It’s Staying Up Until Epiphany!

christmas tree aglow 2.0

Dear Readers,

Where did Christmas 2019 go? One minute we were decorating our tree (with our signature blend of home-made ornaments and Star Wars collectibles), and the next moment we were carrying discarded wrapping paper and boxes out to the recycling bin.

SW and homemade

I was so excited for Christmas, and it certainly lived up to my expectations. My big present from the hubby this year was a new washing machine. I know, that may not sound overly exciting to some people, but I was thrilled to be given a machine that wasn’t going to constantly screech errors at me!

Christmas for me, and many others, though, isn’t solely about the gifts.

It’s about family—sitting at my parents’ dining room table—as my father said “Grace” over the delicious meal that my mother had prepared.

It’s about attending Christmas Eve service—listening to the readings, singing along to both new and old Christmas hymns, while the candles in the sanctuary flicker, painting the walls gold and making the windows gleam.

Christmas is about embracing church family and thanking God that, yes, I can hug these wonderful, inspiring people again! I couldn’t do that a year ago. I definitely couldn’t do it two years ago when my immune system was infantile.

Yet, here I am, with only a few days left of 2019, and I’m grateful to still be here.

There was never a guarantee that I would survive Cancer #1 or Cancer #2. Neither of those experiences were easy—this last one took a lot out of me. I’m still recovering. In fact, it’ll probably take all of 2020 to feel halfway human.

According to my oncologist, the most common complaint among allogenic transplant recipients is fatigue. It’s not the kind of fatigue that you can sleep off. Neither caffeine nor sugar will help. You simply have to endure this fatigue; sometimes miserably, and sometimes proactively with appropriate amounts of physical and mental activity.

With all of that said, I am sure that you, Dear Readers, have an inkling as to what my goals for 2020 will be.

Before I was diagnosed with Relapsed Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in 2017, I maintained a daily, rigorous yoga practice. It was borderline Power Yoga.

yoga on the deck

As the tumor in my lumbar spine grew, I eventually lost all of the strength and flexibility that I had gained through yoga.

I’ve been taking baby-steps toward my former level of athleticism—utilizing chair yoga, restorative yoga and trauma yoga. I will continue doing these forms of yoga until I am ready for Power Yoga. By June, I intend to be doing The Wheel again!

Wally and Wheel

Also, in 2020, I will keep my mind busy with a self-created reading list (comprised mostly of books that I already own but haven’t had a chance to actually read). I’ll continue learning new languages via Duo Lingo. Currently, I’m studying Norwegian. Jeg elsker det (I love it)! Additionally, I will retrain my sometimes chemo-foggy brain through dusting off my GRE practice book and revisiting vocabulary, analogy and complex mathematical lessons. Each lesson is similar to a puzzle piece—revealing parts of the old me that existed pre-cancer.

Finally, I intend to keep the Christmas spirit alive throughout the new year. The first step in this multi-faceted plan, is to leave our Christmas decorations (except, maybe, for the tree, which is already losing a superfluous number of needles) up until Epiphany. According to the Christian calendar, Epiphany is traditionally celebrated on January 6th and marks the moment when the Wisemen (aka Magi) find Jesus.

wisemen

I mean, come on! It’s only December 30th! The Wisemen haven’t even made it to Bethlehem yet! The Christmas lights will glow in this house until that manger is discovered!

Of course, keeping the Christmas spirit alive involves a lot more than leaving decorations up. It requires us to practice kindness, generosity and gratitude on a daily basis. It might also take the form of small, but thoughtful, acts of friendship, such as writing letters and sending them off via snail mail. For me, part of it will consist of visiting cafes with friends—all to drink a cup of coffee and to talk awhile.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. Thank you for your prayers, love and light. I do hope that 2020 is kind to each of you!

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

 

Heart-Openers

heart-opener-post-1748

As much as I love yoga, I often find myself avoiding it. I tell myself that I don’t have the time to unroll my mat, to transition through sun salutations, or to find balance in what I consider to be more challenging asanas. I do the same thing whenever I think about writing fiction, except the excuses are a bit craftier (i.e. “I write my best material in the morning and its now 11:59 a.m.”, or, “Oh no, I think I have Writer’s Block”).

Why would I avoid the things I love?

The answer, if I am being truthful, is that in addition to being hard work, both yoga and writing force you to look inward. Yes, the outcomes are, to some extent, measurable—increased flexibility, a fledgling manuscript—but at the center of both practices is a challenge to sit with your own heart, listening to its sorrows, its joys.

And that—the ability to listen—is where all the magic is.

When I unrolled my yoga mat recently—for the first time in what feels like weeks—Wallace the Wonderful woke up from his cat-nap. He rubbed against my legs while I stood in Mountain Pose. He darted underneath me as I tried to hold Plank. His joy for the mat, for the practice, was contagious. Even as I lifted up into Wheel—a pose commonly known in the yoga community as a “heart-opener”—and all of my back muscles resisted the stretch, I knew something had shifted, something was about to change.

A week later, when I inexplicably began editing my novel (again) for the first time in over a year, Wallace had a similar reaction. He followed the L-shape of the couch until he was at my side. Once there, he curled up in a ball, purring happily. The seams of my heart began to pull.

When I read all of your comments following last week’s blog post—I didn’t need Wallace to translate what I was feeling. I knew, all on my own, that my heart was done for, bursting open with gratitude, with love.

The beautiful things in this life—the things that we are called to do, the bonds we form with others—crack open our hearts. Of course, yoga/writing/relationships/whatever it is that inspires you—involve hard work. Of course, it hurts at times. And, of course, it is 100% worth it.

This Thanksgiving holiday—perhaps more so than any other Thanksgiving I have ever experienced—I find myself grateful. I am grateful for the hands that help, that are constantly and consistently trying to make this world a better place. I am grateful for the voices of reason and of kindness that refuse to be silenced by the cacophony of anger and hate. And, I am grateful for the love that each of you shows me every Monday.

Happy Thanksgiving, Dear Readers.