Meditations for Queer Femmes – The Facts of Life

At the oncology clinic last week receiving my infusion of chemo lite and immunotherapy drugs, I overheard one of the nurses telling another about a certain patient, the wacky Barbara: “I was talking about an iv, and mentioned I was having a little trouble getting it in, and Barbara goes, ‘That’s what he said!’”

Oh, hello, straight ladies, getting up to shenanigans here in Cancer World!

Before I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I thought there was such a huge gap between no-cancer and cancer. That the world would change completely and for the horrible worse if I got cancer, or any of the other dire illnesses I could hypochondriacally imagine grabbing me.

Well, yes and no. There’s a lot of pressure from the medical establishment for you to act as normal as possible and to carry on as if you were healthy – as if you are going to be healthy again, really – and that’s understandable, I guess, since their job is to heal you. There is also some denial on my part, as it’s just hard to understand that abrupt jolt from healthy to dealing-with-a-dread-disease; hard to understand and a little bit hard to believe. So sometimes I have trouble remembering how sick I am, but, sheesh, it would be hard for me not to know I have cancer, what with the whole chemo/being bald/getting ready to have radiation and so on.

In spite of all that, the thing I’ve learned most poignantly is that I’m still the same person, right down to the bone. I’m still a complex, comprehensive, complete queer femme. The things I think about, want to write about in my fiction, the essence of myself, are all still the same. Not that I haven’t been worked on by being this sick. Not that I haven’t thought about mortality in a slightly different way. Not that I’m not still scared, depressed, and angry about having to blast off so suddenly to the Planet of Cancer…but I don’t feel like I’m going to have to move here permanently. One of these days, I’ll be an ex pat, and life just continues to move on.

Pema Chodron says, “I find it extremely comforting that there is no getting around the facts of life,” and I know just what she means. Illness is a fact of life. Me and Barbara and countless other folks have cancer – it sucks, but it’s a fact of life. And it doesn’t mean that shenanigans get shoved to the side, either!

Sparkles of existence, my darling queer femme sisters, there is always something going on in our lives. Breathe deeply. Give thanks. Your queer femme core revolves in your very essence, always bright and healthy and filled with every blessing. Close your eyes and imagine cupping your hands around it. Feel how warm and marvelous it is?

Today you are fully yourself, and oh the wonder of it: you are alive!

Every Monday, I offer a Meditation for Queer Femmes in the spirit of my maternal grandmother, Mimi, who was fabulous, kind, and wise and from whom I inherited her Meditations for Women.

At the Total Femme, my intention is to post three times a week: Meditations for Queer Femmes on Monday, Pingy-Dingy Wednesday on Wednesday and Femme Friday on Friday. Rather than play catch-up in a stressful fashion on those weeks when life prevents posting, I have decided to just move gaily forward: if I miss a Monday, the next post will be on Wednesday, and so on. Thank you, little bottle of antibiotics for inspiring me in this! (“…if it’s almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Don’t take a double dose to make up for a missed one.”)

 

Published in: on October 28, 2019 at 3:15 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Meditations for Queer Femmes – Solid State

Now that my final chemo treatment is completed (Aug. 14 was Blessed Numbah Six!), now that I’m starting to crawl out of the dismal realms of chemo country, I here and again find myself skirting panic (or sometimes not). Cancer panic, that is; panic that the cancer will return. Turning to The After Breast Cancer Treatment Survival Handbook compiled by Margit Esser Porter for comfort, it is disheartening to see how many entries there are by women who have had one, two, and even three reoccurrences of cancer, breast and otherwise. I mean, fucking hell! Just about now, still weighed down by post-chemo yuck, rough enough all on its own, it’s torture to think I might have to do this again at some point in the future.

Butterfly babies, marvelous femme fancies, you don’t have to have had cancer to fear insult and injury to your solid state. To be alive is to roll the dice, no matter how hale and hearty or challenged by any of the millions of things that can affect the living. Genetic, environmental, cultural, familial; we are walking always in great uncertainty, and we all know stories like the one a friend told me recently about her dad. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and when she started doing some research, she realized that throughout his life, her dad had done everything recommended to prevent dementia.

Reading the aforementioned book, published in 2000, I had occasion to be deeply grateful that my treatment for breast cancer comes in 2019, when so much more is known about my particular configuration of the disease. The kind of tumor I have was, not so long ago, considered particularly tricky, but now there are extremely effective immunotherapy drugs that make my prognosis much more positive.

From another book I just finished reading, the historical novel In A Dark Wood Wandering by Hella S. Haasse, here is the main character, Charles d’Orléans, just as stuck in his time and place as we are: “Must he always allow himself to be ruled by others, was it his fate to be goaded along just those paths which he did not want to take?” In 1410, for a nephew of the King of France, life was indeed circumscribed by position, the political climate with its endless machinations for power, not to mention the usual vagaries of personal constitution, natural disasters, and illness. And yet, Charles still managed to write some of the loveliest poetry in the French language*, which he did while imprisoned in England because of his political importance. He was able to devote himself to his art in a way that he probably wouldn’t have been able to manage without this enforced solitude.

We are accustomed to finding fault with everything in our life, something capitalism and its minions encourage. It’s difficult not to focus on the negative in this time of endless acquisition and disheartening world conditions. Even when there are victories, we find ourselves saying, “Yes, but…” as if the only thing that matters is total perfection, as if there is never a right time to celebrate, relax, and congratulate ourselves on the hard, positive work we’ve done. As if that isn’t an utterly important part of the cycle.

Today, my sweetest of solid state queer femmes, spend half a mo’ focusing instead on what being alive today affords you, gifts you, loves on you, surrounds you with. Think about opportunity and gorgeousness. As simple as a paean to pluots (first sold in 1989), as complex as gratitude for being alive at a time when your work on climate change has the chance of having immediate and dramatic impact, today there is unbelievable beauty and bounty, completely dependent on this Right Now.

My loves, you are blessed to be alive in this pulsing, glittering moment. Breathe deep. Notice. Accept and dive and delve into gratitude.

I am right here on my knees beside you.

 

* one of his poems is even included in Jean Orizet’s Les cent plus beaux poèmes de la langue française (The One Hundred Most Beautiful Poems in the French Language

Every Monday, I offer a Meditation for Queer Femmes in the spirit of my maternal grandmother, Mimi, who was fabulous, kind, and wise and from whom I inherited her Meditations for Women.

At the Total Femme, my intention is to post three times a week: Meditations for Queer Femmes on Monday, Pingy-Dingy Wednesday on Wednesday and Femme Friday on Friday. Rather than play catch-up in a stressful fashion on those weeks when life prevents posting, I have decided to just move gaily forward: if I miss a Monday, the next post will be on Wednesday, and so on. Thank you, little bottle of antibiotics for inspiring me in this! (“…if it’s almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Don’t take a double dose to make up for a missed one.”)