Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Watch Me Breathe

My mom's good friend of many years made me a beautiful quilt.  She sent it with a note encouraging my determination and suggesting I use the quilt to curl up under with Luka and a good story, to hide under on bad days, and to keep nearby when I wish to be warm.  

I received this quilt about five days ago.  Yesterday, I received news from my mom, that her good friend - the quiltmaker - a wonderful woman I have known for many years - lost her son.  Eddie was 36 (my age) and died suddenly and unexpectedly in his sleep from an apparent blood clot in his heart.  When we were kids, Eddie had leukemia.  He was a longtime cancer survivor, a father, and a newlywed.

Yesterday, after I heard the news of Eddie's death, I went to yoga class.  When I sat down and put my hands to heart in the beginning of practice,  I dedicated my strength, my fight, my determination to Eddie and his family.  Because they will need these things to get through this and because this life is not fair.  And you can give me all the talk about things happening for a reason and about God being Good and about forgiving disease and illness and loving disease and illness for showing us the "way," but it still is not fair. 

Cancer is not fair.  It is not fair that Eddie had  to endure leukemia when he was a child and then had his adulthood stopped short because of an unexpected blood clot.  Now his own child will grow up without a father.  It is not fair that my little cousin Sammy has to go have chemo instead of going to school.  It's not fair that I am afraid to eat a cookie because I think I will die.

At yoga, every time a took a breath, I pictured this cancer popping and disappearing and I breathed as deeply as I could; so deep that it hurt my chest.  I focused on my breath and the oxygen moving into my cells.  Cancer does not like oxygen.  Cancer is not my friend so I will give cancer lots and lots of oxygen.

The pose of the month is the handstand.  It is a good pose for strengthening shoulder muscles. Since my left shoulder has been aching for about a month- with the tumor in my lung pushing through the ribs in my back- I work extra hard at my handstand.  I want to build my shoulder muscle to push the tumor back.  I refuse to let it win.  

My favorite pose is the humble warrior.  I held this pose for a long time and kept holding it while everyone else had already moved on to modified cobra and downward dog.

The other night, while I was on my way home from Scott's show at the Langano Lounge, I heard a song on public radio that inspired me to pull over and listen more closely.  The music was acoustic, with some guitars and drums, and the lyrics were sung in a perfectly angelic harmony between a man and a woman.  The words I was drawn to were sung over and over.  "Break me open; watch me breathe." 

The odds are not really with me.  And I am aware of this.  Tucked back into the little attic in my brain, there lies the notion that this is a very large dragon and I am a humble warrior with a rather small shield.  But I am dedicating this fight to everyone who has ever had to endure the battle with the dragon.  To Eddie and his family.  To Sammy.  To Luka and Scott.  To Myself.  
Break me open.  Watch me breathe.


  1. Julie, my dear, fuck the odds. They don't take YOU into account.

    Luka was really cute tonight. We had pizza with my friend Anna and her kids, one of who is Jane. They played easily right away and it was cute to watch. When we were waiting for the pizza to come I asked the kids to draw self portraits. Luka drew herself with hair in a side ponytail on one side of the head. She is a child of a child of the 80's.


  2. God, Julie. Your writing is beautiful and brilliant. I am feeling seriously like the semi-remarkable sister. I think your rather small shield is much larger than you know. I don't think I need to tell you to stay strong, but stay strong. I ordered a little bowl for you from one of your etsy favorites. I think you will like it.

  3. Julie, babe, I am addicted to your notebook. I was told you were an ecletic person. Now I know why. You are thought of everyday here.

  4. amazing julie... when i walked in front of you in a cap and gown while you tried to trip me and your cousin matt took tons of photos i knew you were a poet. i'm so glad to be knowing it now.

  5. You're right, Julie. It's not fair. Or reasonable, or rational. It's just what it is. Keep breathing, keep breathing. Your description of the dragon and the small shield just made me think about any sport where you run through all the defensive lines and just dodge around them somehow. You can't get too caught up in what goes on around you and try to make sense of it. You must barrel forward (sorry...) All the people you mentioned want you to build and grow and conquer. Especially Eddie.
    I'm so excited to hear you're going to Angie's! It is a healing place. I love you