When Life Happens...


I've been writing this blog post in my head for a long time. And the fact that I never officially wrote it is the main reason I haven't been writing much at all. I mean, how do you write about anything authentically when there's this big Radiant Orchid elephant in the room?

So here goes. Time to get some crap off my chest. This won't be about design, so if that's what your looking for today, my apologies. Come back next year. I'm hoping once I take care of this little order of business I'll clear up some room to create more of what I love. But the truth is, life and design are not mutually exclusive. You cannot create independently of life. So, in my effort to compartmentalize my business and career from my personal life, I've actually shut down most of my ability to be creative. Again, my hope is that by opening up in this way, I can open up in all ways.

My dad was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in April. It was the most crushing piece of information I have ever received. My world stopped. I froze. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't move. I could not believe. But, it was true. And once I started breathing again I felt. I felt and I felt. And I cried.


My dad received chemotherapy and radiation treatments for about 5 months. He handled the treatments ok in the beginning, but towards the end the radiation the side effects were brutal. He couldn't move. He couldn't mow the lawn. He couldn't do anything. It was very difficult to see him that way, because my dad is such a do-er. He is always doing something. He's building. He's cooking. He's fixing things around the house. He's always doing something. It's what makes him happy.

At the end of September he had a clear scan. The cancer treatments had destroyed the tumor. While my husband and I were out of town for a memorial we got the news. We both sobbed with joy. It was just the kind of news we needed while we were grieving the sudden loss of my husband's dear friend and mentor. (I know, right? Enough already.) It meant my dad was healed - for now. It meant that he didn't have to have his esophagus removed or ask the question, "what next?" It meant that, for now, we could all take a big sigh of relief.

For now.

Funny thing about chemo and radiation is that it has a very dark side. Yes, it cleared the cancer. But it caused my dad to lose a good portion of his hearing. And it also affected his heart.

A couple of weeks ago, my dad started having an irregular heart rhythm, shortness of breath, and fatigue. He was hospitalized for a night. Not a fun call to receive. My world stopped all over again. But he was released and prescribed a few meds to fix the issue. Well, then it happened again. Changed the meds. And then, again. Only this time it was different. His heart almost stopped. He had cardiac tamponade, where the fluid around the heart basically squeezes the heart and shrinks it down to a point where it doesn't provide blood to the body. Not unlike a heart attack. He had an emergency procedure to drain the fluid around the heart, but if that procedure wasn't done in time he would have died. He would have died. I've said those words again and again, and it still doesn't seem real. But that's exactly what happened. I mean, how can I write a blog post on Pantone's 2014 Color of the Year while this is happening? How can I possibly care what fabric my client uses on his sofa? Or how many new likes I have on Facebook?

My dad stayed in the ICU for five days. He was released on Tuesday. That's the good news. And some more really good news is that they tested for the presence of cancer and it was negative. The bad news is that the cardiac tamponade could happen again.

I spent the afternoon in the cardiologist's office yesterday. This was not my original plan. I have work to do. I have Christmas gifts to buy. I have business plans to make for 2014. I have writing to do. I have a home office that badly needs to be decorated. I have a dog to walk. I have to be creative. I have to be social. I was going to make cookies. I was going to send out holiday cards to my clients. I was going to make some more Shiny Brite wreaths. I have floor plans to draw. And emails to send. And color and design stories to post on social media. Oh - and I had some great vintage holiday articles and crafts I wanted to share. (You may get those in July...)

But right now, all I can think about is my dad. And I just want him to be healthy.

I know that life goes on. Regardless of what happens, life does go on. And it's so important to create and spread joy, despite what may or may not be happening around you and in you. But it's also important to give your grief and your sadness a voice. And that's what I'm trying to do. I want to be so many things - so many positive things. And I want to share that positivity on this blog. Writing about my dad just seemed like such a downer. And, really, lots of people have cancer. Lots of people go into the hospital. I'm not experiencing anything more "special" than anyone else. I know that.

But, I also know that this has become too big for me not to write about.

The designer and business person in me is sooooooo frustrated right now. Life has happened...IS happening...and it seems to be leaving me in the dust. I feel so far behind, and, quite honestly, a little down on myself about what I haven't been able to do. The photo above is a Shiny Brite wreath I made somewhere in the madness of the last couple of weeks. I was planning a fun little blog post about it with some instructional photos, but it just stopped mattering. So you get a photo. One photo. Of a wreath made of Shiny Brites.

I also styled the house somewhere in the madness. I have no energy to take photos and share them. But maybe it's enough to tell you that it's styled?

I keep hoping to bounce back. I've done it before. I've been an emotional rubber band this year. After the shock and the sadness, the resilience kicks in. But the bounce back rate is slowing. It's taking me longer this time. It's difficult to go back to "normal", whatever that is anymore. Or maybe that's not the point.

My dad may be just fine. He may recover from all of this fully and completely. He may not. That's the big question mark in my life right now. Learning to live with question marks has never been an easy thing for me to do. I like to wrap things up in perfect little packages and have answers for everything. Then I can move onto the next puzzle. The next project. The next challenge. Somehow I now have to figure out how to move forward and through everything while this thing is not wrapped like I want it to be. I keep wrapping it, and it keeps coming unwrapped. I keep trying new paper and bows and ribbon and tape - I even tried staples! - but it won't stay wrapped.

What a metaphor for the holiday season, huh? My dad is a package that won't stay wrapped.

So, maybe I need to stop trying to wrap him. And everything else. But I'm a designer! That's what I do. I essentially - metaphorically- wrap packages for a living. Even writing is like wrapping a package. Ugh.  I just may be doomed.

With that said, if I have any useful advice to give anyone this holiday season, it would be to slow down. Just slow down. Step away from social media (which I find extremely depressing right now with everyone's happier than happy posts), and just live in the moment. Your moment. If that moment is happy, great. If it's sad, that's ok, too. Feel what you feel. And let life happen. Because it's going to happen whether you can wrap it in a perfectly beautiful little package or not.



Kelly BergComment