Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Splash of Cold Water

Every now and then my past rushes forward to splash cold water in my face and set my feet once again on solid ground. This happened to me last night, and surprisingly I was unprepared for it – I shouldn’t have been, but other things had taken the forefront in my mind lately, and I simply wasn’t thinking!

I met my friend, Vicki, at the American Cancer Society Relay for Life Kick-Off event in Monroe last night for dinner. As I drove from my home in Social Circle the ten miles to Monroe, my mind was on seeing her and being with other people for a little while. I’ve been working my way through a period of cabin fever and thumb twiddling at home the past few weeks. The garden is finished for the season, the weather has been nasty and rainy a good bit of the time, Phil has been sick with a vicious sinus infection, and I’ve been plagued with a bad case of poison ivy. All of this, along with the job market to seemingly dry up even more in my areas of experience, has had me in its grip. I haven’t sent out a resume for a potential job in over a month, and the little free-lance job I am doing from home isn’t yet reaping any rewards. I’ve been sitting on an over-sized pity potty, wishing my life could be different.

Last night over dinner, I updated Vicki on my job situation, and pretty much dumped on her. We hadn’t talked in quite awhile, so we took full advantage of dinner time to catch up on each other’s news and give the CliffNotes version on what’s going on in our lives. It was after dinner, when the program began, that I got my slap in the face.

The main part of the kick-off program was offered from cancer survivors. Four people got up in front of the audience to tell their story, either of facing cancer themselves or of being a care-giver for a cancer victim. As I listened to the stories being told with emotion, gratitude, faith, fear, and courage, I was taken back almost nine years ago to the day I received the phone call from my surgeon, telling me in as gentle a way as she could, that I had cancer. The small lump was no longer merely suspicious, but was a potential killer. Each of their stories was unique and individual, yet each was also my story. As I listened and connected with them, all of my current problems melted away. I had the horrible disease, defeated it, and it changed me forever- physically, but more importantly spiritually. I am a cancer victim, survivor, and thriver. One of the speakers also spoke of being a thriver. I remember using the term several years ago while delivering a key-note speech to a group of nurses. While my current situation of being unemployed isn’t fun, and isn’t where I’d like to be, I realized last night that I am still a thriver, and I continue to be cancer-free, at least for today. I wake up every morning to a brand new sunrise, move through my day as a healthy woman, and look forward to each tomorrow.

At the end of the meeting, all cancer survivors were asked to stand, and the audience applauded. I briefly stood along with several others, shaking off the uneasy feelings I had about having a spotlight on me. I’m not special because I’ve had cancer. I’m not special because I beat it. I’m not special because I wear a “Survivor” t-shirt at Relay for Life. What makes me special is what cancer did for me. It changed my life. It gave me a new vision of my world and a deep spiritual sense of God’s presence in his creation.

I had let the pity potty overshadow this for awhile. This morning I am off the pot, and watching for the sunrise.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Diamond and the Social Circle Friendship Festival

Yesterday I took Diamond to Downtown Social Circle for the annual “Friendship Festival.” This was 100% Small Town America at its best. The main street was lined with vendors selling everything from temporary tattoos and face-painting to home-crafted soaps, jewelry, fall flowers, baked goods and handbags. The town was adorned with Autumn decorations, and every door along the main street was open, inviting people to come in to visit and shop. And, of course, there was the ever-present perfume of carnival foods. It was a treat for all of our senses.

As Diamond and I strolled up the street, we ran into a few people we knew and stopped to chat for a few minutes. Nobody seemed to be in a hurry as we all delighted in the sunny October day and the festival atmosphere around us. Diamond especially enjoyed the afternoon. She was the recipient of lots of attention, and didn’t notice the few individuals who demonstrated panic and fear upon approaching her on the sidewalk. She was very well behaved as always, and had no idea that there was anyone on earth who didn’t like her.

I was very impressed with the manners of the children that we met. Someone is teaching them well – I’m not sure if it’s their parents or school, but I’m guessing it might be school. As we paused to stop at booths for me to window shop, children would approach me and ask politely, “May I pet your dog?” Of course, my answer was “Certainly, her name is Diamond, and she loves children.” Many parents exhibited surprise at their children for the way they approached us and asked before they stretched out their hands to pet my big girl, which makes me believe they are learning this courtesy somewhere other than home! Diamond and I heard all about their pets, and many wishes that they might someday have a dog, too. They loved her kisses, and were reluctant to rejoin their parents to continue their way down the street. As we were walking, a delightful young woman, obviously with many challenges, was sitting on a park bench with her mother. With speech that was slightly garbled, she called out to me, “I love your dog!” Diamond and I took that as an invitation and walked over to be closer to her. Her mother had a look on her face that is very familiar to me – fear- but her daughter obviously wanted to get to know Diamond better. I reassured Mom that Diamond was friendly, and she relaxed somewhat. The young woman petted Diamond and cooed over her while telling me how much she loved dogs. We talked for a few minutes, and then I gently suggested that it was time for Diamond and me to move on down the street. “Thank you for letting me pet your dog,” the young woman said as we got ready to leave. She bent over to hug Diamond, who responded with a great big kiss on her face. We walked on down the street, still listening to her laughter and recounting to her mom about “that dog’s kiss.”

Diamond loved the afternoon. She met many new friends and got to sniff hotdogs, hamburgers, fries, barbeque, and other assorted treats. While she didn’t get the chance to sample any, she didn’t seem to be disappointed. She was too busy looking for children to love and other dogs to make friends with.

Diamond loved the Social Circle Friendship Festival!