OLDER AND…

Today, I realized something very important. Mindblowing. Earthshattering. Unbelievable.

Today, I learned that I work with people who graduated from high school in 2003.

Two thousand three.

In two thousand three, I became a Mom. In two thousand three, I already had a masters degree, received paychecks from five different places of employment, and owned a dog. In two thousand three, I was more excited by my growing retirement fund than what beer I was drinking that night. In two thousand three, I was a full fledged adult.

In two thousand three, my co-worker was a doe-eyed, “the world is my oyster”, “I am lion, hear me roar” kind of kid who was just moving into a college residence hall about to begin the coolest (hopefully) four years of his life.

Damn, I’m old.

Yet, in two thousand three, my world, too, was still pretty innocent in comparison to now. I was the mother to a brand new baby, was on a super charged career path, and was newly married to my sweetheart. We took vacations, we bought brand name groceries, brand named clothing, brand named diapers and wipes, and spoiled ourselves with the latest technology as soon as it came out. We saw Broadway plays, ate at some of the best restaurants of my life, and didn’t have a care in the world. We were freaked out a little by being new parents, but we knew we could handle it.

I believe we lived it up then so that we could appreciate our lives now — when we reach for the cereal at the bottom of the grocery store shelf (which, by the way, is where they keep the generic stuff, for those of you still in the pre-generic-groceries stage of your lives), we don’t yearn for the days when we bought Kelloggs or General Mills. Though my mom makes fun of me for buying generic milk, I choose value over name brand any day. I’ve grown accustomed to a more simpler life, so when we do have a rare treat, it feels so special.

My life really is super-charged. My typical day (at least, as of this year) begins with an alarm clock at 4:45am, a run starting at 5:30am, get home, shower, help Jorge get the kids ready, fly out the door, multiple drop offs and multiple kisses “goodbye!”, park my car at work, sort through emails while walking from my car to my office and desperately trying not to fall on the brick walkway, curse the fact that I forgot to eat breakfast — again –or that I left my travel mug full of coffee on the counter top at home, grab the pile of mail in my box and read it while listening to voicemails, email email email, meetings meetings meetings, lunch, meetings, writing, meetings, planning or doing workshops, leave work late, grab the kids from 3 different locations, get to karate/soccer, attempt to make a late dinner, baths for the kids, answer more emails, reply to text messages from students blowin’ up my phone, bed time for the baby, bed time for the girls, clean the house, get the coffee ready for the next day, flop into bed only to get out again because I forgot to do something, sleep, and wake up at 4:45am.

Honestly, pretty typical for a Mom. My day ain’t nothing special.

Somewhere in those days are things like: schedule doctors appointments for me or the kids, especially Joli, take a 1/2 day in order to drive to Boston to attend said appointments, or call insurance companies to straighten out bills, etc.

In typical Liza fashion, I was running late today. My daughter is starting a new school, and we had an appointment to tour her school together. In my fancy work dress and heels, I ran out of my office (all the while STILL answering emails as I ran) to pick up my daughter from the babysitter. Go. Go. Go.

As luck has it, on one of my busiest days this week, I noticed a traffic line up ahead due to road construction. My motto for appointments is “Early is on time, on time is late.” Though I am a repeat offender of my own motto, I still get very anxious when I am running late for anything.

That’s when I saw the sign.

“Slow Down” … “Speed Limit 35.”

Slow down.

Speed limit 35.

Slow down.

35.

35.

thirty-five.

I really never thought I’d be 35 one day. Not for any weird morbid reasons, no. Thirty-five just always seemed so far away. Like, when my sister turned 35, and then when my other sister turned 35, I just always felt like that was so old. So old. So far away. And, yet, here we are, just days before my own 35th birthday.

Though my day, my life and my career have always been super-charged, writing, running, reading, and reflecting have given me opportunities to slow down. The funny thing is, Speed Limit 35 is a pretty magical number: it’s just fast enough to get where you need to go, yet it’s slow enough that you can notice the details of the things you pass.

At Speed Limit 35, I notice white flowers in front of that yellow house on the corner. I read the phone number on the “For Sale” sign on a different house. I can see the face of the police officer directing traffic, the exhaustion on the face of the worker fixing the road, and I smell the tar as it mixes with the humidity in the air. Further on, I read the words “Congratuations Graduate!” on a deflated balloon hanging lifeless on the end of a mailbox, remnant of some June or July party. I watch the face of the driver in the other lane singing charismatically, only to herself and sealed in her air conditioned car. I make up a story about the car in front of me, the one with the 4 different college stickers affixed to the back window, and wonder if the parent inside feels as nervous as I do sending my child off to school. I hear the clicking of my turn signal, the wheezing of my brakes as my old Ford comes to a stop, and the rattling of empty seat belts in my back seat.

Speed Limit 35 allowed me to observe, to appreciate all that I can take in, and to still get where I needed to go.

Thirty-five. I have come this far, not by speed alone but from triumph and challenge, joy and heart ache, peace and fear, and support and love.Thirty-five. One year closer to the age when doctors consider pregnancies “high risk”. One year closer to the recommended age of an oopherectomy for women who are BRCA positive. Thirty-five. At thirty-five, I will be a wife of 10 years, a mother of 3 children, a mom to a cancer survivor, a sister to a cancer survivor, a sister to 2 women who had bilateral mastectomies. Just a few months after I turn 35, I will have a bilateral mastectomy. Thirty-five is a big year for me, one that is filled with unexpected events, informed decisions, and a little bit of “luck of the draw.”

Thirty-five reminds me to slow down in so many ways.

Slow down, just enough to notice.

Peace, love, and almost 35,

Liza


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7 Responses to OLDER AND…

  1. Sean says:

    Liza, I totally connect with the full cup of coffee in a travel mug! I do it at least twice a week. I say it’s because I am a teacher and so preoccupied!

    So, when are your posts going to morph into a book? I’m just sayin… I’d buy it!

    Thinking of you all…~Sean

    • Liza says:

      Thanks Sean! I’ve been keeping up with you and all your amazing adventures on FB. Happy start of school, and to never-lost mugs of coffee.

  2. Tracey Petitto says:

    So true…I will be 36 this year (In 6 days!). To be honest, I ignored 35 completely…didn’t even acknowledge it’s arrival. This year was so quick, it amost feels like I never was 35! Take your own advice, or that of the street sign, and enjoy it! 36 sure feels older than 35…

  3. "Too Humps" says:

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this post
    that you didn’t have time to write it, but did anyway
    that you do as much in a day as you do (and make me realize I can do more)
    and that you see the big stuff, that usually gets lost in all the little stuff

  4. Jenn says:

    Hi Liza,

    I just wanted to reach out to you because I saw your article today in the newspaper.
    I was in a similar situation…
    I am married (10 years this December!!!) and have 2 young children.
    My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer almost 15 years ago (she was only 40.) She had 1 breast removed. She went through with chemo….she was so ill. She was very lucky, she did not lose her hair and is still with us today 🙂
    2 Years ago she tested positive for the BRAC1 gene. She went through the preventative surgery to have her other breast removed and also had a hysterectomy.
    I was tested for the gene as well (shortly after my mother) and it came back positive. I had a mammogram which came back negative and also an MRI that showed no signs of anything abnormal.
    I made the decision to have preventative surgery and had a double mastectomy.
    I was psyched that I was going to save myself and my family the pain that my mother had to endure 15 years prior.
    I received a call the following Friday from the doctor that after examining my breast tissue, cancer cells were found in one of my breast tissue.
    I remembered hanging the phone up …..shocked…..scared…..confused. I was having “preventative” surgery. HOW COULD I HAVE CANCER???
    The chemo started shortly after and continued for the next few months. It was hard….I was so tired….so anxious for each treatment to be done. I also remember the “metal” taste I always had after each treatment. My energy level was low and family and friends helped keep the kids occupied so they were less stressed with what mommy was going through.
    The hardest thing was knowing I would lose all of my hair. The doctors told me there was no chance my hair would not fall out. I bought a wig and made the decision to buzz all my hair off before it fell out on its own. It was the only way I knew how to be in control of the situation. I had a sort-of a “losing my hair party.” Everyone had a turn to take a buzz of hair off, including my kids. We cried a little and laughed a little – it was actually the best thing I had decided to do through the whole ordeal. It made it easier when I did lose my hair, as it wasn’t as noticeable since it was little pieces at a time. I did end up losing it all (including my eyebrows – a good eyebrow liner and no one even noticed! The eyelashes were harder to conceal but no one ever said anything…)
    I also opted to have reconstructive surgery. I am only 36 (was only 34 at the time) and thought that at least I would get something good out of something so awful. I met a doctor who was able to keep a part of my breasts that I did not want to lose (trying to keep it rated G…at least PG…lol) I was also upgraded from a B to a D (great, great, great!!!)
    It was a long process but definitely made the right decision to have the surgery. What if I did not have the gene test….what if I decided not to have the surgery??? I am thankful that I listened to what I believed was the right decision.
    I also want to give people reading this advice….
    I got through it because my family and friends were there for me. Very few people treated me any different. In fact, most people said if they didn’t know….they really wouldn’t have known any different. I am thankful for all the people who were not sympathetic to me….as sick as I got, I still felt normal – thank you!!!
    Liza…I know we don’t know each other but I will be thinking of you and hoping you have the support you need to make it through. I will be checking your site for updates so please keep us posted.

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