with Melinda Rodriguez

Posts tagged ‘Death’

What is really important – even when the journey sucks?

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May 5, 2015

What I’d give for a bad hair day!  Anyone who knows me or has spent any amount of time with me knows how obsessive I am with my hair.  In the 7th grade, when I began using tools and hairspray on my hair, I would spend hours trying to get it just right. Then I would pack on so much hairspray, Aqua Net to be precise, that my hair felt like a helmet.  I would turn my whole body with my head as to not undo the locks from their perfect place.  And now, it’s gone; all gone!

Chemo sucks indeed.  Yes, it is a necessary evil right now with stage IV ovarian metastatic cancer that has spread to my lungs, liver and lymph nodes, but it sucks ass.  Yet, in my 2 out of 6 rounds of having the deadly poison pumped into the port catheter conveniently implanted into my chest, I am finally free of the devastating pain I was in before my diagnosis. So in a way, I am grateful for the war being waged within my body for it seems to be having an effect despite the large tumor still protruding from my abdomen.  And of course there is the weight loss – another upside from this nasty disease.  Fortunately I am not gaunt, just back to my ideal weight and glad that I didn’t throw away all of my skinny clothes even though I haven’t fit into any of them for years.

Chemo makes me feel like crap, weak and tired, but the hardest part is being bald. Unfortunately my bathroom is comprised of three walls of mirrors.  Every time I walk in there I am painfully reminded of my circumstances.  Even after almost of month without hair, I still walk in there, catching a glimpse of my profile out of the corner of my eye and for a split second I think to myself “who is that?  She looks like someone with cancer.”  Oh yeah, it’s me.  I’m the one with cancer.  Fuck!

I face my own image full on in the mirror and feel momentary pity for the poor girl staring back at me.  However I quickly shift that pity to a sentiment of it-is-what-it-is and move on. I can only hope that I get used to my appearance soon, otherwise those mirrors are going to have to come down. I mean seriously, how’s a girl supposed to heal when she is constantly reminded of a suffering self-esteem thanks to chemo-induced baldness.

Then there are the looks I get when I go out into public.  There’s the fearful pity look that predominantly comes from women probably 10 years older than me.  Clearly they have their own inner struggle between their honest fear of reality and the pity they think is more appropriate.  And the second-take male look.  Not sure I have that one figured out, but men will look at me then do a double take.  Of course there is the curious child.  That one doesn’t bother me so much.  There’s also the look from someone I know that has no clue and is seeing me for the first time in months and I’m now bald and skinny.  They don’t know what to do or say…what do you say when you see someone who is all of the sudden bald?  I quickly put their curiosity to rest and fill them in on my recent diagnosis.  But the freak-out award goes to an unidentified gal who crossed a cross walk opposite me.  She was coming straight at me, paying no attention to me but rather to see if the coast was clear to cross.  By the time she felt assured it was she was a few feet in front of me and we almost collided. She took one look at me and gasped.  She then gave me a wide berth as she continued crossing.  I couldn’t help but giggle and the smart ass in me had to announce loud enough for her to hear that cancer was indeed not contagious and she didn’t have to worry about going bald from possibly being in my airs pace.

This is NOT the life I had planned for myself!  After all, I ate well 80% of the time.  I am a practicing herbalist, I am a healer, I am a spiritual teacher – this wasn’t supposed to happen to me.  Except that, it did!  I cleared a lot of toxins out of my life 4 years ago and continue to clean things up wherever I can.  I eat organic whenever I can.  Come on!  WTF!  Cancer?!  Stage IV?!  Damnit!

The truth is though, it can happen to anyone.  Cancer does not give a hoot who you are, how healthy you eat, or any other so-called defining marker that you mistakenly think keeps you safe from disease.  The question is not “why me?”  The question is, “WHY NOT ME?  Really, who do we think we are when we ask “why me?”  We can follow all the rules we think we are supposed to follow in life, in any situation, but NOTHING prevents bad things from happening to us; not positive thoughts, not clear chakras, not yoga, not green smoothies, not organic food, not even prayers, NOTHING!  Of course those things may lower our odds, but they do not offer all out prevention.

This does not however mean we live in fear or give up on spirituality or our healthy path.  What this does mean is that we truly strive to live in the present moment.  We absolutely let go of the bullshit from the past; leave it behind!  We must make love a priority as well as time spent with loved ones.  Quit worrying about security or safety because it doesn’t exist. Put joy in front of your career path. Better yet, include joy with your career path.  Because if you are not loving what you are doing every day then what is the point?  Please, take it from someone who has to face their own waning mortality, joy and love are everything.  I have no idea how long I have left on this planet.  Neither do you.  You may not have cancer, but you could die tomorrow from a number of causes. Right now my only focus is on healing and I do that by feeling as good as I can and surrounding myself with as much love as I can.  But if you are reading this and not actively healing or dying, then please commit to living joyfully in the present and focusing on the people that you love.  To be perfectly cliché, don’t sweat the small stuff…and it’s all small stuff!  And even if you are actively healing or dying, the advice is the same.

I guess my baldness is small stuff eh?  That’s why I posted a raw, bald picture of me here.  Because it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks.  It only matters that I focus on why I’m bald – because I am actively healing.  I am in treatment because I want more time to love. I want more time to feel joy.  I want to watch my daughter be a mother and see my grandson grow.  I want to spend as much time and share as much love with my aging parents as possible.  I want to feel the arms of my lover around me for as long I can.  These are my treasured gifts as I walk my human path.

So I leave you with this very important question – what are your treasured gifts on your human path and what is their priority in your life?

Your support for Melinda’s medical expenses is so very appreciated. Every little bit counts.  Click below to to show your support.

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The Sacred Spiral of Grief and Healing

5da7c2c6dbf432aa0a1f2788043c7e27As I sat in the emergency room bed waiting for a doctor to come in and tell me what was going on, I wasn’t quite sure how to feel.  If I held out hope, I feared I might be so utterly disappointed that I would never have hope again.  On the other hand, if I think the worst, I feared I might attract the worst outcome through my own projection.  My sweet boyfriend and partner was sitting next to me, holding my hand and full of hope.  It was how he coped with it all.

Then he entered the room.  His poker face was firmly in place.  Most doctors are so serious all the time you never know if they are about to deliver good or bad news.  Then the words came out of his mouth “your pregnancy is no longer viable.”  What the hell did that mean?  Why couldn’t he just come straight out and say, “your baby is dead.”  Instead I had to probe, but he had no answers really, just the results of the ultrasound.  I was to wait for the resident OBGYN for the why’s and the how’s.

I didn’t need to wait around.  I was a sobbing mess and just wanted to go home.  The nurses gave me a piece of paper that told me what I needed to know and what to expect over the next few days.  I just needed to let my body do what it needed to do.  The hemorrhaging had stopped and I was out of there!

What ensued over the weeks, months and years was a grieving process I was unprepared for.  Who is ever prepared for the death of a loved one?  The death of a child, a parent, a spouse, a sibling, a friend, a pet, even a public figure we didn’t know personally; each loss means something different to each of us.  Our grief and view of death differs from person to person.  Perhaps that is one of the reasons the topic of death and grief is so misunderstood, rarely talked about, and has few resources available to help those that grieve.

For me it was not just a biological loss of a pregnancy, my child died inside of me.  He had not been with me long, but I loved him.  Yet, I never got to meet him or hold him.  It was the loss of a dream of encountering pregnancy and birth in a sacred way; so very different from my experience with my daughter when I was 19.  I felt like I let my lover down although he assured me I did not.  I was cheated out of experiencing pregnancy with a man that I loved; a stark difference from being pregnant with my daughter, alone, having no one to share all her kicks with or the awe of my growing belly.

But death is final.  We have absolutely no control over it.  And perhaps worst of all, no control over the emotions that engulf us in the grieving process.  The truth is however, no matter what you feel when someone you love dies, it is normal.  There is no wrong or right in the process of grief.  It is all a very relative experience.  Not only does the death of one person feel different than another, but each of us grieve differently, with each death, depending on many different factors including unresolved grief and our imbedded views of death.

What is additionally important to understand is that denial of negative emotions leads to dangerous outcomes.  There is a fine line between encouraging positive thoughts and stuffing very real feelings.  We must express and purge the sadness and pain and exhaust all avenues in our efforts including talking, artwork, writing, singing, dancing, drumming, sacred sex or whatever creative endeavor calls to us.  Often there are old wounds that have not been dealt with that begin to ooze when we experience death.  These injuries have seeped deep into our subconscious and can not always be expressed through literal avenues such as language.  They require a symbolic language such as music making and art to discharge from our psyche.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross a pioneer in the realm of understanding grief around death and dying outlined the five stages of grief.  They are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.  I had read her work years ago when dealing with the death of my grandmother.  I knew all of this and worked with clients who had experienced death.  Yet, I seemed to vacillate between the stages.  It was never a progressive journey in sequential order but rather what felt like a trampoline experience of bouncing from one stage to another.  Worst of all, my entire spiritual foundation crumbled underneath me.

I am sharing all of this with you because I want you to understand the spiral of grieving and healing.  We will all inevitably experience loss.  If we have the right tools, and understand the pathway of wisdom to follow, we can actually grow through the process.

Grieving happens upon a sacred spiral.  You may go through the five stages, but it may not be sequential and certainly not final.  Like an onion, we heal in layers as we move around the spiral of life.  There will be good days and bad days.  The intensity fades with time.  Each time you pass that place of pain on the spiral you will feel the loss, but it will feel different, less biting with each passing until it is just barely a pin prick.

d66356915bebc0c9b32263a856d7f2feLetting go of the intensity of the pain is not about denial or dishonoring the loved-one lost.  In fact, it is the most loving, holy, honoring thing you can do and in fact may assist them in progressing upon their next level of their journey.  It is important however to understand that there is no wrong or right time span with the process of moving forward.  This is why the spiral concept is so vitally important to keep in mind.  Make sure you are moving upward along the spiral.  You may have days where you feel like you are moving backwards, but as long as overall you can observe that there is forward motion, even if it is slow, you are on the right path.

If however you are not progressing; if the intensity of the pain is not lessening, even a smidgen, do not deny yourself the gift of help.  Whether it is with a trusted counselor or confidant or a support group, there is absolutely no place for pride or self-sufficiency when dealing with grief.  This is where we have the divine opportunity of experiencing community and why the concept of community is so vital to our wellness.  There are also a slew of free online support communities for all kinds of grieving.  This is one of the benefits of the information age.  Or, you can check your local hospital for support groups that you can attend in person if you feel you need that face-to-face connection.

The beauty of support groups is that you can move from being supported to being the supporter.  Once you get to a certain level of healing upon your journey with grief it is incredibly cathartic to reach out and help someone else.  The more you counsel and teach the more you embody the process and ensure your own progress.

Healing is never a destination; it is always a journey upon that sacred spiral.  We are never really done, just always expanding and reaching new levels of awareness that lessen the impact of whatever we might be healing from.  There will always be scars; they are marks of growth that remind us of our strength.  They need not cause pain, but simply provide a remembrance of our power and the truth of the realm of polarity we live in.

There is both day and night; light and dark.  In order to feel peace we must know chaos.  In order to know love, we must know it’s opposite. That is what the earth journey is all about.  Playing well together and helping each other understand the dark and the light and their divine synchronicity is at the root of our life purpose.

I encourage you to share your story of grief below in the comments.  Sharing our story provides an opportunity to purge, liberating us from our attachment to that story.  It also connects us with others who are reaching out to heal their own grief.  Sharing our story connects us with community and empowers others simply by knowing we are not alone.

Sending you much love,

Melinda

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