Wednesday, July 25, 2007

And the total is...

The final total for my Mother's Day Tea Fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is $2,540.00!! Thanks to all who contributed; we surpassed my goal by 254%.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Three years now…

It has been three years since my bone marrow transplant, and even though it seems like a long time ago, I remember it as if it were yesterday. Etched in my memory are: the smell of the hospital room, Karen waltzing into the room right as the doctor was getting ready to infuse the marrow into me, the intense scratchy feeling in my throat caused by the preservatives in the blood, and Karen and Karen B sitting next to me, supporting me, willing my body to accept Barbara’s stem cells.

It was a scary time; it was a sad time; but mostly it was a time of hope. Those four weeks (after I’d already spent a week in the hospital) were the longest weeks of my life. And at least one week’s memories have been lost due to all the medications given to me the second week to alleviate my physical pain.

Three years later, I have just been cast in the lead female role in an independent film, Twists of Fate, which begins filming in July, I have shot two commercials, am actively auditioning, taking acting classes, working at the NFL as a long-term temp (since June 2005), have completed my first fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (exceeding my goal by 251%!), ready to publish Rebirth: A Leukemia Journal, may have a piece published in a feminist anthology my friend Adele is working on, and my friends and family are well and healthy. But probably the most joy I’ve experienced over the past three years involve my kids—my nephews and nieces. Aidan is four, Andrew is almost three, Grace is two, and Alexa is one. Another nephew, Nate, will arrive in October.

When I am around the children I never stop laughing – well, okay sometimes when Aidan and Andrew are kicking the crap out of each other I’m not so jovial. But overall they bring so much joy to my life. I see Aidan, Andrew, and Alexa every two to three weeks – I just can’t stay away. It is sad that Grace lives so far away, so I only see her on rare occasions, and we don’t have the opportunity to really build a bond (like I have with Barbara’s children). That doesn’t mean I love her any less though.

Falling in love—or at least dating someone I am really attracted to—remains the most elusive dream for me to realize. I still can’t seem to connect with anyone. It is the same story: they’re attracted to me, I’m not to them; I’m attracted to them, they’re not to me. I am trying to keep visualizing what I want as opposed to what I don’t want in a relationship. I tried for six months and was going to cancel after my six months, but then thought it was pretty silly not to take advantage of the guarantee (if you don’t find someone within six months, you get six months free). So I’m retaining my membership for six more months, and afterwards will probably not renew it. This is really not the ideal medium for me to meet quality men, and I’ve been skeptical from the start. I need to be out living my life and meeting people doing the things I love—dancing, volunteering, acting.

Life is good, but I must admit that I do worry about little aches and pains, especially those that linger for a while. For instance, I had pretty severe pain in my upper left thigh last winter for about five months, but it eventually went away. I’ve had some minor throat pain for about a month now (not a sore throat, but pain in my upper throat area under my chin). I have been saying affirmations and prayers and using positive thinking to help alleviate the pain, and if it is something more severe, to eradicate it from my system. I’m not ready to see a doctor about it just yet. However, if it continues to persist, I will need to make a doctor’s appointment.

Well, it is a summer Friday at the NFL, it is about 2:00 pm and I’m hoping to leave soon. I have a go-see for a print job for Chartered Accountants and then I’m meeting Joe. He has been in New York for a conference this past week and is staying with me this evening. He will be my first overnight guest since I moved into my apartment last June.

I have much to celebrate – it is another birthday. Biologically I’m forty-one, but blood-wise I’m three!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Mother's Day Tea Fundraiser

As of today, I have raised $2,515.00 for the LLS. This is my first fundraising effort for the Society. I feel blessed to have had so many people help me to signifianctly exceed my $1,000.00 goal. Tomorrow is my three year rebirthday. I will have much to write tomorrow. For now, I feel fortunate to be able to live my life and reach for my goals: I recently shot a commercial for Holy Spirit Health Systems and have been cast in a lead role (Lee) in the independent movie, Twists of Fate. We begin shooting in July.

Thanks to everyone who helped in my fundraising effort! God bless.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Dark Days…

Some days you wish you had just curled up beneath the bed covers and disappeared for the next twenty-four hours. I don’t have many bad days, but today was kind of unsettling. I don’t know if the lady in the elevator, who has completely clueless about the concept of personal space, set my annoyance in motion, or if being referred to as “Glat’s assistant” by a VP, who damn well knows my name (he’s known me for two years), sparked my ire. Both occurrences happened this morning. It seems almost inevitable that if the day begins badly, it continues on that trajectory. Do other unpleasant or frustrating events keep manifesting because of the negative attitude one keeps holding onto once these feelings arise?

Oftentimes I feel guilty for being testy, impatient, or angry. I had cancer, I’ve dealt with very serious life and death issues, and so I should be able to effortlessly rise above petty annoyances, impatience-inducing situations, and all the dreadful news stories. For instance, daily, I read the news, I listen to it, I watch it; I am freaking inundated with news and therefore, all the tragedy, unkindness, injustice, and corruption in the world overwhelm my compassionate and docile nature.

We live in a world where onlookers stand by and watch a seventeen-year-old girl being stoned to death by four men—they make no attempt to save her life, but they sure as hell can record the incident on their cell phones. We live in a world where people get some perverted pleasure watching dogs fight to the death, ripping viciously at each others’ flesh. We reside in a world where parents will put a baby in a microwave, and where holier-than-thou-do-gooders want rape and incest victims to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, living with the reminder of their attacker’s brutality for nine months. These are all stories I’ve been reading about over the past week. I cannot comprehend this callous disregard for life, and yes, I’m referring to life already existing on this planet.

Helplessness and sadness blankets me, smothering all positive feelings I may possess when I read about or hear of these stories. So, after the above incidents happened and then reading these news articles, I decided to leave for my audition, thinking that the sunshine and a warm breeze would transform my mood.

I stepped out of 280 Park and headed toward the subway. A gentle breeze caressed my skin, my hair blew softly, and the warmth penetrated my white jacket. I love the brightness, clear skies, and warmth of a spring day. Yet once I arrived at the subway, the V train was pulling away. I waited for two E trains to pass before another V train arrived. It took me an hour to get to 21st Street from 53rd. Then once at the audition, there were twenty-five plus people ahead of me, and the auditors were conducting five-minute interviews. At this rate, I’d be there for two more hours. I just didn’t have the patience to wait that long for a $350 job. So, I scratched my name off the list and left. Of course, on the way back to the office, at the subway, I had to wait for two F trains before a V arrived. See? It was one of those days when even the little things—like catching a subway train—don’t go your way.

I really try to maintain a positive attitude, but the constant effort gets exhausting. I think we need to allow ourselves to experience our frustration, anger, or sadness. I believe that sometimes the positive-attitude mantra is crap, and all I long to do is wallow in my misery and anger because that anger empowers me. However, that being said, I don’t stay in this disgruntled state too long because, by nature, I am a positive, optimistic person who believes that our thoughts create our reality.

Yet it is unrealistic to be positive all the time, and anyone who claims to be is a liar. I don’t enjoy calling people liars, but sometimes these purveyors of positive thinking can make us feel lacking in conviction or inadequate when we have lapses in this positive frame of mind. Positive-thinking fatigue sets in and then what I really want to do is throw myself on the floor, fists pounding it, and scream.

Boy, it feels really good to write this. I am actually smiling right now. I think my day just turned around. A little bit of negativity can be good if it is used as a learning tool. By grappling with these feelings and trying to understand them, I have cleared my mind and released muscle tension. I can begin anew. It is 3:28 in the afternoon and I can start afresh—no need to wait until tomorrow. I breathe in and out, calm my thoughts, and let my fingers move leisurely over this keyboard on which I’m typing. I feel centered.

So my friends, embrace your anger, experience it, and then let it go so that you can once again work on the positive aspects of your life. And don’t judge yourself too harshly; I’m not. Just because I survived cancer and learned many lessons, doesn’t mean I’ve overcome all the imperfections that make me human; I still battle them and will continue to do so. The key is to know when to experience negative emotions and when to send them on their way. This knowledge keeps me on track to receive all the good in my life and, regardless of all the tragedy and injustice inherent in it, the world too.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Maintaining Equanimity During Romantic Vicissitudes

I find myself these days continually trying to remember the lessons I learned during my illness, but I am finding as I get further away from the experience, I am forgetting, or ignoring, many of them. How to remember? It’s a matter of reflecting on that time and thinking about being present in the moment, valuing my life, not taking for granted my family and friends, focusing on the gifts present in my life, as opposed to what is absent, and trying to remain calm and compassionate in aggravating circumstances.

One aggravating situation is my current romantic status, or rather, lack of a romantic status. Men have always baffled me, and even after committing to readjusting my attitude, I continue to be perplexed by the male species. As women, we analyze everything. My goal is to eliminate this analyzation from my female brain, especially when it pertains to men. For instance, I recently had one of the best dates in years. And those who know me know that I do not date often. I am quite selective, and after the RM debacle back in 1999, I have a pretty good sense of myself—dignity, what I won’t tolerate, how I expect to be treated, and being in touch with my emotions in relation to a guy with whom I may be involved (is he a crazy-maker or a dream-maker?).

This date I went on recently was with a gentleman I met at a callback audition. We were paired together and spent much of the time talking as we waited in the hallway. He gave me his card (twice) and then when I left, told me he’d like to hear from me. Cool, I thought. I walked back to the office, smiling the whole way.

I e-mailed him the next day to ask about the audition and to inquire if he had booked the job (he was one of the guys they consistently called back into the room). I typed my cell phone number under my name, and within five minutes he called me. We had a very engaging, light-hearted conversation and tried to figure out when we could get together. We eventually settled on the following Wednesday after work.

The date was incredible. We met at the W Hotel, where we had drinks. We spent four hours together. We interacted physically (he even kissed me a few times—on the lips), talked about so much, and when we left the hotel, we held hands on the trek to Grand Central Station. He accompanied me to the Shuttle, and there, gave me an amazing good-night kiss. I was one of those people that I pass and think, ‘puh-lease, get a room.’ But, it’s different when you’re the one being kissed, right? Talk about walking on air…this guy was a dream-maker!

He called the next morning, and unfortunately, I was away from my desk, getting ready to head out to an audition. I retrieved the message and e-mailed him quickly before I left to let him know I had received his message and would call him later in the day. I returned his call around 4:30 that afternoon, which was my first opportunity to do so and left a voicemail message. After that he went AWOL for the weekend.

I knew he was supposed to be spending some time with his daughter, but you’d think he could take five minutes to call and say hi. I was a bit confused. I know I wasn’t imagining the chemistry between us, nor was I imagining a connection. So what had happened? Who the
%#$^ knows!

I did hear from him Monday, we had an e-mail exchange (uh-oh he’s reverted to e-mail), which was rather fun and flirty, wrote about getting together on a non-school night, and when I said I had plans Saturday but Friday was open, I didn’t hear from him again until Friday, at which point he had the audacity to e-mail me (there’s the e-mailing again – can’t he pick up the phone?) to let me know he had a doctor’s appointment in West Chester that he’d forgotten about, so he wouldn’t be in the city later. Like he thought I’d still be available to see him even if he had been in the city? I was astounded by his inconsideration of waiting until Friday to contact me as well as by his lack of nerve for sending an e-mail message in lieu of a phone call, so I didn’t respond…until Monday.

I know, you’re probably thinking: for someone who is trying not to put too much thought into this, she is putting a great deal of thought into it. Well, you’re right. But I am processing this so that I can really scrutinize his actions—and share these with my girl and guy friends—so that women can recognize inappropriate actions in their so-called relationships, and men can see the type of behavior that they should avoid if they don’t want to be thought of as jerks.

Fast forward to Monday…we had another e-mail exchange but still no mention of getting together again. I was only working that day, and leaving for Indiana for a week on Tuesday. After his 3rd e-mail response, I didn’t respond. I left for Indiana and didn’t check e-mail again until a week later. When I did check e-mail, there was a message from him dated March 6 and at the end of it he writes: we should go out again and have some fun.

Okay, I think, I’ll give him a chance to redeem himself. I e-mailed him back and wrote: call me if you want to go out. To his credit, the next day he actually picked up the phone. We spoke, and again, it was a crazy week for him: a commercial shoot later that day, a daughter commitment Wednesday, and a print shoot another day. I attended a ManĂ  concert with Beckie at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, and Friday, as of 2:37PM, I had not heard from him. I had already set plans on Wednesday with my friend Karen Culp for Friday night, deciding that I wasn’t going to hold my schedule open for a guy I barely knew, and who obviously didn’t give a damn about my time.

It’s infuriating. And there are even more tales of other men’s inconsistent, idiotic, and immature behavior that I could share, but I’ll spare the reader those details. I hate sounding like a shrew, and I want to maintain a positive attitude about men, but I consistently meet guys who are flakes, and what does that say about me? I thought this was the perfect guy for me. He seemed emotionally available, open, funny, intelligent, attractive, and family-oriented. He was a business person with a creative edge.

I recently read two books that have really lit a fire under me when it comes to how I want to be treated by men. Those two books are He’s Just not That Into You by Greg Berhandt and Why Men Love Bitches by Sherry Argov (In Ms. Argov's book bitches are not mean, nasty, nagging women, but rather women with confidence and dignity who will not accept bad behavior from men, and when a man does behave inappropriately she lets him know in a kind, subtle, yet effective way that he has crossed the line.)

To my credit, much of what is discussed in these books is pretty much how I am and how I think. Although, what has been helpful are the insights into men’s behavior that essentially pares it all down to the fact that if a guy is behaving badly (not calling, taking you for granted, not dating you, not sleeping with you, etc…) he’s just not that into you, so don’t waste your precious time on this dude, move on. This simplicity is really quite liberating. As much as I might like this man and wish it could have been different, the truth is if this is how he is treating me before we’ve even started dating, how will he treat me in the future? And of course, I won’t let him get away with this conduct for long. So, I am not going to contact him. If he does contact me from this point on, I’m basically going to let him know that his behavior is unacceptable to me. And I expect to be treated with respect, I don’t care how busy he is or how many daughter commitments he has (and I’m a very kid-friendly gal).

If he wants to have any kind of relationship with me, he’ll need to modify and improve his communication skills. However, it is apparent to me that he is just not that into me, and so, I’m releasing him; no contact. This is where the lessons from my cancer come to aid me—if I allow them to. When I think back on the entire experience, I found renewed respect for myself and value and appreciation for my mind and body. I beat cancer; I am an amazing woman and any man would be damn lucky to have me. But, he has to deserve me – that’s the key.

I’ve spent too much time thinking about this guy, and I hate that. I’m supposed to be the independent woman who doesn’t need a man. Well, I don’t need one, but I’d kind of like to have one. However, self-respect and being treated well is important to me. I deserve someone who can’t stop thinking about me, who wants to be with me, who wants to see me, and who will take the time to contact me—even if only for a minute to say hi and we’ll touch base in a day or two about making plans. As my brother-in-law Dan told me: When Barbara and I started dating, we went out on our first date and then saw each other for thirteen nights straight before she left for Frankfort for a year. He’s right. That’s what it should look like.

I intend to feel balanced while in the throes of the excitement of a new romance, but perhaps that is impossible. Still, I know it should not be an emotional rollercoaster of delight and despair, especially at the beginning, when it should be effortless and uncomplicated. I intend to live a balanced emotional life, but it takes consistent, diligent work.

Breathing is one good way for me to center myself, bring myself back to the present moment in order to appreciate and celebrate what I have. Right now I have a job at the National Football League, working with some very good, intelligent, and interesting people, and these people respect my work, I have a lovely apartment that is relatively affordable, my parents, sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces and nephews brighten my life like no others, I have some of the best friends in the world, I am healthy, I am working toward creative goals, and I am able to walk around this city, being pelted by the snow and sleet falling from the sky right now. Experiencing life, the moments, focusing on the positive, not the negative, is what I must continue to do. That’s what we all need to do to maintain equanimity in a world that sometimes, actually more often than we’d like, throws curve balls that knock us off balance.

There was one positive aspect of meeting this man which was that I discovered that I was still capable of being truly excited about a guy. It’s been so long that I’d nearly forgotten that feeling, which is why I really wanted and hoped it would work out. But alas, it didn’t. However, being the eternal optimist that I am, I remain hopeful that I will meet the right guy, but for now, I am going to enjoy my afternoon here at the NFL (yes, I’m writing this at my desk, but I haven’t any work to do at the moment) and then meet Karen Culp for a couple of drinks later. I truly enjoy a night out with a good friend. At least for now, I have my girlfriends, and they, I can depend on. I’m breathing…