Thursday, May 26, 2011

the wait

I'm intrigued by how people wile away their time when they're anxious...forced to wait for news and unable to speed that process along.

Some people pace. Some can't focus. Some externalize their anxiety onto people around them. Some work in their gardens. Other people clean out their closets. Some just drink.

Me? I bury myself in minutiae. Not big effort chores like closet cleaning–that would be way too productive. No, I clean my jewelry and other micro-tasks that employ toothpicks as tools. I organize bits of things. Then, I archive my email inbox. I paint my toenails.

Over the past month or so, we've been in the déjà vu land of waiting for medical test results. Barbara's first mammogram since surgery was not clear sailing. They saw two small masses on her right breast (Lefty is, to our great relief, still cancer-free) that they were almost sure were nothing but fibroids but an ultrasound was recommended which results led to two needle biopsies last Friday. Still they remained almost sure it wasn't cancer.

Eight months after a partial mastectomy, the space between almost and absolutely is cavernous. The word biopsy weighs a ton.

I waited to write until we knew and now we know, she is fine. Both growths are benign. The relief is almost hard to grasp. The first time on the cancer flywheel you're terrified because you don't know how scary it will be. The second time you're terrified because you do.

But she's fine. Wonderful. Whole. Life feels lighter and hopeful once again.

In the meantime, my watch is sparkling clean and damn near 2700 emails were deleted or archived. My toenails, however, look like they were painted by an angry four year-old. I'll have to channel that anxiety into another activity next time.

P.S. Thanks to my dear friends who remind me that they are also waiting. Waiting for me to sit my ass down and write an entry or two. Peter, it was so good to hear from you.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

hook and loop

One of my favorite things was patented the year I was born: Velcro. Here's the story from Writer's Almanac:
It was on this day [May 13th] in 1958 that Velcro was patented. Velcro was invented by Georges de Mestral, an electrical engineer from Switzerland. Mestral was a born inventor — he applied for his first patent when he was 12 years old, for a model airplane.

Besides being an engineer, Mestral enjoyed mountain climbing, and in 1941 he went on a hunting trip with his dog in the Alps. He hiked through patches of burdock. Burdock is a thistly plant whose roots are used in cooking, especially in Asia; but the plant spreads its spiny seeds by latching them onto anything or anyone passing by. When Mestral got home, he was picking the burs off his dog’s coat and his own clothes, and he wondered how burdock was so effective. He put the seeds under his microscope, and saw that each bristle was a tiny hook that was able to catch in the loops of clothing. He realized that by copying burdock he could create a way to simply bind materials together.

Most people Mestral told about his "hook and loop" cloth thought that his idea was stupid, but he kept on with it. It took him 10 years to get it right. With the help of a talented weaver, he was able to make a workable product, but the cotton didn’t hold up to wear. Then he discovered that nylon sewn under infrared light made the perfect set of loops — but that meant sewing hundreds of loops per inch, a slow and inefficient task. Eventually, he was able to mechanize the whole process, and 10 years after his walk with his dog, he applied for a patent for his invention: "Velcro," which combined the French words velour (which means velvet) and crochet (which means hook).
Velour and Crochet. It even has great etymology. But mostly, it's about the burdock. How the most commonplace, even irritating, item can spark creativity.

Monday, May 02, 2011

week four of the mystery

Tomorrow marks 4 weeks since I was laid off. It's sobering and exhilarating to look back: I spent the first 4 hours in shock/sorrow and 95% of the time since has been in a state of delight I could not have imagined. I have been, traditionally, a worrier. A financial fretter. A busy bee guilt machine. But...I don't know, the fear is gone.*

After this past month, I dream of retirement. Not now actually–but in 7 or 8 years. Now, I am working on freelance jobs, revising my resume and feeling...godhelpme, powerful. It's so hard to describe but I feel full of life and possibility. When I felt this way after 5 days, I warned myself that a big crash could be ahead. And then, a week, two weeks, a month passed. No crash. Just a blissful sense of hope. Excitement. (Note to the skeptical: I have not changed, increased or lost my medication. There is no chemical rationale for my behavior.)

I honestly can't explain it except to say, I'm going to go get a job. Work hard. Pay off our mortgages and retire early enough to live this way for the rest of my days. Days filled with creative projects/writing/reading/visiting/walking/cooking/volunteering. Time to spend with my daughter and her beau,** scheming to get my son to move within a 200 mile radius, time to travel and long days with my beloved Barbara.

*To be sure, my life is in a different place financially than many others. We have lived very carefully and have no debt other than the mortgages. I have a partner who is gainfully employed and enthusiastically supports my taking some time. I have no children at home and no crises at hand. I feel extremely fortunate.

**Did I mention my daughter has a beau? Honestly, it's been all I could do to tamp down my enthusiasm and not be the most obnoxious mother in the history of parenthood. She's wonderful and so is he. I'm exuding so much pollyanna-like cheer, I would have made my pre-layoff self retch.