Monday, November 23, 2015

HERE COMES THE SUN...OH NO!

You don't have to tell me this is an ugly hand.  I think I have written before about looking at the ends of my arms and seeing my dad's hands attached.  Twist of genetic fate.   Ruddy, wrinkly, and a shared  disregard for protection from sun, water, detergent...you name it.

But I should have taken a photo at the height of my recent regimen of topical chemotherapy to treat pre-cancerous lesions (keratosis).  This photo is actually one week out from discontinuing the treatment.   Keratosis has the potential of turning into a form of skin cancer -- basal cell or squamous cell.  I've had both already -- a basal cell on my nose and a squamous cell on my leg.  When I was examined recently, my dermatologist detected teeny little red discolorations on my hands and forearms.

So, not wanting to take any chances, she had me smear this creme stuff on the backs of my hands for 3-1/2 weeks.  She said the medication would cause the "bad" cells to show up as red, blotchy areas, a rash perhaps resulting in oozing and scabbing, itching and burning.  I was so looking forward to that!  Of course I went on the internet and treated myself to some truly horrifying stories and photos of what looked like burn victims with skin peeling off.

So, when my hands got some red blotches, a bit of a burning sensation that lasted, oh, about 5 minutes after applying the creme, and a few teeny tiny scabs, I figured I was at the beginning of the descent into hell I'd seen and heard described.  Then, when that didn't happen, I figured I was doing it wrong and the medicine wasn't working.  Have I said I always expect the worst?

Going back for my scheduled re-check, I was declared "good".  My case wasn't so severe and the medicine did exactly what it was supposed to do and I could discontinue it and start on a multiple times a day moisturizing routine as the rash healed.  And I was to never, ever, never again let my skin be exposed to the sun.  Thank you Scandinavian and Northern European heritage.

We have all heard that a lifetime of sun exposure causes cell damage in just about anyone.  For those of us with red hair and blue eyes, the sun really isn't our friend at all.  I never purposely "laid out" in the sun.  I was always too hot and uncomfortable to do it and saw no result other than red.  I never really tanned...not like my blonde and brunette friends who I envied for their bronze, smooth-skinned beauty.  My skin has always been marked by freckles, moles, bumps, and discolorations.  I don't look hideous, mind you, but I still literally stare at women with smooth, flawless skin and wonder what that would be like.  I still envy.

I did get a couple of blistering burns in my 20s.  One on my first trip to California when I fell asleep on an LA beach.  Another on a trip to Georgia when I just stupidly didn't think of putting sunscreen on and got the worst burn of my life.  Duh!  Those were bad.  And we lived in South Carolina for two years in my early 30s and I figured going to the beach every day had inoculated me from damage since for the first and only time in my life, daily exposure led to a teeny tan that didn't seem to burn after awhile.  Ignorance.

I'm paying for those indiscretions now.  And even after living in the Pacific Northwest for 33 years I guess enough sun comes through our infamously cloudy skies to contribute to the problem.

Plus, on the very day I was given the "all clear" on my hands, I also had an eye appointment where the optometrist detected "very early, not to worry yet" changes that could lead to cataract.  WHAT?  "Why?" I asked him.   Seems family history plays a role.  (Thanks Grandma and Mom), as does...sun exposure!  He recommended wearing sunglasses most days -- even those of "bright cloudiness" (This is what we call sunshine during Washington's rainy season -- October to July).

With my new lens prescription I got new regular glasses and new prescription sunglasses.  I have stocked up on odorless sunscreen.  (Yes, I have read recently that the chemicals in sunscreen are also harmful and there is a movement afoot to eschew those products and just let the healing warmth of the sun have its way with us, within reason. So I don't know about that.  I think I'll stick with the sunscreen.)  As for our annual trip to Hawaii...well...you'll find me under the palms, in the shade, wearing a burka.

At least, that's the view from here....©


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

END OF AN ERA

I am feeling discombobulated.  (Love that word!)  Here it is past mid-month and I've not written a post in either of my blogs.  The thought of sitting down to write creates a "thud" in my heart and mind.  What would I say?  I got nothin' for the blog.

It's not really writer's block.  There is ALWAYS something to say.  Writers write.  And I've been writing.  But it's been mostly random thoughts, stream-of-consciousness, journal-puzzling, email responding, all around my decision to leave my UU Fellowship (well, take a long sabbatical) -- the place and community that has been my home-away-from-home for 23 years.

"Leave my church" is a HUGE phrase and one I want to take back the minute I write it.  My church is not a typical Christian church, the image conjured when the word "church" is uttered.  I am a Unitarian Universalist -- a seeker who finds wisdom in all faith traditions and within my own human experience.   We call ourselves not a church, but a Fellowship -- and have taken great pride in our community of "like-minded" people (mostly liberal thinkers and doers) gathering in an old Methodist church building we bought a couple of decades ago, situated in a fairly conservative small town north of Seattle.

Alas, pride goeth before the fall.  This UU community also fancies itself an anti-authoritarian throwback to the glory days of the 60s when "Question Authority" was the rallying cry.  I think it still wise to use our brains and question leaders not acting in our best interests.  But there is process for doing that -- a democratic process that certainly includes replacement of elected leaders through the election process.   There might also be protests and petitions and expressing differing opinions.

But are these appropriate and loving strategies to direct at church leaders, friends who sit across the aisle on Sunday mornings?  Is it OK to give voice to flaring tempers?  To conspiracy theories and rumors?  To name-calling and character assassination?   To promoting an "us" vs "them" divide?  I don't think so.

But that is what has happened over the past few months at my UU Fellowship.  I don't even recognize what it has become.  We had a inexperienced (and some might say, controlling) minister, who started the ruckus with a personnel decision unpopular among some, but supported by others.  She has now resigned after only being in our church for just over a year.  Two months prior to her leaving, I resigned from an important committee chair position because I couldn't work with her any longer for a number of reasons unrelated to her personnel decision (with which I agreed).  Three Board of Trustees members resigned for the same reason.  All of us have left the whole church to some degree or another because of the vociferous faction that rose up in defense of the dismissed volunteer.  Some violated boundaries of confidentiality, decorum, and just good sense.  (Really?  Calling for resignations?  Monopolizing meetings and services with  personal agendas? Calling out our Board of Trustees as Nazis that Hitler would be proud of?  That's going a bit far, don't you think?  Did the good folks on the Board deserve this vitriol?)

So, I've been grieving the loss of what was once a truly loving and supportive community for me.  One in which I devoted thousands of hours of time and energy, as well as thousands of dollars in financial support over the years.  I had so many friends there, so many positive and joyful experiences.  Yes, there were flaws, underlying problems that would surface and then recede, but all- in-all I hung in there, believing (even in the past few years when my involvement seemed like mostly work and worry) that we were "better" than other churches -- we were smarter, more insightful, more loving, more giving, more involved in the community and the world with our activism, more creative and more accepting -- more compassionate.  But nope.  Not so much.

I get the lesson here.  Putting oneself or one's community on a "better than" pedestal is always wrong, and particularly wrong for a church; it never plays out quite that way.  I am humbled at the same time I am sad and disillusioned.  I am grieving.

I'm also excited about the freedom from responsibility and commitment to that institution.  It really was a full-time job at times.  If I wasn't physically there, I was there in my thoughts and plans, talking  about and organizing for this or that committee or event or worship service.  It came only second to my family in importance -- and sometimes (too often) it came first.  I thought about it when I went to sleep, when I woke up, and even during my insomniac nights I'd get up and work on a project of some kind.  Sheesh!  I was completely out of balance!

So, I'm getting quiet now.  Sitting with this stunning turn of events that I never saw coming only a few months ago.  I'm opening myself to new vistas of spiritual growth, personal development, healing and forgiving.

It's just that in that space, writing has taken a back seat.  But I'll be back.  Writers write.

At least, that's the view from here... ©