Every New Beginning Ends

100_0389When my oncologist looked at me yesterday during our regular 6 week visit and said, “So you’re done!” it took me a minute to understand what he was saying.

Fresh from the treatment room where I had received the IV medication I’ve taken every 3 weeks for the last year, I was still groggy from the Benedryl. “What?”

“That’s it!  You’re all done with your treatments!”  His smile grew bigger.

“But I thought I still had 1 more!”  Much more alert, I also suddenly felt scared, interestingly enough.

“Nope. You haven’t missed any and 17 is what I generally give and today you got 17.  You’re all done.”

Nearly 24 hours later, and I can still hardly believe it.  In February of 2015, when I was told it would take 18 months to complete the course of treatment recommended, I honestly didn’t think I could do it.  18 months was a lifetime!  It wasn’t just the surgery I had to face.  It was 6 rounds of chemotherapy.  It was the 35 rounds of radiation.  It was a year’s worth of Herceptin, and all the poking and prodding and testing in between.  It sounded like a hideous 18 month clusterf*** of pain and danger and potential side effects to deal with.

This wasn’t a sprint.  It was a marathon and I hate running!

I didn’t think I could do it.  I literally did not know if I’d be strong enough or brave enough to do it!   All I felt was fear – Me, who didn’t think she was afraid of anything, was suddenly a coward begging God to PLEASE make it all go away!.  Seriously, I promised to do literally ANYTHING if it all just miraculously disappeared.

But in spite of the prayers, God didn’t make the cancer go away.  At least, not supernaturally (which I know happens.)  Instead, S/he took me by the shoulders, pointed me towards the fiery furnace, and said, “Go.  Just take one step at a time.  And I will be with you all the way.”

That’s exactly what happened.  With every step I took, God was there  walking with me, never leaving my side and – during some particularly dark moments – carrying me through the flames.  One step.  Then another and another.

Suddenly, 18 months was over.  I made it!

I believe in the power of prayer.  I believe that all prayer is answered, just not necessarily in the form that we think or hope it will be.   Experiencing an immediate deliverance or an unfolding grace for the journey – both are answered prayer and both are miraculous.

Day and night.  Light and Dark.  The Lord created them both and while we may not always understand it, the Dark IS holy.  There are certain things we can learn only by experiencing a Dark Night, as fearsome and lonely and painful and confusing as it might be.  That’s why authentic Shamans are those who have experienced a real and traumatic “death and rebirth” of some type.  Not at all like the New Age folks self-identifying as shamans after taking a few courses, beating a drum, and finding a few hawk feathers.

Learning to accept the dark days of our lives as part of the natural order of things helps relieve some of our suffering.  We come to understand that we aren’t being punished when bad things happen to us – when we suddenly find ourselves face to face with the fire.  We are being called to transform.

In 18 months, I learned to prioritize and simplify my life.  To say “No” where before I said “Yes”.  I learned who my real friends were, and how to care for myself when no one showed up.  I learned to trust “in spite of”….in spite of my fears, in spite of what others had experienced, even in spite of doubt.  My personal spiritual beliefs were honed and sharpened. I know now what I believe in, and WHO I believe in, with a deeper understanding and depth than ever before.  The dross floated to the top and has been skimmed away.

The fire purifies, if we let it.

Every tear I wept was gathered in gentle Hands and kept for safe keeping.  Every time I bowed my head….in weakness or humbleness or fear or worship…those same Hands tenderly smoothed over my hairless head and brought me physical comfort, and an soulful awareness that I wasn’t alone.

And every groan of despair that rose from deep within my belly and broke through lips cracked and blistered was turned into a song of deliverance.

The dark is not to be feared, but revered.  For without the darkness of the night sky, we’d never see the stars.

So.  That’s it! And I have such mixed emotions.  As I turn the page to close one chapter of my life, the blank page of the next is staring me full in the face.  So much has changed, but I’ve never been more ME. I’ve lost much….friends, my job, my old identity…but I’ve gained so much more.

I feel like a new being.  I know that the Next Right Thing will reveal itself to me in due season.  The right people.  The right events.  The right stuff.  Trust in the Divine Plan for my life has never been stronger, forged in the furnace of affliction.

I have walked through the fire and, as promised, made it to the other side unscathed.

To God be the glory.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” – Isaiah 43:2

Hey! Over Here!

OlivettiLong before Social Media, people found their tribes online through chat rooms, online forums and blogging.  And while sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all have their place in my life, blogging is still my first love… even if, as with my RL relationship, I don’t spend enough time doing it.

I THINK about it a lot though.  Jeez, I’m a thinker.  An over-thinker, really.  Like other writers, I have a constant stream of dialogue running through my mind. Experiences, quotes, books, animals….everything seems to set off the typewriter in my head to rap-tap-tapping.

Social Media only exasperates this, and not in a good way.  In fact, one of the things I enjoyed the most about my April FB hiatus was that the Voices in my head quieted to a gentle roar.  They were silent, even, at times.  I’m not sure I’d be back there now if it hadn’t been a requirement of my new Habitat For Humanity gig.  In fact, I know I wouldn’t be. After I went through a wee bit of withdrawal, I absolutely loved the quiet.

Learning to ignore distractions has been an ongoing thing for me.  My default, especially during stressful times, is to Check Out in some form or another.  Back in the day, it was drugs, alcohol, sex and spending money.  Oh, and a TON of romance novels – sometimes several a week. (Thank you, Nora Roberts!)

These days, checking out looks more like spending WAY too much time playing some silly game or cruising the Web (aptly named, I’ve always thought, for it’s tendency to snag and trap me).

It’s frightening how much time can be wasted checking email, checking all the Social Media outlets, playing this,  You Tubing that.  Before I know it, an entire morning is gone and I’ve gained what?  A bit of mindlessness and a whole lot of crap in my head?

Time is SO precious!  TOO precious to waste, especially on things and people who don’t matter in the long run.

Whether it’s patience, love, or focus, it seems the only way to master a thing is to be placed in situations where you have to practice it, over and over again – sometimes kicking and screaming.  Forming good habits is like building muscle.  Muscle takes time, persistence and resistance to grow (just ask my wings).

But before that, there has to be a desire to grow.  A willingness to do what it takes.  And, in my case, I have to acknowledge there may be is a little problem.

A decade or so ago, using the Serenity Prayer and the 12-Steps helped me overcome the sex and drug addiction.  The more things change, the more they stay the same, I guess, because today – rather than admit I’m powerless over substances – I really need to admit I have ADD:  I am Addicted To Digital Distractions.

Like a person needing to overcome a food addiction while still able to eat in a healthy manner, I need help to overcome ADD and still be able to function in the Digital Age.  I am, after all, a writer and in marketing.  Social Media is an important tool in both fields.

It’s time for some real soul-searching.  Time to uncover the WHAT of it all:  What am I avoiding?  What is the payoff for checking out?  What am I giving up in order to do this?  What I am afraid of?

And – most important of all – what do I need to do to silence the one Voice inside my head that is constantly nagging me to

WRITE THE DAMN BOOK ALREADY

Work is hard. Distractions are plentiful. And time is short.

– Adam Hochschild