"Ideas are where you find them."
John McPhee
Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process
Last weekend we visited an alpaca farm an hour from our house. Finding new adventures is one silver lining to the pandemic. Since I barely drive anywhere during the week, I don't mind a long drive on the weekends. The alpacas themselves were adorable, including a few babies. My kids got to feed them hay through the fence and I patted their fuzzy heads. On the way home, we stopped for hot chocolate and listened to Christmas music.

Yesterday's family adventure was a drive-in screening of The Grinch at the Philly Navy Yard. The novelty of the drive-in experience was fun; we munched on popcorn popped at home, listened to the audio through our car radio, and reclined in our seats, the kids sitting on our laps. I also enjoyed driving through the Navy Yard campus and seeing a few giant ships. I'd always seen the place from I-95, but didn't realize its breadth or its stunning view of the Delaware River, splashes of light reflected off the water at night.

Speaking of adventures, on Thursday I found out I have a "complex" ovarian cyst that requires additional testing. Because of my family history, my mind always jumps to the worst case. However, it was interesting to observe my mental and emotional cycle through different reactions and outlooks. I thought I'd share them here in case anyone finds it helpful.

Immediate reaction: Isn't it funny how you can receive unsettling news in the middle of the day, but you still have to drive home and finish writing an article on Home Equity Loans vs. HELOC?

Texting my friends: Why is everyone telling me not to worry? I am worried and my brother and I do share the same gene pool. I know they're trying to help, but what I really want is to be made a fuss of for a moment. After all, I'm just a vain and slightly dramatic human like everyone else (especially my fellow Geminis, am I right?).

The "life is beautiful" stream of consciousness: You know what's better than a near-death experience? Not almost dying but looking at the world like you did. How achingly gorgeous the sky looks around 4:30 as the setting sun paints the clouds a pinkish red. Wow, a Cardinal! My favorite bird. Their bright red feathers against the gray winter scenery always makes me feel hopeful. Is there anything better than a warm cup of coffee in bed? I can't wait for my mom's Christmas cookies. Ah, the comfort of getting lost in a good book. Candles, a bubble bath, sitting by the fireplace--these are a few of my favorite things. Sure, I'll play make believe with my kids. I'm just so grateful to be alive in this moment, and to hold my loved ones close.

Reflection, peace, acceptance: Awareness of our shared human fragility is a gift. Not only for a fresh outlook on life but also for increased compassion for others' suffering. My teaching mentor used to remind us that we were entering "a very human profession," which is how I feel about all of life. When I count my blessings, I think of the people who helped me achieve whatever emotional, professional, and material success I have now. When I'm feeling sorry for myself, I remember that suffering (along with joy) is our shared human inheritance. Instead of why me, I ask, why not me?

Whatever this ends up being, I hope it will make me softer, humbler, and more compassionate; a better writer; and a kinder human being whenever kindness is needed. And if you're in any kind of pain this holiday season, whether physical and/or emotional, I want you to know you're not alone.
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