I’m so grateful to my medical team at NYU Langone Health, friends, and family who helped me restore my health. Celebrating today and every day.
If you or someone you love is facing cancer, please know there are millions of us out here with stories of triumph, resilience, and renewal. We may get knocked down but we can rise stronger, braver, wiser, and healthier with more love and more compassion than ever.
This is my story and it can be yours, too. Eyes up. Keep going.
Yesterday, I did an interview for a podcast called How Humans Change. I spoke with hosts Josh Chambers and Leiv Parton about change, transformation, death, trauma, writing, mental health, choices, poverty, technology, career, the passage of time, therapy, science, dinosaurs, biomimicry, super powers, and how healing, while difficult, is the best motivator of all. It’s my most personal interview to-date.
Some people who hear it will be surprised, and others will have answers to some long outstanding questions that I have rarely discussed in the past. I’m making a more concerted effort to address these topics thoughtfully, authentically, and often.
25 years ago today, my father died. There are days in our lives that define us, and for me, that was the day, though not for the obvious reasons. That day, I walked out of a room that was dark and cluttered and confusing, and into another room that was empty. It remained empty for a long time.
There is a major reckoning that takes place when someone who made you leaves this planet, regardless of what your relationship was with that person. For me, that reckoning took two decades; longer than the time my father and I knew each other.
It only resolved after two decades because of my work with Brian. And it was work. It was not fun or inspiring work; it was, however, necessary. I did what I had to do to free myself. That was my only goal.
My father left this world without the two of us knowing or understanding each other. For a long time, I thought that was a sad fact. Now I realize how vital it was to my development; the day he died, I started to become who I am now. It was the day I began to build something from nothing. It is one of the two days I think of as life days, days when everything in my life shifted and there was no way to shift back.
I tell you this story not for sympathy or even empathy. I am long past the stage of needing or wanting either. I have adjusted, healed, and moved on. My point is that you may be in the midst of something difficult now, something that feels like it may break you, something that makes you feel like you may never be whole or at peace. You are in that empty room I walked into 25 years ago today. The space can feel overwhelming. The emptiness can feel like a void. It’s not, I promise you. It’s a canvas, a blank page, a stage. You will build something there, something that is totally of your own design. And there is no rush. You do what’s right for you, when it’s right for you. I look forward to seeing your masterpiece. Happy December 1st. I love you.
Friends, I have had a rough week. One of the roughest I’ve ever had. Truly. I have been struggling mightily on so many fronts that at one point, I could feel the walls closing in on me. There were a lot of triggering events and I felt like I was descending back down into the scary tunnel of my PTSD from many years ago. I couldn’t sleep or eat for almost 3 days. Eventually, somewhere deep down in the depths of my soul, something began to rise through all the sadness and fear and noise. It was my power. It was my voice.
Your power and your voice are always there. Always. I know it can be difficult to hear them. I know that pain stands up and demands to be recognized. And I know that healing takes time. But you will heal. Be kind to yourself. Be on your own side. Be your own best advocate. Be fierce. Know your truth, and don’t let anyone else tell you who you are. You know you. You be you. Because you are so much more than enough. It takes time to know that, too. Take the time. It’s worth it.
“Don’t confuse a season for a lifetime. Even your trials have an expiration date.” ~Brittney Moses
Maybe you’re going through something right now that feels sad or painful or disappointing. When we go through tough times, it’s almost impossible to imagine an end to them. But it’ll get better. And you’ll get better. It won’t be overnight. It’ll happen little by little, day by day. You’ll stand a little taller. Smile a little wider. Shine a little brighter. Healing of any kind is one part magic and two parts time. Believe in the power of both.
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” ~Frederick Douglass
I heard this quote over the weekend during a tear-jerking story by journalist Steve Hartman. This story is about a 78-year-old partially paralyzed pianist, Norman Malone, who learned to play with only his left hand after his father almost bludgeoned him and his brothers to death with a hammer. I sobbed. The light and beauty in this man is present in his voice, his eyes, and his music. Even that horrid night couldn’t take music from him. He grew up to become a choral instructor so he could share his love of music with children. After all, it saved him, so of course it can save others.
Recently, finally, he had the opportunity to give his first public performance and it was stunning. And on that stage, through that stream of tears, he couldn’t find the words to express what that performance and what music means to him. He kept it to himself. And I couldn’t help but see that somewhere in him that sweet boy who survived such brutality lives on. And shines on, 70 years later.
Frederick Douglass was absolutely right. It is so much easier to build children up than to repair adults from the trauma of life. The arts, music, dance, writing, and all creative outlets help us hang on to our very essence and give us the opportunity to share it with others. I am heart-broken by Norman’s story, and I am also immensely inspired by it. Art saves. Art heals. Art perseveres.
On Thursday night I pulled my quadricep playing soccer. I’ll be limping around for the next little while it heals. There’s not much I can do for a pulled muscle except rest it so I’m spending most of this cold rainy weekend inside reading, writing, playing piano, listening to music and podcasts, and working on my next paper collage. Time and creativity make a magical healing duo.
My fall allergies are kicking in a bit and I’ve been sneezing up a storm. I think this caused me to have a tiny blood vessel burst in my eye so I’m looking a little funny. My coworker Rachael, who studied the intricacies of eyes and vision in grad school, explained to me that eyes are fragile but they’re also masters of healing. And that made me think that eyes are a good metaphor for life. We get hurt, knocked down, and disappointed, and when that happens we feel fragile and broken. But if we hang in there and just give ourselves some time, love, and tenderness (to quote Michael Bolton!), we find that we can heal from anything. The eyes have it, and so do we.