I’m sitting in a hotel suite with six other women right now. We’ve got various projects spread out on the tables in front of us  – scrapbooking – both family and business, crochet, knitting, catching up on billing, doing homework.  In between stitches, cropping, notation, etc, we’ve been catching up on our lives. Kind of crazy, since we all live within 3 miles of each other, and have a serious coffee date each week. 

But life gets in the way. One of us started full time school recently. Others have work schedules that have gotten crazier. And I’ve been stuck at home on my sofa. 

I’ve found myself getting a bit jealous of my friends as they talk about their jobs, especially Cyn, who has just jumped into a very intense computer engineering and start up program. She’s pushing herself in exciting ways that are similar to (but much more concrete and high level) than what I’d been hoping for when I quit my job just before my diagnosis.  They’ve all got so much going on, though, and it is exciting to hear about, even if the little green monster rears its head. 

Once again dealing with redefining myself. I realized that, although I don’t have a traditional job, and although I haven’t been able to put much (OK, any) work into it lately, I’ve got the chance to work on my art. And that’s pretty great. Especially when I can sell and show my work. 

I sold two quilts this week, which is awesome, I think. And I’ve joined the Hayward Arts Council, and will show a couple of quilts in a show later this summer.  Two quilts are in the county fair. There are exhibition opportunities later in the year. I’m working on getting cards made of my work, too, to sell in the gallery, and small matted pieces. 

So I’ve got things going on. Now if I could just pull my ass off the sofa to make more artwork. 

Half a career

My career hasn’t gone completely as I had planned when I was in grad school to become a librarian.  I’ve had difficulties balancing being a mom with working, even part-time jobs.  I’ve sacrificed certain career paths for my family’s needs, and sometimes because of my own self doubt.  Since we moved back to California two and a half years ago, librarian jobs have been few and far between.  Last year I took a 2 day a week contract job at a university in my home town, almost 300 miles away from where I live now.  The work was challenging and I rose to it, but the commute was a killer.

When I found out I had cancer, I experienced a bit of relief – at least I won’t have to deal with more job search disappointment.

We’ve always tried to live off of only Reil’s income, with my income being used for extras and fun things. For the most part that’s worked, but we’ve been having difficulty with that recently.  In a time when we desperately need some fun, my income isn’t there to do its part.  Add to that a few unexpected bills (a $2200 supplemental property tax bill?  What?) and the stress just grows.

My response yesterday was to sign up for social security disability.  It is hard to think of myself as disabled. I mean, I hike every week!  I’m physically strong. I feel healthy.  But then I think about how I can’t manage to put a home cooked meal on the table.  The planning and prepping are too much.  I can’t concentrate on one thing for very long, jumping from one activity to another.  How could I manage the requirements of a job right now?

And will I be able to balance a job, even part time, with my family’s needs?  And where do my needs come in?  When will I have time to take care of myself?  Because there’s a lot that needs taking care of right now.

If this seems like a lot of self-justification, it probably is.  I know that if I were to meet someone in my situation, I would think it a no-brainer that they should get disability funds.  The social security folks seem to agree.  Kidney cancer which has spread beyond the local lymph nodes (yes, that’s me) is one of the conditions which is supposed to be automatically approved.

So why do I give myself a hard time about this?  An inappropriately strong work ethic?  I don’t know.

What I do know is that I long for the funds that will hopefully come.  I long for the relief of financial stress they will bring.  I long for the experiences they will buy.  I look forward to more freedom to heal myself, emotionally and physically, and I hope that they will eventually allow me to do meaningful work – paid or unpaid – that will help me leave behind a legacy of sorts, touching people’s lives in positive ways.