I’m sitting here as the grey day softens into night outside my window. There is a candle burning, and I am warm from a long hot soak in the tub. Tonight marks an ending and a beginning. Three weeks ago, I underwent a major surgery. The doctor removed my kidney and the cancer that had invaded it. The pathology report confirmed his suspicion that the tumor was encapsulated and he was able to remove it all. For weeks, I’ve been home recovering my health, my strength, and my stamina. Continue reading “Receiving…”
It’s been a week since my surgery. Time seems to have shifted. The familiar cadence of my days abruptly slowed to a new more somber beat. The world has shrunk down to the size of my home. From the quiet of my front porch, we are enjoying the first signs of spring. Continue reading “In the gap…”
The other night, I sat with friends who have weathered dozens of life’s storms together and apart. We gathered in the aftermath of a wake. We had hugged a husband who was saying goodbye to the wife of his youth, children who had lost their loving mother, women who had lost a familiar friend, and a community rocked by a sudden loss. After we dried our tears and gathered our emotions, we drove off to a quiet space for dinner.
We sipped our wine and picked at our salads. Words can be hard to find when the weight of the moment overwhelms. Together we grieve, and separately we bear our own burdens. Each of us faces our own set of challenges, still we gather for solace and encouragement in this long friendship.
Eventually, the conversation pointed to me. I confessed my fear and my exhaustion. They offered words of encouragement and love. I know that these women love me. They have walked with me through a thousand days, maybe ten thousand. We’ve known each other for over twenty years. We have born witness to each other’s days of celebration and heartbreak for a long long time.
When my friend levels her gaze at me, she speaks right to my heart. “I was twenty-four years old when my two-year old son was diagnosed with brain cancer. Somehow, I knew what I needed to do.” “They told us to gather the grandparents, because they were not certain about the future.” “They did not know what they were asking,” she chuckled. “The chaos that ensued, was ridiculous. I was able to handle it because I had one job. I was going to take care of my baby.” She smiled at me, “but twenty-some years later, when I was diagnosed with cancer, I felt completely overwhelmed and lost.”
That made sense to me. I know that if this were any of my people, I would roar like a mother lion! I know how to nurture, protect, and defend. I know how to create calm and order when life gets out of hand. I have a very strong skill set around these things. There is no doubt in my mind that I would know what to do if this weren’t me.
But it is me. Just like my friend described, I feel a bit lost in this moment.
She looked at me and continued. “You have one job. You must take care of yourself. You must arrive at your surgery as healthy and whole as you possibly can.” Heads nodded in unison at this wisdom. Yes, that is exactly right. My job is to gather my resources so that I am as strong as I can possibly be when I face this surgery. Okay. I can do that.
I don’t even have words for the relief that these words have brought over the past few days. I have shared them with my husband and children. We must all come to this as strong as we possibly can. So, I am taking responsibility for my energy. I’ve cleared my calendar. I have scheduled a massage, and some time alone. We’ll be gathering for family dinner on Saturday, but I’m not cooking and they aren’t arguing. I am filling up my days with beauty.
I’m noticing. It is one of the things I know fills my cup, the simple beauty of the natural world. The buds on the trees outside my window are almost ready to burst. The green shoots are peeking out from the left over crusty snow, and there are periwinkle blue flowers growing along the path to my office. The smell of the mulch pile, the sound of the birds fighting or loving in the tree, the melodies of the music I’m playing on repeat in my car all soothe my soul and fill my cup.
I am so grateful for so many words of wisdom and love I’ve received over the past week or so. Notes, cards, text messages, and long conversations have tended my heart and soul. I am humbled and awed by the ways people have poured out concern and love. I am so grateful for so many. But for now, I will be guarding my calendar and my energy. I’m gathering strength and resources for the journey ahead. I have a job I need to do.
I find myself leaning back to last week when life was normal, May was just a month on my calendar, and I didn’t know anything about kidney cancer. In other moments, I feel myself jumping ahead, into a bright future where the results show the cancer is gone, the surgery a success, and my body is healed. In darker moments, winds of worry and fear lash as I consider other possibilities. It is harder, I find, to stay here in the murky middle. In this place where my future is unknown, my innocence is shattered, and there are a lot of days left to live before my happy ending. Continue reading “The view from here…”
Last night, I met my oldest daughter to catch up and spend some time together. She’s been away through a lot of the past week and we’ve missed each other’s faces through the phone calls and text messages. We needed to share a glass of wine, some time, and some tears. Continue reading “On my side…”
I landed in March, completely exhausted and depleted from the travel, the turmoil, and the grief of our fearsome February. March is my birthday month. One of my favorite months of the year… except for the weather. And yet, instead of filling up my calendar with fun events and social outings, I found myself carving out white space on the calendar. Long slow evenings at home, slow Saturday mornings, and Sunday afternoons set apart for rest have been the slowly refilling my cup. Continue reading “Better in March…”
A couple weeks ago, my family pulled off an epic surprise. To be honest, I didn’t believe they had it in them. We aren’t that good at surprises, and I particularly hate being surprised, so it hasn’t been something we’ve practiced over the years. But, they pulled off a beautiful party and gathered so many of my favorite people. I was totally blown away by the love and attention poured out that night. Continue reading “Birthday girl…”
I’m not a fan of January (or February for that matter). The cold winds and dreary days of winter sap my energy and leave me feeling the need to hunker down and wait for spring. This January was no exception. In my mind, snow days, sub-zero cold, and the darkness that accompanies deep winter must simply be endured. This year, however, after so much travel and upheaval in my life I found that January can also be enjoyed, just a little. Continue reading “What made January better?”
In early September, I met with a group of friends over dinner. We caught up about our lives, our families, and our jobs. We sipped red wine and sopped up the sauce with good bread. It was a midweek treat. The conversation eventually wandered toward my 50 before 50 list. Margaret suggested, with a twinkle in her eye, “Why don’t we join you for one of your adventures? You select the activity and we’ll join in. Continue reading “Spa day…”
I am a connector. There is nothing I enjoy more than bringing people together. I do that around my dinner table, through small groups, scheduled meals, and impromptu gatherings. For many years, the main way I accomplish this has been through weekly gathering. We’ve opened our home for the better part of a couple decades to small groups of people who make room for each other and prioritize connection through a weekly meeting. These small groups weren’t our idea, we first were gathered up in a group that opened up the world to us as a young family. We found that we weren’t alone. We found that behind the Sunday morning smile, other families struggled to figure it out too. We found company for the fun days and friends for the hard ones. We remain deeply connected to many of the people who have done life with us through these life-giving groups. Continue reading “Making connections…”