Unravel Cancer: Experiences with family battling cancer: September 2010
27 September 2010
23:07 Stanley Cup 4 Cancer Update: How do you spell relief? D-U-S-T
How do I begin to describe Burning Man? Well, DUST was the biggest factor. Dust factored into everything. I had never experienced so much dust in my entire life. My roommate warned me about the dust storms, but my imagination couldn't conceive of what they were really like. It was like "the nothing" in "The Neverending Story".
Forced to adapt to the dust quickly or perish in mouth-foaming madness, I adapted. It wasn't until day 4 that the baby wipes just didn't cut it, and I sought out a bath at the Human Car Wash. More on that later.
Numerous times I rode my bike through the windy dusty plains & pondered as my legs pushed against the wind, foot on pedal, and the dust gusts lifted my skirt painting my white undies grey, that if the apocalypse came, I'd be ready for it. "Bring it on!", I yelled.
The Flammable Stanley Cup It was easy to forget about the dust when I had a flammable Stanley Cup in tow. It resided in a kiddie trailer on my bike.
On the one hand I was bedazzled by the amazing spectacle that was all around me. Art cars, glowing people, naked people, stilt walkers, jugglers (when there was no wind), and lots & lots of fire. There were vehicles that spurted fire, a tricked out set of organ pipes tied to a keyboard that spurted fire, a fire-spurting tuba in a marching band, and the list goes on. Fire twirlers at the club camps were especially talented.
On the other hand, sometimes FCS was a burden. It was heavy to pull around. Often my bike got stuck in the sand piles scattered on the desert floor. It was no fun. But there were several moments when people picked up the cup, hoisted it over their head, & kissed it, just like the real Stanley Cup! Unfortunately, none of those moments were on film, but trust me they really happened. All around town people called after me shouting "Lord Stanley's Cup!" or "Is that the Stanley Cup?", or "Stanley!", or whatever. Just getting that recognition alone was worth all the effort. For the first time in a long while, I felt acknowledged, seen, heard, and allowed to be in the place I had created for myself in the community. It was an incredible feeling, beyond words. To see the experience, view the video:
Burning stuff Burning things is such a good idea. I've become a real fan. Of course there are inappropriate times & places to burn things. My brother who's battling cancer actually poured gasoline on his jeans & lit them on fire at 12 years of age. He was trying to be like the movie stuntmen. Very fortunately, he had the foresight to turn on the garden hose & have his buddy hold it nearby ready to douse him. I'm not sure how long he let it burn. What a character. Don't try that at home, kids.
However, when in a large flat area with nothing around for miles, like the desert, it's a great time & place to burn things. I'll get more to the burning of The Man in a later post, but for now I'll stick to the Temple of Flux. The temple was built in a very organic "bird's nest" kind of shape, with walls fit for scribbling on. Many people did, including me. It's also the place where the Flammable Stanley Cup met its timely end.
It took a long time to burn, but was a beautiful sight. The smoke tornados absolutely blew my mind. It sounds like I'm high on drugs in the video, but I can assure you I was completely sober. Truly it was that much of an awe-inspiring moment. The flames & smoke were powerfully transforming. It offered a cathartic release for me and many others.
Fire gives us an opportunity to start anew, wipe the proverbial slate clean and start fresh. That was definitely my experience of burning the FSC. I felt the burden of survivor guilt was lifted, the burden of worry, fear, & anxiety at seeing my loved ones struggle to stave off death, were cleansed when that temple burned. All the suffering, trauma, and agony of the people whose names were on the FSC were burned away too. It was liberating.
And back to dust What really struck me though was the dust. It was the dusty wind that spun the smoke tornados into our section of the crowd. And more so than the fire, it was the dust that forced me to let go. The inevitability of it creeping into every crevice, nook, & cranny possible caused me to truly release expectations.
Letting go was the central theme to my entire experience. By giving myself & others a vehicle of expressing Life, we could let go of the inevitable Death that will come. The dust was a reminder that we are made of it, and will return to it one day. Having this reminder literally hit you in the face every day allowed me to live more fully, and be free-er at Burning Man. I didn't have the same heavy emotions. There was a tremendous release. I could truly be myself there, be the little girl who always wanted to play but got shut down by one family member or another.
It was almost challenging to accept the love, just like it was to accept the dust. After a day or two, I became the loving person I want to be. During a yoga class, my heart cracked open, and lying in shavasana I cried, as I felt held by some cosmic force with the gentleness of a momma cradling her baby. I didn't take anything personally, and I offered & received goodness, kindness, food, and help. The openness with which people not only offered things, but _themselves_ was remarkable. Add in all the crazy cool art, and it became an overwhelmingly delightful cuddle puddle.
Post mortem I hesitated to use the phrase "post mortem" given that this is a blog about cancer, but what the heck - it's the right title for this last section.
Since the day I got back, my work has been off-the-hook crazy. I cruised on the acceptance of what I can't control gained from Burning Man for several weeks of it. Finally, last week, I had a meltdown. By the end of the week, I was so frustrated with my ass getting kicked so repeatedly by work that I lost my poop when someone did something that resulted in me not getting what I wanted. Wow, was I overgriped.
Four weeks out, and I'm back to my old ways. Harrumph. So why go through all this?
Well, my heart did shut down last week. That much is true, but I'm simply not the same person I was four weeks ago. No matter what, I keep showing up. Even in my exhaustion, my sleepiness, my frustration, my "I'm over it" mind, I keep showing up & doing the best I can.
My body has taken a drastic leap forward in healing as a result of Burning Man. I'll talk about that in a later post.
And, I'm not holding on to my grief, my anger, my resentments like before. Once I get angry or frustrated at the thing I can't control, it's just gone. Poof. All in all, I"m lighter, less heady, and more in the moment. I'm noticing my thought patterns more easily. I'm letting go of the past with much more grace & ease. Just today, after ruminating about a challenging convo at work, I was able to let it go & enjoy being in the pool while I swam. I focused on my breathing & on the cool sound of the water splashing around my ears with each stroke.
Even as I humbly admitted my over-griped-ness today, I didn't wallow in self-pity, but rather gave thanks for the opportunity to learn about myself.
I could go on & on but, the point is I just don't view the world through the same eyes. So, none of my experiences will be the same going forward. The dust corroded many old thought patterns that were no longer useful. The patterns are fighting their way back into my consciousness, but I see them! They are not welcome! Instead, I make more room on the kitchen shelf of my mind to store them for use at a later time.
I wrote this when it was late, and I was super pooped. Not sure if it makes any sense. So, I'll let the video speak for me, and offer a more coherent impression of Burning Man, post-temple burn.
Thank you for your patience, dear readers, as I drop back into Earth's orbit after a wild & woolly ride to Black Rock City, NV for Burning Man 2010. I know everyone is feinting with anticipation at the photos & my thoughts. Rest assured, those thoughts are beginning to settle & will be downloaded for you in this here electronic forum very soon.
Meanwhile, the one that's fully baked was a blog post I didn't have time to write before I left. It'll be short & sweet, and worth it. Please read on...
Can art and athletics meet on common ground? Yes, by golly! And cancer is what brought them there. Doing the Flammable Stanley Cup for Cancer Survivors project challenged me in ways I didn't expect. The setbacks, the length of time it took to get everything done. I didn't even have time to write the names on the Cup til I got to the playa!
Anyway, it was an exercise in patience, in accepting reality, versus my vision of it. And, it got me really humble in a hurry. If it wasn't for my buddy Mark coming to my construction rescue, the project wouldn't have happened, over 100 people would have been disappointed in me, and my goose would've been cooked. Here's Captain Table Saw in action:
But the point is, all the emotions - the setbacks, the frustration, the fears, the reminding myself to stay calm to get through it all - were the same ones when I'm on a rock wall. I'm no psychologist, but something tells me I pushed myself into this nutty adventure because I wasn't getting my fix climbing, due to so many injuries. Somehow, a catharsis was needed, and climbing wasn't an option anymore.
And catharsis I got. But more on that in my upcoming posts.
I'll leave you with this little ditty to brighten your day. When the going gets tough, the tough get an air banjo:
PS: I highly recommend developing an art project if you are a) in cancer treatment, b) are a helpless shlameel family member watching someone else die from cancer. Many people asked me why I don't fundraise or contribute some kind of research towards fighting cancer. I'm just not a scientist, I'm an artist. Engaging in the ritual of art heals many things, both for myself & others. Give it a try - you'll feel much better. Oh, and once you're done, burn it! Then you'll really feel great. Ta...
I'm a 30-something professional woman who's mother & brother were both diagnosed with Grade 3 Astrocytoma tumors within about a week of each other. My mother's tumor is in her brain, and my brother's tumor is in his spinal cord, causing him to lose feeling in his arms & legs. These writings are about my experiences dealing with them, coping, loving them, loving myself, and living my life knowing that they are both dying. I hope you find inspiration and courage from my writings to help you get through whatever is going on in your life.