Thursday, May 20, 2010

New chapter, new book

I am approaching my Cancerversary. It has been nearly five years since I found that little lump that changed everything; nearly five years since I got the phone call that confirmed that my life (and body) would never be the same.

When I was first diagnosed, five years felt like a magical number, and sort of mythical. How would I make it? I figured, back then, that if I was lucky enough to make five years, I'd certainly have acquired some sage-like wisdom. I thought I'd have it all figured out.

Naive. Very naive.

Five years out, and I'm still learning so much about myself, my body, my life, my feelings, my family, my friends, my world. I have more questions than answers, and I'm not a sage of any variety. I have not become enlightened, I have not learned how to focus only on what's important, I have not learned how to avoid frustration at small things because I have dealt with such large things.

And yet.... I have learned a great deal. How could I not, in five years of intense living? For five years, I've walked on a tightrope, with surgeries and drugs and treatment reminding me, and my body's own problems shouting at me - there had to be some lessons in there, and I hope that I have learned them well. I am nowhere near the top of the mountain, but in my meanderings, I've learned a few things, and I hold those lessons near and dear, hoping that I won't have to relearn them.

I am stronger than I ever knew possible. I am no longer afraid of pain - I don't exactly embrace it, but I know how to deal with it. I know that it passes.

I am blessed with amazing people. My family - birth and chosen - and friends are really the greatest gifts of my life. I hope that I honor them in the way that they have honored me.

I am still social, and have many outgoing qualities, but I am also an introvert. Realizing this is a huge "aha!" moment in my life that explains a lot about me. I treasure my alone time, and I am better learning how to use it. Walks on beaches or in forests, time alone with a book, or working in my Dreamery all fill my soul in a way that a crowd of people could never do. But come and sit with me, just one or two of you, and I'm filled, as well. I need to find balance in this, but knowing what I'm looking for is at least half of that solution.

I am a deeply spiritual person. Finding a faith community has been so important to me, and I'm not sure that it came out of having cancer, but certainly out of becoming a wiser version of myself. Having rituals like candle lighting, or singing of hymns, or listening to wise sermons, fills my soul and reminds me of why I am here.

I need poetry and art in my life.

I always was, and always will be, a nature girl. It is necessary to remember that in order for my survival.

I need to put my hands in the earth and grow things.

I need to live my values, whether that is in parenting, or environment, or creativity. I need to identify what I value, and live it fully. There is no cheating with this - even when the world doesn't notice, I notice it in myself. I'm not talking about being honest or being nice (although those are excellent values that I share), I'm talking deeper. Standing up for what is right, showing compassion to those who do not seem deserving of it. Doing what I love in the way I love even when the world thinks I'm crazy.

Being Ryan's wife is a blessing. We have weathered some seemingly impossibly hard times, and there was a time where I really couldn't see the way out, and my heart was broken in millions of pieces. Together, he and I have gotten wiser as we've gotten older, and we belong together.

Tessa is the greatest gift of my life. My dreamy child, who constantly has dirt under her fingernails, who laughs and cries with ease, who surprises me with both her thoughtfulness and her absentmindedness. My girly girl companion at tea parties, my art museum friend, my seashell finder, my picnic mate, my hiker. We drive each other crazy pretty frequently, but when it comes down to it, she gives me the strength to stay alive when nothing else could. She is a gift, and I don't know how I ever got so lucky that I could become her mother.

I must write.

I am constantly seeking what Thoreau so famously wrote about:

“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, To put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die Discover that I had not lived.”

I'm getting better at living. I will not run away to the woods (and I don't think that my mother will volunteer to do my laundry so that I can do so!) like Thoreau, I will take that harder path, and try to live my truth in the middle of a busy world with so many demands in it. I will Live. I will be deliberate. I will find joy, and I will cry when it's time to cry. I will count my blessings daily, and I will not forget to gasp with delight when I find the perfect shell.

I write today from my dreamery, surrounded by seashells and candles and a cup of hot tea and a cat curled up on the chair. My vision board has the word "Happier" in the middle of it, and that is what I am working on. Deep, meaningful happiness, encompassing all that I believe in.

It is a lifelong task, and I hope that I am given a long life to work on it.

And with that, it is time to close this blog. It has been a marvelous tool for my healing, and I am deeply grateful to each of my readers for following me along this crooked path, for cheering me on, for hoping and praying for me, for crying with me, for celebrating with me.

There is no "done" in cancer, but this chapter is closing. I am entering a new phase of my life, and I wish to write "for real" and I wish to spend more time living and less time doing things that I once associated with cancer. Many people keep cancer blogs and then leave them after about a year, and I took five. Perhaps I'm a slow learner, but that's okay. It's on my own time, and I know when the time is right.

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” - Eleanor Roosevelt

My dreams are beautiful, and I am passionate about living them. I do not know what the future holds, but I am hopeful.

I will see you out there in life, living. Adieu!