I returned from my 25th High school reunion jumbled. Time crumbled at my feet. The melding of past, present, and future confused. I began to write. The only way I know how to work through an emotion quagmire.
Somewhere in the process of this word “catharsis”, and emotional emancipation, a parallel was drawn in my mind to the Book of Five Rings-A classic Text on the Japanese Way of the Sword by Miyamoto Musashi. As Amazon describes an insightful text in the subtle arts of confrontation and victory analyzing the process of struggle and mastery over conflict that underlies every level of human interaction.
It would eventually turn into a 5 part potential blog post- My Book of 5‐Rs. I shared it with all the parties involved; ensure there were no objections. You know, protect the innocent. But when the time came to go live my friends gently urged I reconsider sharing it publically.
They feared I’d be re-electrifying the fence around me- the one that had just begun to slowly come down. Their hope these days is for me to find love again. They knew perhaps better than me it was time to allow for someone new to arrive. They feared this raw exposure would keep most suitors at bay.
Part of me knew there was validity to their concern. And I wondered if maybe subconsciously this was my goal. But my inner rebel said “well fuck that! If they can’t take the heat”….. However this would not be the first time I masked fear in bravado. And after 7 years I’ve become a master of justifying to stay out of the dating pool.
I attended TEDxRainier. And decided to listen from a very right brain place, listen to the phrases that popped out at me. Best I feel in situations of easy oversaturation. All morning speaker after speaker seemed to be urging me to post. All the puzzle pieces seemed to be directing me to share my emotional bloodletting. My companions at the event discussing the growth mindset over lunch- Being Brave! Ugh…..helloooo?!
I’d missed a lot of our past ladies outings, even a few I’d paid for, but due to my continuing health dramas didn’t attend. Naturally they inquired how I was doing. “I’m in the Space Between”-the theme of this TedX so apropos. “In the space” I said “between scan A and scan B. The fear of the unknown, living Schrodinger’s cat premise, that at this moment both fearful and hopeful because until the box is open I can remain cancer free. Here, now, there are no surgeries to have, no treatments to endure….
The day was split in four sections: Despair & Hope, Thinking & Doing, The Few & The Many, What is & What Can Be. From the get-go everything seemed to speak to my emotional space. It occupied the air I inhaled in the between.
Dan Diamond, a first responder physician. Admittedly my own life often felt like a disaster over the past few years. He talked about the extraordinary nature of those that lose everything but still give all they have to others. We can live in Fear he said or in Love. He went on to discuss the importance of getting outside your comfort zone- out of your self-imposed box. How you act in the midst of disaster is important. It will define who you are.
Next Tanmeet Sethi another MD took the stage. She said suffering can be scientifically measured. There’s actually an equation for it. S=PxR (Suffering= Pain x resistance) my recent trip to my reunion popped into my head. She went on to discuss the very real measureable changes that gratitude can cause. Gratitude removes our resistance to our pain. And if you can be grateful for your pain, for the struggles and challenges that are in your life you open a space for joy to enter. I knew this all too intimately. The reunion was like walking across coals. And on the other side a reward.
Tom Skerritt would talk about the use of storytelling in healing soldiers with PTSD. I knew my own catharsis from a week and half of writing following the reunion. Just getting my story out onto the written page brought relief. And also know after my own parents’ cancer diagnosis, I’d never had been able to handle my PTSD and separated my experience, fear and pain from theirs without the use of my blog, writing, art…all forms of storytelling.
A young HS student Neel Baxi came next. Ugh…..a High School student….High School reunion. His assessment of the nature of high school, the arbitrary rules and ways we judge ourselves and others. The very real despair and pain people feel whether completely rational or not. He quoted Alicia Harris (one of my favorite poets) “The moment you feel like you have to prove your worth to someone is the moment to absolutely and utterly walk away. “ Again my inner rebel said “Hells Yes, post that baby!” He said at the depth of his pain he’d learned how important it is to craft your life to goals you set yourself, your own passions, not those of others.
This first section on Despair & Hope culminated in a talk by G. Willow Wilson the creator of Ms. Marvel….seriously a comic book artist, hello! First thought was “you seriously need to finish your comic Damn it!” (Let’s be honest there was no way I was going to make it through an entire afternoon of inspirational speakers without kicking myself for my artistic laziness.) She talked about how the creation of this first Pakistani female superhero without a tragic background was a love letter to millennials- their plurality of hope and survival, a feeling I understood too well these days.
She shared a proverb stating that if the hour of reckoning arrives and you are holding a seedling- Plant the seedling. Because just as millennials know so well she said “hope is fine but sometimes a mess stays a mess. There may not always be a way out, but there will always be a way forward. Plant the seedling.”
The next section began with Xolie Morra, her music intoxicating her speech more so. She talked about having Asperger’s, a diagnosis that came in her 30s. She spoke about being the girl who would pet people on the head to say hello. Would so often mistake kindness for interest and develop inappropriate attachments. That used the language center of her brain for music. She desperately wanted a sense of what it would be like to be related to. Even without Asperger’s I know that feeling.
She would learn we all have a unique view and if we are to truly change the world we need to shift our perspectives. Her lyrics spoke. And I, like her, realized it is not my responsibility to change anything about me to make others comfortable or to make them like me.
Again I thought Post baby, Post!! But I still knew the risk of sharing the most vulnerable parts of myself. Not everyone, even in my own life, respects boundaries. I wondered if I could rewrite it. Like these talks- more inspiration, more digestible.
I would drift back to high school yet again, my own struggles with math palpable as Dan Finkel spoke. I wondered what would have happened if I’d a teacher willing to explore my mathematical mind, breaking down numbers as far as I could take them. What if I’d been introduced to circular math- even the graphic he showed seeming to make more sense to me. What if we’d discussed different sizes of infinity? That not knowing did not equate to failure it is the first step to understanding.
The day would go on. Piece after puzzle piece- phrases catching in my head.
Be outrageously curious, question the status quo and be obsessive about diversity and dissent. Lose your fear. Meet in solidarity. Refuse to do harm.
Dream as big as you can! Fall in love constantly. Fall in love with cooperation and collaboration. Even a fragile & fallible human can be courageous.
We are all star stuff.
Turn your shit into Gold!
There was a moment Brian Arbogast lost his place, freezing, silently pacing unable to remember his talk. Stillness ensued, the audience giving him time to collect himself. A feeling I knew so well from many stage performances. Something you dread like falling on the catwalk. He smiled, laughed and reached into his pocket for his cheat sheet. The audience broke out in applause. “Shit Happens!” he said and picked up where he’d left off.
Are you listening? Again the words seemed to be for me. Become the maestro of your world. Actively work to lose control. Music has always been a huge part of my life, moments having soundtracks. Let music play with you. Make an emotional impact. My own verbal vomit had felt orchestral in its movement.
You must understand the problem before you can solve it. Pay attention to the root causes. Silence supports the lies. Again heading into the break I thought. Post! Share! You can’t be silent.
David Schmader took the stage to discuss the subject of Maryjane. He wondered was he supposed to talk on the subject of Marijuana or just while ON marijuana. Sometimes in life we need greater specificity, he posited. In the end do not allow the outliers to gauge perceptions.
Certainty @ a minimum, Hope @ a maximum- this is the nuanced and complex nature of the definite maybe. I was inside the definite Maybe alright! Susie Lee talked of her dating app Siren. Fuck! Here is the very conundrum- my friends wanting me to put myself back out there but also feared my true blaze (blog post) indigestible at first. But Susie talked of enjoying indecision. Okay then maybe I don’t need to post. Just leave room for curiosity and intrigue because you never know.
Next, Rusty Rodriguez discussed symbiosis. How amazing things can be achieved through cooperation. And how we adapt to stress by making changes to our DNA….. Ugh….VHL and my inability to block tumor growth. But these plants became stress resistant through cooperation with the fungus. I guess I just need to find my fungus I laughed to myself.
Understand your impact. Practice radical listening through love and intent. We cannot give in to the feeling of not having hope or that we are running out of time. It is important to know in your bones that all our salvations are intertwined. We all have something to give and what you do is not as important as how you do it.
By the end I was saturated. And still teetering on the fulcrum of my see saw, to post or not to post. That was the question.
See, I want to leave the past where it belongs, in my rear view, informing but not directing. And have over the last week or so returned to my present life, to the details of my now. Inside my space between, with a renewed sense of holding on, hoping there will be a long future ahead of me.
I felt less alone following TEDx. I understood the universality in my written pages, my struggle not solitary. All day long I had faced reflections. There is still no right answer for me so I’ll just have to wait and see. Post or not…Perhaps…….As the Book of Five Rings states:
In all skills and abilities there is timing…. There is timing in the whole life of the warrior, in his thriving and declining, in his harmony and discord. All things entail rising and falling timing. You must be able to discern this.