Friday, December 14, 2012

Turret Thinking, A Health Scare and A Message (or two) From The Universe

I appear to be in the midst of a creative explosion.

Back in the late summer, I told myself (and some recovery friends, and my yoga instructor) that I was going to focus on self-care in the fall.  I was still healing physically from the cancer treatments, but feeling better every day.

I joked and said I was going to postpone my world domination plans until after the first of the year, at least.

I made it until about late October, and then my creative brain went a little nuts. In mostly a good way, but it's got me wondering where is this all coming from?   I don't say this in a braggy way (because I'm not sure it's something to brag about anyway) but in the past few months I have launched a new internet talk show/website/twitter page, published a book, sold a record amount of jewelry with the revamping of my newsletter with more attention to marketing, and hired a web designer for a last, bigger project I'm not announcing until January or February.

Some of my close friends, who know me well, have called me on this whatever-it-is I'm doing thing. It's a bit manic, and I freely admit that.  The thing is, I'm happy.  I definitely get overwhelmed, but I've asked for help with my creative babies (and am SO grateful to get it from so many lovely, compassionate, creative people) so at least I'm not doing all this alone anymore.

Then I was meditating the other day and it came to me - I knew where this creative explosion was coming from.

I spent six months incapacitated by cancer, unable to do much but think and sleep.  And think I did.   I thought about what really matters; a life threatening illness will do that to you.  Of course family came out right at the top of the list.

But another phenomenon happened as well.  I've always had a crazy creative brain.  Heather and I call it our monkey brain.  Having a shortage of monkeys (ideas) has never been a problem for me.  I was only happiest when I was madly chasing a dream or a new idea or building something online or talking to someone about building something online.

Basically, I was running from the drudgery of real life. Endless amounts of laundry, dinners, homework, baths, packing lunches, cleaning.  Letting my monkeys run wild was my escape - the antidote to my self-inflicted "I'm more than just a Mom" syndrome.

I was running from.  Not towards.

What cancer did - or rather what that forced stop did - was cause me to re-evaluate where I spend my time, even my mental time, because suddenly that was a lot more precious than it used to be.

As I emerged from my illness, began to physically feel better, I realized I have a mission.  I've had it all along, but it has been scattered.  I said at a round-table discussion recently, "I like to build my castles from the turret down. Turrets are pretty and everyone looks at them and I like that. Then I get to the last brick at the foundation and find out I'm building on a swamp".  I'm impulsive, and I like starting at the most interesting (and, let's admit it) noticeable part.

I've always had a mission - help people (especially women and mothers) who struggle with addiction and/or recovery feel less alone.  My mission is not to run around getting people sober.  My mission is to throw the doors of the stigma and darkness and secrecy and ignorance surrounding the disease of addiction WIDE OPEN.

This creative explosion is because I know what I want, now. I know why I'm doing it. Even the jewelry is tied to my mission.  It all folds back in on itself, and I'm getting advice (new anti-turret behavior!) on pulling my mission together into something even tighter, more meaningful and structuring it in a way that it can reach even more ears.

I'm running towards, and it feels really good.

And then yesterday I had a scare.  At the risk of sharing too much information, I woke up yesterday morning with a mouth full of blood, and it wouldn't stop bleeding. I didn't know where it was coming from. It was terrifying.  As luck (HA! I don't believe in luck any more) would have it I already had a radiologist check-up scheduled for that day. I wasn't going to go, though, because I'm to busy and was feeling so great.

Sometimes the Universe whispers to you, and sometimes it SCREAMS.  I looked heavenward, through my fear, and said "point taken".  I should never, ever be too busy to take care of myself. I was feeling so good, so far away from Cancer Land, so distracted from how recently I finished treatments.

Suddenly there I was slammed back into Cancer Land - full of fear and awfulizing thoughts and "shoulding" all over myself. I should be beyond this fear, I should be able to handle this better, etc.

I took a deep breath, called/emailed and texted some sober friends and told them where I was headed, what was going on, and got them lined up in case I got bad news. I can't be left alone with bad news.

I headed into the Radiology Department at Mass General Hospital, full of fear, spitting blood into tissues.  Why now? I thought to myself, playing the victim. Things are going so well. 

For some reason you always wait at least an hour for a scheduled appointment,which doesn't do much for rising panic and fear. My phone was buzzing away with encouraging updates from friends, which helped so much, but finally I turned the phone off, centered myself, and meditated.  Me. Meditating in a cancer ward.  I never, ever thought THAT day would come.

I sat with the center of myself for a while, counting my breaths and listening to my strong heartbeat, when suddenly I heard the first jingling bars of beautiful guitar music.  I opened my eyes to see a woman playing the guitar and singing with a circle of children with cancer - all full of smiles and clapping along to the beat.

Perspective? Firmly in place.

My appointment was fine. I'm okay. They think the blood is from dry air/sinuses, and when they scoped my throat, they said "it looks fantastic".  I have a lot to be grateful for.

I drove home thinking, hard, about how lucky I am to have found the thing I want to do with my life, for as long as I can afford to do it.  Cancer gave me this gift. I don't know if I have a day or sixty years, but I intend to make the most of whatever time I have left.

The other lucky (HA!) things? That afternoon I had both my cancer support group and a recovery meeting to go to.  I dumped all this out to people who understand, and felt a million times better. Sometimes the Universe Screams, but sometimes it Pats You On The Back, too.

I have a lot of work to do, some dismantling of turrets and some laying of foundations on solid ground, but I'm excited.  I can feel in my bones that it's going somewhere good - and I don't mean wild financial success or millions of people staring at my turret.  I mean my purpose, my heart song, the footprint I'm meant to leave in this world.  As long as I can focus on balance, self-care and support, I will be okay.

Knowing my mission in life, being so certain it's why I'm here, is so freeing. Even though I'm busier than I've ever been, I'm calm (usually - I have my moments as I recently posted about,, I guess I should say I'm existentially calm). I'm purposeful. I'm focused. I'm able to follow my mission and spend time with my kids because those other monkeys that don't fit in my life aren't there anymore.

It may sound odd to some of you - I was telling a friend all this recently and she said, "Well, DUH!  I think you may be the last person to see this, you know."

But she doesn't understand how many monkeys have gone silent, and how many I've let run free. If the monkey doesn't fit my mission - even if I think it's a really good idea - I'm letting the monkey go.  That's HARD for someone like me.

I am still trying to prioritize self-care. I go to yoga, my cancer group meetings, my recovery meetings.  I'm still searching for that elusive balance, but because I'm on a heart mission it all feels like part of my balance.

And I have NO idea where it's going. I'm not planning that part - that's turret thinking.

I'm opening my heart (not my monkey mind) to the messages the Universe sends me (or hurls at my head, depending on how much I'm really paying attention).

I'm just laying the next brick, as carefully I can and with lots of help. advice and more than a little prayer.

I can't wait to see how the castle will turn out.


  1. I wish I didn't understand your post at such a gut level but surely I do! I told someone yesterday that I don't know if I'll ever go back to being anal about some things but I really don't miss it.

  2. As always, so grateful for your perspective, Ellie. Also, so grateful that all's okay! :)

  3. It's really inspiring to watch your story come together with your projects. I hope 2013 holds even more joy in developing & sharing the message. It sounds like you're in a good space.

    That blood incident sounds basically core-shaking. Good on you for finding your way to mediation, and yay for happy guitar playing!

    I look forward to your Jan/Feb announcement! ~Catherine

  4. I love, love, love this post. And I too really understand where you're coming from in many ways. Hooray for castles to build!

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  6. For better or for worse, I can relate to creative explosions. :) Try to find balance and moderation if you can, and enjoy the ride. So glad your scare was just that.

  7. I too have had this "turrets syndrome".
    Foundations are what keeps all else we build from fal-
    g down.
    ~ zooty two