Surviving Pinktober

My new teeshirt perhaps?

I admit that I feel a little bit guilty that I haven’t been up to my usual snark and commentary this past month. In years past, I may have contemplated a daily post in October to counteract the Pepto-Pink tsunami. Other blogger friends have eloquently managed to do so, and here are just two whose tremendous efforts you might enjoy reviewing: Being Sarah, author of a book by the same name, and Gayle Sulik, author of Pink Ribbon Blues. And there are many more worthy posts among the women who are represented on my blogroll.

But truly, I don’t feel very guilty. Because with an instinctive drive that was much more in keeping with the ancient meaning of October in the northern hemisphere, I have been focussing this past month on the ways that October has always represented for me a season of change, of harvest and renewal, of the necessary struggle to make some kind of peace with death and grief, of the need for contemplation while we negotiate life’s passages. I really didn’t have much choice. There are times in your life when some inner force takes over and insists on a direction you could not have predicted, on a silence and stillness that is somehow louder and stronger than your usual voice. In the past, I’ve called these periods my fallow time — a time when the fields of inspiration need to rest, to be turned over and fertilized by taking quiet stock of the past, in order to sow the seeds of future harvest.

Listening to the silence.

I happened to hear an interview with musician and songwriter Tom Waits yesterday, in which he likened these fallow periods to the silent intervals in music. “Sometimes, if you don’t play for a while…it all builds up in a really great way,” he said. “There’s no such thing as not playing…music has rests in it. So, you’re on a rest right now, and the music will begin shortly. It’s like an orchestra tuning up.”

A whole rest.

There is a great lesson in Tom Waits’ perspective. Cancer and its aftermath notoriously steal our ability to take and listen to those whole rests. We experience many sorts of interruptions in our lives with cancer and cancer treatment, but they are not restful. Taking time off from work to be slashed, burned and poisoned is not restful. Going to endless check-ups, and submitting to hospital visits, diagnostic imaging and lab tests is not restful. And scrambling to pay mounting healthcare bills with shrinking income is certainly not restful.

Lowering our expectations and letting go of normal activity while we struggle with the miserable tedium of cancer fatigue is also not restful. Insomnia, pain, neuropathy and disability are not restful. Fear of recurrence and metastases is not restful. Trying to fulfill our usual life roles as mother, sister, friend, daughter, coworker, homemaker, spouse and even blogger is often fraught with anxiety, disillusionment, and a profound awareness of how much less we are able to do, overlaid with a continuous and frustrating attempt to redefine what is now ‘normal’ for us.

Just when we most need it, genuine rest can be hard to come by. And for many of us, Pinktober is the least restful time of the year, a time when our personal, daily, pervasive awareness of breast cancer is not even remotely represented by the bright, bouncy public face of pink fundraisers and the ubiquitous evidence of corporate merchandising that surrounds us. As October drew near, just the mere thought of it all, the awareness of how little it reflected my own reality and that of my friends, left me feeling exhausted and defeated this year. And I realized that exhaustion and defeat were two things I had wrangled with for far too long, and didn’t need any more of. So, I listened to what one of my friends described as my “inner teacher,” and, musically speaking, I have taken a whole rest. And it was long overdue. And I have faith that the music will resume shortly.


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This entry was written by Kathi, posted on Tuesday, November 01, 2011 at 01:11 pm, filed under Attitude, Fighting the Pink Peril and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

10 Responses to “Surviving Pinktober”

  1. Beautiful post, just beautiful. Thank you.

  2. Thanks, Judy, and I enjoyed reading your current post. A lot of us seem to be on the same wavelength this year.

  3. Kathi,
    So glad you listened to your inner teacher. I love your statement, “I’ve called these periods my fallow time – a time when the fields of inspiration need to rest, to be turned over and fertilized by taking quiet stock of the past, in order to sow the seeds of future harvest. Listening to the silence.”
    That’s pretty profound.

    There is a sense of heaviness to October at times for many isn’t there? For others, that “heavy time” might be a different month or time of year. Regardless, we must divide up the load, so to speak, and let others do the heavy lifting from time to time. We all need to regenerate, rest and regroup. Glad you had some time away and took a “whole rest.” Nice post.

  4. Kathi, thank you for this beautifully written piece. Love the part about your “fallow” periods. Reminded me of that that quote by Mozart: “The music is not in the notes,
    but in the silence between.”

  5. I positively love this. A break in the music. Too zen if I say I was at yoga earlier and I just learned exactly what you are saying here? Yoga is all about stretching and meditative movement, but mostly, it’s about BREATHING. Right?? I’ve been at this for a year. Thing is….. the focus today was on the pause in the quiet place after the inhale and the same pause before taking the next breath after exhaling. It’s all about the pauses. That’s what recharges all of us. Glad you took the month to recharge. I’m exhausted and I’m new at this…… I think I need to take November off….. After all…. It’s National Blog Post Month. Perhaps I’ll post NONE!

  6. What kind and lovely comments you are all making! Thank you. Yes, it was another one of those wonderful moments of serendipity that I heard that interview as I was thinking of writing this post.

    Love the Mozart quote, Jane.

    AnneMarie, the comparison to yoga is a great one. I studied ballet for many years growing up, and even taught it a little as an adult. The hard but powerful thing about it is not the leaping, but the holding of one’s position, not the allegros but the andantes. When I learned how to lift free weights, it came very naturally because breathing and precision are very important to that practice as well. And later, when I studied yoga, it was a very natural practice, and I was fortunate enough to find a teacher who had the most fantastically restful, musical, mellifluous voice.

    Even when I am busy, I always need silences, like the commas and periods of writing. 🙂

  7. Hi Kathi,

    Yes finally the pinktober as subsided, but our journey still continues in the and of BC. Like I keep saying BC is not one month in the year, but a lifetime of proding and poking.

    Sarah M. xxx

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