30 May 2010

I Married a Cowboy—Did You?

by  Cheryl Suchors

I Married a Cow Boy :: Cheryl SuchorsEven though we met riding a train, not a horse, and he was born in New York City, apparently my husband is a cowboy.
He must have inherited a stray gene from Wyoming. Republican state Senator Jim Anderson has introduced a bill to the Wyoming legislature to recall the “cowboy ethics” of the old West. According to The Boston Globe, the cowboy code stresses “the importance of living with courage, keeping promises, finishing what you start and saying more by talking less.”
Whoa. My husband is just like that. He’s the most responsible, ethical, productive person I know. And he really likes horses. Maybe I should check his birth certificate.
I confess to squirming a bit at discovering I like everything about the code of the West—which no doubt cowgirls also lived by—except for the silence part. While I’d like a number of men in meetings and at parties and other public gatherings to take up less air time, (perhaps they could ask more questions of women instead of talking about themselves?) in private, I find, too many men say too little.
I have accused my cowboy husband, for example, of talking as if somebody were charging him by the word. Especially on subjects like relatives, relationships, feelings, or Christmas presents.
Deborah TannenDeborah Tannen, professor of linguistics at Georgetown University, described this phenomenon in her book exploring communications between women and men, You Just Don’t Understand. Men, she said, were raised to believe they owned the public arena and therefore felt quite comfortable holding forth in group or public situations, whereas women were raised to believe they were responsible for private discourse and found themselves far less comfortable speaking up in more public settings."You Just Don't Understand" By Deborah Tannen
Tannen also said men tended to state their opinions as facts. Period. Women often stated their opinions as questions. (See my example of the parenthetical question in paragraph 4 above.) The result? Men thought women in public sounded uncertain and lacked self confidence; women thought men in public dominated and pontificated while in private behaved like the proverbial sphinx expecting women to do all the heavy verbal lifting at home.
Was it like that in the West? Maybe the cowboy code of ethics only worked when there were no women around, like on cattle drives or before women showed up in mining towns and such.
I Married a Cowboy :: Cheryl SuchorsOver the years, my husband’s loquacity has waxed and waned. Now we face each other in an empty nest, which means robust communication between us has become even more important. Actually, I do find him talking to our daughter’s so-called “daughter,” our grand-dog. That’s a good sign, I think.
So long as he’s not simply treating her like a very small horse.
—Cheryl Suchors

19 May 2010

To Worry Or Not To Worry—That Is the Question

 by  Cheryl Suchors  

My liver counts have been high, randomly, ever since I had breast cancer, chemotherapy and Tamoxifen. The first couple of times this happened, I worried like crazy that I also had liver cancer.
Now I’m able to manage that fear, unless something unusual occurs —like my primary care physician calls during Thanksgiving vacation to tell me I should see the gastroenterologist because, now that I’m a normal, healthy person she needs to treat me differently. Then the cancer terror runs through me like a jolt of lightning.

My mother died of pancreatic cancer, 16 years after her mastectomy. I never thought there was a connection. But somewhere along the line, one of the many oncologists, radiologists and surgeons I saw while trying to decide what steps to take myself after my diagnosis, said, “Hmm. Pancreatic. Could have metastasized from the breast cancer.”

“After 16 years?” I asked her.
“Yes,” was the uncomfortable answer she gave.

This bit of history explains some of my anxiety around high liver counts. But for me, like many cancer survivors, any new development triggers the fear: Is it cancer? Though I don’t like it, the fear, I know, is natural. The body remembers even when the mind prefers to forget.
Putting the Worry Away
But I have become better at compartmentalization—a gift from cancer I never expected. I used to be champion worrier. Days after the initial jolt, the fear still gnawed my innards. And when people tried to make me think positively about the potential outcome of a growth or a test I had to wait for results on, I growled at them like a dog guarding a bone.
Let me feel what I feel, I said, perhaps because as a child I wasn’t allowed to, perhaps because it gave me something to do while I waited, perhaps because I believed that pre-worrying would reduce the post-worrying, even though it actually never did.
I’m different now. Now I let myself feel afraid for a little while, just to allow the feelings some room to play themselves out. I express them, then remind myself that if the test results come back bad, illness is going to take over my life. These days or weeks before the results come in could be the best time I’ll have for a while, maybe a long while. Maybe forever. I’ll be damned if I’ll use them up worrying.
I tell myself it’s probably fine. Even when I think I might be lying. Why not? What’s for sure is that there’s next-to-nothing I can do about it, except pray to the Goddess, or exercise, or write in my journal, and those things I do.
The rest of the time, I try to live my life, up, down and sideways—however it comes—till the verdict arrives.

—Cheryl Suchors

12 May 2010

Watch Like a Hawk

By Cheryl Suchors
Right now hawks are raising their young.
I’ve been aware of hawks, especially red-tailed hawks, since my tenth wedding anniversary when we celebrated with a trip to Sedona, Arizona. We signed up for a day trip to a “vortex” where the meridians of the earth come together and one feels a special energy conducive to meditation and the like. This is the sort of thing, besides hiking in gorgeous red rock country, that one does in Sedona, and I didn’t want to miss it. On the way to the place, the guide leaned out of the Jeep window and pointed out to us a hawk circling above us. “Red-tail,” he said. “See the flash of red?”
red-tailed hawk flying so you can see tail
I didn’t see a flash of red no matter how hard I tried, but I’ve been alert to red-tailed hawks ever since. At my daughter’s grade school, a group from a bird sanctuary came to give a special presentation, bringing in birds of prey of all kinds. There I learned that red-tailed hawks are often called “highway hawks” because of their propensity to circle above highways looking for road kill.
So they’re smart, I figure. Perhaps a bit lazy? Or maybe that’s just easy for an animal who finds food at a grocery store to say.
What is true is that you will find red-tails in desert, grasslands, cities and parks, even, says the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, in the rainforests of Mexico. Being able to adapt to such varied terrain sounds pretty smart to me.
The Meaning of Hawk
In Native American and Wiccan traditions, Hawk is known as a messenger from Spirit. The message Hawk brings to those whom she visits is: be aware. “Watch,” she tells us. Perceive with that wonderful vision that lets Hawk see both the big picture and the minutest mouse in the grass. There is a signal intended for the person who sees hawk, a signal only s/he can intuit. Unraveling the message, as is true for all portents, tends to be an idiosyncratic task.

The general message of Hawk is live your life with a keen eye and be ready to dive upon an opportunity in an instant. I also understand it to suggest soaring—to get a different, wider perspective on events in one’s life. And maybe this is just my own interpretation, but Hawk instructs me in the twin arts of joy and rest. What could be more jubilant than flying? What could be more clever than using air currents to keep one airborne, gliding and resting while waiting for the moment of action to come?
For me, red-tailed hawks also symbolize friendship and partnering. I often, at least when they’re hunting, see a pair of hawks circling. Four eyes are better than two, apparently. The father of a brood also helps build the nest, find food and even sit on the eggs or the nestlings when necessary. Mated pairs typically stay together until death does them part.
Red-tailed hawks are also remarkably lightweight. Despite a wingspan of between three-and-a-half feet and nearly five feet, even the biggest females rarely weigh more than three pounds. Perhaps there’s a message here, too. If we want to fly, to soar, to move with the wind, we need to lighten up. Perhaps we are meant to reduce the burden of what we carry with us, be it physical, mental or emotional.
Watch a Red-Tailed Family Grow
One of the things I like best about these amazing birds is that they frequent the city. In Cambridge, Massachusetts, I’ve seen them perched high up in a tree in my neighbor’s yard or at Fresh Pond Reservoir. Or on top of a flagpole or the roof of a tall building.
Right now you can watch, close up and personal, an amazing daily miracle: two red-tailed parents raising a brood. Their nest is in a building (185 Alewife Brook Parkway) opposite a shopping center. You can see pictures of them from eggs to nestlings to fledglings, at Cambridge Community Television. Ernie Sarro who produces “The Expert Series” for CCTV, has a contest going to name the baby birds. He’s already christened the parents Ruby and Buzz. Check out his amazing videos of the red-tailed family! 

  —Cheryl Suchors