Warrior Princess

August 16, 2016

The New, New Normal

Filed under: Breast Cancer, Fitness, Things Can Always Get Worse — ggirl @ 4:01 pm

wolf crossing river“I have traversed many kinds of health, and keep traversing them… and as for sickness: are we not almost tempted to ask whether we could get along without it? Only great pain is the liberator of the spirit.”~ Oliver Sacks, The  Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat And Other Clinical Tales

I’m what’s known as a Breast Cancer Survivor.  It’s now in remission.  I really hate it when people give me a perky smile and tell me that’s great.  They believe it’s gone now, but breast cancer is incurable.  My little friend is always with me, waiting to pop up and say hi. I have a blog in which I described my cancer journey.  It’s here if you’d like to follow along.

Given my general unwillingness to deny that presence, I’ve become highly motivated to find the gift.  They are many.  One of them is a need to always be as physically fit as I can for a woman of my age.

To that end I’ve retained a personal trainer.  All of the people I know who have one are a little snotty about it, so I’m a bit nervous about how this is going to affect my usual self-effacing manner.  Our first meeting was on Monday and my good man, Duy, pushed hard.

I love that.  Do not waste my time with exercises that are geared for old people.  There is spiritual redemption to be found in physical movement, I think.  When it’s time to leave, I find a clarity and openness to other people.  I am profoundly immersed in each moment as it passes.  I’m happy even though my little friend has taken up residence.

So now I have a personal trainer, a guide to a new vision of the world.  Time to also avoid snotty, if I can.

July 9, 2015

While Waiting for the End of the World

Filed under: Faith and Spirituality, Things Can Always Get Worse — ggirl @ 1:38 pm

wolf footprint“The end approaches, but the apocalypse is long lived.” ~ Jacques Derrida

After yoga, I came home and did my first headstand!  It’s a new millennium and, as I watch the species struggling to find a way to survive, the best I can do is work on serenity and good will towards all sentient beings.  It’s a battle many days–Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, the willful destruction of the earth for greed and our profound sense of entitlement.  Sometimes I’m in despair, so I go back to watching my breath and sending goodwill.

I’m also weighing my own future, on the brink of an enormous decision.  I’m patient and I’m waiting for my future to assert itself.  Today, I think it’s all already happened, anyway, so no point in haggling with myself or making plans right now. I was meant to be here–this moment, this place, this course.  The only thing left to do is relax and breathe.  For good or ill, my fate has its arms wide open for me.

November 5, 2014


“We like lists because we don’t want to die.”  ~ Umberto Eco

I keep lists.  They’re not formal and they’re not written down, but they’re available any time I need them.  I only need them when I’ve another list item to add.  My current lists include


Books I’ve read or should read.

New and exciting interests I should pursue.

People who’ve committed suicide.

People who have family and friends who’ve committed suicide.

Good ways to die.

These days the Good Ways To Die list has been getting the most attention.  Whenever I learn of someone who’s died without advance warning or suffering, I pencil it into the list in my brain.  Dying in my sleep (like one of Hubby’s friends).  Losing consciousness in an airplane which has lost cabin pressure. These are the latest, but there are definitely more.

As far back as my twenties, I recognized list-making is frequently a form of magical thinking.  I had a friend who shared with me the types of wrinkles she found tolerable and those she didn’t want.  It was almost as if, by giving voice to these preferences, they became incantations. If we say it, then it must be under our control.  Of course her incantation was futile.  Time wins.

No need to address my first two; they’re fun lists I may feel some guilt about not making greater progress with, but they evoke far less emotion than the others.  Lately the Good Ways To Die schedule has seen a lot of action.  No need to enumerate them here.

I don’t actually not want to die. I’d just prefer to control the how of it.  I’m certain Death is highly amused.  that’s okay.  I’m keeping the list anyway.


January 21, 2014

The Worse It Is

canstock2022383“The more you see, the worse it is.”–Elana Newman on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

I read a couple of articles  about PTSD over the weekend.  I’m always drawn to stories about fellow-travelers, no matter how we came to be on similar paths.  Of the two men featured in the articles  one was a journalist who covered the Middle East wars and one was a Navy seal.  Both ended up dead by the hand of another vet  and the other crashed his car into a tree.  There is debate as to whether that was a successful suicide.

I didn’t think to prepare myself for the emotional fall-out.  It’s either never occurred to me or I forgot that reading about PTSD actually evokes it’s symptoms.  I really must learn to keep track of these things.

I was never in Iraq or Afghanistan; I am not a journalist or a veteran.  However, I saw (and sometimes was forced to participate in) my own private war, waged within the confines of my home as I grew up.  By the time I was three, I’d already seen and heard more traumatic events than most people have to endure in a lifetime.

It’s true.  The more you see, the worse it is.  I’ve learned to “manage” my flashbacks.  When the film starts rolling in my head, I often have to resort to imagining a room inside my head.  The room is made of stone, the door is thick wood and heavily bolted.  I move the images into that dungeon.  When I can.

If you run into me in a hall way, I will be noticeably startled.  Some people find this incredibly amusing.  I try to forgive them.  I worked with one sadist who found it endlessly entertaining to sneak up on me.  Luckily for him, he was never close enough to experience the consequences.  If you catch me unawares and you’re close enough, you will definitely get hurt.  I did find another way to stop him, though.  I will not be re-victimized by any asshole.  I’ve done my time–and more–as a victim.

Living in my head is a lonely existence, being lost in a terrifying house of mirrors, with the requirement that I find a way to live in this world without anyone knowing.

“The symptomatology of PTSD.
In PTSD a traumatic event is not remembered and relegated to one’s past in the same way as other life events. Trauma continues to intrude with visual, auditory, and/or other somatic reality on the lives of its victims. Again and again they relive the life-threatening experiences they suffered, reacting in mind and body as though such events were still occurring. PTSD is a complex psychobiological condition.”
― Babette RothschildThe Body Remembers: The Psychophysiology of Trauma and Trauma Treatment

That’s right.  The more you see, the worse it is.

November 26, 2013

A New Low

Filed under: Things Can Always Get Worse — ggirl @ 6:10 pm

??????????????????????????????????????“Depression is the inability to construct a future.”  Rollo May

Too depressed to go to therapy.

October 21, 2013

The Annual Mind Fuck: Thank You David Foster Wallace

Filed under: Suicide, Things Can Always Get Worse — ggirl @ 5:29 pm

Image“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.” 
  – David Foster Wallace

I realize that this quote is longer than many blog postings.  Nonetheless, here  it is.  I discovered (along with virtually everyone else, it seems) Wallace by reading a review of his last novel which was unfortunately interrupted by his suicide.  Anyone who’s read my blog posts before probably already knows that I have a running list of names of people who’ve checked out.  Wallace is my latest suicide discovery.

All of this is by way of saying that it’s come around again.  Friday is the anniversary of my father’s suicide.  I’ve already established residence in the Land of Lunacy the anniversary always takes me by the neck and drags me back into.  New therapist says I should imagine my father, minute, placed on the back of a chair.  I should, she says, contemplate him and say, “My father…hmmm.’  To say that this response is inadequate is really an insult to that word.

To make matters even more interesting, I will be 60 nine days after the anniversary.  Wow.  Double my pleasure, double my fun.  My psychiatrist asked me recently if I’ve been feeling suicidal.  I reminded her that’s not a place I’m allowed to go.  I’ve made a rational, calm decision that I will not even entertain the notion.

So.  Here I am, trying to endure the annual mind fuck and trying to figure out what it means to me to be 60.  I’ve forgiven my father–for something, but I’m not quite sure what.  There are so many things to forgive him for and I haven’t forgiven him for most of them.  As for the birthday, I can now count the months I will probably remain un-cremated.  I’ll get back with you on this as soon as I figure out what posture I’ll assume in relation to this birthday.

Okay.  Not the most fascinating or entertaining post I’ve ever written.  I’m feeling a bit fragmented these days.  Go figure.

August 7, 2013

The Magical Mystery of Calcification

Filed under: Breast Cancer, Things Can Always Get Worse — ggirl @ 5:16 pm

gray wolf sleeping in snow“A late diagnosis can result in more serious, long-term consequences.” — Olympia Snowe

Time for my annual pilgrimage to Houston to see my beloved Dr. Ross, the man who saved my life.  I won’t be seeing the beloved Dr. Kronowitz, although I wish I were.  I learned about a month ago that he lost his wife to breast cancer this year.  They have a young daughter and a tiny daughter, born a couple of years ago.  Every time i think of it, I’m heartsick.

On my last trip, the breast made of my stomach tissue was fine.  The other breast, though healthy, had changed since my last visit.  Just some minor calcification.  That word has become terrifying to me.  On Friday, I’m having a cardiolite test.  A couple of weeks ago, my cardiologist ordered a CT scan of my heart.  Because they found calcification, I will now have yet another test.  This time, they’re inject radio isotopes into my veins and watch it travel into my heart to determine whether I’m getting enough blood there.  Excellent.  More radiation.  Any day now, I’ll no doubt find that I’m growing another arm out of my butt or some other equally inconvenient place.  Of course, there’s also the old glowing in the dark joke.

I’m not afraid of my heart.  I’m terrified about my breast.  My position remains that I won’t endure another round of chemo.  I can’t.  So what does that leave me with if something goes wrong?  I wonder which would be more painful–the chemo or dying.  I know chemo and I know what horrors lay in store for me.  Dying?  Not afraid.  I’d just rather not leave my loved ones alone.  But chemo…I don’t see it.

Given all of this, I’m stuck once again (just as I am every year) enduring small bouts of terror.  Next week is a long time to venture small forays into panic.  But there you have it.  Excuse me now, while I have a flashback.


May 24, 2013


Filed under: Things Can Always Get Worse — ggirl @ 4:41 pm

wolf through icy branches“I am  in that temper that if I were under water I would scarcely kick to come to the top.”  John Keats

I’ve been beating  back depression for a couple of days now, despite the handful of pills I take every day to keep me functional and not suicidal.  Suicide, of course, is not an option.  Ever.  Under any circumstances.  Well, at least until every single person who cares about me is gone.

So here I am, stuck.  I’ve been pushing it away.  I’ve been sitting with it, examining it in every small detail.  I’ve thought of  calling my therapist.

Zen is not working for me today.  I didn’t try sitting with it until today, so yesterday was a complete wash.  At least today I was mindful and curious about this thing we call depression.

Apparently there’s still plenty of time to give it my utmost attention.

May 16, 2013

Standing at the Threshold

captive gray wolf portraitChildhood is frequently a solemn business for those inside it.”  George Will

I have a new therapist who believes that everything from the past should be placed on a shelf and simply regarded.  “Just look at your father and say, ‘hmmm…’,” she said in response to my comment that my father ruined my life.  Hmm….

I get it.  I’m responsible for my own life.  I’m a twenty-first century kind of person who takes ownership of the choices I’ve made.  If I’m happy with the person I now am (and yes, generally speaking, I am), then the past was a gift that helped me to arrive at this moment.

However.  My father most certainly ruined my life.  From the time I was 11 until I was 13, I had no friends. From the time I was 11 until I was in my late twenties, no one ever came to visit me in my parents’ house.  I knew there would be too much explaining that would have to be done and, ultimately, it would just drive away those who were kind enough and brave enough to call me their friend.

I spent my teenage years into my twenties carefully watching, trying to mimic the behavior of people who seemed to move with ease through the world.  I internalized those observed words and gestures, the courtesies and the rules by which people outside my family lived.  I became a dazzling impostor.

But I still had to live in my parents’ world.  Every night when I entered the front door, as a child and a teenager.  I entered alone, without protection.  No matter how brilliantly I’d performed at school, no matter whether there were moments with a young man that made me forget that inevitability.  I was alone.  That door always awaited me.

When Ann, my new therapist, tells me that my deep  solitude is merely biting off my nose to spite my face, she fails to see that my life as always been spent alone.  It’s the one thing I was never able to learn.  My life with my parents was, indeed, the pathway to this moment.  But I live this moment and all of the others that came before…alone.

My life has been dedicated to overcoming my past.  That defining effort has robbed me of so many possibilities.  Ann exists in a different universe where all choices are possible.  I’m eternally standing at the threshold of that door, gathering courage to walk in.


November 10, 2011

Challenge #1,000,000,000

Filed under: Things Can Always Get Worse — ggirl @ 3:13 pm
My little dog – a heartbeat at my feet.  ~Edith Wharton

He has not learned the lesson of life who does not every day surmount a fear.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
I’ve decided that, as often as possible, I’ll catch up on the blog.  I find I miss this space of complete freedom, the opportunity to be just who I am at this very moment without the fear that people in my life will find their way into my deeply authentic self.
I euthanized Miss Woo on October 1.  It was, as always, incredibly heartbreaking.  However, as a Buddhist, I recognize that ultimately we will all lose everything we love.  Love given is always worth the pain.  “Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.”  Hard to live with that knowledge, hard to practice it every day, every moment.
Hubby’s out of work again, so I’m in a panic mode when I’m unable to see clearly how panic feels.  Mindfulness brings me back when I’m awake; sleep is another reality I’m as yet unable to moderate.  Last week, there was a job fair in town held by a new hotel.  Over 7,000 people showed up to apply for 300 jobs.  Hubby is looking and, in the meantime, working on some freelance writing that will actually generate some income.
I’m still working at the State.  The irony of that fact doesn’t escape me.  I spent years of my life trying to exit the control of the State (both small and large).  It’s not fabulous; bureaucracy has always been hard for me to tolerate.  Furthermore, benefits continue to be cut and, at this point, I’m really unable to care for the ongoing serious health issues I face.  As long as all I need to do is see a G.P. for all my answers, I’ve got my insurance needs met.  Looking for a new job, but everything in the labor market is volatile and it will be hard to find some certainty of stability.
I’ve had my fill of challenges, thought mine are small compared to those of so many others.  So it goes–one foot in front of another, of another, of another.
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