At the top of the June page in my calendar, I scribbled, “Re-enter your Life.” After two months that felt like decades, I walked back into my life. I got up and got dressed and drove an hour to work. I logged into my computer and picked up the responsibilities that had been left behind so completely in April.
I began to find the scattered pieces of my life. They seem to be tangled in a pile where I left them. I was different, my body weaker, my soul still traumatized. I woke up each morning with a sense of disorientation I could not shake. I intended to begin again at the end of May but put it off for a couple more weeks. I wasn’t ready.
Once I got to the office, I found that it was hard to begin again. I’d never experienced weakness like this before. The grinding fatigue, the aching pain from my incision site reminded me to take it slow, to pay attention. I felt responsibility for the work I hadn’t done while I was away and I wanted to step right into my place without missing a beat. I found it difficult to get my head around all the pieces.
The critic in my head pressed in and reminded me that I was vulnerable, that I was expendable, that I needed to measure up. My immediate reaction to this message was, and has always been, anxiety, worry, and hustle. I found however, that this familiar message couldn’t hold my attention in the same way.
Now there is a new awareness, another gentler voice reminding me to take care of myself, body and soul. It started before my surgery with the admonition that I had “one job!” and continued after with a gentle appreciation for all my body has endured. Here, in the aftermath, I am learning to appreciate and tend my own life. Sometimes, I guess, it takes realizing how fragile it is to really appreciate it… for me at least.
So, I went outside and had lunch in the garden across the street. I listened to the birds, smelled the fertile air, and watched the ivy dance as the gentle wind whispered past. I went home early, because I was tired and worn. I went for a walk when I felt stressed out. I made myself a cup of tea.
I am healing, both inside and out. My calendar is still pretty bare, and that’s okay. I decided to skip a longed-for trip home to Oregon in August. I don’t think I can take the rigors of that kind of travel right now. Instead, I am reading, reading a lot. I am spending time at home, cooking healthy meals, and listening to the birds nesting outside my bedroom window.
Sometimes, the most ordinary moments still bring tears to my eyes. I feel as fragile and tender as new skin. I feel all the emotions with an intensity I don’t always know how to manage.
- The way Teddy’s arms wrap around my neck when I hold him close in the morning, gets me.
- The weight of Keith’s hug wrapping me in home, gets me.
- The ordinary joy of sitting down to a meal with the kids, gets me.
- The simple pleasure of spending an hour with my daughter getting our toes did, gets me.
- The text from a friend who asks how I am, and really wants to know the answer, gets me.
- The feel of cool sheets as the sky turns gray blue in the morning, gets me.
- The beauty of my life, gets me.
I don’t know that life will ever go back to normal. Instead, I hope to apply the things I have learned through this process, to allow them to reshape me, soften me, focus my life on things that matter. I hope to prioritize vitality and wholeness over busyness and strife. I hope to learn the language of my body and tend it well. I hope to slow down and pay attention to the people around me. I hope to make time to see people, really see them. I hope to live more fully.
I don’t really believe that God lets things like cancer happen to teach us a lesson. I think cancer happens because we live in a fallen world. However, I do think, if we let the vulnerability, pain, and beauty of life have their way, He can use them to shape (and reshape) us in beautiful ways.
Sit down wherever you are
And listen to the wind singing in your veins.
Feel the love, the longing, the fear in your bones.
Open your heart to who you are, right now,
Not who you would like to be,
Not the saint you are striving to become,
But the being right here before you, inside you, around you.
All of you is holy.
You are already more and less
Than whatever you can know.
~ John Welwood