Letting the Days Go By. (Once in a Lifetime.)

I keep telling everyone I’m living in the “slow lane” right now. This is an easy, short hand way of assuring my family that I’m not pushing too hard and confirming for myself that this is only a temporary, altered state.

It’s been an incredible gift to be able to direct most of my energy into getting well and I am lucky to have very talented, generous people step in and take the wheel. Although I’m working through most of my treatment days, I have downshifted dramatically to steer only a few choice projects. It is beyond refreshing to put single-minded focus on my work . . . something I have not experienced in the past 20 years of my career.

My Buddy Jason.

Considering my job usually entails working with big numbers and budgets with lots of zeros in them, I think it’s pretty wise that I’m riding shotgun. The other day I was having a working breakfast with my partners at Wieden + Kennedy. Being the gracious, lovely client I am, I picked up the tab. But, alas… my good buddy Jason  kindly pointed out that $50.50 plus $8.00 tip did not add up to sixty-four bucks.  When Account Guy corrects Media Maven on the numbers you know you are in trouble.

The fog of “chemo brain” is real my friends.

Pal Ricky greets a windy day (this is how he goes through life.)

[On a side note, another close pal, Ricky, thinks that phrase sounds like the meanest thing you could call someone on a playground. I concur!]

My email has slowed to a daily crawl and I’m even taking the time to clean out my ever-terrorizing in-box. I recently set a new PB by culling to less than 5,000 emails. This is a jarring phenomenon when you are used to coming back to your desk from an hour long meeting to find at least 25 “new” problems that are calling directly for attention or through the even more insidious “cc.”

And, need I mention the daily morning iPhone stretch? This familiar move involves flopping over in the wee hours to stretch across the bedstead and then paw around for beautiful device with weary hand. With one eye, I would squint to see what awaited me from the endless time zones around the world. It was always painful to start the day off that way but better than going through the daily morning rituals NOT knowing what bombs lay in wait.

I, like so many of my hard working brethren, raced the daily unwinnable race of multi-tasking, which consumes us now. Admittedly, and not without guilt, I was one of “those” parents that half-faked a conversation with their kid, while keeping the brain spinning around the current problem at hand and peering at the next email all-points bulletin. I was the one that rushed back from a full day of running the conference room gauntlet to finally fall into lonely desk chair and try to crank through those 7 emails that just had to be sent. I was the one that then hurried out to my car, with the illusive wish of time-warp speed so I could get home by 7:30, shove some food down the gullet and put the kids to bed. Most nights I’d fall into a coma next to Emma and wake up around 9:30pm to try to pretend I was alert enough to either get back on-line for more email tending or, spending some endangered quality time with Dan.

And then, of course, wake up and do it all again.

(see New York Times for two recent articles that point to the dangers of our multi-tasking culture: “Hooked on Gadgets and Paying a Mental Price” “An Ugly Toll of Technology: Impatience and Forgetfulness”)

Today I am on a forced march of a different kind that is strangely freeing. I feel like a new layer is shed from my skin every day. I am seeing things that were blurry or simply invisible for years. Hearing things more sharply and even thinking more logically most of the time (despite that foggy chemo brain!) It’s like waking up with eyesight when you didn’t realize you were blind.

Hads always lives large.

In the first week after diagnosis Hadley and I went on an evening walk together. At my sister’s wise suggestion to calm both of our exposed nerve endings, we decided to count the color and kinds of tulips that we saw in bloom. We were both amazed to realize that we saw 24 different varieties in a 30 minute stroll. It was the best half an hour I’d spent in a year.

Big sis Erika was here for a treasured visit this past weekend.

So what, besides my manageable work projects am I putting my time into? Lots of dead-to-the-world napping to combat the fatigue, more blissful time cooking real meals and way more quality time with the family. Hallelujah.

But the biggest and most welcome change has been a dramatic and inverse increase in self-care, which I’m happy to report has been the one thing that’s actually sped up. Between my regular sessions of yoga, weekly shiatsu massage and acupuncture sessions, and getting a daily walk in, I spend more time on my own bod in a month than I did in the past 3 years.

The aunties and all the girl cousins got pink pedicures.

60 Pink Toes!

Ironically, this lifestyle shift is perhaps healing me more than the chemo. Or maybe it’s just counteracting. Either way, it’s a corrective course, a pendulum swing that was way, way overdue. I realize now that stress has to come out some how, somewhere. For me, I believe it was in the form of an out-of-control tumor in my left breast. Hitting this speed bump called cancer is really a blessing for me. It is probably the only thing that could have forced me to stop. Just stop.

I know I have to start again. I need to and I want to. But, when the time comes to reaccelerate into my future, I’m determined to find a new gear. With priorities recalibrated and more tricks up my sleeve, I have a simple goal in front of me that I have to believe is possible: keep seeing the tulips.

Hold me to it. I’ll do the same for you.

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  1. kerri
    Posted June 15, 2010 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    You are all my inspiration! Thank you for checking in… I love to hear that you’re out there.

  2. Monica Denney
    Posted June 14, 2010 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Kerri, you continue to amaze and inspire me. Sending lots of love.

  3. Anna Cornell
    Posted June 12, 2010 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Oh beautiful circle of girls, pink toes, words and tulips. You are an inspiration.
    Love, AC

  4. Nick B
    Posted June 10, 2010 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    Hi Kerri,

    Been reading your uplifting words and just wanted to say hi and send you some love. “Seeing the tulips”, something we all know we should do more of and never quite get round to….


  5. YOM
    Posted June 9, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    You are really something. Your mode of handling all this makes me ashamed of my well documented responses to medical adventures. I admit to wussiness ( you should have seen me monday), and am proud to be a parental unit to a certified non-wuss.
    My only pertinent comment is that it’s not enuf to see the tulips. You must smell them and listen to them too. They will let you know when derailment is eminent.
    Don’t get any on ya. YOM

  6. B-E
    Posted June 9, 2010 at 5:09 am | Permalink

    Just a back-pedal to your playlist;

    Darryl Braithwaite – As the days go by

  7. Coco
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

    ‘It’s like waking up with eyesight when you didn’t realize you were blind’ - it’s unfortunate being blind, but it’s even worse when we don’t see the blindness around us… Thank you Kerri for letting us see the lights thru your eyes.

  8. jack gold
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    “Pink Toes and Tulips” – should be the name of your comeback album. I’ll be the first in line.
    LOL Jack xxx

  9. Kevin Burke
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Y’know…this was particularly helpful to read after I struggled this morning to maintain my temper while helping Wilder to build an origami nightmare paper plane (so that he could impress his pals at school with his sweet aeronautic skills) while making breakfast and wiping snot from Ivy’s nose and getting everyone dressed.

    Ultimately, I lost the battle. With Ivy yelling that yogurt had spilled on her shirt while I was trying to follow some poorly written instructions on paper airplane folding, time running out and lunch for school still unassembled, I did my best impression of one of my dad’s frequent baboon-like tirades.

    Even now as I read back over this, I’m particularly ashamed of just how petty I can get when I feel pressured by an absurdly self-created crisis. Especially when there are real struggles out there which others meet with with grace and peace. Yeah–I’m talking about you Kerri. So thanks for the reminder to keep it simple. It’s amazing how easy it is to forget that.

  10. Alex Barwick
    Posted June 7, 2010 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

    wonderfully written, KHP. Equally inspiring and wise.

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