One job…

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.

The view from here…

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…”

If I knew then…

Turning fifty has me in a reflective mood. In celebration of my birthday month, I’ve been rereading old journals and making note of the ways I’ve grown and developed over time. In this thoughtful state, I’ve put together a list of things I wish I’d known when I was 25. Half a life ago, I was a young mom, with a five-year-old, a two-and-a-half-year-old, and a new born. We’d very recently had a life changing event, when our 2-year-old fractured his skull and had to be flown to the nearest Trauma Center. Life was about to get even more scary, and the tumultuous time ahead was already the thing I feared most. Before my 26th birthday, Keith would get hurt at work, we’d lose our financial footing, and spiral down into a darkness that I feared we would never find our way out of. Continue reading “If I knew then…”

Birthday girl…

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…”

Creating calm…

So much of the time, I feel as though I’m being pushed around by my calendar and the myriad of commitments it reminds me of daily. I tend to be a rule follower. I like to check the boxes and line my ducks up neatly in a row, but the crosswinds in my life seem to be trying to keep me off balance. I started many of the past decade’s Jaunarys with a long list of goals I intended to keep. Each year, I begin again with my list of ways I want to shape my life. Usually, they are additions to the already swollen list of commitments I hold. I’m going to write more, I’m going to make special time with family a priority, I’m going to ensure I don’t lose track of treasured friends. Continue reading “Creating calm…”

Winter’s rest…

Most years I begin January with a neat set of goals. I like to have a clear vision and a plan for how to get there. I divide my year into nice quarters and check in on my goals near my birthday (March), at the beginning of summer (June), and at the beginning of the school year (September) to make sure I’m on track. I adapt and change goals as my life unfolds but having a sense of where I’m trying to go gives me a sense of clarity about what matters and what I want to move towards. Continue reading “Winter’s rest…”

Beautiful mess…

Not long ago, life took some unexpected turns that have had us hustling and running to catch up. We’ve spent time in hospital waiting rooms and stale cafeterias. We’ve shown up for a variety of tests, both invasive and benign. At the end of the testing we faced the verdict, which brought relief and a wait for a fix. We’ve prayed together and alone, we’ve updated everyone who cares, and we’ve had impossible conversations about what happens if the worst happens. I watched them wheel this man I adore past the swinging doors. That hour lasted a lifetime. When the procedure was done, they released us back into our lives. Continue reading “Beautiful mess…”

Cleaning days…

I’ve been cleaning drawers, closets, clutter, my floors. I’m preparing for a new season, for the tree, decorations, family, and lots of little white lights, but before I do the next big thing, I need to clear some space. I love the smell of freshly washed floors, the way the windows seem wider when they are newly clean. I love touching and fluffing and putting things in their places. I adore throwing away bags of trash.

Continue reading “Cleaning days…”

Baby shower…

I didn’t have a baby shower before my first child was born. My family helped me pull together the pieces I would need for a nursery, and I brought my girl home to my mother’s house. I made it through those first days of motherhood surrounded by my mom, dad, and sister. Soon Grandmas were there to help as well. When that baby cried, a whole team responded. Continue reading “Baby shower…”