Writing: Taking Pause

Photo by Aleathia Drehmer

I’ve been gone a month. A lot can happen with one doctor’s visit. It changes the landscape of an entire life. The end of August I got a new doctor, one that was local and in walking distance. During a basic exam she noted the large number of moles on my back and briefly scanned them, then asked if I had any more.

On the right side of my face between my ear and eye there has been a mole that I thought may have changed size. She immediately sat down and made me an appointment to see plastic surgery about this mole. I went and had a punch biopsy which returned positive for melanoma in situ. If you have to have cancer, this is the best one to have.

Yesterday, I had a wide excision of this mole that left a quarter size crater in the side of my face that they did not want to fully close in case they needed to remove more. Then we talked about skin grafting. Then I sat in my car alone and cried. The hope is the cancer is removed from that spot, but then there are the hundred other moles on my back that now need scrutiny.

I am not a sun worshiper. I do love the outdoors and have for many years sported a “farmer’s tan” from playing disc golf, hiking, walking and mowing the lawn. I never stay out in the sun for more than a few hours and wasn’t a big fan of hats or sunscreen. I wasn’t opposed to them, but I never thought they were necessary. Where I live, most of the population lacks sufficient vitamin D levels and I used the summer sun as a bolster to that. I never considered that I would get melanoma.

The last month has been full of not knowing. Questioning whether it was cancer or just a wayward mole. There was a lot of hoping for the best, but deep inside I knew what the answer would be. I’m a realist at heart. I know too much not to be. What I have learned is how surrounded by loving people I am. My friends have been uplifting even when I didn’t seem receptive to this. Knowing they are out there wishing the best has been helpful.

I’ve had to do a lot of pausing due to biopsy and surgery and in this I found the proper beginning to the novel I had finished in March. There has been a revitalization to my writing and maybe this comes with the fear that life is fleeting. Don’t waste time on thinking you’ll get to things later. Get to them now. Live robustly…but with sunscreen. #SPF100 for life

What This Pandemic Has Taught Me About Life and Writing

Photo by Aleathia Drehmer

This new website was created to be less about personal life and more about a writer’s life. But yesterday I realized that these cannot be separated. Not if you are doing it right. Yesterday I was able to participate in a workshop put on by Shuffle Collective during their Weekend of Words. This has been a free event of poetry and writing. It is something to connect us in this time when we all feel physically and mentally disconnected from our surroundings. Allie Rigby spoke about writing from a sense of place, from the environment that you belong in, and it started me thinking (more than I had already been).

This pandemic has affected me in more positive ways than negative, and I consider myself lucky. It has taken out all the busyness of my life and pared it down to what matters the most. There has been time to start a new job, to complete projects, and to finish my novel. I have had the opportunity to get closer to my child in a meaningful, more adult way. This mother’s day I was treated to an insightful letter from my eighteen year old. I’m amazed at how far they have come in the world.

In this time, I have become closer with my two good girlfriends. This has always been a challenge for me. Women have continually stabbed me in the back my whole life. But these women have given me pause. They accept me with my array of faults and eccentric behaviors. They don’t mind that I’m a forgetful hummingbird most of the time. They lift me up when I can’t see myself in the mirror and let me know that the warped image I might see is not real.

For poetry month, I did something different. I jumped on an acquaintance’s prompt train because I was determined not to write a month of death poems for my mother. Not this year. Not ever again. He has always been a poet that I admired and one that I published when I was in that capacity years ago. Every night for a month, we wrote poems as a call and response. I had never done this before. I had always gotten a prompt and had to dig up, sometimes painfully, a poem that I only 40% liked.

This was different. Everyday, I collected random lines from the world. Things from nature or memories that floated into my head. The worries about pandemic and fragile loved ones. The grief of losing a way of life I didn’t realize I had established. At the end of the night, I would take his prompt and construct a poem from what I collected. It was an organic feeling. It was beautiful. What a gift to be able to see something new about yourself and your craft. I’m forever grateful to him for this. Along the way, we found a friendship too that is more deep and centered than I might have expected. 

I’m not sure I have ever felt more whole in my entire life. All the years of grief and death. All the losses and terrible endings. All that suffering feels washed away with spring rain. This pandemic will change us all. Some in good ways and others not so much, but I think perspective means everything. This is a time when nature and universe has given every living being the opportunity to look inside themselves and see what they are made of. You owe it to yourself to do this instead of grasping at what was or what should have been.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the beautiful women I know who are loving their kids, other people’s kids, fur babies, and lifting other mothers with their compassion. It’s a great day to be alive.