Treat yourself

Maybe during this quarantine shut down mask-wearing time, we have a choice. We can spin out and get mad and blame the government and our (alleged) toilet paper hoarding neighbors. Or we can pay attention to what is actually happening inside our homes, inside our brains, inside our hearts, and decide what needs to change and what can stay the same. I’ve done both over the last month. It is a daily struggle.

A few months ago, while I was out of town, my mother’s oncologist told her that there were more tumors. In her lungs and in her vertebrae. I knew she had been getting tired. She is a night owl, it’s where I got it. But she had been going into her room at 9:00 pm after saying goodnight to all the dogs. And not getting up until after I left for work. This was unusual, since the last round of radiation and immunology. The doctors gave her some options.

She told me, “I am going to fight. Besides, Mochi would miss me. [Mochi is her name for my dog, Atticus.] Everyone else he loves has gone. I have to stay.” First, Atticus is now Mochi because he is now round and roly-poly. (Mochi loosely means “rice treat” in Japanese).  Second, he adores my mother and follows her everywhere and when he does, she gives him another treat. But what am I going to do? Send in the dog treat police? To arrest a naughty 85-year old and a 75-pound ball of fur?

My mama chose to fight. More radiation. More chemo. Weight loss. Hair loss. Yet, she still has that beautiful face and skin she’s always had. She wears bright scarves and sneaks out into the kitchen to find sweet snacks to make her happy. I catch her reaching up into the cupboard for the sugar. She looks at me and smiles. And grabs a spoon from the kitchen drawer. It’s her treat. Whatever makes her happy.

A couple months ago, I came downstairs and I found her eyeglasses and her phone on the table and I was worried. I didn’t know where she was or why she would leave her glasses and her phone.  But after about 10 minutes she came out of her room to get them. She told Atticus, “Lie down, Mochi. No more treats,” And she said to Tommy, “Don’t pee on the floor.” And I added, “You little asshole.” Then I hugged him. Lord, that dog is such a pain in the ass. But the pain in the ass in our life needs our love just as much as we do. It’s entirely possible that we are the pain the ass for someone else’s life. I’m pretty sure I am.

Despite the pain and the effects of radiation and chemo, my mom maintains her routine. Every morning she gets up and feeds the pack of dogs. She says to them, “Don’t stand behind me! I don’t want to fall over you!” And they obediently shuffle back. A few times a day, when she comes out of her room, she goes to the treat box and gives them all a treat. I say to her, “MOM, that is why Atticus is getting so big!” She just gives me that look. The teacher-librarian look I grew up with. We all know the mom look that can silence you. I have not quite mastered it with my offspring. But I’m working on it.

When I’m at my desk during the day working, my mom wanders out of her room with her iPad to show me the news stories she is reading. Last week it was Liam Hemsworth’s workout videos. Bless you, Liam. My mom loves your workout videos. She’s shown me photos of wildlife and ocean and flowers. She says to me, as I drive her to her doctor appointments, “Look how beautiful it is. The sky is so blue. Everything is green and growing. It is so beautiful here.” Then we get home and the dogs swarm around her because they know whenever she comes in and out of the house, everyone gets a treat. Mochi is getting incrementally bigger and squishing his way out of the doggie door. But who f*cking cares. He is happy.

I walked out of my house this morning with my cup of coffee and I sat and looked at the sky and the green of my backyard. And I thought, you know, whatever may come, I have this moment and I’m grateful. And maybe, just maybe. In these moments we are forced to pause from our fast forward numbing paced gotta have it lives, we are getting the treat of learning how to be present. Maybe we all needed to be literally grounded to be more spiritually and lovingly grounded. To stop and say, this is where we are. And this is what we need. Perhaps, we are finally learning that one of the biggest needs is how badly we need each other. So that we can keep fighting for each other to be healthy and safe. So that we can come home to packs of dogs and treats. Until then, beloveds, may you be well, may you be safe, may you be loved. I love you. Until we meet again.

Four Leaf Clover

It is now 27 days, I think, since my county in California issued a shelter in place order. The day after we did, Governor Newsom issued a statewide quarantine. My law firm transitioned to working remotely. We initiated a video staff meeting every week. Our second meeting was kind of a fail but we’re getting better at it. We’ve all seen each other’s kitchens/bedrooms/living rooms. We’re learning to put up backgrounds on our calls. Baby steps.

Because my mother is undergoing cancer treatment, I’ve avoided going out as much as possible. Just today, we got an order from our county Public Health Officer to wear masks in public if we are going into anywhere other than our homes, or if we cannot maintain a six foot distance from each other. I took the dogs for a walk at 9 p.m. in the empty streets of my neighborhood without a mask because I’m claustrophobic as hell and I figured it would be okay to be maskless. As it turns out, lots of people are walking out late at night these days. Tonight, we crossed the streets when we saw each other but we waved and said hello. Because saying hello isn’t contagious.

Today I texted with many friends and clients. I got phone calls from several others. Work was just as busy as if I were in the office. Probably busier because I am still figuring out how to make sh*t work without constantly asking my staff for help. And probably because I kept wandering into the kitchen to look into the refrigerator and cupboards. Nope. Nothing changed since I was last there. Back to my desk and the bag of jellybeans I was working through since I decided they were going to be my breakfast today.

The rules may have changed during this time but I do have some guidelines for myself. They are getting me through. They are:  Get up at the same time every morning. Say three things I am grateful for. Tell Alexa to play “I Sing the Body Electric” by Laura Dean from Spotify because you have to be f*cking specific with Alexa. Some days I opt for “We Are the Champions” by Queen. I know, I’m a dork. I tell my dogs I love them.  Shower, put on makeup, an amazing pair of shoes and go downstairs to my home office. And try to do what I can to make a difference.

When my mom was diagnosed with cancer, I realized how sweet life is and to take more time to appreciate it. Today my mother, who has been weak from the last round of chemo, went out into the front yard and found two four-leaf clovers. She brought them back and showed them to me, beaming. “I found them in the front yard,” she said. I told her, “It’s because you are lucky, mama.”

So, today, I took a break from my desk and my computer and I walked outside and looked at the sky and the grass and I said thank you. Thank you for another day. Thank you for giving me this time with my mother and my family. Thank you for teaching me that after all, love is the most important thing we have. And it will never end. Love never ends. We are all still, lucky. Check your front yard for that four leaf clover, loves.