Gone Goiter

My sister-in-law, Rachel, asked if I can see a difference yet or if my neck is still too swollen from the surgery.  I had a huge goiter taken out on Wednesday; my surgeon told me she wasn’t surprised I felt bruised when I told her I felt like I had had a football team smash into my chest.  She said the goiter was so large she had to pull very hard.  (I can’t really imagine what she meant – did she rip it out with her two fists? Legs braced against the table with sweat pouring off her brow??)  Who even gets a goiter in this day and age??

I tried to shrink the goiter on my own for the past three years – with acupuncture and increased doses of kelp (iodine) and lots of work on expressing my voice. The thyroid is in the throat chakra and I had used the goiter as a reminder to speak my voice, which starts with knowing my voice first, and often that is the greatest challenge.  But the goiter was growing and one endocrinologist (I saw a couple in my effort to find one who didn’t go immediately to surgery) said I should have the surgery while I am young and healthy.  Oh flattery will get you everywhere.

This Spring it had grown noticeably larger and my necklaces were getting tighter.  And I had reached my family deductible in my insurance – perhaps the most motivating factor!

After Rachel’s question I studied my neck in the mirror, and yep, there was my skinny neck looking slightly raggedy and tired.  And I realized I kind of miss the smooth swelling of the goiter that had taken up residence in my thyroid.  My neck looks kind of sad and lonely now, shriveled and less important. I have the challenge to find and speak my voice without the external reminder of the goiter.  A friend wondered aloud what negatives I could send out of my body with the removal of the goiter and I replied,  “the hostile negative introjects”.  Although it was daunting to think of them gathered all in one place (power in numbers) I tried to picture them being whisked away with the fiber of the goiter.  And with what shall I replace them in this space now?  I wrap the blue silk scarf my son brought home from Israel years ago around my neck and it sits in soft bundles, gentle on my skin.  May there be space now only for compassion tenderness acceptance joy.

Tenderness

I woke the other morning with the word tenderness on my mind.  And I thought, this is what I have been missing recently, what I want in my life.  I get caught up in the details of demands – of parenting, working, partnering, living with fullness, and building meaningful relationships.  It is easy for me to focus on the task even when my  heart’s intention is for connection with those around me.  With a frown of concentration I listen to my loved ones and try to be present; I clarify the words to make certain I understand their meaning. I stare and poke and investigate.  I analyze, and focus, and then growing weary of the cognitive work, I withdraw, feeling I need rest.  And something feels amiss.  And it this – tenderness.  Soft, forgiving, compassionate, chuckling, affectionate tenderness.  For others;  for myself.

I want tenderness

in my life.

Dripping, sliding between and

through the cracks of

expectation and accountability.

I want tenderness

to pool at the bottom,

a rich molasses-layer

of sweet laughter and

sloppy delight.

Saturday in Spring City

It is a ritual:  when I visit my parents in the country the first thing I do is ride around my parents’ property in my dad’s golf cart.  Dad is 82 and still actively gardening but his knees are bad (not nearly bad enough for surgery, mind you) so he travels around the yard and the gardens in his golf cart.  He has perfected weeding from the cart so he doesn’t even have to get off and back on.  This Saturday, there was a change in the wind.  The bitter sharp cold had softened with an echo of warmth and I enjoyed the 20 minute ride starting at the front of the house, admiring the freshly trimmed trees, past the side of the house which will get power-washed this summer (Konrad, my nephew, will do that  while he is home from college) down to the long wide strawberry patch in what used to be my brothers’ baseball field, and before that where my grandfather kept the ponies.

Dad showed me the strawberry plants and talked about the 200 plants he was getting in a few weeks and how maybe next year they won’t have the road side stand and just sell orders to people who know about the berries.   At the very bottom of the property, the neighbor came out and he and Dad started talking about gardening, and then about the gas power line that runs underground through their properties and how the trees may have to come down and Dad is hoping they take down the ugly pine trees my grandfather planted back in ‘52.  I half-listened, sitting beside my dad in the cart, shivering in the I-guess-it’s-not-quite-that-warm air, and took it in.  I felt my chest expand and my breath deepen, my heart open to earth and life and neighbor.  My father has lived on this property for 75 years, and this is where I grew up. My time as a child was not perfect, and like we all do, I have spent my life healing wounds and seeking wholeness.  Today, I felt the embrace of connection, in through the bottom of my feet, in and out from my heart, out the top of my head.  This grounding to the earth, this particular earth that first my grandfather planted on and walked and loved, that as a child I explored and played on and loved, and now again and again and again greeting this place beside my father who knows when the trees were planted and tells my husband not to trim off that hideous dead branch on the pine tree, left barren after the wind storm, because the crows like to hang out there and converse with each other.

I start another week, hoping to sleep through the nights, trying still to keep facing towards hope, determined to resist anxiety.  I have tucked into my pocket, my heart-pocket, the space of time sitting on the cart beside my Dad at the bottom of the field; this grounds me and expands me, opens me and gentles me.

Martin

Six women: we chose each other decades ago, to be together for a time, and we are together still, in our 50’s and 60’s and now we know we will be together ‘til the end.  Our monthly Friday evenings easily warped into stolen week-ends from children and husbands, and then into full-bodied vacations, chosen by the one of us who was turning 40 that year, then 50, and now, even, 60.  We invariably, except for once when we visited the desert mountains of New Mexico, spend our time by the water.  Always the ocean.  We are drawn to the ocean; she has a pull on us that is primal, powerful beyond words.  The ocean feels as necessary to our well-being as breathing.

And so, that day, that week-end, we were heading to Block Island, RI to celebrate the  youngest of us, the last to become 50 years old. We were arriving in spurts of one or two or three because of work and family obligations. Three of us were together, heading to the ferry, early in the morning, to cross to the island.

I pulled up to the little wooden shack where the ticket-taker meets the cars and receives payment for the ferry ride.  The ticket-taker asked for my license plate information; when he learned we are from PA, he mentioned he had lived for a while in Clark Summit.  He had lived there for seven years; when I asked why he had returned to Rhode Island, he said he missed the water.  Although his face was sober, his blue eyes caught the sparkle of the sun as he added that “you can’t live in the foothills of the Poconos when you have wet feet”.  And then he added, “..and you can’t turn into a seal at night”.

I felt a jolt of connection and asked him his name and he told me, Martin.  “Martin,” I said, “Where do you keep your pelt?”

Without a pause, he moved his hand down across his chest and belly and replied, “Oh I just sort of transform into it.”

I grinned at him in delight and he smiled.

A moment, an opportunity, a Gift.

My Feet in the Ocean

I am sitting with my feet in the ocean (not literally) on this cold January day.  I received the gift of three days with two creative, energizedwriters/storytellers/photographers at the ocean front in Fenwick Island, DE.  The decision to say yes to this opportunity was easy because I love these two women and time spent with them is always rich.

Within minutes of our arrival to the condo  Starla looked out through the glass sliding doors lining the front of the apartment and gasped as a Humpback whale lazily made his way up the shoreline.  He was close to the beach; we could see him well and he hung out in front of us, eating and resting, and offering a blow or two.

We named the whale Fenwick and felt buoyed and breathless in light of his presence that day for that moment.

I don’t believe the world revolves around me, or that the universe shifts itself to meet my purpose, and yet I do believe there are no coincidences or happenstances.  I believe when our hearts are open, and authentic and eager for connection, the world does respond.  I believe the ocean offered the gift of Fenwick to us as blessing on the intentions we had set for our time here.

Using the rhythm and patterns of sound, the whale teaches us to hear our inner voices, to be in touch with our personal truths, thus knowing wisdom and feeling the heartbeat of the universe.      – Ina Woolcott

We didn’t see Fenwick again even though we called him repeatedly in our hearts, and Joan called for him by name from the balcony.  He may have been near, just beneath the water’s surface, or not near at all.  His power and presence remained as we three wrote and talked and shared, coached, and received coaching.

I had emailed a friend about calling the whale and her response was “Gosh, how does one call a whale?”  I chuckled and thought, well, I don’t know – it is a heart thing and a soul thing, and you open and believe.

So it is, perhaps, with listening to our inner voice, with knowing the wisdom within.  It is a heart thing, a soul thing and you open and believe.