The Voyage of May Flowers

Pulling from the highest shelf 
(Hoping no one noticed)
A book labeled too provocative to leave behind:
“Dead & Pretty”
How they once sipped water through stems
From beneath the clean garden soil.
I sit on oak old chairs at Along library table with hearts carved by keys
Holding initials of what love leaves
Turning pages of pressed flowers
Bowing their heads in prayer hour after hour.
Weak petals dry as ice
Lining page after page with the names
Of the dead typed carefully
To let me not forget:
Poppy, Lily, Daisy, Cassia, Aster
Carefully as though stepping through a grave yard - faster and faster
I close the tomb of wild things
With Short lives. I sit remembering
Trying to sweep away my cobwebs
I find dust and mold instead
My skin the color of smooth stones
My body’s brittle bones
Now the color of magnolias.
Water in those years
Turned ore to rust everywhere. Torrential winter snows
Opened up on sleepy
Flower beds. Springing now
Surprising early yellow tulips Yawning their petals open

Waiting to hear the breezes beat to begin dancing -
Bent and swaying
In their cradle and their grave.
Marigolds in my grandma’s garden
Weeds to her - once graced
Me with my tomorrow’s and memories and yesterday’s.
Can you recall when “I love you”
Was enough to buy more time?
Now that I’m expiring, do you still consider
That money well spent?

You bent me towards the light. Then let me go to cry alone.
I know the dawn - I tell you
Dusk I know, too, time lies.
We’ve come for shoveling
Planting, pruning.
Our rough callous hands holding
A bouquet of ill gotten gains.
Some say we’re born of women
Some only children of men
Yet it’s in the heat of my own body
Where I am born again.
My own flowers are planted in clay pots
Held in by iron fences waiting
For chances at their time in the garden.
If you could do it over again
Would you mind not knowing why?
The fall’s done showing off,
Yet Women’s work is never done
Even once we have succumbed to the worst of it.

I set my timer for high tide
Boarding early. Late as ever
You stumbled as you rolled with the waves.
Why you insisted to save
Yourself yet let your legs give way breaking your stride
Now drowning in tears and years of regret
(told you so I told you so)
“Make memories like books of pressed flowers
Let the beauty lie for you
Make the memories last longer.”
Too busy to listen now listless and deaf
Now throwing yourself to a tear soaked ocean
Right along with my steamer trunk
Filled with your pasts
With all the photographs.
All the pressed flowers now floating like dead fish
Along side my face pressed
Against yours in a kiss.

Now Walking the house end yo end like an old pirate
You won’t sleep until you can’t stay awake.
Once you dreamed of drowning
Yet found a floating plank instead
Freed from a boat that crashed long ago
Its bounty sunk down down on a coral reef.
You never learned, yet I swam
Without taking a breath until I found the
Flowers of the sea at
Depths that mean only one things.
And now with the ahead and forwards alone
How easy to forget how love feels.
Rolling your shoulders back
And now put the book on the shelf where it belongs.
(You knew I was no thief)
I meant to return it at least you choose to believe it.

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Metastatic Friendships: How to shift from isolation to integrative protocols

What is the goal of a friendship? Does a friendship even require a goal to exist or can it exist for the sake of itself? At times in our lives, there’s a need for companionship that goes beyond a need to not feel less alone in the world. I believe having spent the last five years in metastatic cancer land, that indeed cancer presents a number of emotional conundrums in all of our relationships —friendship, spousal, relational, or otherwise.

Some of us define friendship as simply the relationship of ones self to others in the world. But I think it’s deeper than that; souls become richer with the wisdom in listening to the hearts of the people,in our circles of interpersonal relationships. We can begin by asking questions,and truly listening to the responses. It’s there our abstract understanding of another becomes concrete – we strive to try to understand and acknowledge another person’s situation and help as we can even if that means to simply provide a sounding board.

It’s been said it takes about 100 hours of interaction to develop a true friendship. That sounds about right to me as I come to understand someome and their motivations, both positive and negative. I haven’t got the time for bold negativity for the sake of itself. And, pardon the metaphor, I cut negative people out of my life like cancer before they have the opportunity to metastasize.

Motivatious Operandi

To some, friendships are motivated by the rich medley in differing opinions, talents, cultural backgrounds, and now, health status. Without difference we would perceive the world as less colorful and fun, and more boringly shaded in black and white. An integral proportion of the richness and depth of a friendship is in the the care and love we give and receive. Friends form in the space created by our acts of kindness, both small and large. Relationships strengthen over the course of time, be it a month, a year, or a lifetime – act by act. Yet no matter the length of time we also should extend ourselves to value that which we can learn from others. Asking questions and listening can deliver far more interesting results for a deeper, emotionally enriching experience.

Some use friends to gain of selfish impetus. Unfortunately, a narcissist only relates to people as “sources” of, usually, material gain. Yet it’s during the harder times of our lives in which friendships can not only be invaluable but during which the real test results in seeing the strength of the heart of your relationships.

Mathematical Representations?

There’s an argument to be made for mathematical representation of emotions, as I read and researched others discourse on our emotional lives. A book written by Chip Conley showed how emotions and feelings are organized using mathematical terms. (Wikipedia)

Despair = Suffering – Meaning

Disappointment = Expectations – Reality

Regret = Disappointment + Responsibility

Jealousy = Mistrust-Self-Esteem

Envy = Pride+Vanity -Kindness

Anxiety = Uncertainty x Powerlessness

Calling = Pleasure/Pain

Workaholism = WhatAreYouRunningFrom?/WhatAreYouLivingFor?

Flow = Skill/Challenge

Curiosity = Wonder + Awe

Authenticity = Self-Awareness x Courage

Narcissism = (Self-Esteem)2 x Entitlement

Integrity = Authenticity x Invisibility x Reliability

Happiness = Love – Fear

Thriving = FrequencyofPositive/FrequencyofNegative

Faith = Belief/Intellect

Wisdom = √Experience

Can friendships become tarnished through the lens of cancer?

Do people remain in the life of a terminally ill friend as a form of obligation? Do some selfishly use a person whose disease can allow them to look like heroes? I’m certain there’s many hues that color our lenses in how we view our relationships before and after a cancer diagnosis. For me, many stopped cold as tougher times ahead became apparent. Some hung on for a while and slowly exited my life as two years turned to three, and now approaching five since my diagnosis.

Very few old friends stay in touch, but rather check on me through my blog and through social media. Funny thing is social media. The broadcast of health status, personal opinions, pet and kid pictures, etc. publicly relates a facade of our own design for anyone who chooses to look. We become objectifies of our own pretense through the gaze of others. I live in a global community of people with breast cancer and the sub community of people with metastatic breast cancer, which unfortunately seems to be growing by the day. It’s in this depersonalized world where I’ve found comfort and personally supportive relationships. It’s in communities of the likes of #cancertribe and #cancerfriends.

Social Integration

I’ve attempted to engage with friends as they announce their cancer diagnoses on Facebook. I think it’s a Facebook phenomenon actually. Approaching the, with my shoes tied securely on my friendly feet, it was not obligation that drove my actions but heartfelt care. Most of us have been brought up to act with the life-long philosophy that you behave towards others as you’d like to be treated if you were in a similar situation.

I swear I’ve reached out without any need for recompense nor any obligation to use my five years of navigating the healthcare, insurance, therapies, finance and all of the pillars that hold us up in this time of confusion, heartache, fear, and loneliness. Yet no one has grabbed my outstretched hand.

Risky Behavior

There’s lots of risk from the chances I take in reaching out out old friends. The pre-diagnosis friends. Yet I find engaging with people who know me as I am now is far easier for them since they had a choice to take a relationship from former acquaintance to current friendship. Kind of like habits that form over time, both good and bad. Being a friend to someone with cancer I’ll argue takes a special kind of empathy and a gift for knowing where and when to help and how to help so the illness isn’t the center of the relationship but in spite of it.

Most of my formerly good friends fell away like leaves on an oak in autumn. They turned red and fled the living assuming I’d be soon crossing the River Styx waving at them on the shore as they waved on their way down to the ground never to be seen again. It may seem melodramatic, but people I thought would truly be there just weren’t.

And people who now choose to get to know me I think I enjoy them equally if not more than the career focused women and men I intermingled with pre stage 4 diagnosis. I remember the last lunches with a few of them.

A Glimpse into the Unknown

This terminal illness can make ghosts out of even the strongest of us all, on either side of the diagnosis line. I’m sad to lose some and others it’s likely best I moved on or they decided it was too difficult to look mortality in the face when seeing mine.

But as I stated in the beginning, we enrich our lives in different perspectives. Understanding how to be a friend to someone to whom we knew prior to a diagnosis such as metastatic cancer can be rough. But the risk versus the reward is low.

Can anyone truly say how much we can learn about life from death? The mystery of not being is universal, therefore the closer we get to the line, the less fear we will have when crossing our own. So yes, the learning we can gain from befriending or deepening a friendship with someone who’s dying is not only invaluable to ourselves, but critical for the person who is on the precipice of knowing.