I have already started the decompression program here at Camp Comfort. No radio. No TV. Nature sounds instead. Don't try to push myself into anything. Just start listening again, that's all. Relax and let go of that mentality of blocking out distracting city sounds all the time. I don't have to now. Out here it is just the gentle sounds of nature.
Monday morning at Camp Comfort. I am soaking in the peace and quiet. I am having a break from city noise. I listen to the waves lapping on the shore. I can even hear them from my bed at night. I keep the window open. If I wake up in the middle of the night I hear the lapping of the waves and use them as a sort of meditation to fall asleep again. I don't have to curl up into my own body, push out all those distractions to relax and fall asleep. I can open up, mentally and physically, I can just open up to the world, listen to the lapping of the waves, just listen. It's not even like the following your own breath meditation, I don't even have to concentrate on my breath. I can merely hear, listen to the waves. It soothed me. I fell asleep again. Lovely.
Birds, bird song. Robins. Loons calling their mates. Geese. Two Canada Geese murmured between each other last night as I first fell asleep. They reminded me of the sound of my parents talking. It reminded me of being a little kid, going to sleep in my sleeping bag in the tent and listening to my parents talking to each other by the fire as I fell asleep. Not understanding the words, but hearing the paired bond in the sound of their voices agreeing with each other. That's what those two geese sounded like last night.
It's raining now. I am hearing the sound of rain on the roof and dripping off the eaves. The other side of the lake is disappearing from view. It could be the ocean now, the water seems to stretch out endlessly. I like it. The trees move in a light wind and the rain drips off the leaves. I like that too. The foreground view. This is from my comfy chair, my comfy cottage spot.
My husband understands why I want to be here. I understand why he had to go back to the city to work. I miss him, I missed his body beside mine in the bed last night. But I also really loved the geese and the lapping waves, the natural breeze that came through the open windows and stroked my face. Air. Simply fresh air on my face. It felt so good. This is not like a fan blowing at you, it is fundamentally different. I think after this intense time together, after this intense time of my dependancy, and his caregiver role that it is good for us to be apart for a while in this pause between treatments. I think it's good for both of us to get a break and be able to restore our individual inner selves and regroup.
I am still weaker than my full strength. I am stronger than I thought. My inner strength has improved even as my physical strength has gone down. I am more than strong enough mentally and emotionally to be out here on my own at the cottage for a few days. I don't have any fears. No stranger fears, no animal fears, no darkness fears. I am deeply centred. And surprisingly strong. Emotionally. This is the first time I've been on my own since the diagnosis. This is the first time I've had that test. And it surprises me to discover that even as my body was tortured and traumatized, even as I lost physical strength, even as my hair fell out, even as my finger nails have died and turned black, as my muscles atrophied from lack of use, as my guts made grey poop, even as all this crap was happening to my body and weakening it, something was happening to my mind and spirit. I was getting stronger. It was a mental weight lifting, heavy duty workout for the mind, spirit, emotions. Getting through this winter, getting through the treatments. Whew. Staying at a cabin on your own is nothing compared to that.
T’s girlfriend is a licensed psychologist. That's how she makes her living. Her brother died of colon cancer. He died fast. It was three weeks between when they diagnosed him and he died. Her sister died of breast cancer. It took her longer. Two years. She developed lymphedema from the radiation damage to her lymph nodes. T’s girlfriend says that was the most horrible part of the process, her sisters swollen arm, and the pain she went through as they massaged it upward to try to get the fluid out of it. She was appalled when I told her that my mother lived with lymphedema for twenty years.
I did not tell T’s girlfriend that hearing that her sister's lymphedema was caused by the radiation disturbed me. I thought that I'd got myself through the worst of the lymphedema precautions by going for the lesser surgery. And getting the physiotherapist right away. Getting right on it with the exercises. There is still another level of danger that awaits me. Burning those lymph glands with radiation. Still another layer of horror. I know that. I know that anyway. That is why I am giving myself this big mental health break before that part starts.
My office job replacement sent me a text and asked if I was going to be at the conference this year. I felt a fear for my job. I could lose this job if I don't go to the conference. If I don't show up well and healthy looking, like I could step in and do it for next year, I could lose that job. This frightened me a bit. I could still go. I could even still fly out for the AGM if nothing else. Make that appearance. Bald, fat, looking damaged? Would that be worse than simply saying I have an appointment on that day? Especially if I say it's my sign off appointment? I guess that's the way to frame it. My sign off appointment was delayed from June third to right into the middle of the conference. don't really want to get in an airplane and fly out there. Not yet. I would need to be strong enough to pick up some leadership role. So that was a fear. Losing my job. That was a spot of fear yesterday when I got her text, losing a job that I love, a job that has really saved me and helped re-define me these last couple of years. Losing the respect that I earned in that job. And then I realized that I'll be able to keep the respect, and the friendships that I've been forming even if I give up the job. I can go to the conference next year as a delegate and have a great time. And I could even be a board member and be involved that way too. I won't lose those friends and colleagues even if I did lose the job. Not to panic. Some things are real. And that is one of them.
Turns out that's what's really in it for me. Worth more than money. Respect. Earned respect. That is what I value. Earned respect from people that I respect. Priceless.
I have already started the decompression program here at Camp Comfort. No radio. No TV. Nature sounds instead. Don't try to push myself into anything. Just start listening again, that's all. Relax and quit the mentality of blocking out distracting city sounds all the time. I don't have to now. Out here it is just the gentle sounds of nature.
Last night I made myself a nice composed salad of Boston lettuce, radishes, tomato, cucumber, blue cheese dressing and cold sliced turkey breast. I shared some of my turkey breast with Pingu the cottage cat. I used it to lure her into the house. And we did have a lovely time on the couch, she is a very affectionate cat. T has been looking for a new home for her, she’s an older cat and has started to have a hard time with the winters. I think that perhaps we will adopt her this fall and spare her another winter in the barn. But I also think I'll leave her here for the summer to enjoy her life in the country. We’ll see how we get along. She had a nice time with me, but then she did go outside, and she was happy to lounge on top of the picnic table licking her butt and snoozing in the sun. Her life in the city would not be like that. She'd pretty much have to stay inside all the time. Okay in the winter when it's -30. But not a better life in the summer. T said we could bring her back if wanted, he thinks she is too wild and shy to be a good pet. Perhaps she can spend her last years like this. Summers at Camp Comfort and winters with us in Montreal.
So that's how I spent my first evening to myself. Reading my book, making friends with the cat. Today I’m having a bagel with cream cheese, smoked salmon, onion, capers, and tomato for breakfast. I have all the ingredients right here. I can do that. I learned to like to cooking for myself. I learned that in my years of living alone in Iqaluit. My friend L was right, the first thing you have to learn in your adult life is how to live alone. Once you learn that you will always have a better life, and you will be a better partner too.
So this is where I'm at now. Alone. Here at Camp Comfort. Writing in this comfy chair here, looking out this window, listening to the gentle rain. This is just gentle rain and a slight breeze, not a big storm. I'm going to have that lovely bagel breakfast. I'm going to have a shower and get dressed. I'm gonna settle in to work on write for a while today. That is my project for the day. Get some momentum going on this new project that I can maintain when I get back to the city.
Today is core exercise day. My legs are still stiff from all that walking around on Friday. It'll be good to exercise again today after a couple of days off and only doing the range of motion exercises. It will be a dancing warm up. Then the core exercises. That's today's exercise routine. And it will be perfect for an indoor, rainy day at the cottage.
If T offers to take me into town for groceries I can do that today too. Or if nobody shows up after all, then that's not a problem either. I can just keep on with my writing project, then knitting and reading. And continue this more open, by myself, 'stretched out' relaxed life style. My mental health break. This is how I do it.
I'll be missing the coping session of the breast cancer support group, but I think that actually coping by choosing the week at the cottage instead of continued uncertainty and delays over an appointment date is a good excuse. I’m coping putting coping techniques into practise right now.
Dispatched: June 10