Is it wonderful to be home? It’s wonderful to be with my family. But it feels more and more like a holiday than a trip home. If being with your parents is being home, then yes it is wonderful to be home, but what is home? Is it where you live? Is it where your heart is? Is it where your children are? Is it a feeling? Or is it just an idea? For me it’s all of these things. The first words when we arrived were, is it nice to be home? But as much as this is where I was born, where my parents are, where my brother and his family are and will always be a part of me, it’s not my home anymore. I have wonderful memories of my life here, of my childhood, of growing up, of making mistakes, of learning, of building myself and my career, of falling in love and starting and growing a family, of illness and wonder. All within the wonderful warm embrace of my loving family and caring friends. And that is all with me no matter where I am. But I am now so much a visitor here, four years is a very long time. I look for the familiar and find it and love it, because it makes me belong. But there is so much that is new, or rather that has just moved on, that I am not part of anymore. And that used to scare me but now it doesn’t. It just is. And that’s reassuring. That it doesn’t scare me anymore, I mean. I am always mindful of those I love who still live here, who would rather I said, yes this is still home. But I know that they would rather I embraced where I am and looked forward not backwards. I wrote before that I now know that we can be anywhere and this trip so far has confirmed that. This is so present, yet it feels like my past. And I don’t mean that I want to leave it behind because it is also still my present and always will be within me, but it’s not home. It’s a place I used to feel at home. But I don’t live here anymore.
Today was a big day. We sold our house over a year ago, yet we have continued to receive bills for water and lights, rates and taxes. Despite our best efforts and those of our conveyancing attorneys. Today I spent the morning at the Johannesburg municipal offices. I wish I could say I was grateful for the petty bureaucrats I had the misfortune to deal with. I wish I could say I was grateful for the wonderful attitude of what can we do to help I was met with. But I can’t. But I am grateful for the lady before me. She understandably let her frustration get the better of her. Grateful because I saw the effect it had. Grateful because that used to be me. The futility of it all. So today I am grateful I was able to calmly communicate my intention not to go anywhere until I had received some form of resolution. Which I did.
Lynn and I can chat and chat and chat. And chat. Over numerous glasses of wine and numerous cups of coffee. We can laugh, we can cry, we can advise, we can tease, we can lecture, we can listen. Nothing ever gets in the way, not even jet lag or a stiff neck or much needed sleep. I am very blessed and extremely grateful to have a sister-in-law who is always there, who truly gets me, who is so much like me, who cares enough to disagree with me, who cares enough to know what is needed, who is a friend but so much more. Today and always, I am grateful for Lynn, my other sister.
I had the worst day yesterday. I saw my oncologist, my breast cancer surgeon, my radiologist, my gynaecologist. I had a mammogram, an ultrasound, a bone density check, blood tests, a gynaecological internal and then some, I was examined, prodded and pricked from head to toe. I sat for three hours amongst all the new and existing chemo patients at the Donald Gordon, filled with compassion and a desire to tell them all it would be alright, even though for some it wouldn’t be and what they should know, and then filled with nausea at the smells and the memories, the tears and the fear. I sat in virtually the very same chair that I remember B said he saw the realisation of what had happened and was going to happen finally dawn on me. As I waited for my first taste of adriamycin, aka the red devil, the penny dropped and I nearly ran for my life. I would have if he hadn’t put a steadying hand on me. I sat there yesterday, overwhelmed by it all. I saw all these people sitting with their support teams, but you can immediately see who is in treatment, just by their eyes. It is a lonely journey. I wish everyone who is on it the inner strength to see it through and the ability to see the love that is around them. I had the worst day, but also the best day, because I felt different. I felt like an observer.
Today I am grateful I’m not a cab driver. Well, not our particular cab driver from this evening anyway. He waited in the queue of cabs for apparently more than an hour, to be lucky enough to score our lowly $10 fare, with two very very heavy bags. He was understandably grumpy. But not understandably rude. Very very rude. It was a very very uncomfortable cab ride. I am very grateful I was empathetic enough to understand and not react. Even though by then I was very very grumpy too.
I was grateful today for a momentary pause, love and a private smile, during my chaotic day. Chaotic due to my own procrastination and pure avoidance of the need to get organised for a month away. I was bending over to pick up the bank statements I had knocked off the table (because I’m now in a panic) for the tax stuff our tax guy has wanted for a while now, which meant today was the perfect day for it (when I should have been doing everything but) feeling under pressure and quite irritated, yes at myself, when I spotted this little note Jem had left for herself. It made me smile and stop. And breathe. And catch myself. I am very grateful for that little moment today but I am also grateful (and proud) that I was able to stop myself from ignoring the very firm instruction. Until she gets home, that is.
I am grateful that my world has changed so much that B now comes back from Sydney bearing a gift of an apron …. but the fact that it is a marimekko apron shows how little my world has changed. I am grateful that we share, always have and always will, a love for the aesthetic.
Today I had eyelash extensions. I have tried a little botox and I have implants. Just so that you know I have no problem with any of them. In fact, I’m loving my lashes, and I love my implants, because else I wouldn’t have a breast. I wasn’t sure about the botox, mostly to get rid of my number eleven, because I was so adamant it should be very natural so no-one ever noticed. Although B hasn’t called me number eleven for a while, and Sandy who makes my morning coffee, hasn’t asked me why I’m frowning (even when I’m not). The thing that bothers me about it though, is how addictive I can see it all becomes. I can see I’m going to hate my own stubby, sparse, never grew back properly after chemo eyelashes, when these extensions fall off. Just like I’ll hate it when people start asking me why I’m so irritated when I’m not. I get that it makes you feel better, because you look better, so you feel more confident, are more confident, and how wonderful is that. But the thing that sparked this off, was not my lashes, but the form I had to fill in at the salon. When it got to date of birth, it said optional. When I queried, the therapist laughingly advised how many women don’t want to share their age. So, for me the thing is, how can we not celebrate our years and our wisdom and our experiences, our scars and our wrinkles, because they tell our stories. Why do we deny our age? Are we not then denying our lives? Denying what is? I love that we can make ourselves look better, and feel better, but my plea to all my friends is, just know when to stop. You are beautiful just as you are. And those who love you, will love you no matter how saggy, scarred and wrinkled you are. And those who won’t, never did.
I am grateful that at this stage of my life I have been blessed to meet a lifetime friend. We are all supposed to count ourselves lucky if at the end of our lifetime we can consider ourselves to have had three true friends. True friends. Friends no matter what. Friends who last the distance. “One friend in a lifetime is much; two are many; three are hardly possible”. I know Arienne will be one of them. I love that we are so different yet so alike. She is so supremely private and it appears I am not. She is so much better than me at knowing when to say no to more. I love more. But the two things I value above all else in relationships, trust and respect, we have. We have pissed each other off in the past, and we will in the future, because thats just life. But we can talk about it and we can laugh about it. She celebrates my good times, and shares my bad times. She shares my life. As do I hers. I know there is nothing too much to ask of her. Or to share with her. And I know she knows that too. I love that I see her most days, yet we still can find something to debate and discuss. At length. And always over a cup of coffee. Or a glass of wine. Or more.
And so it continues. Only now at my age and stage and no doubt because of all the wonder and all the crap I have experienced thus far in my life’s journey, am I able to let go. Of some of my body issues. Only some. Crap like losing a breast and every single hair on my body. Don’t judge me too harshly when I tell you I was more fearful of losing my hair, than I was of dying. I do know that’s my avoidance strategy again. Focusing on the things I think I can control. And my vanity. I’ve always just taken it all for granted. The worst was the eyebrows and the lashes. Because then you can’t hide from the cancer label. And from people looking at you with pity because they just don’t know how to be with you. But … I was not intending to go on about cancer, but about learning that the size of your breasts, the length of your hair doesn’t change who you are. Or even if you don’t have any. The gift of losing something makes you realise how you still are you without it. Sometimes even a better you. But, as a teenager it all matters so much. I was thinking about this all this morning as Katie needs a new bra. But she refuses to accept that she could possibly be a bigger size. In bra and or in dress. Because then she would be bigger. And in this world, bigger is not better. She will not be liked as much is implied. She will not like herself as much. It is irrelevant how often I explain she is simply growing. She knows that, but irrationally she can’t accept it. I remember this age so well. And no matter what I say, it is what it is in her world. And my experience is too far removed to have any bearing. Yet. I get her. And she will learn, quicker than me. And then she will get me. But still, how do I guide her in a world that is so externally focussed. When even her mother, despite all she’s learnt, is getting eyelash extensions to make her lashes lusher. It’s all gone a bit mad.