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Above Us, Only Sky

August 18, 2014

photo-2There’s always a moment, when you’re climbing very big rocks, that you look down and say ‘oh, shit.’

Sometimes you say those words out loud, sometimes the words just fly around in your head like trapped butterflies, but either way the feeling is the same: you’ve just looked down, and you’ve seen how far there is to fall, and your breath catches in your throat and you hug the rock a little harder and even though you know that all there is to do is keep climbing, there’s a part of you that just wants to stop and stay where it’s safe. Because it’s terrifying, that oh shit moment. It’s the moment when you realize, oh god, I could fall. And if I fall it will hurt. If I fall I could die. And, you know, you don’t want that.

You rarely have those moments on the ground, but when they do happen on the ground, they’re no less terrifying. They’re more terrifying, actually, because the ground is supposed to be safe. You can’t fall from the ground, right? Still, it happens, and when it does the feeling is exactly the same: a momentarily deafening vertigo, the infinite seconds of complete breathlessness, the panicked butterflies leaping from your head to your stomach and back again, beating the same frantic poem with their wings, ohshit ohshit ohshit ohshit ohshit. And the thing is, you weren’t even looking down.

I was in the hallway outside of a conference room, taking a call from my doctor, when it first happened. I was in a radiology office the second time, and laying on my back in a very dark room with an ultrasound machine the third (I was looking up that time, which fact did not escape me. Have you ever been afraid while looking up, I asked myself. My self didn’t answer. My self was working very hard to catch her breath and manage the vertigo.) The fourth time I actually was up a mountain, on a very big rock, refusing to check the messages from my doctor’s office on my phone. I tested myself and looked down and wasn’t at all surprised to find that there was no vertiginous oh shit moment to be had right there, because I was deep within one already. Falling held no terror because there was something that I was more afraid of, something contained within a voicemail message on my phone.

I returned the call when we were part way down the mountain, even though I didn’t really want to. Prolonging these things is a little like staying stuck on the rock, looking down and looking up and being terrified to move. Not moving doesn’t make the fear go away, which is why you always, always move. Up or down, doesn’t matter; the only way through the fear is movement, and getting yourself either to the summit or the firm safe ground below. So I called.

The rock that I’m standing on is a lump in my breast. We don’t know how precarious this rock is, whether it’s a rock that I can climb up from or that I will be forced to climb down from, but we do know that it’s a rock that I have to pause upon and evaluate. And I am whispering oh shit not because I am up too high, but because the rock is unstable. It could give way beneath my feet. I can’t just climb through this, not now, not yet. The mammograms and the ultrasound have told me to stop where I am. I will have a biopsy next, and it will tell me for sure whether the rock is tipping, whether the rock could hurt me or kill me, and I will know what to do. I will climb up or down or sideways and maybe I will fall and maybe I won’t fall. But I will be terrified either way. I am terrified.

But still.

I quell the terror by looking up and to the side and all around. In some moments, I look down. If I calm my breathing I am able to take it all in, the sky and the sunlight and the air. The view from here. It’s a good view, a worthy view. I am glad to be here, at this height. Whatever happens. Because whatever happens, I will still climb.


She’s Gonna Ride These Wild Horses

July 28, 2014

When I was 11 years old, I stole a horse. Actually, it’s probably more accurate to say that I borrowed the horse — I had every intention of returning it — but still: I took a horse that did not belong to me. There are laws against that. I stole the horse because I wanted [...]

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(Not Quite) The Best Mom Ever

December 11, 2012

I returned home the other day, after nearly a week away, to this: It was a ‘Welcome Home’ party, organized by Emilia, the place of honor dedicated to me and adorned with messages of love, ‘because we missed you, Mommy.’ Which: OOF. My heart, my heart. Do I deserve this? I don’t deserve this. I’m [...]

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Vita Brevis, Tooth Longa

September 20, 2012

Here’s the thing about being a working mom: I miss moments in my children’s lives. Moments like this one: I wasn’t there for the loss of that tooth, which in the grand scheme doesn’t seem all that important, except for that it does. I didn’t get to witness the first moments of this proud, gap-toothed [...]

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The Work Of The Heart

April 15, 2012

I barely wrote a word last week. Part of it was, I was exhausted. Exhausted in body, exhausted in soul. I had thought that I could land back in America and just hit my usual stride, not missing a beat. Well, maybe one or two beats, beats that I would skip-hop over with some poetry [...]

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It Was The Sound Of A Crescendo

April 9, 2012

I’ve been back in North America for about 48 hours now, and I’m still adjusting, physically and emotionally. My body is tired, of course. So is my heart: I only had a day with my husband and kids before they drove off to Canada to deal with the sale of our house. So, too, are [...]

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These, Our Children

April 6, 2012

We were talking, some of us on the learning tour, about why the children that we’ve met in Uganda have had such an effect on us. I said – as I have so very many times in the past – that I believe that people who are parents are more likely than others to be [...]

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Baby, You’re A Firework

March 2, 2012

Last week – almost a full week ago now, which kind of freaks me out, because, holy doodlebug, how long does it take me to post about this sort of thing these days, seriously? – I did the closing keynote for Blissdom ’12. Well, me and Rufus, and also Brooke Chaffin from Disney Interactive Media [...]

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Love Lifts Us Up, To Where We Probably Belong

February 14, 2012

This will seem like a statement of the obvious, but still, it bears stating: when we moved to New York City, everything changed. Everything changed, of course, in the ways that you might expect: we went from living in Canada to living in the United States, we went from living in a very small town [...]

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The Mommy Wars, Redux: Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

January 12, 2012

Oh, hey! Remember when I posted about being unfriended on Facebook for being a stay at home? I received the following message via Facebook today. I think that it’s pretty awesome. And by awesome, I mean, so profoundly insulting and ignorant that I actually yelled out “REALLY???” Catherine – I know I probably shouldn’t say [...]

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