They stood under the apple tree, heavy with fruit. Early October sunshine, with a hint of late fall breeze, drew the family close. The Granny Smith had been planted five years past, to the day, in a similar gathering. Today would be for celebrating, the healing already done.
The tree’s first harvest was a success. The aroma of Grandma’s brown bag apple pie now spilled from every open window of the yellow four-square.
“Five years ago we spread the ashes of our mother, grandmother and friend. Today we celebrate her rebirth and give thanks to the bounty she has delivered.”
This piece was composed as a 100 word, flash-fiction piece on the topic of metamorphosis.
Last week I had a chunk of my left lower shoulder blade cut out due to melanoma in situ.
Melanoma, the deadly skin cancer. Fortunately “in situ,” while still malignant, is considered stage 0, or noninvasive. The cells are confined to the top layer of skin and have not spread further. With the surgical removal and follow-up screenings, chances of recurrence or spread is considered minimal.
For a self diagnosed worrier, even this was enough to get my brain spiraling for a good twenty-four hours. I vacillated between self-loathing for not being better at keeping my skin covered and safe, nervousness about having the removal surgery and fear about even the smallest chance of spread or recurrence.
Why does it take a crisis for us to do what we know we should have been doing all along?
The greatest threat to ourselves is the “not me” syndrome. There are those who will drive after a few drinks, because others may get in an accident, but “not me.” There are those who may smoke or vape thinking others get lung cancer, but “not me.” There are those who sit in the sun to get color because others may get skin cancer, but “not me.”
I’m not here to judge, because we are all human, all fallible. Without “not me” we would become too paralized by anxiety and fear to function in our daily lives. If it wasn’t for “not me” no one would ever get on a plane, drive on the highway, or leave the house.
I’m sharing my story as one of millions of cautionary tales of what can happen when we take “not me” too far. Don’t let “not me” jeopardize your safety and your life. Take care of this one body you were given.
And if I may preach for one short moment, go get a skin check. Ten minutes in the dermatologist’s office could save your life.
By definition, a first draft is the rough attempt at a finished, polished piece of work or art. I know no one who can claim to be a finished, perfectly polished version of themselves.
As humans we are always changing, always growing, always making mistakes.
A first draft is a place to spill out ideas without the need to worry about the final product. It is a place to be creative, it is a place to make mistakes, it’s a place to explore. A first draft is messy and painful, but there can be no final product without going through the growing pains of a first draft.
A first draft is incomplete, it needs to be nurtured. This is the time to edit and delete what no longer works. This is the time to expand and embellish the best parts. There is room for refinement.
We can choose to follow the outline or throw it out and start over if the path no longer fits. We can research and rewrite until we are satisfied. In the first draft we are finding our way through the story, not knowing where it will lead.
There is no shame in the incomplete, still evolving self. Keep editing, keep polishing, keep creating until you are happy with the result.
There, I said it. I’ll say it again, perfect does not exist.
There are fleeting moments of when everything is wonderful, but the second law of thermodynamics states that entropy, the gradual move towards disorder, is always increasing in an enclosed and isolated system.
You don’t need to be a physics major to understand what this means for us simple humans moving through our world. If you are a parent you understand this better than most.
“A simple way to think of the second law of thermodynamics is that a room, if not cleaned and tidied, will invariably become more messy and disorderly with time – regardless of how careful one is to keep it clean. When the room is cleaned, its entropy decreases, but the effort to clean it has resulted in an increase in entropy outside the room that exceeds the entropy lost.” 
So I present to you a photo of max entropy in my kitchen this morning. Does it stress me out. Sure, I’m human, I’d rather exist in a magazine worthy photo shoot, but what you don’t see in the chaos is what actually are the most important things.
The griddle, plates and syrup dispenser are from the pancakes my nine-year-old made this morning for breakfast.
The lunch packing mess is from the same child currently making his own lunch for school.
The coffee and computer are for my writing time.
There is a volleyball jersey in there, waiting for my twelve-year-old’s first volleyball game later this afternoon.
The plethora of various markers are from my kiddos’ latest art creations.
I’ll get it all cleaned up just in time for my twelve-year-old to come home for lunch to create more mess, and he’ll have to clean it up himself, life-skills building in practice.
I can choose to see the mess, or I can choose to see what that mess represents. I can try for perfect all the time, or I can surrender to the universe and its laws knowing I’m powerless to fight against it.
When I’m older, don’t forget the girl I used to be.
I’m still here.
Behind the aging eyes is the one who jumped out of a plane, the one who loved adventure and was willing to take a risk to experience the world.
The creaking knees are those of an athlete with miles of trails run. They used to propel the captain of the volleyball team, her name once among the local headlines. She hiked and swam and biked with those knees. She loved to ski, though poorly, with those knees.
The woman who now needs care, she used to sit on the floor and help young children find their voice and communicate. She spent years caring for the families that walked through the door seeking support and understanding for their child.
The lonely lady once had a home full of her loved ones. Her joy was playing on the floor, creating activities and spending hours in the park. She nurtured and guided and watched her children grow, the love of her life by her side.
This older me, now homebound, loved to be out in nature. Hiking and kayaking were a way to reset. Cooking over an open fire, a wonderful challenge and break from the normal. Traveling to a new place to explore and learn, to sit among strangers in a foreign land was a way to feed the soul.
The face you see before you, it’s both mine, and not mine. This face has changed a thousand times over; it has been fuller, smoother, full of color.
Take the time to see the girl I used to be, for she is the only one I remember.