Thursday, 9 January 2014

Christmas and New Year's Update

It's been a couple weeks of great highs and some little lows.  It was wonderful to have the both my children home during the Christmas break.  I loved having my family under the same roof again.  My son, who has been away at university, returned as a mature adult.  He appreciated his sister.  He appreciated home-cooked meals.  He enjoyed hanging out with his mom and dad.....when he wasn't hanging out with his friends or working, that is.  He made my day when he indicated that he wanted to come to the Christmas Eve late night service.  What he didn't realize is that I was going to be singing.  Not just in the choir which in itself is a satisfying return to singing.  There was no choir at this particular service.  No, I was going to be singing a solo.  Not just one but two solos!

I have never been one to get overly nervous about singing alone.  I have always struggled with performance anxiety when playing my flute and the piano.  However, during the day on December 24 my nerves started showing their usual symptoms.  I believe this is because my voice is still not as strong, steady and reliable as it used to be.  But it's getting better.  Once the nervous symptoms started to manifest themselves, I fought back with my "self-talk", deep breathing and meditating that has always worked in the past.  I was not nervous about singing "Sweet Little Jesus Boy" as my voice was able to easily handle that song.  I was really nervous about singing "O Holy Night".  I used to sing this very well.  Leading up to Christmas Eve this year, I wasn't able to sing the arrangement I normally sing which is in the key of D Flat.  My arrangement demands that the voice hits a high F which used to be easy for me to sing.  Not at the moment.  I was able to get through two verses and by the third verse, the F was gone.  No cracking voice.  Just nothing.  Thankfully, the church organist/choir director had an arrangement in the key of C which allowed me to sing up to an E.  That small half tone was all I needed to be able to sing.  So on Christmas Eve, I sang "Sweet Little Jesus Boy" while the offering was being collected and I sang "O Holy Night" during the communion.  After finishing "O Holy Night", I had no voice left.  Not even much of a voice to talk with.  It was tired and hoarse.  But, boy, did it feel good to be able to sing and with some strength!!  And no pain! When I returned to sit with my husband, I was choked up with emotion.  My husband took my hand, squeezed it and just held it.  God is real!  I truly believe the warmth of the Holy Spirit flowed through me as I sang that night.

Christmas is a special time in our household not just because of the spiritual celebration.  My daughter was born on Christmas Day.  During Advent of that year, I truly had a special connection with Mary as I underwent the same waiting period as I was fully pregnant.  "Away in A Manger" still resonates with me all these many years later.  As I celebrate on Christmas Eve, I am reminded of that one year where I had a three year old boy wanting to go to the Christmas Eve service with me so we could sit together as a family.  You see, while I was pregnant then, I was also a part-time organist at a rural church in a dual charge.  That particular year it was my turn to have Christmas Eve "off". I was going to go to the other church's service and sit with my husband and my little boy.  That didn't happen that year as I was in the beginning stages of labour and not feeling well enough to attend.  I remember laying down in my bed and my three year old son asking "Are we going to the Christmas Eve service?" in a yearning, hopeful voice.  Christmas is a special time for our family as we celebrate Christmas but also my daughter's birthday.  The day is a very busy day as we make a true effort to celebrate her birthday separate from Christmas.

This year, I had the joy of family being together.  Paradoxically, I also had fear revisit me throughout the Christmas and New Year's season.  A week before Christmas, I had a physical and my doctor found a lump.  In my breast.  The fear in me went from 0 to 100 in the few moments that he said "We need to send you for an ultrasound".  My thoughts were "How can this be?!  I just had a CT scan in November and everything was clear?!  Surely the lump would have shown up in the CT scan."  So off I went to have an ultrasound done on December 23.  And then the waiting began.  Not just the regular 3 to 5 days as is normal.  Nope.  We had Christmas in there along with New Year's Day.  Everybody is on reduced hours.  What a time of deja vu.  This was just like Christmas 2011 when I knew I had lymphoma but just not which kind.  So I decided to try to ignore the fear.  I focused on family.  I focused on my faith.  I focused on enjoying friends and a social calendar.  We had a couple over for New Year's Eve as I was, at the same time, our family's taxi driver for our children.  What a wonderful night of friendship it was!  We celebrated the New Year in a low key fashion but enjoyed ourselves.  Some years, I struggle to stay awake until midnight.  Not this year.  I was wide awake and saddened to see the evening end at around 1 o'clock.  Life was good! 

I called my doctor on January 3 to see if the report from the ultrasound was in.  Nope.  No report was there.  The anxiety and fear I had stuffed down deep inside was trying to resurface.  I stuffed it down again and focused on my last couple of days with my son before driving him back to university.  God does work in wonderful ways because I also connected with one of my best friends from high school. I hadn't seen her since 1987!  She and her family  lives very close to my son's university.  When we drove my son back to school, we also dropped in on my old girlfriend.  Was it ever nice to see her again!!  We enjoyed a lovely visit with her and her family.  We then left, had dinner with our son, dropped him off at his residence and hit the road for the long drive home.

I was so glad my husband drove.  We had blowing snow, snow-covered highways, freezing rain, slippery highways, heavy rain and massive puddles and flooding on the roads.  A trip that should take 3 1/2 hours actually took 5 hours.  We were glad to get home.  The weather proved to be a great distraction for me though because I wasn't fixated on my fear of the ultrasound results and I wasn't fixated on the loss of my son from home.  But the next day the fear returned in full force.   So I called my doctor's office again.  Good news!!  The ultrasound was clear.  What a relief!!  But what a roller coaster my emotions have taken over the last few weeks!

So I return to our normal routine.  I am reminded again about how fragile and tenuous our existence in this world is.  Each day is a gift.  Some days, I want to just relax and "waste" the day.  Other days I want to make a real difference in my world.  I will continue to perform on the piano at the Cancer Centre.  I will continue to teach students and open their worlds to the beauty of music making.  I will continue to strive to be the best person I can be.  Some days, I slip up and my faults are glaringly obvious.  I have to move on from those moments and live life and embrace life to the fullest.

Happy New Year!  It's starting out great with the news that I've been given the "all clear".  Again.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a wonderful holiday season, Cathy, and I'm so happy to hear that everything is okay. One day at a time; that all we can do. Life is truly a gift, and we should be grateful for it. I don't have set plans for 2014, but I would like to get involved somewhere where I can make a difference. I have that need inside me, and I just need to find a place/organization/charity that speaks to me. Animal welfare is a huge concern for me, but so are the mentally ill, and the elderly. We shall see. I wish you a happy and healthy year ahead.