Within the Sounds of Silence ~ Weekly Writing Challenge


Braiile Poem

Written for the weekly writing challenge: The Sound of Silence

There are multiple ways of interacting with silence: purposefully leaving something unsaid, breaking the silence around a topic, or, quite simply, getting tongue-tied. For this week’s challenge, we want you to take the theme of silence and explore it in your own way.

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Silence

Do you think there is there such a thing as complete and utter silence? Could we tune out all your senses and still be alive? And I wonder, in such a void wouldn’t we all go mad?

The first thing that came to mind when I contemplated silence was a concept for an art installation. A blindingly white room covered in braille, poems dotting the walls, a circular bench in the center. With invisible ink I wanted to write over top these tactile messages, the deeper thoughts that barely ever meet the light of day. I’d place a single button on the wall perhaps labeled “speak” or “truth”. Upon pressing it the room goes dark, subtext shouting visibly under black light, revealing all that’s left unsaid.

During college I was an understudy. The name of the play I can’t remember to save my life. I fear my lack of memory speaks to the lasting impact the role had on me. There were 7 women philosophizing around a table. But I was cast as the voiceless character, the invisible one -intended to be the shadow, the silent observer and reflection to the main character, her unexpressed self. I never spoke. Not one word.

And even though I learned every line, knew every direction; I never once took the stage as the lead. I think this may have been the director’s intent; that I never realize the main character- adding further to the tension and juxtaposition of my silence. Personally I have never been more frustrated, sadder in my life. Having no voice, feeling unheard and invisible, unessential to the world around me was devastating.

One day in rehearsal I broke down, all the pent up silence pouring forth. I knew I had things to say. I had a voice. One I wanted to share with the world.  I wanted to be heard, silent no longer.

I learned the power of words even the littlest of them- Yes and No. And I came to understand that sometimes silence is the only reply. There’s a fine line etched between what you leave unspoken and fully express. The friends you don’t defend. The lies you let live.  Silence is as dark as it is light. It can be serene or it can scream out loud.

Most people would assume I’m an extrovert. I am not. At heart I’m an introvert. I prefer to curl up with a good book then go to a concert, an intimate dinner to a cocktail party. Now I do love the hustle and bustle of city life, the constant drum of people, crowds blending together into their own white noise. But I crave silence like a newborn does the nipple.

Mother Teresa said listening to the silence of your heart is the beginning of prayer. Have you heard the music of silence? I have. In meditation I hear the whispers calling me home. Inside its hallowed halls my soul speaks to me. In the hush I float suspended on gossamer wings. My heart beating it’s cadence beneath my ribs, my blood pulsing in my ears. The little hairs standing attuned in every follicle.

It’s the moment of anticipation, the space between breaths. The 10 second pause before the leap. The line we walk between choice and fate.

The moments in which words are unnecessary like the first time your fingers entwine with another’s. The three little words I need not utter because you already know. But I say them all the same and we sit as their weight falls silent around us.

Silence is my sanctuary. Inside it’s quell volumes are written, stories told. But on that fateful day of rehearsal upon the theater stage I knew. No matter what I’ll never be silenced.

 

Braille Poem Translation:

I close my eyes

Shut out the world

Blinding myself

to its neon noise

and wait

for silence to arrive

~ by DCT

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Weekend ~ 2/14/14 ~ Love, Anonymity and Time Warps

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Yesterday a blog I read directed me to a site where you discover how many of you are out there. So you know I was curious. I hopped on over and was fascinated by what I discovered. Whilst increasingly putting myself out into the world I have been progressing further into anonymity. How is that you ask? Well, let me tell you.

I started with my Maiden name and Voila! There is only 1, ME. Honestly I wasn’t surprised. Next I used my first married name. There are 12. My second married name elicited 137 matches. Last I typed in my chosen name, my current name. There are 686 of us.

I used to avoid all social media. I had no presence on the net. I never voiced my feelings for others to peruse and yet I was easy to find in the world. Now Here I am with my own blog, twitter, Instagram, Linkedin and Pinterest accounts (sorry Facebook I still abhor you) and am still much more hidden. I’ve become increasingly incognito, must have been subconscious. (At least that is what I am telling myself).

Now my friend,  (previously referred to on this blog as the Yente. That is until she informed me this was a meddling gossipy old woman, not a matchmaker. Hence the nickname correction), the Shidduch replied to my post Ode to My Valentine. Her one observation (the one she makes time and time again) was “when you speak of vulnerability you always say you don’t want to reveal too much of yourself. No photos, no identifying signs. But, really, you pour yourself out on that page, as vulnerable as can be. Such an interesting if banal juxtaposition in many great artists who prefer to reveal their internal voice only, feeling it on its own is far stronger (and less vulnerable) then they (i.e. you) as a person navigating this unforgiving, many times uncaring world would be”. She felt lucky to know both the flesh and blood woman as well as the bleeding artist.

I responded to my apparent dichotomy” I cannot speak to other artists, only myself. There is something of a sense of divinity I feel when creating, like I am a vessel, a conduit for the words or images. (How narcissistic does that sound?) By keeping my corporeal being out of the mix I prevent the contamination of ego. And in that vein I give over to the muse when she calls. It’s easiest to just get out of her way. (No, perhaps it’s schizophrenic?) Of course this is not referring to the times I am blocked. There are plenty of those. I see why many see the line between artist and insanity as attenuated. (Really I’m just a chicken).

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These days I have no sense of time. No sense of things. Nothing moves as it once did. What seems long is short, short is long. I am stuck in a time warp since surgery. Since my cancer was confirmed. Since I became a survivor and began the cue of waiting, hoping to remain cancer free. My odds are good, the best they could be really. So much has changed it is hard to fathom it has been only two months. How could that be possible?

I’d like to forget, pretend really that cancer was ever a word associated with me. But you can’t. I can’t. I haven’t even gotten the hospital bill yet nor gone back for my follow-up scans. Sometimes at night I roll over and a twinge reminds me of my still healing incision. So how could it possibly feel so far off, so long ago that life was simpler.

I wrote an old high school friend, a fellow cancer survivor. My email entitled simply Cancer arrived in her mailbox, 6 years out from her treatment for ovarian cancer, on the 2nd birthday of her son. She wrote of my news, of cancer, of her survival:

“We may regain our health, and perhaps find greater happiness than we knew before our illness, but there is no denying the tragedy that we’ve all endured; all is not necessarily well that ends well.  There is simply no regaining time and innocence lost.

Managing as a survivor – at least for me – means fighting in some sense to deny the centrality of cancer in my life.  For if you can’t ever really get away from it, if you can’t just “forget” for a moment that you were ever sick, or temporarily erase the memories of that fateful meeting with your oncologist, or the moment you were wheeled into the OR for your surgery – how are you supposed to fully inhabit a life among the living?

If only those memories could be extracted from my consciousness, removed like the cancer itself.”

Oh how I wish I could resend my email. How I wish neither of us had been touched by disease. That I could roll back time. If it were possible she would wish it for us both. But as she puts it support is everything, to know the unique comfort of other survivors. Still I wish simply to have been able to write “Hello Old Friend. Tell me all about your life and loves.”

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Then last Sunday I got a message from WordPress congratulating me on my Blog’s 3rd anniversary (It actually said 4th but that’s simply not true). I thought, “That can’t be possible. How did three years fly by unnoticed?” Admittedly there were fits and starts, life ran off the rails, went off the reservation, amuck, astray…. haywire.  Hence the holes in my blogging.  And all that was before cancer.

Perhaps this is no longer simply an artistic outlet, an exercise in stretching outside my comfort zone.  This was never a commercial blog. It was never about making money (still isn’t). I sought this avenue as a means of expression, an outlet for my heart. One I hoped to share with others, to create a community of likeminded artists and inspire one another. I love being a Muse. And secretly I fancy I am. That I have moved someone, affected their life in some little positive way. Because if there were no tomorrow I want to think my time here made a difference, that I make a difference. The possibility of life ending without warning brings up deeper questions- ones I grapple with every day.

Then it dawned me. This is why 3 years passed by nearly unnoticed. I’ve been doing something I love. To be bold, strong, courageous, colorful, and free, not afraid of whom you are. Creative expression seems timeless. And this is my creative canvas, one that gives me freedom to express my passions. It is my way of dreaming, conversations, laughter and intimacy. All of this is what makes my blog what it has become. So much a part of who I am it’s breathing. Underwater perhaps, but I’m a fish so no worries. Thank you for being a part of it.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Now go out there and give away some kisses!

 

Blast from This Blogs Past

 

The Weekend Reading List

 

Something Extra

The Power of Love ~ Gabrielle Aplin

Dreamweaver, Purpose Seeker

Kite Dreams

I think I should start with a disclaimer. I do not believe in regret. For every decision made, every choice not taken shaped the core of my being. But I still know dreams unmet.

I was once given advice, from whom I don’t recall. He said set your goals, dreams just beyond your reach. You will always be striving. His theory being, I suppose, that if you catch your dream like the greyhound and the lure, you stop striving, having won your race. But is there a place where dreams end?

I have sought my raison d’être. The sense of purpose I have in this incarnation, questioning “What am I meant to impart on this life? And I’ve learned sometimes your path suddenly Zigs when you were prepared to Zag. And snap things refocus. Cancer is like that.

As a wee one I dreamed of being a country singer. Most days alone in the shower or the car I am just that. This suffices to actualize the idea. But is it a dream fulfilled?

I once bet my grandfather a dollar. Foolishly he accepted, hand shake sealing the pact. I was 8. Of course I knew what flavor ice cream lay in his fridge better than he. I was so proud, smug really at my victory. Now what to do with it? I had a dream and it had a purpose. This would become the start of my Kharman Ghia fund. It still sits labeled in my photo album, my grandfather in his grave and I Kharman-Ghialess. Still I dream of driving the coast along highway 1.

One night we collided inside the boom boom of P eins, lights flashing, music pounding, heat penetrating our cores. Magnetically bound, drawn to and fro, supernovas ready to explode. Later that night we poured into the cab. Our entourage eight piled on, me across his lap. His breathe warm upon my ear. “It’s just one kiss” I thought “It’s all he seeks.” Our friends egging loudly “DO IT” they screamed. My mind spun between taunts. “Was this love or war?” I wondered from the back of our suddenly too crowded car. My refusal was survival. If I dared partake your lunar fire, I’d be lost. I turned my head away instead. And so you remain a verse unloved.

When I was married last, as to be distinguished from the first, he had a motorcycle. I used to climb on back as an exercise of trust, still bearing the scar from a past relationship’s pipe burn. I had to lean into him, put my life in his hands and trust him to navigate the turns. We had to move as one. I always thought this was a good marital exercise. Only I never got to pilot. I always wanted to learn to drive, to take charge of the speed and the direction, set our course. I have yet to pilot my own bike and learn how much my partner is willing to trust in me.

I still dream of Paris though I can’t say it is my dream or some seed implanted in my id as a girl whose mother loved her time as an au pair. Yet deeper I know the root lies in a past life along the Côte d’Azur diving into the ocean bleu- farming sea salt. I still gravitate towards sunflowers and lavender like whiffs of memory so long past they have become part of the fabric of my being. In school I learned the language just to taste it upon my tongue. Yet I have not gone to France.

I am a dreamer, a truth seeker, a hapless romantic, a wandering philosopher, a secret hermit and soul rooter. I walk the line between two worlds past and future, trying to maintain my sanity and balance. In the secret place I don’t dare voice. I dream of life fulfilled, a life where I live by my heart upon the edge of the sea. Where my days are spent languidly creating. Surrounded by loving community- one I’ve envisioned and build again and again in my head. I’d have a soul mate in crime, a partner strong enough to demand the best in me, and I the same of him. I would breathe in reflection and exhale the same.

But I know that life can turn us on our heads. And sometimes on the journey the Zag reveals a dream never imagined. I have met a warrior strong and brave. I have walked in her shoes and I would die happily in her embrace. When I look into the mirror I see god reflected back. Perhaps that is the dream.

Inspired by this week’s  Dungeon Prompt, Purpose and the Art of Holding Back  

The Sanity Clause ~ An Artist’s Legal Right

At lunch I hopped over to the Art supply store to snag a white gel pen. Mine was woefully empty. I grabbed a few .005 black microns, mine also out of ink, and headed to the check out. I had a skin tone copic sketch marker (E18-copper) in my pile. I couldn’t remember if I’d already bought this color so I inquired on their return policy. I wanted to make sure I could exchange it if need be or I’d just come back for it later.

“You must make a living doing art” the clerk’s response.

“Why?” I almost responded- though I already surmised he was referring to the cost of these markers. They don’t come cheap. And if I had so many as not to remember which ones it seemed a logical conclusion even to me. I knew what he meant as most starving artist do. My next impulse was to confess “It’s my obsession. I hoard art supplies.” Instead I bit my tongue.

“No I don’t make a living. I make money but I don’t support myself through art.” I replied in defense of my glut. Can one be addicted to Copic markers?  I pondered silently to myself.

“Hmm. So it sounds like Christmas Cash.”

“Yes” I responded though bus fare was more accurate. “Honestly this is how I keep my sanity, through my art.”

“Oh, so then it’s the Sanity Clause.”

“Yes that’s exactly what it is.”


Chico:” Wait what’s this say here?”

Groucho: ” Oh that. That’s the usual clause. That’s in every contract. That just says if any of the parties participating in this contract are shown not to be in their right minds. The entire agreement it automatically nullified.

Chico:” Well I don’t know”

Groucho: ” It’s alright. That’s in every contract.That’s what they call a sanity clause.”

Chico: “Hahaha. You can’t a fool a me there ain’t no sanity clause”

Voices of our Elders

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Waiting in the doctor’s office I overheard an older couple banter with the receptionist. Spurred by the young gal behind the desk proclaiming her life was “what sitcoms are made of”. The older woman, nearing 80, quipped she would soon write a book about her life. Oh the stories she had to tell.

When my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s I wished I had asked her more about her life. I began collecting each of my family members favorite memories about my grandmother. As they piled in it occurred to me they were about her, but not in her voice or from her own unique perspective. I wondered. How would she recall these moments? Would it be different?

For centuries our elders have served as wisdom keepers. They were responsible for the welfare of their communities, the development of the young and worked to ensure decisions were made in keeping with future generations. Elders were the bridge between the past, the present and the future. So how is it that the today’s youth culture seems to have lost this? Or so it seems to me.

How often do you listen to your elders stories? There is a wealth of knowledge that should not be overlooked. In today’s society we are all too quick to dismiss them, patronize them like children, and write them off as Old. I call this hubris and it comes with a cost (loss).

I play bridge regularly with a group of ladies that more than eclipse me. I wouldn’t trade these evenings for anything. There is so much they know that I haven’t begun to examine.

So I say ask them questions. The stories are bound to be amazing. Learn about the elderly in your life or maybe just someone you meet at the corner coffee shop. Hell just communicate with new people. Perhaps if we begin to connect we can change something in our world. At the very least we will hear some interesting stories and most likely learn something new.

Image: The image above is for a greeting card I created awhile back. The inside message says “Let’s grow old together”. 

Hypochondria

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I’ve been called one. I’ve felt like one. I assure you I am definitely not a hypochondriac.

There is an upside and a down side to being overly sensitive to what is going on inside your body. The upside- you’re are the squeaky wheel when it comes to getting care. And let’s be honest no one is more concerned with your care then you are. The downside-you are aware of every squeak and creak that goes on inside of you.

Weeks ago I shared my diagnosis of SIBO, which began a life altering transition. Completely changing my relationship to food and seriously slimming my figure, no marathons necessary. Not curable but manageable I was told. After the treatment for SIBO (weeks of antibiotics) was completed I expressed still not feeling right. I continued to have other unexplained symptoms. Ones I’d been complaining of for awhile. I KNEW something was wrong. So the doctor sent me in for an ultrasound to check for an aortic aneurysm. It was thankfully negative. But what resurfaced was my Kidney cyst-originally discovered 3 years prior on a CT of my adrenals.

So perhaps I should jump backwards. Three years ago I had been getting headaches with increasing frequency. Then one morning I suddenly got double vision. It did not subside for hours so I took myself to the doc. My blood pressure was through the roof- 180/100. She ran blood tests and a 24 hour urine test. If you haven’t done one of these you simply can’t appreciate the dread. I had abnormal results. So she sent me on my merry way to an Endocrinologist.

Tumor search began. The endo searched high and low for a pituitary tumor or an adrenal gland tumor. Either one of those could explain my extremely high Cortisol. During the head MRI, Abdominal CT and Ultrasound a cyst on my kidney was incidentally discovered. It was diagnosed as a simple cyst. e.g. written off and ignored as completely normal- 50% of people have them by the time they’re 50 and they do not evolve. They are harmless and benign. So without the presence of any tumors my hormone level was presumed genetic.

During the three years in between CTs of my abdomen I had more issues arise which led to a Neck CT, Chest X-ray, fluoroscope swallowing study and ultimately to a specialist for a scope. The final determination was mild vocal cord paralysis, cause unknown. They wanted me to go to vocal therapy. I decided to take voice lessons instead. Who wouldn’t?

So back to today…. they had rediscovered my cyst. But this time the diagnosis was a complex cyst- Bosniak Class III -possible renal cell neoplasm. Huh? How exactly does a simple Cyst suddenly become a lesion with 60% possibility of being cancer? Simply, it doesn’t. It was never a simple cyst to begin with. Ah! Great. Now I’m a little pissed.

My friend Jen told me when she was diagnosed with cancer it was like the wind was knocked out of her. Everything closed in like looking at the world through a tunnel. I don’t actually know if my lesion is cancerous. But when I got the call I was instantly nauseous, my heart was racing, I felt fear like I never before and I cried all the way home from work.

I could easily land within the benign 40%. The surgical urologist said if he had to lay odds in Vegas, he’d bet benign. So that is good right?

During the two week wait before my surgical consultation I searched the internet. I read everything I could get my eyes on; my mind began to pluck pieces out of my medical history and try to arrange them like a puzzle. I looked up the words on my tests to understand them. Yes I freaked out a little.

In fairness my cousin was diagnosed with Kidney cancer 3 years ago at 43. Sounds familiar. He underwent surgery and they got it all out. He still even has part of said kidney.

I also have a family history of Von Hippel Landau disease-a genetic mutation that prevents the body from blocking certain tumor growth. Just another reason this thing must come out. My cousin with VHL has always been asymptomatic unlike her daughter. Genetically this gene trait tracks back to her father i.e. my mother’s brother, my uncle. So it is possible I have the mutation as well. And renal cell carcinoma is one of the malignant developments from VHL and one of the leading causes of death in VHL patients. If my mother is a carrier then the odds that I am VHL positive are 50/50- a big unknown without testing. So I called the national VHL organization who pointed me to a clinical care center at UW hospital that does the genetic testing for VHL. And since I don’t know what it will cost (BRCA testing produced a $6000 price tag I couldn’t entertain) I plan to wait to explore it further.

A quick side rant. This morning I saw on the news that the FDA is blocking the sale of the 23andme genetic kits. They cite that the accuracy of the results can not be confirmed. And worry that women will undergo unnecessary medical procedures based on false results. They are concerned with the marketing approach and the fact that the company sidesteps health professionals. And we wouldn’t want that right? I suspect big pharmaceuticals aren’t happy competing  with a  $99 price tag and are applying pressure. But that’s the conspiracy theorist in me. Remember the aforementioned $6000 BRCA price tag. Let’s see if my insurance and medical can bring the test cost down to $99. Because I could use a cost effective test for VHL and BRCA. And I don’t know about the rest of you, but if I took the test through 23andme and was BRCA positive I’d get a second opinion before undergoing a preventative double mastectomy. Information is power and should be readily available. Admittedly I’m highly biased as in my case it could be a matter of life and death.

Okay back to my very real issue at hand. Surgery was the Urologist’s recommendation. Yes, please take this thing out!  I underwent another round of testing, MRI, Chest X-ray, and meeting a new Endocrinologist. Due to my cortisol they have to coordinate on how best to treat me during the procedure so my BP doesn’t jump into heart attack zone.  And because of the tricky location of my little lump they can’t go in minimally invasive. They need to open me up in order to have the best chance of saving as much of my kidney as possible. Which is fine with me, I’m a little attached to it.

And on top of all this my gynecologist ordered a biopsy of my pesky breast lump. It’s been hanging around for years, palpable but invisible to scans. But apparently it’s time for it to come out as well. How many other shoes is that?

So what does all this mean? I really wish I had access to low cost genetic testing and I’ll be gone from the blog for most of December.