I wrote this for a cancer support group, but thought others might relate so sharing here as well.

The exercise was to reflect on a quote and how it relates to our own cancer experience. I chose:

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.” — Gilda Radner

I didn’t just want a perfect ending…


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I’ve been thinking a lot about connection. As an introvert, connection usually drains me, but I enjoy occasional meaningful interactions. Since I prefer solitude, this creates conflict. Imagine a cat. Cats can be deceptively lovable, allowing petting and rubbing; then, a sudden and invisible over-stimulation switch flips, and they scratch or bite the fuck out of you. I am the cat in this scenario. I rarely scratch or bite, though. I vanish. If I feel someone either wants too much from me or doesn’t value me, I withdraw or push them away. Sometimes this is temporary. Sometimes it’s permanent. My…


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1. Go kayaking.

2. Watch more sunsets.

3. Practice writing a novel.

4. Visit Chloe and Joe more.

5. Speak lovingly to myself and others.

6. Get rid of the shoes and clothes I never wear.

7. Plan a trip to Kentucky with the Swans and O’Loughlins.

8. Do more of what I want and less of what I think I should do.

9. Paint the kitchen ceiling. Actually all the ceilings need to be painted.

10. Speaking of the kitchen … cabinets, counters, backsplash and floor. Maybe.

11. Really, though, work on those books for the kids. …


It is the last week of 2020, so I figured it was time to review my 20 for 20 list. In other words: I’ve been avoiding this because I didn’t think I accomplished too many of my goals, and have now run out of time to avoid it.

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I can blame some of the misses on the global pandemic but must attribute others to laziness and complacency. And still others to a cancer diagnosis midway through the year that turned my life upside down and shifted my focus away from things that no longer mattered to me. Like my weight…


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Do you have any strange misconceptions about yourself that when said out loud sound ridiculous and outlandish? I feel like it’s just me, but then again I always feel like it’s just me. You know Brené Brown’s first book, I Thought It Was Just Me? That should be one of my mantras — I thought it was just me…but it isn’t.

You’re probably thinking, “Here she goes with her crazy again,” and full disclosure, I have been a little manic lately, but let me try to explain. My birth experience with Lily was torturous. Thank goodness I ended up with…


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One of the issues I worked on with my favorite therapist was my intense feeling of being left out and rejected. This was perhaps left over from being the youngest of 7 children. Too young to accompany my older siblings on fun adventures. Too young to hear or understand family gossip, “Don’t tell the baby.” We came up with a mantra for when the familiar loneliness of perceived rejection bubbled up: I’m okay doing my own thing.

This mantra has been exceptionally helpful over the years but mostly in the past few months as I’ve dealt with melanoma. I realized…


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Last night, my precious, precocious teenager was in a state. Her rage centered on food — mainly the lack or un-savoriness of the food in our house. Having spent the day nursing a back injury with ice, heat, and ibuprofen, pain inhibited me from showing much patience toward her plight. Toward the end of the evening she found a stain on the shirt she intended to wear to school. I asked if she wanted me to try to get the stain out. …


In the late 80’s and early 90’s, I was obsessed with Michael Hutchence, lead singer of the band INXS. He would have been 60 just a few days ago (yep, I remember his birthday), but he committed suicide at 37, having lived a decade longer than Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain, thereby denying himself admittance into the 27 Club.

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When he died in 1997, just a few months after my brother had taken his own life, old friends reached out to me. …


20 for 20

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If you’re a Gretchen Rubin fan, you’re probably familiar with the goal-setting exercise she and her sister/co-host Liz Craft do on their podcast Happier with Gretchen Rubin. This past year it was 19 for 19: 19 things to accomplish in the year 2019. I didn’t make one last year because sometimes goals — even my own — bring out my inner rebel: Don’t tell me what to do.

But this year, 20 for 20, a brand new decade … it seemed too perfect to pass up. Also, I tried to approach the list from a life-enriching perspective…


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My mom turned 88 last week. Since she loves coffee and donuts, I stopped the morning of her birthday to get her coffee and a donut after I dropped Lily off at school. When I got to the window to pay, the cashier said, “The lady in front of you paid for your order.” I was so caught off guard and touched by this small gesture I almost cried. I have paid for other people’s orders but have never been the recipient of a random act of generosity like this. It hit me right in the feels.

Back to the…

Mary Swan-Bell

dreamer•seeker• mystic author of Post-Its and Polaroids 📚 aspiring witch

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