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Her eyes, her eyes,
I know the blue,
The depths and hue.
For they are mine too.
Her hands, delicate and frail,
Her spirit strong,
She fought to no avail.
The mirror she looked upon
To see herself was me.
She was a force, a shrew,
At times there was no clue,
Which way this woman would waif,
So burdened, bruised, and blue.
She’d shine so high,
She’d fall, we’d cry.
Her heart was ours,
Her way-our disguise,
She made many a surprise.
She is the power, the shame,
For there is no one to blame.
She casts a glow, a heartfelt blow,
Never to show.
Empowers many, disables few,
Takes hearts and destroys any clue.
She created me,
I am bewildered, amazed, and amused.
She’s everything I see, and,
Every memory I flee.
© Laurie Markvart
I started this blog and then stopped. And then started. And stopped. Primarily due to extreme heat in the Los Angeles area. Well, my laptop gets hot (bad battery). But the heat left weeks ago. So in between the heat going and me starting to write this again, I stopped. What’s my excuse? I have no idea. But I started writing again, so here we are. No longer in between.
The “in-between.” That time between saying you’ll do something and doing it. Like, when I said I’d write this blog and the time it was published.
In life, we are often in-between jobs, relationships, vacations, and places. The in-between can be exciting and fun. Or it can be frustrating and scary. It all depends on how we handle it.
How about booking a vacation? Between the flight confirmation and the actual trip, I fantasize about vacation clothes, activities, and the restaurants I’ll visit. I also reserve the best deals at the best places in advance. There is nothing like the desired snorkel trip, and it’s sold out when you arrive because you didn’t book it. But vacation planning can get excessive. I know! I like to plan so there are no surprises, but it can be detrimental as I get anxious with “what ifs” during that in-between stage. That’s not how
to live! But I minimally want to know where I’m gonna lay my head. And let me tell you why.
Back in the late 70s, when my parents took us on long-haul road-trip vacations, like from Wisconsin to Florida, the only way my parents could get directions was through their travel memories and a foldable paper map. This was long before mobile phones, onboard navigation, and Google. My mom would sit passenger and navigator my father’s driving. This was fine until my dad would get hell-bent on seeing how far he could drive every day. It was like he’d be on a driving “bender.” Sure, we’d stop mid-drive for potty breaks or gas, but his personal driving goal would be forefront until he’d cave into my mom’s begging to pull over “for the kids.” At her urging, he’d surrender to the next motel at the next exit IF it had a vacancy. Or he’d keep driving for the next motel! And the hope that a restaurant was still open. Mom’s premade ham sandwiches and Chex snack mix could only get us so far. But a blinking motel vacancy light was a friendly beacon to my weary brother and me in the back seat.
The glove box of our 1970s Plymouth station wagon was stuffed with many unsuccessfully unfolded maps. I was amused at my dad’s tenacity, apparent road vendetta, and my mom’s failed attempts to re-fold a paper map. I must say, it is an art to re-fold a paper map. Have you tried it?
So, when I travel, I like to know my full itinerary ahead of time: Flights, hotel, is there a mini-bar or late-night room service?
Oh, I have another “in-between” example. Say you bought a house but haven’t got the keys yet, but you’re already buying decorations at Target and fixtures at Home Depot? Whoops! I’ve done this one, home buying – twice, and purchased furnishings in advance! I think it’s normal to plan! There is a lot of fun in this. But I’ve learned with home buying that nothing is guaranteed until the contract is signed and the keys are in hand. Literally, the keys are in hand. Things can change, the result not being as expected, and you’re left with decorations and fixtures for a house you didn’t get.
It’s normal to fantasize, plan, and prepare, yet it can take away from the present, especially when we can’t do a damn thing about the future. How about the in-between moment of taking a final exam at school and waiting for the results? Or waiting for pathology reports or blood test results? Filing your tax returns and waiting? So, it’s important how we handle the in-betweens. Because the in-between is all, we have. During these times, we must focus on being present and not worrying about what is to come. Easy for me to say, yes? No, it’s not easy. Cancer showed me the truth about scanxiety (anxiety over scans), so I’m learning to stay present between the scan and the result. Still sucks, though.
Now, I’ve had other in-betweens that were beautiful! My most anticipated and longest in-between was when I was pregnant with my son. During those nine months, the in-between, I was very excited about what he would look like, and I even fantasized as far ahead of who’d he become as an adult. It was a beautiful time, and I remember every moment while pregnant. The hopes and expectations. The burps, morning sickness, skin tags, the gorgeous belly, healthy silky hair, and the knowing I’d be blessed with a human who’d call me Mom. But as much as I thought about him during that nine-month in-between, nothing prepared me for his full head of jet-black hair and dimples at his birth. Oh, those dimples. To this day, those dimples have won him many a mother-son battle. I never once thought about dimples during the in-between because that’s the point: the unexpected can and will happen with anything and everything. It can be unthinkable or beautiful.
While writing about this blog, I’ve thought about how I’ve been in-between. I finished this blog, yet during it, I floated between starting and ending many other moments of life – good and bad. And I remained as present as possible without worrying about what would come next except finishing this blog.
I wish you the best in-between for whatever or wherever you may be.
Gotta find that girl,
The one with less fear,
The one in first gear,
Much more fun.
She had a lot.
But no reflection,
To connect the dots.
She ran on empty,
In search of love,
Forgot original plot.
She’ll get back,
A destination, a thought.
Spirit prevails while heart fails,
Forgive the sin, the trials.
The mirror clears,
After all these many, many years.
Who is she? She will know again.
The girl who never gave in.
© Laurie Markvart
I stumbled on a journal entry about my mom that I wrote in 2017, a year after she passed. I’m glad I kept it. And that I found it, stuffed between my other journals and books in a box labeled “stuff” at the back of my closet.
The journal entry now gives me insight into an agonizing time when memories were not formed but discarded.
When Mom passed, I was with her, an agreement we had previously made, and the experience hypnotized me. We were very close. Those memories of her departing are beautiful and crystal clear. But I have shreds of anxious, heartbreaking memories in the weeks, months, and year after her death, the year I refused to return to Wisconsin and sort out her belongings. No one was pressuring me to return. My brother and his family were dealing with their grief and were in no rush to sort through Mom’s stuff. Who wanted to go through a storage locker of someone else’s memories? Or was it our memories too?
A week after Mom’s death, I returned home to Los Angeles and back to an entertainment job I thought I could handle while processing grief. But was I processing? I sure put on a happy face and dove back into a job I was satisfied with, but it was not enough to distract me. Her memory infiltrated almost every hour of the day, and the idea of returning to her storage locker gave me an ache that meant I’d have to admit she was gone. So, I had no problem writing a monthly check for $119 to the storage unit in Wisconsin to hold her possessions, and apparently, my grief.
I was numb. I was a robot to my job, boyfriend, music, and my teenage son. That worried me the most. But her loss plagued me, and I thought, who was I, without the woman who made me?
Within two months of her passing, my son and I took a trip to Hawaii, in which I thought beaches, a Luau, and a rented Corvette convertible would uplift me; and provide my son and me time to regroup. But I discovered a Corvette or even Hawaii couldn’t fix a broken heart.
In the months after Hawaii, I fantasized what Mom would tell me about returning to Wisconsin to sort out her things. About getting my life back in order. How would she tell me to grieve her? I did feel an instinctive push to get back to music, writing and I’d find the answer on how to move on.
Six months after her passing, I quit my entertainment job and returned to writing a memoir I started in 2011. A memoir I thought was about me, but it became just as much about her, which in turn, is me. Unknowingly, writing the memoir became an outlet for me to process her death. As I continued writing through guttural tears, moments of laughter, and some anguishing and joyful memories, I knew I could handle the trip back to Wisconsin.
Finally, 15 months after her passing, in September of 2017, I returned home, and my brother and I opened her storage locker. The monthly payments kept her items safe from thieves but not from the ravaging season of Midwest summer humidity and frozen winter. Mold had grown up the legs of furniture and into boxes, papers, journals, and photos we didn’t think we cared about until we did. There was an odor to that storage locker that was part mold, mothballs, and dashes of her (which meant the smell of cigarettes and Fendi). It smelled like home. Which meant the woman I ached for over the past 15 months was now all around me. To sort through her belongings, notes, and writings, I knew I was getting the chance to know her again. And a chance to know the new me.
My journal entry from the day after opening Mom’s storage locker:
September 5, 2017, Wisconsin
I’m not sure how to connect my thoughts. I’ve come home. This is where she lived; I once lived. We all lived, and some still live. I’m here to clean out her belongings. To create space. To recoup costs. To close her physical life. To open mine. I look at her storage unit, and it just looks like stuff, shit. Before she died, all this stuff, this shit was vital to her. And I get it! We humans consume, create and collect stuff. Either physically or emotionally. I’m overwhelmed by her shit because I care about it. Much of her shit was about me, my brother, and our family. I care. Now, how do I separate her shit from mine? From protecting it to throwing or selling?
Today was travel from CA to WI. But it’s the first time I’ve come back home, and she’s not here. Tonight I rest. Tomorrow, I know there’s a lot of work. But also a lot of love. All documented in boxes. Boxes in storage unit #39, to be exact, of her.
© 2022 Laurie Markvart
The book Somewhere in the Music, I’ll Find Me: A Memoir will be published in Summer 2022.
A coming-of-age story told with raw honesty, suspense, and dashes of humor of a woman’s journey in finding self-acceptance and healing in the face of grief and devastating loss.
Musician Laurie Markvart was adrift in life. In the wake of the untimely deaths of her father and preemie baby, her family life was in anguish, and her music career stalled.
Music was the remedy for anything in Laurie’s life. Looking for a quick fix, she attended an open audition in Los Angeles for X-Factor’s reality TV singing show. During the demanding two-day audition, Laurie reflected on her lifelong music journey.
As a teen, she fled her isolated Wisconsin farm town and her greatest supporter, her loving but mentally ill mother, for the famous music scenes of Minneapolis, Austin, and New York City.
In rock bands, on tours, and with Broadway auditions, Laurie had many highs and lows, successes and failures, some humorous, some dangerous. At the center of it all was a stormy relationship with her mother and Laurie’s growing anxiety disorder that plagued her most. The despair she thought would be extinguished with marriage and parenting, and for a time, it was, but it shattered with the profound loss of her father and baby.
With mounting pressure to succeed at the X-Factor audition, Laurie must push through her anxieties and heartbreaking reflections and not only find herself in the music, but a way to move forward and heal.
© Laurie Markvart. Cover art image by Jesslyn Bundy.
12:19am January 1, 2020.
Champagne flowing, celebration happening. New Years 2020!!!
My eyes were closed to the past and my heart open to the future but I knew deep in my gut that something was wrong. And I’m not talking impending pandemic.
The perfect night could not quiet my anxiety over the pending biopsy test results that came the next day. Breast cancer.
I’ve been fighting this since January 2020 but why so long? I had a successful surgery in Feb 2020. And then the pandemic hit. I chose not to do the recommended treatment (chemo) because of Covid. Thousands did the same thing. They put off testing, procedures, surgeries. And look where we still are: Covid. 🙄
BUT honestly – I was in denial. I felt surgery was enough coupled with a naturopathic approach to healing. And it worked for a while but the cancer dragon showed she wasn’t ready to give up. So I won’t either.
October is breast cancer awareness month. This topic has become what some insiders in the community call “pink fatigue” or more serious: “pinkwashing.” Which means: the act of supporting the breast cancer cause or promoting a pink ribbon product while producing manufacturing or selling products linked to the disease.
Okay, not all companies and organizations exploit breast cancer and not everyone is pink fatigued. But behind every ribbon IS a woman. 1 in 8 women will get diagnosed!
So, wearing a pink ribbon or pink clothes in support of a loved one is honorable but what is more important: if you have put off your screening because of Covid or denial-GO.
Pink can only go so far. Breast cancer has a color and a ribbon and a lot of other cancers don’t. Early intervention is the best way to beat cancer.
Lastly, how apropos that my birthday would fall in October. 😂 October 19 and even though I will be one week post round three chemo on the 19th, I will celebrate because I am alive because I took action.
So, go get your screenings. Breast, butt, blood, lungs, whatever.
Yes, it can provoke anxiety and be scary but DM me if you want! I’ll talk you through! I’d consider it the best birthday gift I ever got!
Editor note: foul language in used sporadically and necessarily.
IT’S BEEN A YEAR since I blogged, and not because I didn’t have anything to write. Basically, I couldn’t pull the words from my mucky brain and put my fingers to the keyboard.
Like so many people this last year, I lost my ability to do things that used to be pleasurable, like writing. It wasn’t for the pandemic lockdown; it was my mental lockdown. Many of us suffered from the unknown and the loss of normalcy. I, for one, was carrying so much anxiety and stress my brain kept pausing, and it was hard to restart. Like my 2015 MacBook Pro. Anyway, to do daily functions was one thing, but writing and being creative was another. The most significant pressure I felt was to act okay even when things were not okay.
See, I was brought up with token comments in which a lot of us were given by our parents. It was their way to encourage us as well as to remind us not to complain. The latter being the main one, I’m sure. My mom grew up during the depression, and my dad was a two-time war veteran (WWII & Korea), so there was no room for complaining in their eyes. Here are some of their good one-liners in which I’m sure you’ve maybe heard from your parents or society, too. Here we go: Oh, you’ll be just fine. Hey, it isn’t as bad as it seems. You don’t have it so bad. The best one: Other people have it far worse. And you know what? Some people DID and DO have it far worse, but I’m not living in their shoes. I have deep sympathy or empathy for them depending on their situation, but at the expense of acknowledging my pain? Sorry Mom and Dad, but this past year sucked, and I’m tired of acting like it didn’t. Things were as bad as they seem.
I got a trifecta punch last year:
I am always one to find silver linings in things. I even blogged about it around this time last year, but what I’ve discovered is, it’s easy to find the silver lining at the beginning of a marathon (2020), not so much by the 24th mile (now). By this point, I’m like, okay, some people have it far worse, but I’m tired of putting on my marathon face that I’m okay. Some days, A LOT OF DAYS, I’m just not. How about you?
So, I’m going to write from a very transparent place. Not that I didn’t before, but I did it under the guise, like most of us do, that we don’t want to complain or be negative. Before today, I always felt like I needed to sound hopeful. Be optimistic. But I have been at this Cancer, COVID, job loss thing for a year now, and it sucks. It has tested and tried me. It has made me question my sanity, body, health, faith, friends, medical professionals, and family. At times, it has broken my heart and killed my finances. Cancer is not cheap. Not in the US anyway.
Before 2020, I was a person with a strong level of anxiety from years of loss, genetics, stress. Name it—General Anxiety Disorder and then some. I’ll admit to it now. For a time, I didn’t admit it because I didn’t want to seem vulnerable or have any discussable mental issues. Or be negative! Well, screw that. I’m human. In the past I managed the anxiety with meditation, medication, Yoga, distractions, working, playing live music, etc., and staying upbeat. I can be very optimistic to a fault. I’m a whistle while I work person until 2020 HIT. I tell you, if you don’t deal/process losses and heartbreaks, truths, they’ll come crashing in when you’re hit with something like a trifecta. Suddenly, you need ALL your emotional and mental resources, and what if they are tapped?
My trifecta last year resurrected a lot of fear, anxiety, and depression in me that I thought I had dealt with. When you’re given a cancer diagnosis, and you realize, “Oh shit, I can die?” it brings a lot to the surface. Things like old fears, regrets. Am I doing what I’m supposed to do with my life? Have I been the best parent? All of it comes crashing in. And then you get stuck at home because of the pandemic and lose your job. Now it’s like, oh shit, I’m stuck at home with myself and I’m not sure I even know who is looking back in my reflection because I’m not familiar with her or anything right now! Yet, she is the woman I need to fight for! I kept thinking, this is fucked up. But I’d forge ahead with gusto ’cause I figured if that’s all I have, this reflection and memories of my parents telling me I don’t have it so bad, I will fight. But gusto does fade.
And hey, of course, I knew I could die. Overall. Generally. BUT it doesn’t come into complete focus on our mortality until this type of diagnosis. Or COVID taping on all our shoulders. Suddenly, we all became very vulnerable. A caveat…not all cancer is a guarantee of death, nor is COVID. It doesn’t have to be that grim, BUT it sure can feel like it when you’re alone, away from familiar places, people, and family (due to pandemic, of course). And with cancer, the doctors paint it that way. Grim. It’s terrifying.
I was alone when I received the diagnosis and treatment plans, and it still rocks me to this day. At that time, I realized how much I missed my mom and dad—the ones who used to tell me that things aren’t as bad as they seem. I then needed them to say that exact thing, while sitting there shuttering and crying, in that doctor’s office, even though I knew their comment was bullshit, on some level. But maybe it would’ve made me feel better? Maybe that was my parent’s intention all along?
My parents are gone. My dad passed in 2006, my mom in 2016. They are some of the losses I speak of above. I guess we never stop needing our parents, especially if we were close to them and when something extremely unsettling happens like my trifecta. But during those times of being alone, I also realized how strong my parents made me. I handled the situation. All of it. I’m still handling it. But I’m getting tired. And annoyed, frustrated, angry, beaten. Sound familiar with anything you’re feeling with COVID, etc.? Again…the marathon analogy. We are effective and strong at the beginning of a marathon, but closer to the end, we struggle. Unless we’ve run a ton of marathons. I hadn’t run this specific marathon before.
I wish I would have paced myself in the beginning of 2020, but I didn’t know any better. Did any of us foresee an end to the pandemic? We still don’t! But speaking of the end…is there an end with cancer? The doctors say I’m clear because of recent blood tests and scans but for how long? I’ll need scans again the end of this year. And I’m still in treatments. Oops…stay positive and uplifted, Laurie!
The cancer doctors toss a lot of statistics at the situation because that’s all they have. From what the doctors say, I need to make it to ten years to not worry about a reoccurrence. Ten years of worrying about this?! And even then, it’s no guarantee. Cancer can still come back. Talk about the importance of living in the NOW! My oncologist told me that I need to go on with life like normal, except with better attention to my health, of course. But, uhm…there is nothing ordinary about a post-cancer, pandemic, jobless world. But my optimism says, “Sure there is Laurie, just find it.” This much I know is true. I always adapt.
Okay, there have been fantastic things that happened in the past year. I can see the beauty too. Still, I would rather have had these things happen WITHOUT cancer, pandemic, and a job loss. I mean, come on! Sure, I’m grateful for what I have, but again I’m tired. Have I said tired enough? So here are my “fantastic” from this past year:
The pandemic time off has given me the chance to incorporate a new healthy anti-cancer lifestyle. That’s a big bonus. HUGE! Can I say a new Vegan diet! LOVE it. Well, not all the time. I am transparent here! I’m craving a giant Wisconsin beer bratwurst right now and cheese sticks. Add in some chocolate cake. But I digress.
I wasn’t looking for it, but I fell in love in May of last year, and I must say for as scared as I was at the start of the cancer journey in January, this man swooped in and had taken care of me like I could not have imagined. He was and still is one of the greatest gifts of 2020. He’s a fighter in the ring and out, and he continues to show me how I can be too. Well, not in the ring. I leave the Muay Thai to him.
I started a new creative writing project that has brought me joy, laughter, and hope that maybe, just maybe, I can still have a future as a writer, creator, and entertainer. If cancer doesn’t get me, that is. See! This is the shit people with cancer, and other life-threatening diseases have running through their heads at first. I want to laugh at my comment ’cause it’s morose but true. I assume this dramatic thinking will too pass as the years go on and I move beyond the marathon.
I adopted two kittens who have rocked my world. A boy and a girl. Siblings. I named them after my favorite singers, Freddie Mercury and Annie Lennox. The cats are sweet, gorgeous, a little wild, and a great distraction to anyone’s woes of life.
I have regained my faith in Jesus, and in these times of despair, I do lean on my faith, but dang under such turmoil, sometimes I lost my focus on showing up. So, I trust God has me.
I’ve become much closer to my 18-year-old son. He is such a strong young man. When I complain, he tells me like it is, and wow, he’s an old soul and smart as a whip, very much like my dad. Sometimes my son says, “You’ll be fine. Don’t worry about cancer so much.” I could take his comment as dismissive or up-lifting. I choose up-lifting but I can’t help hear my dad’s voice when my son speaks.
So, as I reflect on this past year and my see-saw of emotions, I’m going to be simply honest: it’s exhausting always to be grateful and positive. To act like everything is okay, to stuff real, raw feelings down. Especially at the 20th mile. Or 24? I don’t even know what mile I’m on. My doctor says its an eternal marathon. He’s probably correct.
I didn’t want to jump on the fuckcancer hashtag bandwagon because I thought I would become a victim of the saying. Well, shoot, some of this cancer stuff IS out of my control. But I also realized my diagnosis and treatment was a walk in the park compared to others, so I didn’t want to take on their more deserved banner. Some others DO have it worse. But as time has gone on, I’m on their team, and they are on mine. We didn’t ask for this. And it sucks for all of us. And it all has worn me down, so yea, #fuckcancer. And #FUCKCOVID too. Too many people have been affected by it. It’s messed up. And that job loss of mine, well, if losing that job brings me closer to my true calling of writing, creating, and performing…that I’ll take.
Is there a silver lining for me a year later? I don’t know. Is there for you and your journey? I know my mental health has taken a beating, BUT I AM better for all this, and I would not want to be the woman I was a year ago or even three years ago. I’m starting to like my reflection again. I don’t know her fully yet, but I am falling in love with her all over again. And she’s got marathoner written all over her face.
P.S. My reflection photo used here was taken at beginning of the marathon. February 2020, after my first surgery. Yes, I had a clueless grin. I was trying to be okay. 😉
© Laurie Markvart 2021
It’s August 2020. We’re still very much in the throes of COVID. By now, we all know someone who experienced it or is actively in the illness’s retches. Or dealing with job loss or financial woes or we’re pulling together personal fragments of our current life with past life familiarities. Or we’re embracing a whole new way of life in which we don’t know if or when it will continue. There is no COVID deadline. And we are a society of deadlines. And we usually like to wrap shit up when it gets uncomfortable.
Most everything has a deadline or an ending—TV shows, movies, cooking, sporting events, roller coasters, tides, taxes, pregnancy. Many moons ago, when I was pregnant, around that eighth month when my belly was huge, I knew I had one more month to go. I could put my mind at ease, knowing the deadline was approaching. And with that deadline was a return to a somewhat familiar body and the gift of a beautiful baby boy. With COVID, we have no idea how we’re all going to end up. This is tricky.
During COVID, our stress has been out the window, down the street, and causing chaos on the neighbors. You get my drift. It’s not easy for anyone, and we’re all experiencing it and, unfortunately, sometimes sharing it on strangers.
Long-term stress is hard on the body. Our fight-or-flight response is supposed to engage when needed and then return to normal. If it remains “on,” it can cause health problems. It’s like a car motor idling too high for too long. It weakens the engine. We’re not meant to be in fight-or-flight all the time. And without a COVID deadline, we are. We don’t know when we’ll have resolve, predictability, relaxation, and time to say…” Ah, THAT is now over. Body, you are no longer threatened. Whew!”
COVID has messed up our deadlines. So has that breast cancer thing I’ve been dealing with since January. Yup, I’ve been in a COVID/cancer sandwich since the beginning of the year. But look, there is no pity party here. This is unique timing and a brilliant learning experience. See, with cancer, there is no deadline either. It can return. My scans and tests have recently come back negative, which is FANTASTIC, but I have to work hard to make sure my body stays cancer-free. Especially during a pandemic. My learning? Between COVID and cancer, I’ve given up on deadlines. And here is why and I hope this helps you as well. Instead of worrying when COVID will end or cancer return, I’m living in the now. The right here and now. The now is pleasurable and relaxing if we make it that way! I needed to accept being in the now or unsure how I’d deal with this chaotic situation. I can no longer let my motor idle hard and long. Neither can you.
We all need to fall in love with the now. Live NOW. Don’t worry or stress about when COVID will go away. Be safe and smart, and embrace your now. There will never be another day like today or another moment like this one. COVID, cancer, or not.