Archive for June, 2022

Fan Mail

I normally don’t post comments—good or bad—from anyone, but I feel this is a perfect illustration and actually an excellent lesson/learning experience as well. In the wee hours of the night, as I  was studying for midterms, I got a notification that I had to moderate a comment on my latest blog post, “Into Existence.” 

Here’s the comment, with the email address included (I will explain my rationale for the inclusion later): From nancy.hesby@yahoo.com, 10:36 PM: “As usual, you are very negative and completely self absorbed. Your poor children can’t even graduate high school without some self pitying diatribe from you.”

Of course, when I first read this, I admit I was hurt and confused, and even shocked. Then I burst out laughing because whoever this individual is, they obviously have no idea about the unbreakable bond between my children and me, nor do they realize that my kids and I share our artwork—whether that’s writing, visual art, gaming storyboard, or music—on a whim or scheduled. That’s how we’ve been since they could walk.

The timing of this comment could not have been more perfect because my youngest had confided in me yesterday before school about some microaggressions and was asking me how to deal with them. Having a plethora of invisible disabilities and being mixed race, I’ve spent a lifetime building my toolbox and in fact provided her a real-life example of how I had dealt with a microaggression in my biology class the previous day. Bottom line, I told her, you straighten up, look the person in the eye, and without judgment, you tell your story as a way of educating. My late father taught me this very lesson early on in life, when I’d experienced racism on the first day of kindergarten.

Thus. Bullies—even cyber ones—do not like to be called out. I don’t know exactly who this person is—for some reason, I picture Santa in drag with bad collagen filler, bleached blonde hair, with an Eastern European accent (it makes the bully seem even more ridiculous, which look, the bully is fucking schtupid, in the British pronunciation—and the only filling this mama will ever need is pie lol). Many times, they are textbook narcissists who crave attention, gaslight the hell out of everyone, lie their asses off (it’s pathological—they can’t help themselves), and bully their way through life while blaming everyone for the the bullying—and best of all, they hide in plain sight. They make themselves out to be victims while creating victims out of everyone else. So best way to deal with these sorry-ass troglodytes? CALL THEM OUT. And that is why I include this person’s email. No, I did not approve this comment on my piece, which was my commencement song to my children. This comment was an attempt to bully me, and it bears no merit on anything I had said.

However, I tried to reach out to the person, who had made the comment because I felt they were hurting, and that clearly I had personally done them wrong in some fashion. But the email had bounced. Is this person really *Nancy Hesby*? Or did this sad, pained individual just choose some random person and attach an email to her name, in an attempt to hurt me, not knowing that I have survived a hell of a LOT more than this sorry-ass paragraph and therefore couldn’t even be dinged by this? In any case, I responded:

“It’s actually a pity—and sad—that YOU view my piece in this light because it is meant to be one of hope and faith after all that we, as a family, have endured all these years. So in the end, your read is truly totally ignorant. 

‘As usual…,’ why do you lurk in the loneliness of the Internet and despise my expression of how I’m trying to regain my life and have gratitude for moments big and small? I feel sorry for you, and I pray you find help, peace, solace, and serenity. 

Sending you light and love, Brandy Liên Worrall-Soriano”

Unsurprisingly, the message came back undeliverable. 

Well, “Nancy,” if you’re reading this, I wish you all the best, as I’ve said. Please stop being a lonely troll. I’m not here for that, and you know it.

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Into Existence

My son, the 2022 graduate
My daughter before her 2021 pandemic graduation

As I was pounding the pavement on this rainy Vancouver afternoon, heading to my community college campus—doing my best as a mature student, doing a 180 on careers at age 46 and going from editor and writer of nearly a quarter of a century to applying to nursing school so I can do some positive good and use my 15 years of pain and misery as a cancer survivor and chronic illness patient—I suddenly burst into tears. It had hit me. I was able to check off a bucket list item: I saw my child graduate from high school. (You must forgive me, people sitting and standing around me here on campus, for I’m allowing the tears to fall as I continue to pen this now.) For me, you must realize, watching my baby boy nervously, tentatively wobble and then proudly straighten up to his full 6’1” self, to walk across the stage, shaking his principal’s hand, being alphabetically frustrated as the next to the last student—it means more than just hypothetically leaving the nest (I say hypothetically because this one is still living with us after graduation, natch). 

As a cancer survivor, as a young adult cancer survivor (I beg of you to look up stats on this egregiously underfunded, yet depressingly burgeoning cancer community, both in the States and in Canada), there are so many fears. Yes, in 2009 I found a community when I became part of Young Adult Cancer Canada and Young Adult Cancer Network (at Callanish, a Vancouver cancer nonprofit nonpareil, which will always be embedded in my heart and soul). Through these organizations I discovered incredible connections, friendships, people who got “it,” love, spirit, memories. There were retreats, conferences, workshops, outings, meditations… But the downside is that I have lost so, so many friends. Many of those friends had children who will never grow up with their mom or dad anymore, much less have their parent at their graduation. It’s been beyond heartbreaking…I’ve felt like my heart literally had developed scars, over and over again. I think of Jennifer and Julie, both with my rare subtype of breast cancer (Triple Negative Breast Cancer) that often takes the patient within five years of the diagnosis. Each woman had small children. Each were amazing mothers, sparkling humans.

During the last (almost) 15 years since my diagnosis (it’ll be 15 on July 12th), I’ve had so many cancer scares that were not unwarranted—pains and lumps and even a mounting concern that led to a lung dissection, leaving me with minus one-third of my right lung. Then my father suddenly passed away from metastatic lung cancer in 2014 just a couple weeks before his 66th birthday … my aunt from pancreatic cancer in 2018 when she was 68, and my mind lingered on how I have had so much radiation…radiation that continues to harden in my body and will possibly mutate cells someday. Alas, at some point I stopped having cancer scares and began having hopes to live at least until I see my two older children graduate from high school, to live until 50 years old (three and a half more years to go!), to see my youngest graduate from high school. Being a grandma is on my bucket list, but I dare say that might be a bit greedy.

The pandemic stole my darling first born’s walk across the stage in front of a big crowd last year, and all we got was an emailed video. It would have been grand to see her, especially receiving her accolades for her hard work on the yearbook and as a graphic designer. We joked that she should have donned her cap and gown, and slyly locked arms with her baby bro to walk across the stage. Because that’s the kind of family we are—hilariously loving (those two kids have NEVER fought!)

I myself have been part of four commencement ceremonies: high school, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and MFA–my parents travelling long distances (even from Pennsylvania to California) for all but the last one. Institutions choose different words for their ceremonies to mark the occasion. As a self-proclaimed word nerd, I’ve pondered the nuances of “graduation” and “commencement.” Graduation indicates the process and journey of taking steps to obtain a degree or reach the endpoint. Commencement, on the other hand, marks the beginning of the next phase, or even better, from the late 13th century, “coming into existence,” as the student has attained all they need to transition fully where they want to go. Unfortunately, my son’s high school woefully chose the words “Leaving Ceremony” to grace the program. Who made this, um, thoughtful choice is beyond me. In my opinion, they might as well have written, “GTFO Ceremony”…it would have been at least funny. Like, just leave already, kiddos!

Prior to my son’s graduation, I read about a father who went to his child’s graduation and decided to clap and cheer for every single student because he knew that not every kid had that kind of cheering section, and he wanted to make sure that each kid felt loved. I felt where this parent was coming from, his sense of urgency of the last two years, the do-any-small-thing-you-can to show these kids you care because you never know if it will be the last day for any of them, those isolated kids who felt so lost that they couldn’t take it anymore. I realized that since the dawn of the pandemic, with social rules changing faster than viral trends, how many parents were now grieving the loss of their children. Never taking a single moment for granted, I dedicate this commencement homage to all the parents and children who can only imagine what might have been. 

At the beginning of the ceremony, the guidance counselor instructed the audience to hold their applause until the very end of the ceremony, to make it all go faster. No one listened. I mean, I was already embittered by the fact that they made us wait outside for nearly an hour for no good reason, after letting in some folks almost an hour earlier–angry blisters reddening and swelling on my toes and soles, Fluevog Rockstar heels be damned. And I could only make so much civil chit chat with my ex-husband while standing in line with the tickets. So yeah, if I wanted to cheer and hoot and holler for each and every student, you bet your ass I was going to.

I observed and enjoyed the fact that each kid had their own way across the stage because this was their moment–after 13 years of public school education, a journey of highs and lows, of failures, achievements, tears, laughter, secrets, proclamations, friendships, enemies, frenemies, loneliness, and togetherness. They emerged from behind the curtain beside the guidance counselor, handing him the slip of paper with their name on it and their one-liner–how they wanted to tell the hundreds of people in the audience, and their loved ones, who they were, who they’ve become–the culmination of their identity, in one line, their “coming into existence,” as it were. Some kids swaggered, others did tricks, some tried to be funny in their nervous way, but the majority just wanted to get through it, shyness mixed with a mustering of confidence that was sweet to behold. I can remember that feeling.

Finally, it was the moment I’d been waiting for for over two hours. My baby boy–almost grown up. He ambled to his spot. From his birth to his toddler years to kindergarten through elementary then high school–it all rushed at me in my mind as a bittersweet montage. He nervously stood there as his guidance counselor read his name and began reading his one liner–an eccentric, offbeat thanks to the crows he fed and spent time with after school. I cheered loudly and felt my chest fill with so much overwhelming emotion as he made his way across the stage to where his principal stood. I desperately wanted to go to where he was, to catch him if he fell, as I’ve done so many times when he was little. But you see, I can’t do that anymore. He must now learn how to catch himself, pick himself up, dust himself off. He knows I will always be here to listen to him tell me all about it. And maybe someday, if, when I’m not here, I’ll be with him just the same.

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