the birth of what would later become New York’s largest trading floor and exchange.  

By 1975 the NYSE had survived two world wars and the Great Depression.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), established as a measure of industrial sector performance, hovered around $800.  And Congress enacted new legislation governing the electronic collection and reporting of all NYSE stocks.  Implementation of this legislation marked the introduction of computers on the trading floor.  

In 1978 the NYSE implemented the ITS or Intermarket Trading System which used computers to connect the NYSE with other markets.  The intelligent technology behind the ITS spawned new markets including the NASDAQ in 1982, replacing the old “over the counter” or OTC market.  Today, computers are used for everything from automated trades to podcasts broadcast from the trade-floor.  People can now trade stock at four in the morning from the comfort of their own home.     

Not only do the computers provide valuable information, they also do some of the thinking for us and offer an “emotionless” and objective view of the market.  Today computers auto-generate one third of all trades.

As the DJIA began to fluctuate amid fears over the state of our economy, humans began to sell.  As people sold and stock prices came crashing down, the computers began buying, stock prices rose slightly, then fell again amid more worries.  While computers may have prevented a dramatic market crash (worse than the $777 loss two weeks ago), they may have also indirectly contributed to the overall losses. 

Could it be our system wasn’t designed to handle the enormous influx of real-time information disseminated by individual investors and the subsequent trading of stocks based on this information?  In other words, do computers aide in the crime of wide-spread market panic?

What sways me as a liberal is my love of this country’s diversity and at the root, the voice and will of the people.  This is the first election in my life-history, where I’ve felt good about voting for my candidate. Barack Obama is a good man.  I’ve followed his career now since I was in college and am as inspired today by his good works and actions as I was the day I first heard Obama deliver a speech.  I’ll never forget that moment- I told everyone around me, “This guy is going to be our president someday.”  He lit up the room with his charisma.  

And yes, it does take more than charisma to run a country, so I looked into Barack’s record at the time and was impressed by his work as a community leader.  I knew it was a long chance he’d ever make it this far, but through strength, integrity and determination, Barack Obama is now running for president of the United States.  And for the first time, I’m more than a little proud to voice my support for him.  

Now for the whys:  Obama believes in the spirit of community.  He believes in fostering an environment where young people find a voice and through volunteer opportunities take a stake in their own community and country.   In exchange for their time and efforts, Obama is proposing we offer grants to help offset the cost of tuition, so these same young people have an opportunity to continue with their education.  

Building a strong community is at the heart of all efforts.  Imagine a Hurricane Katrina event after such a program has been implemented.  We might see thousands of people willing and capable of rescue, building shelter, organizing food and medical care and just providing a sense of hope for those devastated by the hurricane.  

Obama isn’t playing the same party-politics.  He’s not your ordinary politician, he’s always first a fellow citizen.  He won’t play those games – he’s a better person than that.  Instead, he’ll breathe new life into his message and continue through November stronger than ever knowing he has been through harder times than this before and with Barack Obama, we know he’ll only work harder at finding solutions; he’ll struggle with us until this economy is once again balanced; he’ll continue to bring hope to all people that in times of need “There are no red states or blue states:  There is the United States of America.”

A strange coincidence prompted me to think about whether or not we should attribute meaning to the experience.  When I shared the story of our strange coincidence with friends, I received numerous letters on either side of a fence dividing those who believe there are no coincidences and those who see coincidence as nothing more than just that: a coincidence.  

When I wrote about diffuse large b-cell lymphoma, published a paper on the topic and then fell ill with the very same form of cancer one year later; we saw the same debate.  In both strange set of circumstances, I’ve noticed a similar pattern in how I interpret these events personally.  

I don’t like to think of the world as so black and white that when two dissimilar events occur at random with some corresponding theme, I dismiss it totally as some random inevitability.  The word coincidence, after-all, is not defined as two events that happen simultaneously without any connection – it is merely defined as two events happening that appear unrelated.  So, I take a little from both camps.  

When yesterday, my youngest child said something out of the blue relating to a house we had put an offer on months earlier and at the exact same time a message appeared in my inbox from the owner of that house offering it to us at our price, some believed this was a sign that we should buy that house.  We certainly like the house.  However, when I look back at a week spent rental-shopping and had just found a place I liked, I wondered whether this was not so much a sign that we should buy a house, but rather another diversion.  Maybe a different kind of sign – one that reminds us we are far from the place where we belong.  Is it possible the universe really does speak to us?

This brings me to “the Secret” – that series claiming we control the universe with our thoughts; the Law of Attraction.  Take away the magic of that statement and what we have is a series of choices that invariably lead us to a presumed outcome.  That’s not so difficult to digest.  It doesn’t even require a quantum physicist explaining it to me with incomplete experimental data.  

So what of coincidence?  Are they really as random a set of acts as some believe or do we have something to do with their “inevitability”?

I’m so sick of being treated like a lesser woman because I’m not gainfully employed while working as a mother to three children.  I’m not a SOCCER MOM (what the hell does this mean, really?!), or a STAY AT HOME MOM (I get out of the house plenty to walk the dog, get groceries, a walk in the park, etc.), or UNEMPLOYED (for tax-purposes only – if I were paid for the job I do, I’d be making six-figures), I used to write STUDENT as my profession because I was embarrassed to say MOTHER.  

When you get right down to it, what career is more important than motherhood?  We’re shaping the future.  Of course, I am not going to ask women not to work outside the home, but I would appreciate some RESPECT for the work I do as both a mother and person.  

I mean even those women labeled “soccer moms” whomever you are – I can only picture an AYSO soccer bumper-sticker on the back some mini-van – are individuals first before they fall under some broad-umbrella title.  We all share the same concerns over our children’s future; we all worry about things like global climate change, dental health, schools and education, crime-stats, time and yeah, even stuff like soccer schedules.  

Anyway, I just needed to vent.  I’ve not experienced much of this in Charlotte.  Actually quite the opposite!  A man behind me in line practically balled me out the other day when I apologized for taking too long getting my bags out of his way.  He said, “We should be helping you!  You’re the one balancing six bags of groceries and three children.”  No, I didn’t check for a ring.  🙂

I was trying to think of a way to earn money the old fashioned way – with hard work, talent and determination.  My distant cousin became famous in New York selling his poetry on the street.  You paid him a quarter and he would recite a poem on the spot.  It got me thinking; How much is the written word worth?  

Would you pay a stranger on the street $5, $10, $500 for a personal poem written on the spot?  I suppose it depends a lot on the stranger and the buyer, but my thought was this:  Charge $5/five-line poem written out and incorporating some personal element from the buyer’s life.  Instead of flowers, significant others could buy a poem for their partners.  

I thought about calling myself the Daytime Literary Prostitute, but when I looked up definitions for prostitute online, it definitely includes some sexual act.  I can, however, whore myself out to the general populous as a writer desperately seeking liberation from rigid corporate structure.  I could avoid offensive language altogether and just have a shirt made up that says, “Writer for hire.”

Thoughts?