The following quotes are from an article published this week by Martha Beck: you can read it all here: The Willingness Factor by Martha Beck
Martha Beck is currently one of my favorite writers about life journeys. I’m still struggling with reading large chunks of text and content, like books and tomes and paragraphs and words and stuff so I’m wading very slowly through “Finding Your Way In A Wild New World.” Her blog posts are juuuuust right. That, Facebook, and smart thrillers by John Sandford.
“People who’ve been through hell are often forced to learn this, which is why activist, cancer patient, and poet Audre Lorde wrote, “When I dare to be powerful—to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”
I’ve been through hell and cancer (this autocorrected as Dancer and I’m taking that as a message from the universe) was, believe it or not, NOT my first trip. I haven’t had much time to be afraid, only in the dead of night.
My first visit to hell was a summer of utter drug debauchery that nearly killed me and did kill, for 2 minutes, one of my suppliers. I didn’t understand at the time that I was actually IN hell until his overdose and suddenly the clock and time zoomed forward into a pinpoint of a nightmare worthy of Hunter S. Thompson. I fled. I was 19.
The second visit to hell began when I married, for better or worse, that same almost dead supplier. I was so young. I didn’t realize that he was still dying. His body didn’t die until 2000 but his spirit gave up the ghost long before. I forgive him for the hell because I understand now where he was and that, unlike me, he pitched his tent and sat down and lit a fire and started cooking rocks to eat. My motto is: NEVER pitch your tent in hell. Just keeeeep on walking, sometimes crawling on hands and knees grabbing dirt and rocks and dust to pull yourself forward. But forward is forward, no footprints on MY back. I gave up a son in hell because I wanted him to be here, on Earth, happy, healthy, and alive. And someone else had the ability to do that as I did not. But eventually I had to leave my husband with his tent and hoard of boxes full of self loathing and keeeep on walking.
Some might think that the end of my drinking (FINALLY) was because I’d been through hell. If I had been THROUGH, however, I’d still be drinking. Unfortunately, for a couple years I did pitch my tent (autocorrected repent! Wow) there. What surprises me the most is that the people who were in my life at the time were on the other side waiting for me when I finally put my boots back on and started walking out. Again.
This past year of cancer has been Hell. Hell because it was CANCER, hello. Double radical mastectomy chemo radiation Hell. I’m STILL trying to grasp the magnitude of it all, it’s so vast and blackholey. Not only is it big but my brain got a bit scrambled in the toxic chemical lunch process.
It was Hell because I couldn’t visit my Dad and cry on his shoulder like I used to do. His mind is going and the risk of infection from his adult home was too great for me with no immune system so I went through that whole year without my Daddy. I still can’t write or talk about that without sobbing.
It was Hell because I had to decide to put my aging kitty Miss Mitty to sleep. Between cancer, Mitty, and my Dad I was struggling greatly with the value of life and knowing when to end it. It took me a few months longer than usual to decide for her. And then my beloved, most loved, Uncle Will passed away. Oh Lord.
But wait, there’s more. Blow of all blows, Mr. Furnace decided to move without consulting me. It was during this time that I really grasped the significance and magnitude of the TBI (traumatic brain injury) he’d suffered 20 years ago. When I showed up with the truck that he couldn’t organize or pay for, I discovered he’d been hoarding, or rather allowing, a very, and I do mean VERY, psychotic homeless women hoard his home. She was his project. He was going to help her get on her feet and live a good life. I’ve never been so shocked in my life. It was unimaginable and it was the deepest depth of hell for me. I was still going through chemo every week. No one was there to move his crap out to a storage unit but him and I. And her, drunk at 8am in her socks in the alley, flashing her tits to the neighbors.
I’m sorry to those who think I should keep this to myself but our secrets keep us sick, he shall remain anonymous, and those who knew him will forget his name. You are getting very sleepy. We all deserve love and forgiveness and I forgive him with all my heart but that’s the end of THAT. You need to understand this to understand where I end up and I need to tell you. That day woke me up to the fact that the relationship was literally killing me and had, in some part, helped to create cancer inside me. Worrying about not eating wheat products to prevent inflammation and therefore cancer was the least of my worries. I had visible cancer right there in front of me. And it walked and talked and and and
He was at that moment homeless and good woman that I am, I said he could stay with me for a week. It turned into almost 3 months. While I finished chemo, started recovering from chemo, began radiation, and badly sprained my ankle we were there in my small basement haven turned flophouse trying to be amiable, knowing it was over but trying to do it with grace and dignity. He got me through surgery and chemo and while we had irreconcilable differences, I’ll be forever grateful that he was THERE for me when I needed it most.
The diagnosis and surgery and worst of chemo was almost over but from April through October, my life turned into five hundred and forty seven levels of Hell.
I wish God/dess didn’t trust my inner strength so much. I don’t know how I made it. More than once I wanted to end my life, the journey was no longer working for me. I wanted a Do Over. But I just couldn’t do it. Because I knew that this next quote is true. Always have, always will.
“Emotional discomfort, when accepted, rises, crests, and falls in a series of waves. Each wave washes parts of us away and deposits treasures we never imagined. No one would call it easy, but the rhythm of emotional pain that we learn to tolerate is natural, constructive, and expansive. It’s different from unwilling suffering the way the sting of disinfectant is different from the sting of decay; the pain leaves you healthier than it found you.”
And right now, while I’m still grieving many, MANY, losses, some of which go back to my own actual adoption memory of being in the womb shrieking “Mommy don’t leave me!”, I’m ready to live again. I’m healthier. Reborn. A new life. I get a do over without having to die and the gift of remembering the past so it can guide me as I move forward, lessons learned.
I know now that my Mom is here, she always has been. She just didn’t give birth to me. But God/dess knows, she was THERE. She’s my best and closet friend. I tell her everything. We talk almost every day. We care for each other. We try to lighten the load for each other. We support each other and no topic is taboo.
I am surrounded and I do mean SURROUNDED, by the most awesome group of friends a gal could want. They’ve donated their time in many ways, from packing to driving me places to playing their music for my fundraiser to sending cards and love and energy and even regular old money, buying my art or just GIVING from every corner of the earth. For the first time in my life I let myself RECEIVE. My friends they are legion and the love flows.
My co-workers, team mates, beloved Sesameeps, have supported me in many ways as well. They kept my job intact, they kept my CUBICLE intact (that was a massive feat as we all know that office vultures descend on cubicles), paid my medical benefits the entire time I was sick and rejoiced and celebrated my return. They played with me on Facebook, had a fundraiser, sent me care packages, and never, ever forgot me and welcomed me back with delight and love and I don’t even know how that happens.
I can only, simply, RECEIVE. Sometimes I can’t help but cry for the Grace of it all. I can only stand and receive and I never knew it would feel like this.
Was Cancer a Gift? FUCK NO. The right question is, was the journey a gift? Oh yes. No mistake, I’m not who I was and I’m better, happier, more grateful. And cancer free. Healthier.
I took the months of November and December off from visits and contact. I cried for almost two solid months in the restful silence of my new home and with my new kitty mitty, Mimi. She was sick too and we both just rested. And cried. A LOT.
I’m back at work but had a bit of relapse after the company party this weekend. Done got my ass kicked but it was worth it in every way. I see my limits now. Overstimulation zapped me pretty hard and I was just starting to get my energy back. I’m sure in a day or two I’ll get it back again and the journey towards Thriving, not Surviving, will continue.
So many relationships have been so full of Drahma and Trauhma. So many ended this year. And many have begun. I *have* had one visitor in my life of late. Please don’t be sad if it wasn’t you. I love you all. I just needed fresh air, a new experience, a new friend. Something, someone, new, a friend from long ago who I’m getting to know better. Someone who is mellow and easy and kind of quiet in a smart, interesting, and chatty way, letting me be me, and by the fact of his calmness, calms me when he’s around. And maybe just a little uncalming too, but in a good way. In an Infinite Possibilities way.
These visits aren’t every day mind you. GAWD, I’d keel over for good, I’m lucky to get the coffee cups washed and the cat fed. He is someone who knows I didn’t only call to chat but perhaps to also dip my toe in the water and maybe, if the water’s fine, build something on shore if the winds blow favorably. Someone who already knows about the cancer and the pain and the chemo and the sick and the bloat and yet, he comes by and we laugh and talk about many things. Like walruses and strings.
Love Not Fear. It will get you through anything. Knowing the wheel will turn and sometimes you’ll be drowning under water and sometimes you’ll be basking in the sun. Spring is coming and I want this life, this new life I’m creating from the depths of Hell. I refused to pitch my tent even though at times the temptation was great, I was just so fucking tired and bruised and aching that I simply didn’t want to move any more, not one more inch.
I’ve got my boots on again but I’m not walking through Hell any more. I’m in the plain jane world of life and it feels great. I do still have great sobs burst from me and then a rain of tears but it passes like a summer storm and I’m cleansed some more. The grieving process will take awhile but who says I can’t put on my party clothes and dance at the same time?
These boots were made for DANCING. Was I afraid? Yes. Did I continue on in service to my vision? My vision that I will know a life where I feel loved by those around me but most importantly and finally, by my Self? Yes. Like a tsunami, my life last year got TOSSED and all the flotsam and jetsam rose to the surface, floating there, reminding me that I couldn’t store them carefully away in little organized and labeled boxes any more. The lids were off and they were there for all to see. But, also like a tsunami, each subsequent wave that hits me is lesser than the one before. Right now waves are gently lapping at my ankles, the trash has been cleared away, and pretty little fishes nibble at my ankles in the sparkling blue crystal clear water. Every once in awhile, the seventh wave hits, bigger than the others, and I cry, sometimes I even fall in, but it’s easier to get back up these days, so I stand, ankle deep, in heaven on earth and I have faith that I can weather ANYTHING this world throws at me. Love, faith, fear. They dance together and the dance wouldn’t be complete without each part of the circle. I’m doing everything I can to invite Joy to join us. Come dance with me… Kiss me… Allow me to show you my smiling shining light.