I write about my life and life itself seen through my eyes for who can write through the experiences of others if not their own?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

As If Fighing a War, Because You Are

The manager of the company where I worked came back after his treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I passed him in the hallway. He was pale and bald. I looked away not knowing what to say. In my peripheral vision I noticed he was staring at me. I mumbled hello and walked to my desk wondering what would it be like to come back after such a diagnosis. What would it be like to live the rest of my life with that threat in the back of my mind?
I didn’t have to wonder very long. Three months later I, too, was diagnosed with non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Then I knew, first hand, the uncertainty and fear, and also what it felt like to have people look away.
I was fairly young, and athletic and “healthy,” and the diagnosis felt like a slap in the face. The doctor who gave me the news advised me to get ready to fight a war. “Gather your allies, get your best ammunition, and learn about your enemy.”
I followed his advice. A firm believer in the power of prayer, I surrounded myself with people who would pray for me--my allies. My best ammunition came from one of the top hospitals for cancer treatment, Memorial Sloan Kettering, but learning about the enemy remained unchecked on my to-do list. When I visited the lymphoma website, my eyes focused on the life span given after diagnosis:  11 years.
I never looked at that site again.
What helped me was the people who came out of nowhere to tell me they knew someone who had successfully gone through the journey. Fathers, brothers, best friends, these personal stories filled me with hope and made me think that maybe, just maybe, I could be one of the survivors.
I like to believe that Celebrate Life Half Marathon does for others what those friends did for me. That when we give someone a check out of the proceeds of the race, it is with the hope, the smile, the hug that conveys the message that they, too, can make it. That one day they will celebrate life again.
CLHM has become more than a race. It is solidarity of spirit. When the gun goes off and everyone runs up the hill on Lake Louise Marie Road and passes the Motivational Mile-- a stretch of names of people who have faced cancer-- they are running not a race, they are running in unity and mutual support for those who are fighting and they are remembering those who left.
Another piece of advice the doctor gave me: “Don’t ever stop having that glass of wine, and never stop running. This enemy must be fought with passion. Without it, it will take over.” On March 12, volunteers, sponsors, and participants will bring that passion to Rock Hill, New York, for the 14th annual Celebrate Life Half Marathon.
Run on--and don’t forget the wine! Cheers!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Basic Etiquette. It's not that difficult

In the past few months I have sent presents to people by mail. In almost all occasions I’ve had to make the embarrassing call to find out if the gift was received.
Maybe I’ve noticed it because it appears to have happened with increased frequency, or, quite possibly, I’ve grown less tolerant as I’ve aged.
There are a few basic rules of etiquette I like to follow and, I admit, I expect.
When you receive a gift, thank the sender NOW. In an era of communication there is no excuse to delay an acknowledgment. My phone has automated “Thank you”, “Happy Birthday”, “Congratulations!” use one of them if you can’t think of a personal message.
When someone asks a question by text or email, perhaps inviting you or asking you if you can do something, please, for the love of God, reply! Let the sender know that you are unable to. Whether you don’t want to doesn’t have to be stated. Suffice to say you won’t be able to attend or do what is being asked of you.
When making plans try to, honestly, keep them or don’t make them at all, and if you must cancel do it upfront, preferably giving the other party ample notice. Do not just not show up or not call/answer the phone. Your time is a precious as theirs and busy people must put time aside to see you.
Acknowledging a person after they went out of their way to get you a gift is not only courtesy, it’s appreciation and, respect, and you and I have the right to expect that from others. Respect is the basic component of any relationship or transaction.
These basic etiquette rules are not difficult to observe and will make everyone involved feel better, and respected.
Maybe I’ve grown less tolerant. Maybe I’m less inclined to be disrespected. Maybe I've just aged.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Be Present

Between my full time job, my side jobs, family obligations and my community involvement, I am a very busy person with very limited time to do much more. If you want to get together with me you will have to...want to get together.
I will always make the time.
You see, time is a commodity we all possess and what we do with it and how we distribute it is our choice.
I have as much time as anyone else, no more, no less, exactly the same minutes in an hour and the same hours in a day as every person alive.
I know it gets tough. I’ve had those responsibilities often put forward when someone wants to find an excuse for not having time. I’ve had the demanding husband, the demanding job(s), the kids at home, life threatening health issues, surgeries. Add to the mix marathon training, race directing, newsletter editing, and you’ll find a woman eager to make time for you when you make time for her.
I’ve always found time to see a friend and technology has facilitated keeping in touch when being physically present is not possible.
I am not keen on the phrase that implies friendship can sustain long periods of absence and yet pick up where left off. Personally, I have friends I see only a few days every so many years, but for the love of God, we keep in touch! We don’t just pick up where we left off. We know about each other’s important moments. We remain in each other’s life in spite of the distance. We are present.
In an era of electronic communication, not keeping in touch with someone is no more than a choice.
Look at it from a business perspective, to have a successful relationship with your customers you want to make sure they don’t forget you and the only way to ensure that is to be present. Although distance can make the heart grow fonder, relationships cannot survive the pass of time with no interaction.
So be present. Let technology help if distance cannot be overcome, and every so often, do the unthinkable: make a phone call. Yes, smart phones also make phone calls. Never understate the power of the human interaction. The heart can only grow fonder when we choose to use time wisely, that same time we all have been granted.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Day Of

I made the appointment change and hang up hastily. I would make a second call once I realized the appointment date was wrong.

“Yes, Mrs. Loor, I remember you. Did something come up?
My head asks “why does he remember me? Is there something in my file?”
“No. I just need the appointment changed to Wednesday.”
“Is Monday not okay then?”
I want to tell him it’s not okay because…because it cannot be on Monday. It must be on Wednesday.
“Let me see if the Doctor has something on Tuesday”
“Not Tuesday. Wednesday, please” – I’m fighting the tears.
I want to yell it must be on Wednesday. All good reports have been on Wednesday, but I won’t.
He won’t understand. No one would.
“One second, please”
I hold my breath and silently wish there are no appointments. It can wait until after Christmas. It has always been good after Christmas.
“All set Mrs. Loor”.
It’s show time. The day of.
Rene picks me up. “I’m warming up your car”
“My car? Why my car? It’s always your car. I’ll put gas, I’ll bring the EZ Pass…it’s always your car”
He knows. He has done this for many years.
Now we are there. My name is not on the chart. The appointment time is wrong. They agree to squeeze me in realizing their mistake, but it’s two hour later, so late now it’s time for my follow up doctor’s appointment.
I can make it to my appointment if I go directly, but I have not had my coffee. I must have my coffee. We rush for that cup of Dunkin Donuts that might turn the tables in my favor. I smile as we run back to the doctor’s office realizing the stupidity of my superstition.
Every nod, every smile, every look in that office will be judged by me trying to read my results before I get them.
It’s a regular day, a common day for most, but not for me. Today my life could change. My life stands still until the doctor enters the door with the results of my catscan in his hands.
I will breath in a deep sigh of relief when he tells me the results are good.
I will celebrate the same way I do. My doctor smiles as I head out the door. He knows the routine. I cannot disrupt it. 
I’ll make the same phone calls as I leave and I’ll thank God for this. Yes, I thank God for being able to be here, to do this, to have a chance denied to others. This chance has been given to me, and I embrace it.

Monday, November 14, 2016

I Cried, Then I Cried Again. The Aftermath Of An Election

I cried on elections night. Not out of defeat for a candidate. The tears were for disbelief for having elected a man to office whose campaign promoted everything I reject, the same things our society as a whole rejects: bigotry, misogyny, xenophobia. It was disbelief and disappointment in seeing the man who, for months, undermined so much of the values we hold dear win.
It was not fear of the enforcement of his promised policies. It was sadness for all of us who allowed a message of hate to gain acceptance.
The logical part of me rejected the outcome of the votes. The promises to fix what is wrong coming from a man who does much of what is wrong (doesn’t pay taxes, hires undocumented immigrants below minimum wage) is the equivalent of hiring an addiction counselor who is deep in heroin.
Regardless, I don’t fear the policies as I fear the impact his message and how it was assimilated would have on those who seemed targeted by it, whether that was his intent or not.
For that I cried.
I knew the message disseminated during the presidential campaign by the now president elect had spoken to the low feelings of many. Those emotions that were dormant and by no means new nor created by this man, had been locked away and restricted as our society moved away from racism and injustice. His message gave the okay, the green light to unleash what we have fought to avoid for years. His message opened the gate and allowed them to fly free.

I cried that night.
It is that feeling you get when something terrible has happened.
That feeling cannot be explained. It is one of those “must be there” to understand it. “Must feel it” to know it.
And I know it. I have felt it.
As an immigrant, I have never felt discriminated, but I am well acquainted with a lesser feeling, that of “classism”. I grew up in a developing Country where social and economic status equals importance. A person is treated – or was treated back when I grew up – according to the rank their family had in society. I live now in a county of the United States that, because of its prominent classism, reminds me of my birthland. I am used to being talked over in a meeting, being interrupted in the middle of my sentence. My ideas, as brilliant as they may be, require much more emphasis than my counterparts. At times, I require a high-profile person by my side to be taken seriously. I deal with it. It comes with the territory.  I don’t belong to the right social class to expect differently.
But I’ve never dealt with open prejudice until now.
In the land of the free, a land of immigrants, I’ve been told in recent months to “speak English. This is America” as I carry on a private conversation.
I cried the night of the elections for the all of that, and then I cried again a day later.
It was not when I saw the anticipated acts of harassment done on to minorities. Muslim women being removed of their hijab, cars driving through black neighborhoods screaming “cotton picker” and the “N” word. Immigrants waking up to signs on their windshield telling them deportation was their future. Kids told in school by classmates to go back to their country. Not even when I saw the graffiti proclaiming white supremacy. I didn’t cry then.
It was when, after posting a question on social media, an unrelated comment told me “maybe u should think about relocating” That message illustrated in black and white what I felt. It made it real. It drove it home.
Under the dark cloud that this nasty campaign left behind, and the message it conveyed, some people will be glad to let me know that my rights are not the same as anybody else’s. I am different. I am a minority. If I don’t agree, I should leave. My right to express my opinion has been taken away.
But I have that right. I have earned it and I claim it, and legally no one can take it away from me. Nonetheless, some, as the person in the comment will make every effort to remind those of us who dare disagree that we are different, different to what they are.

Before this election, I was glad my children were intelligent, good hearted, good human beings, and I was confident our society would appreciate them for those attributes. I am now glad my kids are Caucasian, they speak with no accent. I am happy for that now.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Until The Shadow Goes Away

I am not bothered by what public figures say no matter how opposed to my ideology they might be. I welcome the opportunity to explore new ideas and entertain diverse thoughts. Your voice, your opinions, or that of the celebrities don’t bother me. It is that “shadow” that festers as a byproduct of it resembling a volatile gas awaiting a crack in the window to leak in that pushes me away.
When it finds that escape, when that shadow is out and negative feelings are running wild, it becomes difficult to express an opinion that can in any way be deemed controversial or simply against the parameters already set by your beliefs. Parameters that are now voiced out by that “shadow”.
The shadow is like an evil child. You must keep it guarded, surveyed, and never out of your sight, because once you open the gate there is no stopping it, it will run loose causing a chaos.
You’ll marvel at it. Is this really part of you? Are these your thoughts? You might be proud, or it might scare you, and there is no way to stop it. You let it loose.
And it’s okay. You might lose some friends. Some whom you know you have insulted, but you won’t apologize because there is no apology needed. Your shadow spoke its mind, and you will become acquainted even if briefly with others who have also let their evil child loose and who will appreciate you.
They will empower you. The more vehement and even vicious they are, the more validated you’ll feel. If anyone dares challenge you, you will unleash more of your child wrath. That will teach them.
How dare anyone, anyway?
You have the right to post anything even if offensive against those who don’t think like you. You’ll call them names and disagree. After all, your shadow is speaking the truth, and you know you are right. They are all wrong and as such deserving of the insults.
You might make a concession and privately tell someone “It’s not about you” when you notice the evil child has gone overboard in the insulting phase.
But you won’t take a step back now. You’ve gone too far to take it back.
There will be people like me who will hesitate to post a comment after seeing your come backs to those who don’t agree with you. I’ll stay away from those who call women C—t, and I will stay away from your posts if offensive. And I will hope that this is just a phase. That the shadow you let loose will go back inside not be seen until the next election realizing perhaps that you did not convince anyone. In the meantime, I’ll scroll down and ignore you, and if it gets that bad, I’ll unfollow you until you can put that evil child back in the dark. Only then I might start enjoying you again and remember why we were friends in the first place.  

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Rose Colored Glasses

Three years ago I drove my daughter to ICU after a sudden diagnosis of Diabetes Type 1. It was more than a scary experience to watch my child surrounded by medical doctors. It was a moment that changed me and the way I looked at life and people. At the very least, it provided the objectivity I had been avoiding.  I removed the rose colored glasses I worn all my life.

My brother and sister in law rushed to meet me in the parking lot around midnight after they found out that my daughter had been admitted.  A bottle of wine in the back seat purchased on their way there gave me a moment of relaxation. Minutes later I would sneak them in the ICU to see her.
I woke up curled up in a chair to the voice of a nurse: “Mrs. Loor, take this pillow. You’ll sleep better”.
My phone rang in the early hours of that first morning in the hospital. “How you take your coffee?” My new friend asked. “What else do you need? I’m on my way” Friendship is not measured by the time we’ve known each other but by the times we are there for each other. I learned that that day.
My coworkers took turns to meet me in the lobby. A cup of coffee, a card, a note. Their hugs lifted me up in those uncertain hours.
I waited for the rest of my family to come during the five days my child was in the hospital. They never did. Some of my close friends replied with a quick text never to follow up again. The man I dated didn’t find time to visit me. I’d choose never to see him after that.
Meanwhile, I watched my daughter endure her new routine. Her smile warmed up the room as she learned to use the needles that will accompany her for a long time if not the rest of her life. She had no complaints, not even after learning that her dad wouldn’t shorten his vacation to be by her side. Her resilience, her faith, was a ray of light in the darkness I felt.
I learned a lot from that kid that week. I learned to stand on my own and count my own blessings. I learned to appreciate what is given to me and I learned to accept and to let go.
I am always learning from the kid I’m supposed to teach. That’s how lucky I am.