If I was a drag queen, or a film noir star, my name would be Tchotchke Galore.
Sadly, I am neither. But through the last 13 years, tchotchke have helped me when I couldn’t focus on much else.For my non-Yiddish-using friends, tchotchke are little decorative things of small value—knick knacks, bric a brac, etc. If you are a minimalist, or a hard-core Marie Kondo protégé, the tchotchke galore path to zen is probably not going to be one you would take. You will take one look down that cheerfully cluttered path and quickly dive back into the most recent issue of Simple Things.
I love Simple Things, too.
I love all the things.I am very much a visual learner—so SEEING all the things helps me stay on track.
When my daughter was first diagnosed with brain tumors, she was 6. It was the week before the start of 1st grade. She went from a sassy diva playing Candyland with the PICU nurses to a very, very sick oncology patient overnight. Literally in 48 hours we went from normal to watching our child come out of brain surgery. We were rattled to our core, our entire family. The first three or four months, as G dramatically lost vision, developed severe OCD related to her tumor growth, endured weekly chemo at a hospital 2 hours away, a chemo that had her up every day at 4 am FOR THE DAY, struggled terribly with school and at least one teacher who didn’t understand that her behavior was NOT a “character issue”, but rather a @#*#^@^ brain tumor ravaging her brain…well, those first months were brutal in a way that quite honestly shakes me even as I type it here. Sigh.
Good thing I am over it. *cough
I could not focus on ANYTHING. I had two other children, a 9 year old and a 2 year old who needed me to be mom, and I went through the motions of life, but barely.Early on, I needed a tangible, visual focus to help me cling to sanity. I dug out all my gray embroidery floss and learned how to make a friendship bracelet from my sisters (several were teens at the time), and I sewed the word HOPE in beads on that bracelet.
I wore it until it disintegrated. Then I made a second one, and some that were just plain gray…
They still live in my nightstand.
I know it is hard to read, sewing letters on a friendship
bracelet is not as easy as one might think.
I needed HOPE to be VISIBLE to me all the time. I needed it on my wrist, like a quarterback keeps track of plays.
I moved on to silicone bracelets that said “G-FORCE!” on one side, with G’s trademark smiley faces, and “ALWAYS HOPE” on the other. I wrote out scripture verses (Jer. 29:11 was a favorite) just to keep in mind that even though I felt so very, very hopeless…especially as G failed chemo one, and then did a year of chemo two and had a new tumor show up, and then started chemo three, which just blasted her system…and then learned that maybe her tumors had gone malignant and our timeline was going to be dramatically shortened…and THEN got a reprieve, a miracle of “nope, just a weird NF thing” after a biopsy, so we got to restart chemo #3 …
I needed some hope.I needed to see it when I could not bring my mind to it.
Having a visual reminder kept me going when I could not just think of hope.
Through the challenges of the years following the first 2 horrible years, including many progression scares, actual progression, and another few years of chemotherapy, visual reminders continue to help me. For years and years I carried a little booklet about Human Suffering with me, and never got past the first few pages (it might STILL be in my hospital bag). I just couldn’t focus. But a pin that says “Brain Tumors Suck” or “No One Fights Alone”? That is weirdly empowering, at least for me.
Now that we have a little space from the worst of things, at least for today, I have a few new pins—one says “Chose Hope over Fear”…and the other says “Kept Going”.* I have a bracelet that says "It's not a sprint, it's a marathon". Some days, seeing those reminders—that I DID do these things, I did keep "running", even if barely, or only because people dragged me along—just seeing that helps.
I have a necklace that says “Hope is the thing with feathers, which perches on the soul, and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all” (Emily Dickinson). I wear it ALL THE TIME. All the time. (Thanks, Zulily). I almost need a line item in my budge for “inspirational stuff”. On bad days or good days or any day I need that reminder of the tenacity of hope (a lot of days, glad it’s a plain silver necklace) I wear it. On my nightstand I have a little rock that has the word “Hope” engraved on it. On my china cabinet I have a tile that says HOPE, which a fellow brain tumor mom made for us at family brain tumor camp.
Visual reminders help when I just can’t get my brain around thinking about hope.
Somehow, the tangible reminders are little tiny anchors in my day, holding me to the path I am desperately trying to stay on.
So if you are in the thick of whatever battle you are in, big or small—maybe find a little visual reminder to yourself, using whatever word or idea empowers you most in the moment. Write it on an index card or post-it (I am the queen of post-its, to my tidy husband’s chagrin). Find it on a pin or piece of jewelry or a tchotchke at Hallmark. You might be surprised by how much it helps.
What sorts of visual HOPE/Strength/Endurance tchotchkes have you found that help you? I am always looking for new ideas.
I think I might wear one of those old gray bracelets today…
*These pins are from Emily McDowell Studio www.emilymcdowell.com –she has some fantastic stuff(some of it uses language not everyone may be comfortable with, just as a n FYI).