One year later….

I don’t know how many people still subscribe to this post but I am going to write anyway.

Once I was healed from liver resection surgery number 2 I threw myself into biking and running, actually I started running on the treadmill at my folks house even before the staples were out. I was going with the Lance Armstrong more exercise more oxygen method. I ran a 6.5 mile race up Mt Tom in the spring and did a mini triathlon in the late spring. All good stuff, but yoga kept calling me back and so I applied to Kripalu to get my Yoga Teacher certificate and have just completed the first half of that training. It was intense; challenging for the body and the mind. But seriously, what this year hasn’t been challenging?

There are amazing lessons in all the struggles we are presented with. I know cancer has given me gifts, I don’t want anymore gifts, thank you; but I continue to learn and grow from the ones I have. Every amazing and difficult thing that has happened just in the last year has had a gift, and there have been plenty.

This summer started small and ended with a bang! It began with Lorna stepping on a piece of glass that severed a tendon in her foot. Lorna is a bike racer and kicks butt on the road and track. She derives a lot of peace of mind and well-earned pride through her racing and the exercise itself so to be faced with a potential injury that would negatively impact her racing for a long time was scary. My sister will have to illuminate us on her exact gift from that experience, but I know there was one.

Then the summer just revved right up! My mom who had a cough for quite a while was diagnosed with lung cancer. She was scheduled to have her lung removed, big deal but neat…clean done.  Nope, they started surgery to find that it had spread outside the lung to her lymphs, and a later MRI revealed it was also in her brain. She jumped into chemo and radiation almost everyday. And yes, there have been gifts but you’ll have to ask her. Here is her blog about her journey with cancer (http://anneleneve.com/). She is amazing and strong!

Fast forward to the flood from Hurricane Irene which really slammed Vermont and our house was one of the lucky ones… Oh no, we got hit! We were flooded and trashed about, but we had amazing friends and neighbors and people we didn’t even know come help us out. We witnessed an astounding show of selflessness and giving. And now we have a clean basement and a new foundation.

Hot on the tail of the flood Adrian; who had been struggling with drinking so much that I was literally that day going to drop the “D” word bomb when he disappeared on a bender, then resurfaced and bravely checked himself into rehab. He has done remarkably well and I don’t know that I have ever been so in love with my husband as I am now. Sobriety has been a tremendous gift in this house.

Okay wow! right? Enough is enough, and I agree.  Needless to say, however, we are all doing well right now. Yes, there are still the multitude of tests to check hanging over my mothers and my head, that will always be there (we each have one in January actually, keep those fingers toes and eyes crossed for nothing but goodness and clearness), but otherwise all of these things that have happened though difficult while in it have shown some sort of light, some gift.

Now I know it is the holidays and you have far too many things to do, but I will add-on below a reading I am doing tonight (Christmas Eve). By some curious and magical turn of events I was asked to write and read a reflection at the Universalist Unitarian Church. I was dumbfounded by the inquiry because I have only ever gone to this church 3 or 4 times and as many of you know I am a bit resistant to religious gatherings.  However it seemed like another good challenge that was necessary and so off I go even though I am so nervous I could scream and run away with my arms over my head. Anyway below the picture is the reading I am doing, for you, on your time if you want. Thank always  for being there, wherever that may be right now… jai bhagwan!

before life got extra exciting

(CHRISTMAS EVE READING 2011)

When my oldest daughter was still in elementary school my husband, Adrian, taught her that when a teacher says “who wants to go first” you just shoot your hand up in the air before you can even have time to reconsider. I thought it was brilliant advice, so when Daniel asked if I was interested in doing a reflection, perhaps about upheaval or restoration or resilience, I immediately shot my hand out and typed YES! And almost just as quickly thought “what have I done?”

I can not tell you how many classes I failed in high school and college because I was too mortifyingly shy to do an oral presentation. Getting up in front of people filled me with agonizing angst. On every possible occasion where wishes might be granted I wished for the bravery to get up and do the things I wanted to do, to say the things I wanted to say, longed to say, needed to say, even if only to pass a class. I made pacts at New Years to do better, I hoped the packages under the Christmas tree might have a magic confidence potion, and yearly I blew out my birthday candles with the wish to speak and do, to be confident and believe in myself knowing somewhere inside I had the capacity; all the while berating my self for being a wimp and undermining myself every other day of the year.

Birthday wishes don’t make you more brave and you cant find it under the Christmas tree. Practice can make you brave. Practice. Practice, practice, practice. Practice anything and you will get good at it. Practice berating yourself and you will become good at it, practice being critical of other people and you will become good at it, practice losing your temper, practice procrastinating, practice violence, practice envy, practice self pity and you will become good at it.

So eventually the question became “what am I practicing?” Make no mistake, just because the question is clear

and the answer is also then illuminated

the pieces don’t suddenly fall into place.

No, for me it took practice. Practice,  practice and more practice

and then still it didn’t take until I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer at 39. We had just moved to Woodstock, I had three children, a new business and in the blink of an eye the world shifted. What became apparent immediately was that nothing mattered anymore except right “now”. Right NOW.

What we regret about the past is that we can’t change it. What we fear about the future is that inevitably there will be change; for ourselves and the people we love; and that change includes illness and death. It is a radical act to practice compassion and contentment right NOW.  Nobody said life would be easy. Some of us, many of us, have experienced illness, death, infidelity, financial struggles, and natural disasters; to name just a few of life’s bounty…but this is life. It is the sweat, the blood, and the tears hand in hand with the joy, the laughter and newness. I, personally, have experienced an abundance of life’s gifts.

On my 40th birthday I had half my liver removed; it became my re birthday.

What I discovered is that illness and struggle isn’t a punishment, but rather a stimulant to life. It’s a reminder that it is not about what life hits you with, but how you keep going even when you don’t know where you are going.

I invite you now to close your eyes. Close your eyes and listen to your breath. Listen to your inhale. Listen to your exhale. Close your eyes and feel the rise and fall of your chest with each round of breathes. Listen to the pulse of your heart held within the sacred container of your rib cage. And now, without moving, try to feel the hard wood seat below you and behind you… supporting you. Without moving feel your feet rooted to the floor beneath them. And with your eyes closed open your awareness to the breathing of your neighbors. There is an undeniable life force emitted by each of us especially when we breathe, relax and allow.

Take a few more breathes here and while you do imagine the invisible energy line that connects us all to each other; a line to our past, to our future and to our present. Our present. Your present. This present. This present is a gift. A gift of NOW. Everyday you wake up has the potential of compassionate rebirth for all that you were, all that you are and all that you will be. Every day is potentially your birthday, a new day, a new opportunity, a NOW opportunity. Every breath you inhale as sweet and valuable as your first and each exhale as easy and poignant as your last.

Tonight and tomorrow many will celebrate the birth of Jesus but right now I invite you to open your eyes look around at your neighbors, your family, your friends and wish yourself and each other a happy birthday.

And thank you for listening to me practice.

7 Responses to “One year later….”

  1. Ann Holloway Says:

    Fantastic Lina, I think today that I might do that exercise. Close my eyes and breath and be more aware of my surroundings. Thank you. I am grateful that you are healthy and happy and hope the new year brings you joy, peace and lots of laugher and love.

  2. Elena Fernandez Says:

    Oh lady – as always – my heart rises and falls with your journey and your family’s journey. I have found this year more than any other to be one where I have to remind myself – this is my path, this is my journey, none of these things are bad unless I choose to look at them that way…. some times, though, I also say, thanks but no more lessons, no more gifts of epiphanies in dark hours but I do know that’s just one side of me. I cherish the gifts, the lessons and always think, they wouldn’t call it the high road, unless it was actually higher, harder, better than the low road and I climb and boulder on. I send many many wishes and hopes to you and yours for a gentler 2012 and a very Merry Christmas as well. Hugging you from here…. loving you lots always.

  3. Ellen Says:

    This blog post was almost as beautiful as you. You are a talented writer and those people tonight will be blessed with your reading. So proud to call you one of my besties. I love you very much you strong strong woman. xoxoxo

  4. Andrew Says:

    Hey darling! What a year — and what strength of character (in you all) to come through it as positive and mindful as you have. Clearly, 2012 has to involve getting together with you and yours.

    With all best wishes and good luck for tonight

    Andrew

  5. Pam Says:

    Your picture shows a perfect family….no one would guess what a sucky year it’s been…We miss you all dearly and all of us have crap in our lives that don’t often show to the world. I applaud your bravery in fighting the demons…I can relate to the fear of
    talking in front of a crowd which I have to do twice a month….I hope the best for you all in 2012…I know you have the strength to fight the bad guys….and since we just celebrated my Dad’s 90th tonite….you will write a great book when you’re his age. A very Merry Xmas to you all.
    With lots of love and light, Pam

  6. Casey Cutkomp Says:

    Lina, you are a shinning light…shine on…

    May you have a loving, peaceful, confident, healthy and joyous new year!

  7. Sandie and Reeve Says:

    Lina, We think of you often and I just happened to open your blog this afternoon and found your Christmas Eve message. wow! Your message to others is wonderful. I sat here closing my eyes which were welling over with tears.
    Love, Sandie and Reeve

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