Lose Yourself in the Music, the Moment: Memories of a Lifetime

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A few weeks ago I had a slated visit with my Psychologist, a stunning, statuesque woman with the most attractive Russian accent. Every time I see her I am reminded of a Russian friend whom I’ve shared some of my best memories with. Innately I warm to the Doctor right away in a reminiscent fashion, regardless of my long absence in seeing her. She has the ability to put me at ease without granting the notion that I am losing my shit. She was on my level, just like my old friend, and I liked that.

After arriving in her office, ornamented with psychology book after psychology book, as well as notes strewn about her desk in an organized mess, I sat down on the plush couch, across from her high back chair. The diffuser rested on a shelf, and exhaled the most calming hint of lavender. Being that it had been awhile since I had last seen her, there was a lot that I needed to express, things that I was reluctant to share with anyone, including my husband. My heart was racing, and my mouth dry, as I began to divulge it all, skipping over any possibility of small talk.

I told her that my intellectual side was at war with my spiritual side. I told her that when I go out in public I am paralyzed by fear of the worst happening. I told her everything in my private life was pleasing, but I was still plagued with chest wrenching anxiety. And then I told her more importantly that I was starting to disremember anything that came before cancer, and that it scared me out of my wits.

Supposing she was going to prescribe pills on top of pills, it was a risk I was willing to take. My own thoughts were becoming unbearable, a constant, and frenzied sense of trepidation, and silent chaos.

“Write,” she contested. “There are a number of pills I could prescribe, but the best medicine for you is writing, and that’s something that only you can do. Flex that muscle. You are a writer, so write.”

I didn’t have much of a defense. Despite her brilliance, and numbered Doctorate degrees, it was advice that didn’t take a rocket scientist to propose, yet a remedy that I hadn’t been practicing lately.

“I can’t,” I confessed.

Aiding to the anxiety that I have been facing were flashbacks of all of the traumatic events that have taken place over the course of my cancer career. The nastiness that is coupled with being a member of the club with a cancer card, the gruesome surgeries, and the inches I’ve been to death; it was all starting to slither its way in, wrapping around my mind. The problematic issue is that all of the memories that once came before cancer were evaporating. The bones for my book had been laid out perfectly on the table for the past two years, and yet I’ve failed to give it flesh as my memories were being overshadowed. As a writer we depend on our memories to bring a perspective, and narrative from our account to paper; alive, if you will.

“Write out of order, escape yourself by listening to the music you have listened to throughout your life. Music evokes the deep-level parts of our emotions, where our earliest memories are stored. What you have done is compartmentalized the before life, and the after life of living with cancer, putting the before on a shelf to deal with the latter.”

Her words were magic.

“When we can tap into those memories, or a specific memory, the neurotransmitters in your brain will then lead to awakening another memory, and another, and another,” the Doctor articulated.

The words did not fall on deaf ears; I was in tune to everything she was concurring.

“My prescription to you is to write. It does not have to be for your blog, it doesn’t even have to be for your book, it can be just for you if you like. But, I promise you this, if you listen to music, and tap into your memories, not all of your problems will be solved, however it is the best thing you could do for yourself.”

It sounded so easy, and then again not, but I was willing to go there, re-sort the boxes in my brain, and get its contents down on paper.

When I got home I played country from the late 1980’s through my airpods; George Strait, The Judds, Alabama, even Billy Ray Cyrus. Come on, everyone loved Achey Breaky Heart, and Billy Ray is a national treasure. The waves of reminiscence to my early childhood were immense. From each memory I was able to draw another memory, and then another, and another after that, just as the Doctor preached. As the night prolonged, I realized there was an untold, layered story behind every song, from my first kiss, to my first love, leaving home for the first time, adventures in my 20’s, to the time I met my husband, and knew right then, and there he’d be the one I’d marry. The words flowed out of me as I entered a chaotic, yet focused zone in the writing universe. The bones to my story now had bits of flesh, and my memories were as fresh as if I was reliving it once again.

There are many days that I ponder my purpose or wonder if I even have one. My sole goal over the years of my diagnosis has been purely survival, sometimes leaving very little energy for anything else. Since I met with the Doctor, I have added a new goal to my life, which is to write everyday, no matter what. Thus far, it’s been filling in the pieces that are coming back to life in my mind, and although the past should be a place of reference, this has allowed me to reconnect with the person I was before my life changed in the least expected of ways. I realize that all of the memories connect, and if I didn’t have certain people, or have gone through certain experiences it wouldn’t be my life, or my narrative. It could very well take a lifetime to share my tale of this weird life, but God it won’t be boring.

PS- I hope you appreciate my Eminem reference in my chosen title of this confession. #musictherapy #inspiration #punny

Love,

Britt x

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1-800-273-8255: The Sun Will Rise Again

As I lay in the dark last night, my mind wondered to everything I’ve gone through in the last couple of years, as it sometimes does. In the beginning of this path, I had no idea what was in front of me and the mental toll it would take. It’s hard to imagine that I ever contemplated taking my own life, especially when I had worked so very hard to remain in existence.

Not long after I was discharged from the hospital in June, I was sitting solo on my balcony watching the sunset. In that moment, it meant something more than usual. In awe of how the one thing we can count on is that the sun rising and setting each day, while the world spins madly on. As the suns rays were coming to a close, I could feel the colors of the evening sky running deep through me. What was left of daylight beamed through my fractured body and scars. Suddenly my head felt like it was above the cotton candy skies, and I forgave myself for ever contemplating taking my own life.

Depression is cancer itself, once it creeps in, it doesn’t feel like the sun will ever rise or fall again. I felt so alone, despite all of the loving support I had surrounding me. The days that I was unable to walk because my neuropathy was electric, or feeling so isolated from the rest of the world that I shut myself out from everything and everyone. During that time I tried as best as I could to write and share what I was enduring, particularly on the mental side of things. I’ve never revisited any of those blog posts, I can’t. Life is easy to be scared of, especially when your world can be as dark as the nights sky.

Thinking back to walking for the first time after each of my surgeries, or how terrible the pain of it all was, seemed like it was never ending. It felt like I’d never heal, but months passed and seasons changed and every time I had a huge roadblock in front of me, I somehow found inner strength to keep moving forward. It would have been so easy to give up by now. But I didn’t.

The way you approach life is a choice. You may be facing something tiring at the moment, or feeling cynical. You may want to give up, wondering what this life is all about. No one has the manuscript, we are all just winging it, hoping for another sunrise tomorrow.

Life, one day it’s here and then it’s gone. My life, your life and anyone out there contemplating suicide is worth living; our lives are worth it. There is no replica, this is it. You don’t have to be swallowed by the sea of sadness and depression. Know in your heart that someone out there cares and loves you. You are never alone.

If I was able to swim my way back to shore to witness that beautiful sunset, so can you. At sunrise you have a new day, an opportunity to entice your soul into living your best life despite your circumstances. Getting up each morning is your greatest gift and continuing to live when you want to die is ultimate bravery.

If you or someone you know suffers from depression, don’t give up on them. I was so fortunate that no one gave up on me. If you have contemplated harming yourself, please, please don’t give up. Take time to watch the sun rise and set, for it’s proof that no matter how dark your world is, we can experience beauty at the beginning and end to every day.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 — available 24/7.

You are loved and worthy of your life.

PS- Please share and pass this message along.  If it can help just one person, we are making a difference!

Love,

Britt x

Surgery: HIPEC 12/12/16

A short fortnight ago, I am abashed to confess that as I lay in bed I was fantasizing and rhapsodizing death. It appealed to me in the way one looks forward to a vacation; I saw it as a destination — an endpoint to all of the pain and suffering this shell of mine has endured in my short lifetime. Suicidal thoughts were never coupled with my pensive imagination, one must be clear. However, the guilt I carry for even discerning as I did bears a weight I cannot carry as I should feel grateful for the days in which I am granted. God knows life only grants us so many and we can never be too sure as to when they will expire.

In recent months it’s been no secret that I have been quite mum on my blog and as of late, social media as well. Perhaps I may explain why I have not turned pain into power like I once did so very well. Life before cancer seems to be drifting further and further away, slipping through like tiny grains of sand in your hands. Cancer has become so normalized that talking about it in a constant fashion seems extraneous. Not much changes from one day to the next and my routine is pretty intact.

With time things get better, scars begin to fade and people go back to their every day life. What I am struggling with at the moment is how I am going to fill my time in life, discovering what I am meant to do on earth. Most people have children or a career to fulfill their years and I am on a journey to find what will fill mine. I say that with optimism as after my fantasizing, I was given remarkable news that could change my life forever.

On December 12th, 2016 I will undergo a major surgery called HIPEC. They will once again cut down the center of my abdomen, essentially scrape the lining of my abdomen, place hot, hot chemotherapy directly inside of me, sew me up, shake me around for 90 minutes and then drain the chemo. Although it sounds quite ludicrous, it is a rare and unlikely procedure yet it has a 30% chance to cure me altogether, a 30% chance I could go into remission or a 40% chance that I come out of the surgery no better or worse then when I went in. Given my age and otherwise healthy body, the surgeon feels that I am the perfect candidate for this type of procedure.

So, as I prepare for the 12th I no longer fantasize about being pain free by going to the other side. Instead I fantasize about the life that I hopefully have before me, in hopes that I will either be cured or in remission. This is the trial of a lifetime, but I toast to the lesson and at the end of my life and throughout life I’ll understand what really matters. It is essential to push harder than yesterday if I want a different tomorrow. Nothing is guaranteed, we’re all perishable — life is significant and for a moment the pain nearly managed to make me forget that the substance of significance is a destination all on its own.

Love,

Britt x

Sing Like Dolly: Past Predicts Present & Future 🔮

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At two years of age, Dolly Parton was my idol.  In fact, I should have been the creator of an American Idol genre of entertainment, as my wide eyed vision of fame and the game was futuristic and quite unreal.

When I was younger, maybe eight, I asked my Mum to take me to a general “famous” audition to be a singer or an actress.  Aside from wanting to be just like my gorgeous Mum, I loved Dolly, Pasty, Marilyn, Edie and I can’t leave out, Mary Poppins .  For as far back as I can recall, I genuinely believed that being just like them, a celebrity, would be a hop, skip and a jump (all things I thoroughly enjoyed, on a side note).  But, I figured it would be a one stop, shop type of audition.  A decision, a yes or a no and I was certain that I had what it would take.  I loved and thrived on creativity and being famous seemed like the closest thing to being an artist — something I sought out to be when I grew up.

Being the glue to my confidence, my Mum agreed to take me when I was in fifth grade to audition to be “famous”.  Never once putting down or deflating my fleeting dream, she knew that I wanted to entertain, express myself, and connect somehow artistically.  Turns out, I cannot act or sing and I did not become a star, as we all know.

Coincidently, the first time I ever lied was to my best friend, which happened to be  around the same time I asked my Mum to take me to Hollywood.  I had told my best gal, Crystal that I sounded just like Mariah Carey and gullibly she believed me.  It was only briefly, until one day we were in the parking lot of an Astro Van dealership, circa 1993 as her parents shopped for a new family vehicle.  Boldly she asked me to sing for her. I was stunned.  I hadn’t lied before and I didn’t know how to get out of it.  She saw right through me.

By the time fifth grade rolled around, my Mum kept her promise, enrolled me in acting lessons, reached out to agents, the whole kit and caboodle.  If I would have wanted her to be a stage mom, she would have gladly signed up for the job to support me in all forms of the spectrum. The thing was and still is, I’m only good at being myself.

I had been a ham since the day I was born and my life had been documented via camcorder, by the lovely and lively ladies in my life.  It was the 1980’s and quite the BIG deal to lug around a ridiculously large camera, but they did it regardless in an effort to capture my life.

Soon after my Mum’s persistence in trying to aid my flighty dream, I realized I am absolutely rubbish at being anything other than myself.  I couldn’t pretend.  I was unable to follow anyone else’s script outside of my very own.

All the while, creativity and imagination was never lost upon me.  I was just highly unaware at the time of how to channel it; how to open the pages of my fate in the creative realm.  If I were to take it back to those years, I’d say I always struggled being phoney.

As a young adult, sans/prior to the evil cancer taking residency in my insides, I came to terms with reality and realized I had to work in order to have an apartment and the things I lusted after.  My goals had shifted, my viewpoint was more mature and University and Corporate America seemed like my only option.

Strangely, in the seemingly thick of my career, unbeknownst to me that it would end in a few short  years, my Mum randomly said that she hoped that one day I would get compensated  for being one hundred percent, Britt; for being my true self, and sharing my creative mind with the world.  Of course I agreed and appreciated her love and wildly, amazing support, but I knew for a fact that a talent I was not.  I knew how to write, dress, decorate and apply makeup like a pro; but what did that all really mean in the real world? — nothing.  I still had to earn a paycheck if I wanted to dress well and I knew singing and/or acting was out of the question.  Feeling stuck was an understatement, but I didn’t see any other way of being an “artist” and was certainly not up for the “starving” bit.  I just wasn’t cut out for it and proceeded to work towards my career climbing the ladder, never looking back down until I hit a glass ceiling.

When I became sick and inevitably had to give up my career, I felt that I had lost a piece of who I was.  It was all I had known for the past ten years.  I was well groomed and manicured to continue moving on up.  The nine to five taught me savvy business lessons, yet oppositely managed to cripple my creativity, to no fault of the Company, but otherwise due to the type of industry, numbers were all that mattered.

Once I gave up that part of my life, I began to gain my creative power back and realized that even if you do have a regular 9 to 5, it doesn’t mean you should ever give up on YOURSELF, or what makes YOU happy and ultimately charges your soulful creativity.

Being sick, my mind often wanders off to far away places. Not necessarily Neverland, but rather memories from as early as I can recall.  I think back to the little girl who thought anything was possible, who fearlessly shared her creative self without any doubt or resistance towards caring what others opinions were.

Many may see cancer as a death sentence, but I see it as a destiny.  A journey.  A life that I may not have otherwise had the complete freedom to be who I am to my absolute core.

Nostalgia is a funny thing and history is just as important as the present, as  well as  whatever the future may hold.  Without gagging with cheesedom, the best thing you can do for yourself is to be your own muse, celebrate your own sense of self and celebrity (not literally), but I know you are picking up what I am laying down.  Stay true, be you, as everything unites and comes full circle in the end.

I’m not here to find fame, fortune or anything of the sort.  I’m here to be myself in hopes that I can inspire someone, perhaps expand my social ability to connect with people on deeper levels and tell my story along the way.

As I work on a project, a walk down memory lane has been an interesting one (not sure of the ETA — probably forever).  Finding out what makes me, me, brings great hope to share that with anyone that feels they want to experience the wonderful life I have lived and will continue to live on my journey as a cancer survivor and fighter, amongst other things I am blessed with.

It may not be blogging as often as I’d liked to, although that is my New Year’s resolution, but life. Am I right?  

Follow along on @bestillmyheartblog on Instagram and Be Still My Heart Blog on Facebook for everyday updates on my happenings.

PS-  BUT MY GOAL IS TO BLOG WAY MORE, BECAUSE DUH!

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Love forever and talk soon,

Britt x 

Let Me Be Clear:

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When I was a child, maybe six or seven, I told my cousin that my favorite color was clear. He argued with me, exclaiming that clear was in fact not a color.   We pretty much grew up as brother and sister, loving and arguing as such. Rumor has it, I was an extremely bossy and demanding child, in which case not much has altered. Nevertheless, my beloved cousin and I made it through my dictator phase and recently reminisced over the phone about that brief, clear conversation during our adolescence. Cracking up at the transparent ridiculousness of it all, we ended the call. The urge to suddenly psycho analyze myself came over me.  

What was it about this quirky “favorite color” of mine and why would it make sense throughout the common theme of my life?

I was on it.

Clear.  Clear?  Clear!  Suddenly everything seemed clear as day.  Throughout my entire life I have craved clarity and even more so now that I am on a journey of finding my true self.  Understanding my story and the purpose of my set of circumstances, has become one of the driving forces that continues to keep up my resiliency.

Without going into too much detail, there were some befogging things about my youth.  An American with a British accent — Great Britt, my loved ones would call me.  My Mum was a teenager when she brought me into this world and just a short while later my biological father died at a very young age. Heartbreakingly, my Granddad soon followed, passing away from cancer that rapidly took him at forty-nine, leaving him to depart in a matter of months.

Cancer, son of a bitch.

Because I didn’t have a father in my younger years, before my Dad adopted me, my Granddad was my first love and his death was both devastating and confusing all at once. Many tragedies took place in the short amount of time I had been on earth and I didn’t realize at the time how much all of these events would shape me as a human.

Material items were abundantly gifted to me from the strong women that raised me; never leaving me without anything, especially love.  Even still, I always felt a pinch unclear about a lot.

Around the same time I had originally professed my favorite color to my cousin, I met my very best friend, Crystal.  Coincidence in her name? Perhaps. Or perhaps it was shimmering kismet.  My attraction to her from the very beginning was her ability to be completely transparent, even to this day.  She is the person that I can count on to tell me when I am making reckless decisions, or make me cry because she gives it to me straight instead of blowing smoke up my ass.  Tough love at its finest and as always, crystal clear.

Fast forward twenty plus years and my life’s mission is to expose myself; as open as the air.  Make the most out of myself, while welcoming people along for the ride.  I’m working everyday for a clear vision as to why I am here and a purpose as to how I have been blessed time and time again after coming so intensely close to death.

One thing is clear for certain; clarity comes from within, as well as the people you surround yourself with and exploring your core being. From there, life becomes as clear as the sunniest day you ever did see.
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Love,

Britt xx

PS:  Thanks for the memories, Aust.  Clear for life. xx