Saturday, April 23, 2011

Gracious Space

Yesterday, I got off of a conference call, pushed in my chair, shouldered my bag and left work for what may be three weeks. It was really strange and incredibly sad to walk out of the office feeling this ick feeling of not knowing when I was going to be back. I am leaving behind projects that I really love, people who have been incredibly generous and kind, time with colleagues that I find warming and satisfying.  And I am leaving for something that is unknown and scary, a rolling into the inevitable and, worse yet, inescapable that sits just paces in front of me, no matter how I drag my feet.

There is a tension between this inevitable/inescapable feeling of slowly being swallowed by what is coming and the simple grace of letting it happen. In the words of the Cowboy Junkies: "the one thing in my life that these years have taught is/you can always see it comin', but you can never stop it." Struggle as you may to wish it away, joke it away, freeze it out, ignore it, cry it out, scream it remains. Until you realize that it is what it is and sit with it, interface with it, level with it, accept it at your side and create a gracious space that allows you to be both afraid and fearless, loved and alone, valiant and cowering, illuminated and confused.

Because being "sick" is all of these things. With cancer, or at least early on-set cancer, you don't feel it in your body. It's like a little timebomb that over time you forget is ticking. It's the insidious guest that you forget is still staying at your house until the utility bill comes. It's the thing that causes you to chuckle, thinking surely that God has been worn down by the multitude of prayers hurtling heavenward and said "Fine! Fine! Enough! So I'll cure her (ping!). Can't you see I've got a lot on my plate right now?" It's the last minute reprieve from the path lab that comes minutes before the surgery that they perform to alter you forever...except it never comes. It's the three deep breaths and lights out and waking up, feeling around and trying to sort out which way the decision tree went in the OR.

So these anxieties are a little like that song about the boa constrictor...oh no, he swallowed my toe, oh gee he's up to my knee, oh fiddle he's up to my middle...Today I saw a friend and stopped the boa at the toe. I know I will get to Monday and see my sisters, have a little reprieve and keep him at my knee. By Wednesday, no doubt, he will be up to my neck. I keep breathing. I keep finding little things to hold on to (one of my dad's old wallets, mala beads and their 27 count made for me by my friend Molly (that reminds me of my girl Sha), my mom's fading but still present scent, cards from you all, pictures from Ava, hugs from David, a picture of Kali, deep rhythmic music, a smiling picture of my husband) that I can hold in my hand or feel on my skin to keep me grounded and not freaking out about what is coming. I know I will be fine, I just don't like getting there. I am not worried about the cancer (or so I tell myself), I am worried about the surgery. I am lucky, I am lucky, I am lucky. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

There was a song that was on auto-repeat for my sisters and me the entire time that we were living through the end of my mother's life. It has such special meaning for us all, but these lines from "Little Fire" always put the lump in my throat, every time I hear it.

"It says comes rest beside my little fire
We'll ride out the storm that's coming in
My friend, you know me and my family
You've seen us wandering through these times
You've seen us in weakness and in power
You've seen us forgetful and unkind

All that I want is one who knows me
A kind hand on my face when I weep
And I'd give back these things I know are meaningless
For a little fire beside me when I sleep"

So tomorrow is sitting with it, thinking about the religious tradition I grew up in and how there are lessons there about the process of surrender and triumph. Or, from David's wonderful Latin teacher's blog:
'non, si male nunc, et olim sic erit.'
'Even if evil is present now, it will not always be so'
Horace Odes Book 2 x



  1. Fran,

    I've been following along via RSS subscription in e-mail - which is weird for me as a convention for following a blog! It has meant that I haven't always commented, but I want you to know I'm reading everything and holding you in the light. I'm holding you there. With ferocity.

    I love you, friend.


  2. here. listening. staring across the way at the house that you once lived in...wishing you were there so I could come over and hug you and hold your hand in my mine. xoxo -monica

  3. i too wish we could rewind back in time, to those days we shared a street, a glass of wine over barefoot kids eating hot dogs and mac and cheese. those times began what is now forever marked in my a dear and true friend. love you fran. holding you close. energy of this sisterhood love melts miles.