True Confessions of a Terrible Blogger

20150613_112004_resizedI’m a terrible blogger.

Long gone are the days when I would write a daily post, and then go around checking on all my blog “friends”, commenting here and there and interacting along the way.

When I first started blogging back in 2004 or so, it was a whole ‘nuther world.  Blogging itself was a relatively new phenom.  This was in the days before “Smart Phones” and tablets, social media and “monetizing”.

Before the “Like” button.

Sure, the platforms themselves were pretty rustic compared to all the bells and whistles available today.  We had a small handful of options for templates and such.  Corporate websites weren’t yet using a blog as a generic marketing tool.  “Click bait” would’ve been mistaken for some sort of fishing apparatus. But oh, those were great blog times.  I sometimes miss them in the middle of the night.

These days, I “think” about writing here far more often than I actually do.  One reason (the main reason) is, I’ve lost the plot. I don’t know what my motivation is….the whole “WHY” of it.

I’m not an “expert” on anything.  I haven’t any earth shattering wisdom to impart, a book to promote,  or a service or product to sell.

I have no interest in trying to be “someone”, or garner an adoring crowd (well, actually, that part sounds pretty good.  haha!)

So why write here?  What is it that keeps me coming back (albeit sporadically), year after year, even after weeks and months of being MIA?

It’s simple, really. I long to connect.  To reach out and touch someone and maybe, if I’m lucky, have them touch back.  To write something and have someone say, “Hey, me, too!” or “I totally get you!”

Being “get” cannot be rated highly enough.

One of the most unexpected developments of having been diagnosed with breast cancer almost 2 years ago was how it would impact my relationships.  I’ve written reams about it in my journal, and mentioned it briefly here (I think….)  And I suppose much of the changes stem from how the news – and the treatment journey itself – impacted me.

Unless you’ve walked a mile in the shoes of someone who’s been told they have the Big C, it’s hard to understand, even if you are close to someone who has or is going through it.  See, you can’t be in their head.  You aren’t there in those dark, solitary, sleepless hours in the middle of the night with your thoughts running amuck.  Hell, even my own family doesn’t know some of the stuff I had to deal with – emotionally and physically – because I didn’t want to burden them any more than they already had to deal with.  I still don’t.

Long story short, and not surprisingly, I’m not the same person I was 2 years ago.  For example, I’ve essentially ditched the New Thought/New Age/Alternative spirituality stuff I had been practicing for a decade or so.  I found that 97% of it was pretty useless when it came to dealing with the diagnosis.  My beliefs were tried by fire.  I am, most assuredly, a Jesus person again.  NOT a fundamentalist.  You can’t “unknow” or “unexperience” certain things.  I love and support my gay friends and the LGBT community at large.  I still swear up a storm and I don’t go to church (although, if I could find one where I “fit in”, I would go in a heartbeat).  I still believe in the Feminine Face of God, and the Mystery of the spiritual realm.

Physically, I’ve changed, too.  I don’t have long dyed hair and acrylic nails any more.  My face is different….a little more battle-scarred and war-weary.  And my wardrobe.  Ugh!  After being away from the corporate environ for this long, and after going from 2 incomes to 1, well, the word “limited” comes to mind.

Hell, some days I don’t even put makeup on except maybe my eyebrows.  They are a MUST HAVE, if I want to avoid looking rather alien.  I didn’t have much before and, after chemo, things didn’t improve.  At least I got my lashes back.  Mostly.

Another big change is how I spend my days.  I am, by and large, living the life of a retiree – even with my part-time bookkeeping job (which, as it turns out, is VERY part-time).  My days are spent doing mundane “housewife” things like cooking and laundry and cleaning.  I actually don’t mind that, interestingly enough.  And I have plenty of time (if not money) to do the crafts and classes that I enjoy.

I never did relate to the “cancer survivor” meme, even though – technically – I am one.  Never joined a support group and don’t have a single piece of pink-ribboned paraphernalia.  Going through breast cancer was more like going through an ugly divorce or a death or some other trauma. I am doing what I can to put “that phase” of my life in the past as much as possible considering it was – well – cancer.

So I didn’t come out of that phase with a tribe of “sisters”, even though I was told I would.  In fact, some friends have drifted off into the sunset.  Why?  I dunno…Changing interests or lifestyles, maybe?  Some of that is to be expected, I suppose.  In July 2015, when my BFF broke up with me  after my 2nd round of chemo (and right after I shaved my head), I had a big wake up call.  Another one, I should say.  It was the understanding that some people can’t handle the tough times…the really tough times.  Times involving a drastic change in availability, or appearance or energy.

Times of facing one’s own mortality.

My friendships have undergone a serious pruning.  In spite of that, the relationships I have with myself, the God of my understanding, my husband and my children are all stronger than ever.  I’ve made a few new acquaintances and friends along the way, although no one (yet) to fill those BFF shoes. But I appreciate these women when we spend time together.  We laugh and have fun as we get to know each other better.

But in my heart I believe there is one special woman out there.  One who is also looking for me, wanting the same sort of “sisterfriend” relationship I want.  Someone like-minded and enjoys the same things.  A woman who  makes the best of things and lives life  – every day – to the fullest.  She’ll be down to earth with a good head on her shoulders and a smartass remark on her lips. And we’ll laugh our asses off, A LOT, even when we’re crying.  It’s just a matter of time before we are connected.

CONNECTED.

Connection.  That feeling you get when you know someone is there for you, and you for them, during good times or bad, happy times or sad.  When the people involved experience the strength and comfort that comes from doing life together vs. going it alone.

I want more of that in my life. In real-time.  Because as wonderful as online friendships are, they aren’t the same as those where you actually DO stuff together, physically, in the same space.  Words written on a page (or in a text) are not the same as those spoken face to face, eye to eye.

Maybe even heart to heart, when someone needs a hug……

CONNECTION.

I may be a terrible blogger, but I give great hugs.

It’s just a matter of time.

Journaling – A Journey With Soul

Last week I was asked to write a guest post on journal writing by a wonderful woman who is an internationally known author, singer, and creative mentor who uses and teaches journal writing as a healing modality.  My post will be published on December 13th, but because it will be under my real name – and I write Anonymously here – I won’t be linking up.  However,  I can publish it here and now.  Because it had to be 600 words or less, I edited quite a bit out.  Maybe in the future I’ll expand on my own journal practice in future posts.

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20161129_054136_resizedIn 1969, for my 12th birthday, I received my first “Diary”.  A hard-bound book covered in daisies, it contained pages of blank lined paper and,  most importantly, a lock and tiny key.

Diaries! That place where your secrets were kept, secrets needing to be protected from the watchful eyes of parents and snoopy little brothers.  I can still see myself laying on the bed, my bedroom door closed, filling pages with big loopy lettering made in No. 2 pencil. I wrote about other girls, first periods and first bras.  I poured out my heart when I wasn’t invited to a party.  I chronicled my parents fights, and that night I accidentally discovered them naked in the pool.

I wrote about boys.  A LOT!

There was something exciting about each new diary started.  They whispered of POSSIBILITIES. NEW BEGINNINGS.  FRESH STARTS.

I’m not sure when diaries became ‘journals’.  Little hard-bound books were eventually replaced by steno pads and spiral notebooks.  It didn’t matter what they were called, though.   That FRESH START feeling didn’t change.

In the 70’s, I wrote out all the angst and longing of a teenager that didn’t feel like she fit in and so desperately wanted to.  In the 80’s, my journal absorbed the crazy-hot desire of a single 20something trying to make her way in the world, where I often waxed poetic.  Words poured out of me, filling empty hours and a deep-rooted need for self-expression.  I wrote about other girls, who was dating who and the heartbreak of not being invited to a party.  I chronicled the liberation of not living under my parents’ roof.

And I wrote about boys.  A LOT!

It was after my first child was born in 1986 that my “Morning Time” was also born.  Working full-time, I found it easier to stay awake after his 5 am feeding than to go back to bed for an hour.  It didn’t take long before I discovered the treasures to be found in the quiet solitude of Predawn.  I would sit at the dining table with my coffee and journal, gazing out the window while body and mind awoke.  I watched the changing seasons of my life reflected in the big Maple tree in our backyard, and I wrote and prayed.  Intentions were set for the new day, my head and my heart purged, and blessings counted.  During the brief periods when I didn’t practice it, I felt the difference – and not in a good way.

30 years later, I can still be found in the wee hours with my journal and coffee although, thanks to menopause, it’s more like 3 a.m.  (I wrote through THAT, too!).   While the hour and view has changed, my journaling journey hasn’t.  It’s still the best friend ready to listen without judgment, the husband who never zones out, the psychiatrist who doesn’t requirement payment or an appointment. And perhaps, most profoundly, it’s the Ear of God that’s always Present.

After nearly 50 years, I’ve journaled my way through marriages, divorces, births, deaths, and more sorrows and joys than I can count. Most recently I wrote my way through a breast cancer diagnosis and 18 months of treatment.  Frankly, I don’t know how I would’ve survived without it.  Writing is healing.  It’s cathartic.  It’s revelatory.  It’s doesn’t care if I’m happy or scared, strong or weak, or blonde, bald or gray (smiling).

A journal is unconditional in its acceptance of all the Flawesomeness of my life.  All I have to do is show up – authentically and faithfully – to reap it’s magic:

The Alchemy of my Soul.

Enough Is Enough

taco-lasagna

Yesterday I needed to do a little grocery shopping. After thinking through what was needed to supplement what I already had for making meals for the next week, I visited three different stores looking for the best prices. I picked up Halloween candy, grapes and a cantaloupe, a huge package of chicken quarters and breasts, the big jug of the Coffee Mate my daughter uses and a jar of salsa  needed for the Taco Lasagna I was making for dinner.

And  paid for everything in quarters.

Earlier, I had sent ou a big THANK YOU for the change jars my husband and I both keep that produced $30 dollars.  It would be enough.

Mumbling something to the cashiers about garage sales and not wanting to lose money in “fees” at the CoinStar, I managed to stave off most of my embarrassment at piling up the coins for payment (and was particularly relieved when no one was behind me in line.)

There is money in the account for rent and a couple of bills needing to be paid before next payday.  There’s a $100 bill in the change jar that I can use for groceries or gas. And, in case of an emergency, there’s always  credit cards.  So it’s not like we are destitute.  I don’t expect we’ll even be late on anything.  But it felt better to use the coins, to conserve what we have.

See, we are in on of those “In-between” season.  Having gone through our entire savings over the last 18 months while undergoing breast cancer treatment – and all that entailed  – we just happen to be in-between the time when money is so tight is squeaks, and some relief on the not-too-distance horizon. With careful planning, and a lot of God’s grace, we are going to make it through this time just fine.

Come December, and the last of 17 months of COBRA insurance payments will be made.  That’s $650/month.  My husband is expecting his annual bonus check come the first week in December, too.  And it looks like my part-time bookkeeping job is starting to give me more hours.   Fast forward another 7-8 months, and hundreds of dollars will be back in my husband’s paycheck when a 401K loan is paid off. So, all things being equal, by this time next year we “should be” in a much better place.

PLEASE. (smiling)

It’s having that relief in sight, and seeing every day miracles of provision, that keeps me from getting blue.  Actually, I am feeling a deep sense of heart-satisfaction and peace right now in spite of the squeeze.

Several years ago, I had this moment of clarity that broke my heart  AND filled me with the realization at just how short the human life really is.  I realized that an entire season  of my life was over – a major one! – never to be experienced again. I was staring my own mortality in the face.  How FAST it all went (even if, at the time, it didn’t feel that way)!  In a breath, it was gone – that Long-but-Short season of being a young, newly married woman creating her first home, bearing and raising two babies, and facing more years ahead of her than she did behind her.  So much promise and possibility in those years, even while I clipped coupons to stretch the food budget,  made trips to the pediatrician, and sewed costumes for school.

There was a lot of magic going on in those days, as I made “something out of nothing”.  I still have a binder full of recipes cut from magazines for using hamburger 50 different ways, and making casseroles out of  leftovers.

Even back then, being a two-income family was a necessity if one (a) arrangementswanted to stay off government assistance and (b) wanted to provide a decent (lower) middle class existence for a family. While in my heart I longed to be a stay at home mom, my pragmatism was what drove me.  I would rather have my kids safe and sound in the “extended family” environment of a good babysitter while I brought home the bacon, than to subject myself to food stamps and, them, to poverty just so I could “stay home”.  As it turned out, I was a job creator myself, providing the income for another mom to stay home, while bringing home money and health benefits for my entire family.  In retrospect, it was worth the trade-off.  My kids didn’t suffer.  They were loved, and knew they were loved, by not only me and my husband but by a “village”, so to speak.

Can a child EVER experience too much love?

Boy, there were some tough at times, to be sure.  Sure, we made do with nice second-hand furniture, and help from my parents.  When the second baby came 15 months after the first, and expenses doubled, I truly didn’t know where the money would come from for childcare, pediatrician visits, diapers, formula and clothing for two little growing bodies.

There were many many mornings before work spent in prayer and a lot of tears.  There were also sublime moments of gratitude and overwhelm when “things worked out”.  We never went without anything important.  It might come in at the last-minute, but the money was always there to pay the mortgage, or to buy food  or to put gas in the cars.  We even had a little extra for pizza on the weekends, something special for the kids on their birthdays, and goodies under the tree from Santa.

Later, as a single mom of two teenagers, there wasn’t  money for college but both my kids have held jobs since their teen years, and have since grown in their respective careers.  Now – at 29 and 30 – they are wonderful people and productive members of society.

With a lot of hard work, and even more of God’s grace, we made it.

Fast forward to today.  There are three generations under our roof again, having banded together for a season because we can all do better together than we can do apart right now.  Once again there are “children” to care for.  A family to cook for and nurture.  A child’s laughter and wonder to experience on a daily basis.  It’s like I am experiencing a renaissance of my Motherhood years…something I thought was long gone.

Here I am again, cutting coupons and looking for creative ways to make “cheap” cuts of meat taste yummy.  (Which is an oxymoron these days.)  I am being extra careful to use up, reuse, make do, and make sure to shop smart – and, where appropriate – in quantity again.  It’s not easy, with 3 adults and 1 growing boy.  There are some challenges when adult children move back in.  My house isn’t as neat and quiet as it was before a 7-year-old lived here full-time.  But Oh! It’s been satisfying on SO many levels!  Deep and heart wrenchingly so, as this time around, at 60 years old, I am so much more mindful of the fragility and fleeting preciousness of life here on Earth.

Ok, so I kinda swallowed my pride, put on a “face”, and used quarters yesterday.  BFD!  No harm was done to me in the making of those purchases…except for, maybe, my ego.  The Taco Lasagna was delicious, the rent check is in the mail, and my grandson had a wonderful Halloween treak-or-treating and handing out the candy that Grandma bought earlier in the day.  $15 worth of the good stuff.  Peanut Butter cups, Tootsie Pop suckers, and malted milk balls.  YUM.

Just like my kids back in the day, he hasn’t a clue there are medical bills  to be paid.  He has no concept of the exorbitant and ever-increasing cost of living that is crushing the middle class. All he knows is he is safe, warm, well cared for, and well-loved.  The adults in his life are – collectively – providing everything he really needs.  (Even if Mom DOES have to say “No” to buying the 37th wrestling action figure…at least, for now).

And so, I find myself frequently choked up and on the verge of tears as I witness God – again and still – miraculously providing for us.  For example, I wrote my floral design teacher to tell her I couldn’t make  this next session because I didn’t have the material fee, and hoped my course fee could be applied for a future class when things were a little better.  She told me to come anyway.  To come in early, in fact, so we could chat.  I left class Saturday with a beautiful arrangement, a bag of pumpkin seeds to roast, and a heart full of love for her.

Then there was last Friday, when I went “Treasure Hunting” at the Good Will to pass some time, and found the most adorable top for my daughter  ½ off – a whopping $2.99.  It ended up being the “perfect” thing for her to wear to a big family reunion she was going to.  It fit like a glove.

bowl-of-pomsMy husband does a little handyman “side work” for a rancher friend, and ended up coming home Saturday with a HUGE bag of pomegranates (so many I gave some to a friend), a ton of fresh beef (4 lbs. Of ground and a nice looking roast), and a crisp $100 bill!

It’s really mind-blowing, sometimes.  In the very middle of a difficult season, I feel such gratitude.  Such JOY.  It’s like a deep river of satisfaction and peace running through my belly, holding me steady and refreshing my soul.  I feel it when I peel carrots and potatoes for a big pot of stew, knowing the family will smell it as they come in the door, hungry and tired after a long day at work.  I am awash with it as I fold my grandsons clean clothing, or witness his excitement at a freshly carved and lit Jack O’ Lantern or hear him tell how he made Super Student at school – again! – this week.

Seasons come and go. Good times and bad.  Hard times and easy ones.  Abundant times and slim pickings times.   Healthy times, and not.  For everything thing, there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

And, if  you’re lucky, some seasons actually come around again.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear….for your Father knows that you have need of these things.  But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you.”  Matthew 6:25, 32-33

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Mission To Mom

momSometimes it takes time to understand  “why” something has happened the way it did or to understand how we have actually been in the right place, at the right time – even though it didn’t feel like it at the time.

For example.  The whole “job” thing.  It’s been one big question mark since I knew I was going to take medical leave to Walk Through the Fire.  The day I left work, I knew – deep inside – that I wouldn’t be going back , even though the Powers That Be had treated things so nonchalantly that they didn’t even bother assigning my work to someone else, or getting a temporary to cover for me.  And I actually did quite a lot there, after 10 years.

When I got laid off after being released to go back to work 11 months later, I was good with that as well.  I didn’t want to go back to that Toxic Waste Dump anyway, and felt God definitely had other things in store for me.  Since that time, it’s been an interesting journey.  So many stops and starts.  So many things I thought I would try, and didn’t – or did, to no avail.  Every time I applied for a job like I used to have, I felt sick in the pit of my stomach….a sure sign I am NOT on the right track.

Fast forward to last month.  I wrote about it in a couple of posts ago.  Basically, I had my own health issue to deal with, then my husbands’ surgery, and then my daughter’s medical emergency.  Granted, without a job or benefits, money has been tight.  BUT, we have been keeping our heads above water and – more importantly – if I had taken a job a few months ago, it would have been so much harder on all of us.  It’s been a priceless gift to have the time and freedom of movement to care for myself and my family.

My prayers were answered – just not in the form I thought, or hoped, they would be.

Yesterday I wrote about Closed Doors being an answered to prayer.  And just like that, within hours of posting, I got my next “Go This Way” sign.

I was on my way home from my Floral Design Course when I called my Mom to check in with her.  She’s 84, a widow, and is almost completely housebound (in chronic pain and nearly in a wheelchair). What makes her physical condition extra sad is that her mind is still really sharp for her age, but she is “trapped” in a body that is ceasing to function.

Mom lives about an hour away, and has a very nice lady, Secorro, come and help her several days a week with things she cannot do for herself: laundry, house cleaning, shopping…even some cooking and taking her to get her hair done.  When she picked up the phone yesterday, I could hear the stress in Mom’s voice.  Turns out Secorro – who has been a part of our extended “family” for several decades – just received a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.

THIS is a game changer.

And just like that, I believe I now have my next Assignment.  Granted, driving two hours plus, round trip, will be a pain in the ass.  In the last 16 years since Dad died, we’ve been unable to convince Mom to move closer, or into some sort of assisted living community.  She wants to stay in her own home as long as she can, though, and in her community – and I get that even though it makes “things” harder for us…for me…to care for her. A more stubborn woman would be hard to find – an attribute that seems to be gaining strength with every passing year.

But, she’s my Mom and I love her.  I know her days remaining on this earth are slowly coming to an end and keeping her as comfortable as possible feels like my “mission” now.  I don’t want her to feel afraid about what is going to happen to her, or that she is alone. It is the least I can do, for all she has done and all she has meant to me.  Count me as a full card-carrying member of the Sandwich Generation – that growing group of  us Baby Boomers who find themselves caring for 2 or 3 generations.  (While trying to care for ourselves as well.)

Perhaps not this week, but soon, I will make the trip out to Mom’s 3 days a week to make sure her life and self are as comfortable and “together” as possible.  I think she is even going to pay me what she’s been paying Secorro, even though I told her she doesn’t have to.  And frankly, the money will come in handy – I was just getting ready to start looking for a part-time office job this week.

So there is my Answer.  I have my direction, and with it, a deep sense of awe and gratitude that I have the freedom of movement and time to do this for my mother.  Deep inside, I know…without a shadow of doubt…that our financial thing will be taken care of.

God never leads us where He doesn’t also provide for us, be it strength, resources, or a sense of purpose.

Take care of any widow who has no one else to care for her.  But if she has children or grandchildren, their first responsibility is to show godliness at home and repay their parents by taking care of them. This is something that pleases God.”

1 Timothy 5:3

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Oooh, Child

It’s a cool drizzly morning here in So Cal.

Everyone is off to work and school.  There’s chicken in the oven for later, smelling up the house with yumminess, and all is quiet except for the sound of the sprinklers outside my window.  For the first time in almost 2 weeks, I have the day at home all to myself.  Even with all the chores I have to do, it is a much-needed oasis of solitude.

It’s been months since I’ve blogged.  Thank you to those that reached out to see how I was doing.  Up until, literally, the last couple of days – it’s been kinda crazy.  Over the Summer, while my girl still had her own apartment, I was taking care of my grandson one week a month, and some weekends in-between.  She got a great new job with the school district back in June, but it came at a price – specifically, a significant pay cut.  But she has a firm and reliable career path now, awesome benefits, and all kinds of perks that working for the district includes.  So for me to babysit one week a month to help keep financial life and limbs afloat (hers and ours) was a no-brainer.

School had just gotten back into session when, over the Labor Day weekend, we moved them in here with us.  Moves are hard and tiresome.  It took me a couple of weeks, but every room – every drawer, closet and corner – was thoroughly gone through and reorganized to make space.  However exhausting, the timing was Divinely Perfect as it coincided with the end of her lease and the end of my Unemployment Benefits.  Days before the move, I had another biopsy in my left breast after my first post-treatment 3D Mammogram showed “something” that needed to be looked at.  Jesus, I was scared…but I held on to the promises that I got way back when this all started – that the Lord had cured the incurable, and that I was healed.  I broke down and sobbed, falling to my knees, when I got the results. God showed up in a seriously miraculous way (maybe I’ll write about that another time), and the results of the biopsy were negative.

God be praised, Who is rich in mercy, strength and healing grace!

No sooner was that crossed off The List, my husband had a surgery he had been putting off for far too long because of all my shit.  The surgery was successful, but I was elbows deep in urinals and bed trays for a week while he recovered, sleeping on the couch for a couple weeks so as not to jostle him.  Eventually he was back to work and  I was just exhaling,  thankful that September was almost over when – just like clockwork – the third “THING” popped up.

A week ago this past Monday, my girl called me from the emergency room in serious distress and ended up staying in the hospital for the next 5 days.  It was awful, as they did test after test and couldn’t uncover the source of her pain.  I put in 12 hour days, getting my grandson ready and to school, driving the 40 minutes to drop him off, making my way to the hospital, then staying there with my baby until school was out.  Another trip to pick up our guy, back to the hospital to spend dinner time with Mommy, then home between 8 and 9 p.m. In between was a lifetime of prayer, staying all Mama Bear on the doctors and nurses trying to get her relief and some answers, and trying present calm and control for our little guy. While a firm diagnosis still hasn’t been made, the pain specialist is treating it as a nerve issue…a Myalgia of sorts.  It might even be a couple of things. But after a week of nerve specific medications, she is back to work just this morning, and I am so thankful.

Wow, I feel exhausted again just writing all of that. (Smile) Yet, here I am this morning, my heart full of gladness and a deep sense of God’s presence.  Things have been hard – in more ways than just physical – but here we all are, together.  The crises have passed.  The weather is cooler, the chicken smells delicious, the house is decorated so cute for Halloween and life is taking on more “normal” proportions as of 30 minutes ago.

Things are definitely looking brighter.

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