Yoga Pants and Fleece

Clothing seems to be on my mind a lot lately. It stems from a need to self-soothe. Seeking out sources of comfort and touch during a pandemic has been challenging on my own. I want to immerse myself in a cloud of soft comfort. Maybe I want to feel like I’m a newborn, wrapped in a blanket and safely cradled in my mother’s arms. Neither of these is possible.

I have yoga pants and fleece.

How did I get here?

My attire was somewhat preppy in high school. There were an alarming number of shoes to go with outfits. I didn’t feel I was high maintenance, but I may have projected something different. I was not as dressed up in college because of all the walking from class to class. I still think I was overly preppy. It also looks like I mixed it up with some lowkey material girl looks from looking at old photographs, yet these were in a very conservative way.

My teaching wardrobe went through several cycles. I felt I needed to wear dresses and skirts when first starting out to establish myself as a professional. The longer I taught, the more relaxed my wardrobe became. I knew I could look professional and respected without dressing up. Times changed. Black, navy, gray, and tan slacks became staples. Jeans were acceptable to wear. School spirit gear was fun. I know I showed up in my “dressy” yoga pants with sweaters a few times in my last few months in the classroom.

Early retirement brought on a much more comfortable wardrobe. I expanded my yoga pants collection to include black, navy, and gray colors. Yoga pants were soft, flowy, forgiving, and could be worn just about anywhere. It’s always exciting when the heat of summer draws to a close and temperatures drop enough for yoga pant season to begin. I may be oversharing and have a problem. Oddly enough, I don’t do very much yoga. They are my standard anything oncology wear from treatments to scans. The lack of metal is a big draw on scan days.

I also have an addiction to fleece zipped jackets. I don’t like tight cuffs around my wrists nor am I a fan of pullovers or hoodies. When I find a style that suits my requirements, I order several in favorite colors. Colors that offer many options with my yoga pants.

My yoga pants and fleece give me softness and moments of comfort. I can feel safe for a bit. The texture is calming. They even make great pajamas even though pajamas are another one of my favorite things.

Cancer is hard. There are days it is almost too hard. It is an effort to function throughout the day. Those days are void of joy. I’m happy (relieved) when I crawl into bed at night. I don’t feel like I can put it into words. Any long term, debilitating, life stealing disease is hard. On days when I’m wiped out with fatigue from treatment or simply emotionally done, I feel better wearing my soft clothing.

Cancer is uncomfortable. I have been nauseous. I have shivered and roasted in the same moment. I have been exhausted. I have had steroid induced insomnia. I have had worry and fear induced insomnia. I have had severe muscle spasms. My hands and feet have provided unrelenting hurt. I have been emotionally assaulted regularly by a number of triggers. I have been irritated, annoyed, angry, pissed off, and deeply sad. I have spent full days at the treatment center for lab, oncology visits, and then treatment. I have been sent home early with no treatment due to poor labs. Those days are not easy.

Cancer is not safe. Everything is not okay from Day 1. Mathematically, this is around Day 3,243. Metastatic cancer is like swimming with sharks with a bleeding cut or trying to escape an avalanche and never really having a chance. I willingly submit to receiving deadly poison throughout my entire body to chase after something even more deadly. Some take radiation treatments. Some have surgery. Medication is taken multiple times a day. All of these come with a long list of possible side effects – including death. I’m doing the best I can.

Cancer’s texture is rough, harsh, indescribable. It’s a far cry from yoga pants and fleece. It’s more like wearing a coat of searing burning nails. Keep in mind not all days feel this way. One is one too many. There are days where I wear more normal clothes and I feel almost dressed up, because frankly everything is a step up from yoga pants. Dressing up has its merits in the name of feeling normal and functional. I dressed up for my last couple of treatments and received my share of compliments, the best being I looked much younger than my age. Admittedly, that lifted my spirits. Comfort is the key word most days.

Yoga and fleece can only take me so far. Soft clothing helps. I feel a bit like Linus must with his blue security blanket. Security would feel comforting and steady. Thank goodness for small pleasures like yoga pants and fleece. They will have to do.

What do you do to self-soothe?

The Lesson of the Milkweed

Crunchy leaves cover a hard ground. A gray sky creates a contrast against the bare branches. The air is chilly. Autumn is a season that doesn’t scream softness. Softness is there. I have been surprised to discover it in unlikely places this fall. Sometimes it’s harder for me to find, but it’s still there, waiting for me to find it.

October needs softness because Breast Cancer Awareness Month bombards me with hard. Awareness is hard. Pink is hard. People who appear to celebrate the month make it hard. And then there’s me because I can make it hard on myself.

I go for a hike when I can to exercise and relax. It sounds like a contradiction, but exercise in nature achieves both for me. Pheasant Branch Conservancy is one of my favorite places to walk and a source of joy. I ventured there last week and stopped in several places to open up milkweed pods. They are remarkably soft. An older gentleman with a shock of white hair noticed what I was doing and wandered over. He joined me in releasing milkweed seeds into the breeze. There we stood, watching the wind carry them away. He laughed and that was one of the best parts. He told me about milkweed bugs. Then he drifted away, kind of like a milkweed seed himself. I did the same in another direction.

Opening milkweed pods is a beautiful example of finding softness this month. A rough outer exterior protects silky soft seeds that float away in the wind. Opening them as a child and watching them dance and fly was pure joy. It made me feel like I was encouraging their quest to find a new home and witnessing it happen. It still does.

This year, October 13th is Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness DAY. It’s a prime example of some hardness for me. Yes, a whole day is set aside in breast cancer awareness month for the only kind of cancer that kills. It’s also Yorkshire Pudding Day. Here are two facts on this special awareness day:

  • 116 women and men a year die every day from MBC.
  • There are around 155,000 people living with MBC in the U.S.

 

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Milkweed seeds at Pheasant Branch Conservancy

 

I need more milkweed seeds. Lots of them.

Sitting in front of my fireplace on the first few evenings when it’s cold enough is another time when softness settles around me. There is softness in the glow and I feel wrapped in warmth. Those first fires of fall are extra special because it sets a toasty tone for fall.

Here are a few other favorites:

Savoring hot tea, coffee, and hot chocolate again.

Hanging around my house in my plaid flannel pajamas.

Snuggling under warm blankets with a good book.

Immersing myself on a trail in the woods while surrounded by trees that have exploded in color.

These actions are a vital part of self-care and letting myself know I am important. They are all external examples even though I have a part of them.

Self-care is super soft. I need to look for soft places within myself, too. Softness must be internal. I can find soft places within when I slow down and enjoy the moment. Rushing isn’t worth much. Other ways I can practice self-care are by showing myself empathy and understanding, forgiving myself when I make mistakes, and allowing space for my feelings. Negative self-talk is hardness; compassionate self-talk is softness. Self-care is love.

Cancer causes hardness because no one comes out completely unscathed. It’s exhausting. Some hardness is on the outside, some on the inside. You carry outer and inner scars. Cancer visibly ages a person. A person develops a thicker skin and smiles when insensitive comments are made. Many experiences and conversations are difficult to endure and process. You emerge from treatments feeling battered, fatigued, and having experienced traumatic physical and/or emotional changes. If you’re metastatic, tolerating toxicity is ongoing. None of these are soft images.

There is so much talk about being strong and fighting or battling. Strength is a double-edged sword. I am strong. I work on physical and emotional strength. The hero Odysseus was a recurring reference in high school among my friends because he was rough, tough, hard to bluff, and used to hardships. I’ve channeled Odysseus’s strength regularly over the time I’ve been living with cancer to move through hardship after hardship. The strength you call upon each day to make it your best is empowering strength. Your strength is weakened when it’s exerted in battling and fighting cancer, or people and attitudes that go against you. I need to focus on the strength that empowers me and not waste it in battle mode. My strength goes toward empowerment and living.

Fall is a wonderful opportunity to let things go. Trees let go of their leaves with ease. Fall can be a time to let go of hard things. Letting go is hard because changes usually are difficult for me. Still, my life will be easier if I only let go of one hard thing. Letting go of many could bring more happiness to my life. What will it be?

Consider responding:

  • What can you let go of this fall?
  • Where do you find softness in nature?