Acceptance | One Year

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me) it’s always ourselves we find in the sea. 

-e.e. cummings 

-frightened rabbit - Swim Until You Can’t See Land.

 

I’ve always been infatuated with the sea. As a child it was always at the top of my MASH game “place to live”. While it brought me peace and calmness, it also scared the hell out of me. Leaving that shoreline and breaking through the first wave took courage.  The fear would slowly subside, but not without time and distance from the shoreline.  The further out in the sea, the more I knew I was going to be ok. The shoreline was still there, not going anywhere, always watching over me.

Life is a series of learning to accept and then adapt; done in your own time and your own way. You approach that shoreline; sometimes retreating back and saving the journey for another day. But, ultimately crossing that wave is inevitable.

Over the course of Steve’s sickness, there were distinct moments of panic, denial, sadness and then acceptance and adaption. Last summer, Steve had one of those moments of acceptance. While I was away from the hospital, the staff psychologist had paid Steve a visit. They had discussed “getting his affairs in order”. Of course, given our situation, the immediate response was panic.  The advice wasn’t for any specific reason, but just something that everyone needs to do and he had avoided for years. They told him that it didn’t mean that he was terminal; it just was something ordinary and wise.  As this advice settled, I could see the transition between fear, anger, sadness and then finally acceptance. We talked about it, agreeing that acceptance didn’t mean that you were giving up. Acceptance didn’t mean that you were a failure or that you were causation for some self-fulfilling prophecy. It just meant that it “is” and once you accept, you can adapt and move forward.

Loss is different for each person. I know my loss is different then that of Steve’s friends or his family. I will never know their feelings or loss and they will not know mine.  For me, it was a year of transitions. You cry. You feel relief. You feel desolation. You feel joy. You date. You don’t want to date. You feel lonely. You travel. You hold up. You work. You avoid. You face. You deny. You realize. Then, repeat.

And if I hadn’t come down to the coast to disappear, I may have
died in a land-slide of the rocks, the hopes and fears.”

Then, suddenly, one-day acceptance hits. The sun is shining perfectly, hitting that water with clarity and calmness. Something pushes you to take that leap. A step that can only be taken alone. You dive into the wave, leaving the shoreline.  You just know it’s time, for if you refuse you will lose all sense of self. This doesn’t mean that you are done with or have forgotten the shore; it just means it “is”. It will forever be what it was to you and you to it.  The things you experienced will always “be”, but now there is beauty. It’s not the “cancer is a gift” bullshit; but the “person is a gift” truth. As you push through the waves, a feeling of power and strength rushes through your soul. Fond memories wash over the pain and you remember the person for who they really were, as opposed to what took them.

As you paddle out further, fear and familiarity is still there calling you to the shore. But, with distance, the confidences increases. Not only do you feel strong, but also equally as important, you know that it’s ok to feel that strength.  It doesn’t mean you loved less or didn’t care. It is still there, part of your journey.

My feelings for Steve are unchanged. We all know that Steve was pretty damn awesome. The more I accept the purpose and amount of our time together, the more I can face life like he did; gracefully, kindly, fearlessly and with acceptance for the way things just “are”. I will forever respect and love Steve. He will always be a part of who I am, but he will not be all that I am and nor would he want it this way. I used to think that “we” was all of me, but it is not. “He was he” and “we were we”. And, now, I am still me and I’m pretty damn lucky.

I did what I did and now it’s time to face and appreciate the things right in front of me.

I was recently reminded that our interactions with one another are not without reason. Whether they are lovers or friends or family, our paths cross and we guide each other, change one another or enlighten. Sometimes we stay with each other for long periods of time; other times short quick spurts.  Sometimes we return to one another and sometimes we part ways forever. Always with uncertainty, never guaranteed. The only certainties are your perspective on purpose, appreciation and acceptance. And, if you choose to embrace these interactions, painful or happy, amazing transformation can happen. Acceptance can bring clarity and evolution.

Over the past year, I’ve not only strengthen long standing relationships, but I’ve also met some amazing new people (What the heck would I do without all of you). People whose perspectives have influenced my thought process and guided me. This a true testament that everyone has something influential within him or her.  Not only one person can affect your life. And there are people, as special as Steve, but in a different way. And the main reason I know this is because he taught me perspective and how to accept, adapt and appreciate.

For now, I will be open for whatever comes my way. I will appreciate all that I have; a healthy body, a sound mind, damn good friends, amazing family, a great job, love and experiences with many amazing people, including Steve who forever changed my outlook.

Steve was always so worried about my happiness and my growth, feeling like he held me back. I’m now passing the self pity and transitioning to acceptance; no longer wasting time, good health, opportunities, friendships or life in general.   This is how I choose to respect and honor someone’s life lost, respect my own.  One of the greater tributes to someone is to remember what they wanted for themselves, others and you and then really truly live and love.

 

“Now the water’s taller than me and the land is a marker line.
All I am is a body adrift in water, salt and sky.

As I stood in front of my ocean, I accepted the tide, consciously diving in, continuing forward, adrift in the water; always with the shoreline in my soul. I can still see my past, but it’s more of a serene everlasting foundation. The pain of actually standing in it has faded. I know it will always be there, but distant and overtaken with the beauty, strength and appreciation.

 

 

  

 

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DID

Karin Diamond 6/29/82 – 9/21/13

(craig, sammy & karin)

 

How do you properly articulate someone that has perfect articulation? Always writing profoundly, yet realistically.

Steve was different. We had an obligation to one another. A commitment. Not only was it easy to be by his side or write about him,  it was mutual. It was expected. It was without question.

Karin Diamond did not. She didn’t have to do anything. Especially, given her own circumstances.

I could write on and on about the beauty, intelligence, uniqueness and awesomeness of Karin Diamond, but her obituary is so perfectly eloquent, no need.

What I want to express is my gratitude for how she shared her life. Karin DID. She just DID.

She did things like fly out to California to celebrate the Life of Steve. If you think about, really think about it, this was brave. I know both she and Steve didn’t like “brave”, since they were both “just doing what anyone would do in the same circumstance”. I call bullshit! Imagine attending a memorial of someone you love, but then imagine adding in the fact that you faced the same possible fate and quite possibly very soon. Then add in the fact that you’re in your third year of fucked up cancer and you travel across the US in pain, on steroids with looming treatments of your own. Then you come with grace, strength, kindness and comfort. And, your husband, an obvious reflection of each other, comes as well. This is doing.

She did things like take the time to write long supportive, candid, kind, intuitive emails. Putting aside her own fears. Ignoring her own anxieties. Placing the immediate needs of others before her very own.  To be able to write about someone you love, like she did about Steve.   Not only is it a natural gift of empathy, compassion and intelligence, but it is active, conscious decision making. Emotional and selfless strength.

She did things like live in the moment to create her future, like attending a writing workshop in San Francisco, continuing to make progress in her life and follow her passions. She wrote so distinctly and honestly that they made plays of her work. This is doing and not waiting for the hard things to pass to “do” later.

She did things like contemplate intentions and the future. Doing what many fear, facing what might not exist.

She did things like laughtravel and disobey the rules. Doing positive, fun things in spite of physical obstacles or rules.

She also did equally important things like express fear and vulnerability in her writings. Something that is so profound and so graceful. Giving yourself over, meanwhile helping others with your candor and subjectivity. Doing emotional is never easy, especially when in physical pain and unimaginable emotional stress.

She did things like express gratitude for her ridiculously strong, empathetic and dedicated husband, Craig. I know what it takes and I know what this man did. It’s a strain on marriage, both ways. But, it is also something so remarkably bonding and special. So hard to put into words. Karin sent me an email a few months ago worried about Craig and what would happen to him afterwards. She did for him exactly what he did for her, she gave him a priceless gift. She cared, reciprocated and did unto others.  She had gratitude for that man and truly truly appreciated every little thing he did for her. Just read her blog and you’ll know what they did for each other.

She appreciated every little thing that was given; every lil and big thing she earned; every and anything she was able to do.

She appreciated other people’s joys, all the while similar ones of her own where compromised.  Overcoming any potential feelings of jealousy or self-pity to truly celebrate someone else’s progress is doing something so incredibly strong, gracious and impactful. Not only looking inside yourself and challenging yourself, but looking outside of you and realizing the world goes on and everyone has their “thing”. Good and bad.

Yeah, maybe some of these things sound like “normal” and mundane, but that is what makes them even more impactful. What she did was live. She lived and learned to be in the present. I know, not every day, but she at least tried. Believe me, I doubt every day was filled with peace, happiness and perfection.  But this is what made her special. She was real, true and open.  She gave of herself, not expecting in return. This more difficult than giving any material gift.  She gave graciously, gracefully and selflessly. She taught others how to face anxiety, fear and yet still have a deep deep want and appreciation for living.  Of course she wasn’t perfect, but she was pretty damn close.

Do you want to know what a 31 year old thinks of before she dies? What she wants you to know?

It’s not about how much money you can make or about how successful you are in a career or about how fast you can get to the finish line. You already know what it’s about; what tugs at you and you sometimes ignore. If you take anything away from Karin’s life, listen to what she has said and written. Truly listen, live and DO.

This was in an email she dictated and Craig typed the day prior to her leaving us:

I hope that you are also able to see the beauty in the little things and keep your eyes open,

find love, and continue to be there for one another.

You’ve helped carry me though so much. Hold your family and friends tight because

you really never know when things can take a turn very quickly.”

 

Karin posted this a couple of weeks ago. I think she mattered. And DID Gracefully. 

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In-Betweens


“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

There’s that second when it clicks. All of a sudden you feel that wave of emotion from the middle of your chest, down through your stomach. It’s when you know. You realize how lucky you are in that very moment. It’s not always. And, it doesn’t stay with you every single second. But when it’s there, you have a deep appreciation for every single person in your life.   No matter if they’ve only said one little positive word to you, if they’ve challenged your patience or if they’ve done a thousand unfathomable kind gestures.

Balance.

Then there are the moments and spaces in-between. Times with lulls, stress, panic, pain, hopelessness, numbness, terror and fear. These in-betweens are just as important. Without them, we wouldn’t have the moments of clicking. Without them, we wouldn’t build up strength, empathy and kindness. Without balance, we wouldn’t find our way.

Beautiful things can happen during these in-betweens.

This is when we can go towards things that frightened us. Sometimes these struggles are a choice and other times things that are thrown at us without reason. At the time, these moments may seem insurmountable or impossible. But, it is at these times where the change will happen.

It is always so difficult for me to convey the amount of respect that I have for Steve. It’s an appreciation for earnest strength, compassion and selflessness. It’s a greatness that I didn’t even know was possible in a person. Steve was a beautiful person. And he didn’t just happen. He suffered. He found his way. All along not just full of warmth, kindness, and laughter, but also full of fears and pain. And what came out, was something so priceless and gentle.

It’s taken me a long time to realize, but I now know that we all have the potential in us. Sometimes it may take something catastrophic to allow for it to blossom. Other times it may just be a minute incident, a difficult decision or an interaction with a stranger that changes us. Each of these encounters has the potential to mold us into something amazing. And, it’s definitely not that simple. But, we have a say in it, even when it may not seem so. Our reaction is the choice. It’s the only thing in our control.

“It hurts to look at the clouds, but it also helps, like most things that cause pain.” 
― The Silver Lining Playbook

It’s never achieved alone. It’s never straightforward. It’s never ever easy. It’s not instant; it takes time. It’s not always a “win”. And, it often really fucking sucks while it’s happening. Sometimes it’s acceptance, facing defeat, something so difficult and sobering. But what this all means, is that in the end, the result can be something so extraordinary and something so amazing. Not always living up to our original desire, expectation or goal and often a side step. Not just something tangible, but also an indirect derivative that is even more precious. An intangible appreciation and understanding of life itself.

Not only over the past 4 years, but over my entire life, I’ve been so very lucky to meet such beautiful people. People who have given so much, often without even knowing it. There’s an incredible intimacy in sharing someone’s struggle and suffering. It’s not to be taken lightly. They allowing you to see vulnerability. You, a witness as they find their way through the in-betweens. All the while, you finding your way, even without knowing it at times.

Believe me, we will all have our in-betweens. We will all have to be vulnerable. We will have to see defeat. We will all have to find balance and stand time. But, we will all have our choice on how we react.

It’s painful to reflect. But acknowledging and remembering the in-betweens makes this all the more beautiful.

music:  future islands “balance”

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THIRTY-EIGHT

38.

Six. Sixteen. Seventy-Five.  Ingrained in my head forever. Sometimes, I mistakenly reply with this as if it is my own. It was Steve’s identity the past 3.5 years. Many times uttered by me, as fatigue or illness prohibited his interaction. It was his ticket to treatment, doctor visits, prescriptions, surgeries, everything. It became my identity as well. I still now habitually use it at my doctor’s appointments, even though it makes no sense.

I used to despise birthdays, well at least my own. This year I was happy to turn a year older. To be healthy. To be loved. To have amazing people in my life. This year I handled my birthday fine. Amazing friends, amazing people, all made it easy and fun and special. I am a very lucky girl. Yes, very lucky.

But once again it is bittersweet, as birthdays were our week. We shared the week sometimes fighting over when the transition would be from his to mine. I was always robbed, as his was six days after mine, one day short of a full birthday week. Every year we’d manage to do something for “our” birthdays. However, Steve always out celebrated his.

There was the time Steve had a race car party.  It was Steve, about 12 of our close friends and fifty 12  year olds.  I made him a go-cart racing suit and he sported that thing like no other. He ate pizza, raced go-carts and had cake. He was in heaven.

 

Or the other time when he had a paintball party. Yet again, Steve, 20 close friends and fifty 15 year olds (That could be misconstrued).

He was definitely one to celebrate. Up for a group of friends having fun and truly appreciating life.  Even last year, he was day +4 from his allo transplant, in the hospital and he celebrated with a new playstation game and a monitor that I bought at Best Buy (He always had the perfect hospital set up. We were so proud of all the comforts we arranged.)

Steve’s past four birthday all revolved around treatment of some form or another. Year one was spent as a weekend of sleep from chemo recovery.  Year two chemo again, after relapse.  Year three, more chemo, after relapse.  Year four, in Maryland, playing video games in a hospital room.  He always had a truthful sense of the pain and plain fed upness (I know it’s not a word). But, he also maintained an incredible sense of humor and happiness to be alive. Birthdays really meant something to him.  They meant that he was still here, beating the odds. They meant he was still living, earning a Masters Degree and working whenever he could. They meant that he was getting closer to living a full life; becoming an old man. Something he treasured. Something everyone should know.

Simultaneously, he had the utmost respect that this week in June was was also my six days. Even though he was sick, he still consistently wrote me a beautiful note or card  expressing his gratitude and appreciation. He did more than he could to recognize. I miss those words so very much.

I thought today would be relatively easy compared to all that has happened. It is not.  It fuckin’ sucks. It’s probably one of the worst days so far. I am appreciative of all the good and all the great in my life, but I know it’s ok to feel this as well. It’s part of life. It’s part of the process.

38.

It popped up on our joint calendar today as “Tomorrow, My BDAY!” (See, he had no shame)

There are a lot of tears this weekend. I miss him so very much. I miss that support, that love, that drive to live and respect life. That humor. That humor is like no other, irreplaceable.

38.

To be so lucky.

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the others

On June 16th Steve would have turned 38 years old.

He was not alone in his early departure.

Alexander Berman passed away last night from complications of an allo transplant for Hodgkins. Barely 35 years old, he left behind an amazing legacy of two young boys and a wife who has to continue picking up the pieces. Alex was a leader for Steve, having his transplant prior to Steve.  Brannan was a rock for me, guiding me through the unknown with such strength, confidence and even humor.  I am so very angry that Steve had to lead Alex this time, both having left way too early.

My memories of the first days and weeks following Steve’s death are blurred, but yet distinct. People would say things that I thought were so inappropriate and in retrospect I realize they just didn’t know what to say. Now my time has come to say something to Brannan and I, too, have nothing comforting to say.  Because, there is nothing to say that will take away that pain and devastating emptiness. The true understanding of shock and numb are learned.

People recognized my support of Steve.

People will recognize Brannan. For she deserves to know that she made Alex’s life way different then it would have been without her and, he her as well.  He wrote in his very last blog post “Well, if I chose to stay alive, God willing, fought for it in order to be there for them (twin boys), including my wife, then that has been my prime motivation for recovery. The slog of it.” 

I know what it is to surrender every part of yourself over and dedicate your purpose to help someone have not only life, but a quality of life.  I know the years of terror. I know the happy days of relishing in a mundane activity of just being able to eat a meal together as a “family” or not being at a doctor or hospital for just one day.  There’s so much there. So much going on and then suddenly, there is nothing in a second.

But yet, I only know part of what she went through. I know that she has to go home and face two young boys and tell them that their daddy is gone. This I cannot even fathom. Steve would have been so mad. I am so mad.

Brannan you are incredible. I know you think this not at all about you right now, but you are nothing short of amazing.  I remember the day after Steve died. You called me to see how I was and to express your sorrow. I was profoundly blown away by your grace and strength in your ability to face death knowing it was a strong possibility in your future.

Alex was nothing short of a bionic masterpiece. A combination of humor, dedication, strength, perseverance, love, peace, grace and innocent vulnerability. Alex and you had an understanding of love, care and dedication. A bond that many never experience. It is a great great gift, making it so much harder now that you’ve been robbed.  But you will never be robbed of the lessons you’ve learned from one another or the memories. I love you so very much.

Fuck you cancer.

 

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