Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What's in the Beach Bag(gage)?

So, you are getting ready to venture off to the beach.  You pull out the over-sized beach bag.  The mental packing list of crap that goes in this bag begins to click...sunscreen (check), towels (check), UPF cover-ups (check), sunglasses (check), hats (check), parasol (check), water, snacks, etc....  Yeah, all that.  You know how it goes.

But what about after a melanoma diagnosis?  Well, the actions of packing that bag are the same...but for me, there is a lot more that goes into that bag, that weighs it down...heavily.  It's "baggage" that gets thrown into my beach "stuff" from my experiences with melanoma- fears, anxieties, ruminating thoughts, etc.  Let's just say, there's a substantial amount of baggage that rides along in my beach bag.

Today, in an attempt to escape the heat here in Granada, Spain,  a day trip to the beach was planned.  My beach bag gets pulled out of the suitcase, and all of the shit I mentioned above goes right on in...I know how to do this. I'm good at it.  The actions of preparing for the beach are easy for me.  It's the mental part that gets messy.  

The bag and the baggage can't be separated (at this point).  But I know that; I accept it. And I go forward anyway, knowing that something as important to me as the ocean, needs to be one of those things I do, and not avoid.  I am well aware that if I start cutting off the things that feed my soul, I will end up in a pure, fear-driven zone, and that is not a place I want to be.  I must continue to seek out that which brings me joy. Because if not, I'm not really living.

Ok, ready to go.  Bag packed.  Time for the drive.  Of course, I already have my first round of sunscreen applied...but still there is a good bit of angst swarming around in my head.  Here's a sample of what me, myself and I discuss in the car: "Good, I'm all suited the only part of my body exposed to the sun (my right arm and leg) shielded by my hat and parasol.  My feet are under my bag.  Everything is cool...until we turn the next bend, and the sun's rays shift, and I am no longer properly covered.  Ugh.  Time to redo this whole set-up.  Put on the UPF shirt to cover the chest, scooch over to just one half of the seat, move the bag to cover the feet.  Good...for the moment."  

YES!  It's crazy.  I know that.  And I don't care. I like to do everything I can do, to know that I'm as safe as I can be. After that, I must let go and allow myself to enjoy.  Why even go, you ask?  Putting myself through all of this insanity...for what?  I'll tell you...

When I finally arrive at the beach, a place that no matter where in the world I am, no matter which sea, I am greeted with an indescribable sense of peace.  For me, the beach experience creates a whole gestalt, so remarkable that it cannot be described by the summation of its parts.  Visually, I can try to give you the image, but all I can say is that once there, I am so happy to be alive, to be in that moment, to be present.

As Erich Fromm said, "Leave all thoughts of the world you knew before.  Let your soul take you where you long to be.  Close your eyes, let your spirit start to soar, and you'll live as you've never lived before."  THAT is what being at a beach does for me!  Is it worth all of the crap in the bag and the baggage that accompanies this bag?  YES!

I do my favorite things here: I walk.  I look for heart-shaped rocks.  I sing the Suzanne Vega song that is stuck in my head.  I breathe in the calm.  I let go of anxiety.  I smell the sea air.  I feel the sand on my feet.  I hear the waves crashing.  I'm proud in my pale skin. I am grateful.

It's a different beach experience than before the cancer diagnosis....but that's ok.  I am much more aware of many things now, and therefore more able to see the blessings all around me.

#livefully  #lovedeeply  #fuckfear

Marlene on the Wall by Suzanne Vega

Monday, July 1, 2013

Flashbacks: Barcelona, Then and Now

Greetings from Barcelona, Spain!
I write today, after being here almost a week, because I had my first visit to Barceloneta Beach....the place I visited here, 24 years ago.  

Flashbacks...the minute I stepped foot onto the sand, covered with people in their bikinis (some just partial bikinis), laying out, worshiping the sun, soaking up the rays, baking, faced up, faced down, browning, burning,etc...I was rocketed back to 1989, when I was doing exactly that! 

Today, I went to do "research", to observe beach behavior, to see what people do here on the beaches of Spain, in the year 2013.  I saw hundreds of ME (me from 1989, that is)- young girls in minimal coverings, there with the purpose of getting tan. 

I observed, I scanned, I clicked pics of various people, not shocked by the sights I was seeing, just noticing my mind spinning with thoughts of how much work still needs to be done, in terms of educating the general population about the dangers of the sun, about melanoma, about sun-safety.  As I glanced over what seemed like endless bodies, I felt overwhelmed by what we in the melanoma community are "up against".

Any of these girls could have been me in 1989(Well, not really.  I texting way back then in the olden days.  But I had a book, and I read for hours in the sun.  I even remember the book I was reading on THAT beach..The Great Gatsby!)...
I remember the feeling of my sunburn, the intense contrast of the tan lines on my skin, the smell of the tanning oil I bought on my way down to the sea.

And that's exactly what I saw today- the altering of DNA via UV rays.  It was painful to see.  What I wanted to do was magically pop up a HUGE screen, take out a large and very loud megaphone, and announce that Dear 16 Year Old Me was about to be shown to every single person on this beach!  But, of course, that was not a possibility.  Instead, we have to keep doing what we are doing....educating as best we can, in hopes of reaching as many people as possible.
We have our work cut out for us; that is for sure!

"Great things are done by a series of small things brought together."
~Vincent Van Gogh

#letsdothis  #together