For every reason

Last spring, I started taking an antidepressant.

It very literally changed me, saved me, rescued my family, my marriage from a place that no one liked, from a depth so deep I didn’t recognize how far down it was until I was out of it.

I went to the doctor back then under the guise of wanting a physical. Really, I wanted a buoy. I wanted to be brave enough to tell someone who might be able to help how bad things were. I wanted to no longer lay in my bed and cry for no reason. I wanted to be tolerant, patient, calm all the time with my sweet children. I wanted my husband to continue to love me. I no longer wanted to be that thing everyone tiptoed past, in case she lost it. For no reason.

For me, of course, it wasn’t no reason. It was every reason. It was the pancakes I made that didn’t turn out. It was my husband, who is amazingly great, not putting his hand on my knee while we watched TV at night even though I had touched his arm. It was that dream job I used to have but lost because I made a stupid, ego-driven decision. Because I didn’t listen. Because I was dumb. It was everything. It was nothing.

So I talked to the doctor. I was brave. I cried for about half an hour. She listened like a girlfriend. I told her I missed Omaha. I told her about that job. I told her about my kids and my husband and my I’m-not-ever-enough fear. She told me to take the medication.

I didn’t. I filled the prescription and let it sit in our medicine cabinet for about a month and a half. The little things that were nothing things continued to grow in my mind. I continued to not handle life very well.

I continued to feel bad about myself, about my behaviors, about my emotions. I continued to unintentionally damage my marriage and my family.

Finally, I decided: What do I have to lose? Take the pills.

And I did and within three weeks, that hole became shallower, that low became higher. By summer, I felt what I suspected normal must feel like. I no longer fixated on things that didn’t really exist. I suddenly had an ability to let things go that I’d never had before. I still sobbed til the point I couldn’t speak when I dropped my kids off with their dad for his month-long visit last summer. But I recovered quickly. Within 15 minutes, I felt stable. My mind was clear.

Life was good. Even my husband will tell you, the past seven months have been as close to what he hopes our lives will feel like as they’ve ever been.

It’s OK to take medication, if you need it. It’s OK to ask for help. Don’t be a hero, my friend back home reminds me.

But then I got pregnant and then I googled “Celexa and pregnancy” and then I panicked. Cleft lips, cleft palates, withdrawal symptoms in the newborn, persistent pulmonary hypertension (a serious lung condition), heart defects … they’ve all been linked to Celexa use in pregnancy.

I asked my OB, who said, “Yes, those risks exist, but your baby might suffer those birth defects anyway.” I asked my OB, who said, “I’d recommend you stay on the medication.”

Well. I didn’t. I stopped taking those pills that saved my family from myself. And now, about a month later, I’m back down in that hole in the corner of my bedroom in the dark. Those thoughts about things that don’t matter take up too much space in my head. I cry like I used to. I’m a mess. It has not been fair on my husband or my children.

Once again, I miss Omaha, I miss momaha, I miss my friends like I can’t breathe. Kyle says, “Take the medicine. I’m worried about you. This is our affecting our family.”

So today I went back to that doctor, that medical therapist almost, who so kindly listened to me cry in her office last year. She said, “Take the medicine.”

And so this afternoon, on Valentine’s Day, I’m trying to remember how clear it all feels when I’m on the medication, how better our lives are, how it’s OK to accept the help that fixes the chemical imbalance in my brain, the one that isn’t my fault, the one I can’t control on my own no matter how much I tell myself to suck it up and be strong and get through it.

I’m trying to trust in the universe that if I take the pills I need to be who I truly am, my babies will be OK. Please, let them be OK. Let us all.

The doctor gave me a lower dosage of the antidepressants. Those pills are waiting for me at the pharmacy.

I am going to pick them up… probably tomorrow.

As I left the doctor’s office this afternoon, I took off my winter coat. The sun was shining, and though the streets and yards are still muddy and dirty and wet, I can tell spring is coming.

It’s just around the bend.

All of our days, 2013

I’ve never been into New Year’s resolutions. If you want to make a change, go ahead and do it, whatever time of year.

I did, however, this early January make a slideshow of our last year.

The quality would not win any awards, and even Kyle looked at me after he watched it this morning, smiled and gave me that look that usually means, “Wow,” in some form or another. (In this case, it clearly meant he never would have made such a slideshow).

But I love it. And he likes it.

And we’re happy.

Gratitude that grows on branches

The library held a parenting workshop last week about gratitude.

“What does that mean?” both kids asked me when I said I thought we’d go.

“It means being thankful,” I said, “being happy for something, appreciating the things and the people you love the best.”

They nodded and moved on, back to whatever they’d been doing before I spoke.

As it turned out, we didn’t make it to the workshop. But if we’d gone, the kids would have made gratitude trees.

I’ve been wondering what they would have placed on their branches.

Mom. Kyle. Dad. Grammy and Papa. Grandma. Grandpa. Dana and Gary. The dog. The cats. Their toys. Disney Channel. Pizza. Brownies. Juice. School. Friends.

Those are my guesses, and maybe (yes, definitely) I should have them do the exercise anyway. It is Thanksgiving after all, and it is important to remind ourselves of all the good in our little worlds.

It will just be Kyle and me tomorrow, and the insides of me spent a little time being sad about that. But it is what it is – distance and time and the cost of gas and the kids being unavailable for our side of the family anyway – and I’m happy to have the grown-up time with my love.

I’ve requested soup.

And, in honor of the holiday, here’s what grows on the branches of my gratitude tree: 

1. A husband like no other. One who makes me soup on Thanksgiving, even though he thinks it’s weird.

2. Healthy, happy, smart, beautiful children. I couldn’t ask for any better.

3. My mom. I love you.

4. The other parents in my life. Thank you. I love you, too.

5. A job that (usually almost always) pays the bills and keeps me challenged and fulfilled. And gives me an office with a window.

6. Books. You are my favorite.

7. Music. You are my favorite favorite.

8. My friends. You save me.

9. Wine bars and cheese trays. Cowboy boots and acoustic guitars. Coffee. Yoga. Fall. Yellow. Orange. Felines. Writing that takes my breath away.

10. The ability to make our own choices, pave our own paths, decide our own tomorrows.

I cheated on number 9, but those all deserved a spot on my list.

Oh, and this:

What’s on your gratitude tree?

 

I wonder if it’s a wanting all the time

The world of wanting is cruel, that feeling of never quite having everything you’ve ever wanted, that even if you do, you don’t.

How did we get that way?

Is the grass only greener in America? What about Europe? Asia? I hear Chinese couples may get to start having multiple babies one of these days. I imagine that’s happy news to so many ears, and, to me, that feels right. That feels like it’s about time. That feels like such a stupid horrible rule to begin with. I’d be lying, though, if I said I didn’t think about all those girls sold off into an underworld I don’t want details on, those girls who could have stayed, those new moms who could have cried a little less, if China had never had something so ridiculous as population control.

I bet those Chinese mothers want just as much as I do, as we do. I wonder if it’s a wanting all the time.

I am thinking about things and needs and wants and excess and greed and happiness and fulfillment and why it – life – all feels so hard some of the time. Because Christmas is coming, that holiday we celebrate secularly like so many others across the world, Christians included.

I saw a plastic Santa at a thrift store today. It was one of those retro-looking light-up ones that stands in your yard. Plastic Santa was probably about 4 feet tall. I wanted him.

He was $25, though, and $25 on a Christmas decoration sounds like a purchase I shouldn’t make. And I didn’t.

But the kids, those sweet babies of ours, will expect presents on Christmas. Of course they will. They are kids and we live in America and Christmas, at least as far as I’m concerned, should be as magical and innocent and beautiful as it can for as long as we can make it last. Gifts in paper in excess in living rooms under a sparkly lit-up tree are part of that magic.

I do not want to go to Wal-Mart on Thanksgiving. (I want to go there never, but even less so on Thanksgiving.)

I also do not want to participate in Black Friday. The thought of all those people and all those cars and all those clothes that no one will wear two years from now and all that plastic that will break or be swept up by Mom’s broom or forgotten in the closet and all that chaos and energy and need … no. I’m good. I’ll pass. No thank you.

But.

We need presents for our kids, and money doesn’t grow on that tree out back yet and I’m still figuring out how to inherit a rich relative who falls instantly in love with me and leaves us her life’s savings or how to write my own version of “eleanor & park” that I can dedicate to my own loves.

So I’m contemplating going to Wal-Mart.

On Thanksgiving.

And I hate this. About me, about life, about society, about the fact that we’re never satisfied. Why isn’t great good enough? When will it be? And how?

I’m in love with my life. That is not hyperbole.

I am so full in love with my husband that that right there should be enough forever and always and to the moon and back.

And those babies? Those babies who are now 8 and 4 and who sometimes I ask for advice because they just seem that grown up? Oh my world spins because of them.

And everything else – just about – that makes a life: friends, family, a house to call our own, a very good job, music, laughter, streets to run on, cats to cuddle and coffee to warm our souls.

Yeah, I have that. All of that. My color is yellow.

Yet, I still yearn for things we do not have. An upstairs. Sunday dinners with family. More money. More time. More fill in the blank.

So it goes, I guess. Courage and cowboy boots and bottomless red wine maybe can’t change that sort of human nature.

But we can try and cheers to that.

The beginning of it anyway

We had breakfast parfaits at work this morning. Yogurt, granola, berries. I forgot to bring the box of granola I’d set on the counter because I was too worried about the little girl missing me and the boy who seemed so tired he could barely stand. I was worried about their second day of school, whether the dog had been out, where the cat (cats?) would pee in the house today … if I’d be late for work.

So I forgot the granola.

Which was alright because I’d decided I’d stop for Starbucks today anyway, for the cup as much as the coffee, which, really, I can make at home.

The little things, though, can change your day. A cup of coffee can matter. The treat of it all … well, so what? What’s $2.50 once a week and a Treat Receipt I’ll never use?

Today is a co-worker’s birthday. She sits in the office next to mine, and today over yogurt parfaits she passed around a framed photo of her dog on a tricycle.

Yes.

That happened.

She is 29.

“One of my favorite years,” I told her after peeking my head next door before yogurt parfaits. “I hope you have a great day.”

What makes a great day? A great year? Why is 29 one of my favorites? What will make her 29th birthday more special than any other day in this long cycle of life’s days?

I have no idea.

On the radio this morning, after I passed my friend eating what may have been yogurt on her way to work, the Yale or Harvard or Stanford or someplace smart like that expert said 99 percent of our DNA is bacteria. That gut bacteria has more impact on who we are – our behaviors, our personalities, our choices – than anything else.

I’m not sure what to do with that sort of information.

I was 28 when my body began to grow my second baby. I was 29 when I got to meet her, hold her, begin this marathon of helping her be.

I was 29 when I decided to call it quits from that first chapter of grown-up-dom, when I decided to leap with my arms spread wide, hoping just maybe I’d catch a breeze just right to cushion the fall.

I was 29 when I told my first husband I did not love him. I was 29 when I began to somehow survive that.

I was 29 when I decided I deserved to be me, on my own, of my own volition.

I was 29 when I met the people who saved me, the girlfriends who listened like no one else I remembered, the ones who brought me frou-frou drinks from Scooter’s the morning of a garage sale designed to help clear out the past, the ones who smashed a backyard shed and painted a backyard deck so I could sell the house I no longer wanted – for so many reasons – despite the fact I left Little Kitty behind.

The friends who took me out, held my hands, picked me up from the airport, gifted me with my first (and only) facial, moved into the house I no longer wanted so I could pay the mortgage and not feel so alone …

That all happened, the beginning if it anyway, the year I was 29.

It is strange to think back to that time now, on the other side of the bend, with a husband who loves me and my babies like I could have never imagined, with a career that – finally – feels as fulfilling as the one I lost, with a home and a family and friends and laughter and music and love, with a life that really, truly in so many ways is so very lovely.

But today, on my co-worker’s 29th birthday, I am nostalgic. Even the nearly empty Starbucks cup on my desk reminds me of so much. So much that’s so big I can’t write it. And if I let the so big simmer too long it starts to feel heavy, that weight that earlier this year spilled out on the kitchen table and that I’ve somehow managed to neatly pack away thank-you-very-much since then.

Memory might just be the force that makes us who we are, the force not to be reckoned with, the energy that makes our tiny little worlds go round.

On the night before the first day of school, my kids got to see the moon in a telescope. A telescope so big, so powerful that the crater’s mountains were visible.

“It’s a crescent moon,” Paige said.

“Wow,” Rye said. “My class should take a field trip here.”

And I’m reminded right now, right this second on this shifty, spinning planet we live on, that letting your kids see the moon up close might be the most important thing you do all week.

All the time, just the same

Sometimes, the hardest part is just beginning.

Just deciding to start and deal with the hurdles as you go. Because you may not even know what they are if you never start.

But being brave all the time is exhausting and sometimes I just can’t do it. Or I think I can’t so I don’t and then I hold all that anxiety inside for too long where it simmers and boils around and then spills out on my husband’s poor unexpecting soul and then.

Then we just have a mess to wipe up off the linoleum.

And then we’re just back where we were anyway, if I would have just kept on being brave all the time, every day, even when it felt like too much work.

Laziness never got anyone anywhere.

I had influenza a week and a half ago and it kicked my psyche into some corner of some room of this new house that I didn’t know existed. I was the only one there (thank God), but, man, was it intoxicating. In that dangerous, crack-heroin sort of way.

For a few hours on a few days, I thought to myself, “I’m never going to get better.”

And I was so feverish sick and my head was so full of crap and the bubble I was existing in so thick, I believed it.

And that didn’t help my mood or my temperament or the way my family felt about me at all.

Or so the crazy thoughts told me in my head.

It was a few days after the bubble burst and I climbed out of that dank corner that the mess spilled out onto the kitchen floor and across the K-Mart table where we dine and the husband reminded me he loves me all the time, just the same, whether I’m living in a corner of self pity and doubt and anxiety or not.

But he has more fun when I’m just me.

So, shit, man, what now?

Well, right now, today, yesterday, too, and even the day before that, I’m trying to chill the fuck out. What’s wrong with my life anyway?

Not one thing.

What’s so great about Omaha anyway?

I don’t know. For the first at least half of my time there, I wanted to leave. To come back here.

Oh, goddess of irony, I will name you Daffodil and Scotch-tape a picture of you in your vintage crew-cut cardigan onto the wall above my dresser. So there you can mock me.

And I can be reminded.

That maybe I don’t need that as-of-yet unopened bottle of Celexa in my medicine cabinet. That there’s no reason I should feel sad about a website for moms that, yes, played a huge role in my life. Back then. Not now.

That my friends who are my friends will always be my friends. That my friends who aren’t my friends won’t.

And I can miss them, or maybe more specifically, I can miss the way my life with them as part of it was back then. But now?

Big deal.

I’m the secular version of blessed in every sense of the word. I have an amazing man who loves not only me but also my kids who are varying degrees of nice to him, depending on the minute. I have a home that we own in a just-as-nice-as-anyplace-else town. We are not poor or sick or hungry or ugly or mean.

Our babies are beautiful as they come.

We have friends and family and cats and pasta and swimsuits and words and coffee and beer and wine and acoustic guitars and sun on our faces and hikes just waiting.

And beauty. In so many things.

We have people who love us. We have people to love.

What else, really, does anyone need?

Not Omaha. Not momaha. Not women who I still care about but who maybe never liked me that much anyway.

Not even the yellow house in Dundee.

Today and yesterday and so many days before that … and tomorrow … and next month … I need what I have.

Drink the sweet syrup of the simplicity of that.

Getting my kid off the couch

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on ColoradoMoms.com, a social networking site for women in Colorado.

Let me start with this: My son makes my world go round. He is my first born, my only boy and my fiercest protector.

He is 7 (going on 16) and sometimes he looks at me with those little-boy eyes and I truly believe anything is possible.

You’d like him.

My son is also content to be at rest, to remain at rest, to break a sweat only when forced and to otherwise play peacefully with his G.I. Joe action figures, watch a little television, play some Nintendo DS, complete the day’s required 30 minutes of reading, eat, sleep and … well, repeat.

Ask the kid if he wants to go exploring after school (parental code word for “hiking”), or to the Dinosaur Museum, the library or the rec center and get a response akin to one I’d expect if I’d just asked him to clean his room, take out the trash, do the laundry or eat Brussels sprouts.

Before we moved to Western Colorado last year, this kid was in competitive gymnastics. And he was good. Twice a week, he’d practice with this team for an hour, and in the spring, he had competitions on the weekends.

The kid knew how to do back hip circles on the high bar and routines on the rings and parallel bars. He could hold himself up on the pommel horse and whip his legs around that thing like it was nobody’s business. He knew how to sprint and jump on the vault, all while sticking the landing.

He knew how to earn medals, and how to make his mom proud. (She is still proud, of course).

So when we moved, we tried out the one gym that offers boys gymnastics, a recreational program. Neither of us liked it. We tried out the other gym (where my 3-year-old daughter takes gymnastics and loves it), but they don’t even offer a boys recreational program, only a boys “fitness” class. Huh.

Needless to say, we needed a new activity for the boy.

What about dance, I said? You would have thought I’d suggested he dress up like a girl and go to school that way.

Swimming? Basketball? Wrestling? Piano? Drums (that’s active, right?)?

Soccer?

No way, Jose, the kid said.

Why not? I asked. I pleaded. I got angry. I stayed calm. I reasoned. I threatened. I’m desperate for him to have something, anything, that gets him involved, that gets him active, that gets him off his bedroom floor.

So I signed him up for soccer.

Against his will and with many tears involved (his, not mine).

Inside, I know the reason my son is reluctant to try a new activity is because he’s scared. He’s never played soccer – or basketball or piano or drums or anything (word to the wise here, moms of boys who think gymnastics should be the activity of choice for their kindergartner, maybe consider doubling up with a more traditional sport as well) – so he doesn’t know how. And if he doesn’t know how and the other kids do, my son expects to be embarrassed.

And I hate that. I’m that mom who, if she could, would accompany her child everywhere for the rest of his life just to make sure he’s OK. To make sure he’s not cold or hungry or hurt, that he has a friend, that he remembers to turn in his homework, that he’s not left out at recess. To throw that ball back at that kid who just pommeled hers in dodge ball in P.E.

But this mom signed her son up for soccer anyway, and practices start next month. Here’s hoping for swift learning, a brave heart, a fun coach and kind teammates.

He’s already got supportive parents.

Guest post: It’s my fault what’s happening to my daughter

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from a woman I know, who needed to write and needed to do so without attaching her name to it. She asked me if I’d publish it. While the journalist in me says “no anonymous sources,” this is different. This is her story. And it’s scary and brave and all sorts of other things, and it might resonate with some of you. I know she isn’t alone. So I decided yes, her story should live somewhere and why not here with all of you? I decided maybe it might help someone else. Maybe someone else might help her. So here it is.

The house is quiet, as everyone sleeps soundly.

Everyone but me.

Sleep eludes me, as it does every night. My mind just won’t stop thinking.

About everything.

I feel the anxiety in my chest, tightening its grip with every minute that passes.

Part of my story is this: I was diagnosed years ago with mood disorder NOS (not otherwise specified). Before treatment, I experienced periods of depression and periods of great enthusiasm and energy.

But always sleep eluded me.

Thankfully, now, I feel almost “normal” with antidepressants, a mood stabilizer, anti-anxiety pills and sleep medication. It’s a cocktail I take every day.

Because it works. Because it allows me to live my life.

But as I lay awake this night, every night, the feelings of intense guilt invade my thoughts.

It’s my fault, you see, what’s happening to my daughter.

I believe I have passed on my mood disorder to her, to my 10-year-old baby girl.

My love for her is indescribable. That’s a given, right? A guarantee.

But recently her extreme moods have escalated to the point that I am 99 percent sure she has early onset bipolar disorder.

One side of my beautiful daughter is sweet, extremely intelligent, caring, funny, talented. Loving.

But on the other side of my amazing little girl, her moods are explosive. They change without warning.

One day last week, she became agitated because a tiny speck of carbon from the water filter made its way into her drinking glass.

She came unglued.

A horrible, unspeakable rage erupted from this little girl like you wouldn’t believe. The screaming was piercing and never-ending.

It was MY fault, she said, that the speck of carbon ruined her drinking water.

The water glass, of course, was thrown across the kitchen.

I tried my very best to calm her down – I just want so badly for her to find peace.

But it continued.

She tried to tear the blinds from the window. She raked her fingernails across the leather couch. Books and toys went flying.

I sent her to her room, where the destruction continued. Everything was knocked from her desktop and dresser; her brand new iHome smashed against the wall. Her desk chair thrown across the room.

And always this shrieking, this piercing scream that seems to never end.

Sometimes, these “fits” or rages continue for two hours or more until she can’t scream any longer and her voice is all but gone.

I am always incredulous when, a few moments later, she emerges from her room, seemingly unaffected by what just occurred.

She is even cheerful as she goes about her chores or completes her homework. After this, she may run laps through the house with boundless energy.

Other days, she may come home from school and retreat to her bedroom. I will find her in her bed, in complete darkness.

For hours.

I turn on her light (how can she not want light?). But she always goes back to the darkness. She prefers it somehow.

She has even told me she feels this world would be better off without her.

And so sleep eludes me this night, as it does every night.

I am aching for my daughter, for this little girl who has lost her way and doesn’t know how to find the light.

I am ready to face this long road of intense psychotherapy and medications with her. But it is scary, oh-so terrifying to know she may have to cope with this illness for life.

I just keep assuring her there is nothing she could do to cause me to love her any less. Ever.

Yet sleep eludes me.

The guest author would appreciate comments – of support, encouragement. Of hope.

Why stepping on the scale might be for mad women

Dear Body Weight,

I don’t understand you.

I don’t understand anything about you.

Sometimes, I don’t even like you. I don’t like the way your numbers look when I step on the scale. I don’t like the way the old you teases me on my driver’s license. I don’t like the way I just can’t comprehend the way you work.

Your erratic behavior is beyond me.

Though I realize I look just fine considering, I’ve been working out. For you, for me, for my husband, for those jeans who have grown lonely in my middle dresser drawer. I’ve adopted a pretty smart workout regimen, if you ask me. It’s the most total-body conditioning I’ve done in a long time, years. Body Weight, do you hear me?

My weeks look something like this: Monday – Run, 4 or 5 miles. Tuesday – Bike, 20-30 miles. In spin class. Taught by an instructor who could beat anyone in a fight and look great doing it. Wednesday – Swim, 40-45 minutes. Laps. Swimming laps. With a swim cap on. Do you get what I’m saying? Thursday – Bike. Spin class. Intense. Same as Tuesday. Friday – Run, 4 or 5 miles. Saturday and Sunday are for resting if I need to, running or yoga if I want to.

I’ve been doing that for the past three weeks. And, sure, it’s not the most intense workout regimen in the world. I’m sure I should be lifting weights on a regular basis and spending more time on my core. I know these things.

But… I feel good.

I feel healthy and more energetic. I even feel stronger and a little firmer. I like the exercise. I like the variety. That one day in the pool every week seems to heal everything. Though I’m not a great swimmer and swallow more water than I should admit slogging through those laps, I feel great afterward.

It’s taken time and effort, but I’ve decided the exercise is worth it. My health is worth it.

Yet, when I step on the scale the numbers are all wrong. If I was charting this shit, the line would be climbing in the WRONG DIRECTION.

What the @!*$%* is up?

Why, Body Weight? What did I ever do to you except pay attention? Why are you the biggest number I’ve ever seen on the scale (aside from pregnancy, which doesn’t count)?

I don’t understand you.

Is it possible I’ve put on nearly 10 pounds of muscle? In three weeks?

Is it, Body Weight? Is it?

I didn’t think so either.

Well. Maybe this is thanks to 33. What do you think, Age? Is this your fault?

Love/Hate/Sigh (but onward anyway),

Veronica

I can only imagine

There is this couple, back home, who used to be my friends.

They used to be our friends really, but when my marriage split up, they went with him.

So it goes.

One of the (many) lessons I’ve learned in the last four years is that no friendship is guaranteed and that they are much more fleeting than I’d like them to be.

It is what it is.

A different old friend once told me to figure out what you can expect from every person in your life. And then expect no more.

That way, she said, you won’t be disappointed.

That wisdom has stuck with me (though I’m sad to say the friendship has not).

So this couple back home … we spent quite a bit of time together. Dinners, play dates … we even went on a much-needed weekend getaway once. They weren’t the best friends I’d ever had, but we got along and I cared about them.

After my divorce, I lost touch, but I heard the news anyway: The woman, my old friend, had cancer.

I couldn’t stop thinking about that, about her, about the surgery she had to try to save her life, the surgery that would forever alter her body, her self-esteem, her confidence, her who-she-is .. or that’s how it played out in my head.

I wanted to help, to do something, to make that all go away. For them. I wanted to bring them a dinner.

But I didn’t. I stayed away because they had asked to not be friends anymore. They had taken sides, and it wasn’t mine. That didn’t mean I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about them, hoping they were doing OK.

I heard later that she was better, that her cancer was in remission. I imagined how that sort of relief must feel, how that sort of thankfulness must roll around on the tongue, in the heart.

I went back to living my own life, filing that family away into where ever we put people we no longer know but one time cared about.

A few days ago, I heard her cancer had returned. Oh, no, I said. What does that mean for them? I asked. It means lots of chemo, lots of money, my ex-husband wrote in an e-mail.

Lots of worry, lots of pain, lots of upheaval and awfulness and why-me-why-again, too, I’m sure.

I can only imagine. And even now, though we’re no longer friends, I can’t stop hoping they’re OK.

A woman I’ve never met and don’t really know is also battling cancer right now. She writes a blog for a website I run for my job. She has two sons; they’re little. And this week she wrote about the way it feels to know you won’t be able to make any more babies because the chemo she’s about to undergo kills that part of her body, that part of her soul.

She’s brave. She’s not taking any moment for granted and she’s realizing she’s not guaranteed even one more breath. She’s encouraging me to do that, too. Us. Everyone.

Plans are only to make us feel better, she says. They’re really not worth much of anything. At all.

I hate that anyone has to know that.

I miss my friends back home every day. Not the couple who long ago were my friends, but my true, do-anything-for-me-including-going-to-my-divorce-hearing-so-I-don’t-have-to-do-that-alone friends. The friends who picked me up, the ones who still do.

I have two girlfriends here, in my new home, and while it’s not the same (yet) as my friends back home, I love them for their place in my life right now.

One of those friends has cancer in her life, too. Her mom.

She’s had it for six years, and nothing is the same. My friend’s world was turned upside down, and while she’s adjusted to a new normal, it’s a new normal. On a crazy tilt that sometimes must feel like it will never end. It’s a normal nobody asked for, nobody wanted, nobody deserves.

And it’s not fair and it’s not right and to those people who believe in God, it’s his will. And somehow that makes it better for them, easier to cope, and I understand needing something to put your faith in, your trust in, your hopes, your worries, your anger.

But I don’t really get it.

And I’m scared.

Health is such a precious thing.

What can we do? What can any of us do?