Written on the Body #11, October 6, 2019: L’Shana Tova, the New Year

This is the time of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, and the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur (these holidays occur at different times in the regular calendar, sometime between early September and early October, but always on the same dates in the Jewish calendar.) The ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are called the High Holidays, or Days of Awe. It is a time of turning, not only for the autumn season, but for the heart and mind — reflecting on the past; accepting, learning from, and asking forgiveness for mistakes; discovering what to keep, what to let go, what to aim for as we move toward the future. There are prayers and chants we say as a group, recognizing we are all fallible; as my partner Roger’s mother used to say, “Welcome to the human race!”

Last year, I was happy to have moved to Toronto to live with Roger by the time of the new year. This year, I am happy to be alive, and relatively well, at this time. The good news from my CT scan on September 30 is that the chemotherapy is continuing to work to shrink the tumour and related lesions, and to stop their spread — there are no new ones (so far, the less optimistic part of my mind adds). But clearly this is good news. Also, I feel a sense of well-being– eating well, talking, not in pain, able to go for walks, meet friends, go to a play, read, write. True, I am more tired and have discovered the pleasure of afternoon naps, and have less energy for activities like meetings, especially in the evening. And sometimes I get mired in worry, or feel forgetful and “fuzzy-minded.” And I have a new sense of vulnerability, and watchfulness about my health (including things to monitor, like weight, temperature, formerly-minor sniffles and aches – are they still minor, or significant?) But I enjoy the “small beauties” of daily life — flowers, desserts (which, as we know, is “stressed” spelled backwards), music and movies, conversation, loving touch. I am grateful to all my friends, near and far (email is a great help!), to the doctors at Princess Margaret, to my son Joe and his partner Christina, and of course to Roger. If all is well, we are hoping to go to visit Joe and Christina and her (now their) son Elijah in their new home near Nanaimo, B.C., later this fall. I went to a sound-healing workshop at the Wellspring Cancer Centre in downtown Toronto that felt very healing, physically and emotionally, and continue to go to a guided imagery and relaxation group at Wellspring.

I have been reading a lot — re-reading some old favourites and discovering new ones. I am deep into Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments, sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale: a chilling but deeply-meaningful book, especially in these turbulent political/social times. It is written with passion, intensity, and focus — with the truths that a good novel creates.

I’m also enjoying another of Gail Bowen’s Joanne Kilgour series of mysteries: lighter in tone, but interesting, especially as one follows Joanne and her family through the twists and turns of family life and love as well as the plot of the mystery.

On a present-day news note, I was glad to see Greta Thunberg speak at the U.N. and then in Canada, and see the widespread student demonstrations for climate change and the many young (and not so young) people talking about this issue on CBC, including many Indigenous youth. However, I was sorry to see Greta demeaned and diminished, as a “child” (she is almost 17), a girl, a person with “autism” (Asperger’s) and a “mental illness”– her honesty and passion were attributed to this illness rather than to her perceiving the urgent need for action on the climate. And she was blamed for causing “anxiety” among children. People, especially female people, have been discounted for these reasons for many years. And could all the people talking about the climate emergency and advocating action be mentally ill — from Rachel Carson, to David Suzuki, to scientists around the world, to the many student and Indigenous activists?

Returning to the theme of the New Year, may this be a year of hope, health, happiness, and healing — for all of us.

About Ellen

I am a member of The Writers Union of Canada, the League of Canadian Poets, and CANSCAIP. I have received grants from the Ontario Arts Council for both writing and teaching. I currently work with Learning Through the Arts and Living through the Arts, programmes run by the Royal Conservatory of Music that enable artists to work in schools and community organizations. I have also taught in many other school and community programs, and have been a judge for various writing contests for both young people and adults.
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2 Responses to Written on the Body #11, October 6, 2019: L’Shana Tova, the New Year

  1. Pat L. says:

    Happy New Year Ellen and may the new year bring you improving health and happiness.

  2. Pat L. says:

    Happy New Year Ellen and may the new year bring you improving health and happiness.

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