There are times in life when we freely sit back and take it all in; the sights and sounds, the smells… the peace that gives us rest and the joy that gives us dreams to dream. Life feels good and right and safe and well… almost perfect. And then there are times in life when everything becomes slow and heavy; as if the world is moving away from us and all we can do is watch.
I think in images and this morning I saw myself as a child standing by the merry go round on the playground – watching children jump onto the spinning wooden ride, but I couldn’t, I was afraid to jump on. Fear kept me standing and watching - by myself - wishing I could join the others if they could just slow down I could make a running leap, grab the bar and be part of the merry go round party. Life is moving forward and it’s not waiting for me… I’m staring at the merry go round wondering if I can overcome my fear; the fear of jumping, fear of falling, fear of trusting my ability to grab hold of something, fear of making the wrong decision, fear of living life – what if I do it wrong?
Fear is real. It is primal. It is human. Fear makes us do crazy things, and honest things, and wrong things. It makes us scream, cry and turn away. It makes memories that haunt us and memories to remind us. Fear can hide behind doubt and unworthiness and confusion. Fear can saves us, warn us - it makes us move, act, react – like running away from a rattle snake, or making the dreaded doctor appointment.
My body has been signaling to me it’s tired and not feeling up to par. I kept thinking if only I could get some more sleep I would be fine, I would be ok, I would be good. Take some Aleve and the aches and pains will go away. Suck it up, be a big girl. Those few days of being tired turned into a couple weeks and now a few months.
It took a ride in an ambulance that landed me in an emergency room in a small Indiana town to finally admit that something was not right, not normal, not ok. As Bryan and I left the ER to head home to Illinois he said to me, “I have to tell you Dana, you scared me”. Fear was spoken, acknowledged. I was scared too. What was happening to me?
Over the weeks following my ER visit my fatigue, aches and pains became worse. Like a child screaming for attention my symptoms could no longer be ignored. Though down deep, all I wanted was to crawl under the covers and sleep, the reality of it, the fear of it, pushed me to the doctor’s office.
Over the following weeks each specialist was briefed on my array of symptoms, I in turn listened to their thoughts and considered a list of possible diagnosis that made me numb - it was as if I had been round this mountain before; doctor visit after doctor visit, scan after scan, lab draw upon lab draw. My mind kept wandering to last year – thoracic surgery to remove a tumor that grew in the middle of my chest. Right now, as I type, I think back to one year ago today, my lung was working hard to regain its full capacity after being deflated to make room for the surgeon; wonderful and giving people were bringing me food to nourish and heal. My shark bite wounds - as I call them - were heavily bandaged, hurting and misbehaving.
A year does not necessarily make memories fade into the dust, not these memories, they remain vivid to me. These mind movies were burned a bit deeper into the memory bank. So I naturally went there… What? Someone tell me this is not real… I refuse to be poked and prodded and cut on again. A new level of fear set in; the flight came soaring to surface, the flight in my “fight or flight” response. I called Bryan, “I can’t do this. I think they are wrong, let’s pretend this is not happening.” This is not happening… I tried to rationalize it away. Am I really sick or just need to eat better, or exercise, or practice being present more. What if I just “lived” better, wouldn’t I then feel better?
There is something ugly and scary about the word cancer. I’ve narrowly missed being targeted by its insidious unwelcome invasion in the recent past, and yet here I am again, this time my kidney, this time it seems as if it I didn’t dodge it, I didn’t run away from it fast enough. But wait a minute! I didn’t make this happen… No, I couldn’t have prevented this… No, I am not being punished… No, I am not a bad person.
Negativity arises from a place of doubt and doubt arises from the ugly side of fear, the type of fear that can do no good. Push against doubt with all I have in me and I will whisper to myself… I am loved… I am valued… I am worthy… I am seen… I am never alone. These words will become my fight song against doubt. My resolve, and those that join with me will make doubt wither into the past.
There is more to this story to tell, but that’s for another day. For today my story is to overcome the ugly side of fear and to trust in the power of love; the power of people and their beautiful words, their kindness, their willingness to take risks, to be themselves, to let them into my space. Today my story is to believe that I matter, you matter… that little stupid things don’t matter - but voices do, hugs do, and silent tears do. Today my story is to be strong, strong knowing that I am allowed to cry, lament before God, because as I shed tears my fears are released with grace and mercy, washed away, and strength will take its place.
I love you
Through the sparkles and the fading lights
When the wind sweeps through like a hurricane
And the sky paints colors of reverence
I love you as the rain weeps over you
And the whippoorwill becomes your song.