Dwelling in Possibility

I’ve been pondering what to do with this blog much the same way I’ve been pondering what to do with my week, my year, my life. Everything is a swirl of dust these days. I don’t experience that as a negative. Living in swirls of dust is certainly challenging, but it is other things, too. There are particles of hope and love and inspiration spinning alongside the scary-side-of-the-unknown. There is doubt, uncertainty, sometimes even panic. (Where will I land? How will I land?) But there is also wide-open potential. There are whole new paths to carve, relationships to nurture, passions to explore. (Where will I land? How will I land?)

swirls star

My life is fraught with possibility.

Still, for the time being, I am swirling in dust, and how hard it is to take a step when everything around me is blurred.

But it is dawning on me, suddenly and miraculously, that perhaps my work is not to figure out where and how to land. Perhaps my work is to figure out how to float.

My life is not a life I’ve known before. I have one and one half feet out the door of a 15-year old-career, and rather than jam-packed days, I am hovering in hours of unstructured time. All three of these things are true at once:

  • I love my new life.
  • I feel terribly guilty about all this privilege.
  • I am (at best) slightly anxious at all times about how I use my time.

I like answers. I like clarity and direction and purpose. I like order. I like to have something to show for my day. I like lists and crossing things off of lists. I like movement: internal and external, physical and spiritual, tangible, emotional, interpersonal—you name it, I like movement.

But I also like the kind of quiet that only comes by slowing down. And I like the kind of possibility that only comes by dwelling in the unknown.

So many swirls of dust. So many crossroads.

I’ve written here before about trying to let the wind carry me (a beautiful way to float). But I realize I’ve been standing here, at point A, directing my gaze way out at the horizon, toward point B, saying, “Wind, please carry me there, to where all the answers are.” The “dawning” is that as long as I focus on the horizon, I’m missing the ground (or air) beneath my feet. “Be here now” has become a mainstream mantra as well as my own personal reminder, and tiny layer by tiny shift, I get a little closer to understanding how to be here now. This month, it’s with the realization that whether or not I’m in transition is beside the point. Even in transition, the point is not to get to the other side. The point is still—the point is always—to Be. Here. Now.

I am

Today is my birthday, and I keep thinking about what was happening one year ago. (I’ve actually been thinking about “one year ago today” for several weeks now. October started with, “One year ago today I found the lump,” and ended with, “One year ago today I was diagnosed with breast cancer.”) Now that it’s November 23rd, it is: “One year ago today, I was 5 days into my first chemo infusion.” One year ago today, I was so sick and so exhausted, that I spent most of my 40th birthday in bed, either sleeping or writhing or staring blankly at my wall. It was the very beginning days of, “I have never been so still.” It was also the very beginning days of a very long year of breast cancer treatment.

I am now in the beginning weeks of my first year post treatment. My last surgery was five weeks ago, and I am more or less physically recovered. (“More or less” because I have a long way to go before rebuilding the strength and stamina I lost to a year of aggressive chemo, radiation and surgery.)

I’ve written here before about how, for the majority of women, the first year post treatment is harder than the year of treatment itself. I know (and am comforted by the fact) that my current struggles are not unique, just as I know that in the months ahead, I will likely walk steep and treacherous road. In other words, I know I am not done with breast cancer. I know the hardest parts are likely yet to come. (Many of you know this because you know the same road. I hope the rest of you will realize it now, too: Your mother, sister, wife, daughter, friend who has just finished breast cancer treatment is not done with breast cancer. The hardest parts are likely yet to come.) All three of these things are true at once:

  • I am ready for the next leg of the journey.
  • I am terrified about the next leg of the journey.
  • I am brimming with eye-popping wonder about the next leg of the journey.

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For the last many days, as I start a new chapter of my life, I have wondered whether it is also time to start a new chapter with this blog. I know I will keep writing. I know that some (if not more than some) of that writing will continue to explore the impact of breast cancer in my life. I know that writers, like myself, want an audience and that I have been buoyed by this audience. I know that some of the blogs I most frequent are by women reflecting on life post breast cancer treatment, and that I could continue on here by doing the same. All of this is true, and yet, it feels like time to do something different.

I have no idea what that means, not yet, not amidst the swirls of dust. I think it is very likely that the “something different” will be a subtle shift: that I will continue to post here but with a new focus or a re-imagined site. I am not prepared to close the door. Instead, I am drawing a soft line in the sand; I am turning to a blank page and keeping the book open.

Until I return, I leave you with this picture of me cocooned by my wall of cards, which sprouted and bloomed over the last year. This picture, these cards, my wall — they are a tribute to my year, to so many of you, to what I have learned and survived and lost and loved. Thank you for walking here with me. I hope you will stick around and float with me for awhile, too.

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16 thoughts on “Dwelling in Possibility

  1. Happy Birthday Jenny and as we say here in the UK ‘Many Happy Returns’ -to days where you feel content, happy and aligned with your choices. Love this post. Articulate and considered. Party on sister!
    x

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  2. Beautiful image of floating in swirls of dust. I picture you, arms spread wide with a look of wonder and excitement, amidst all of the beauty, the love, the unknown and the pain that makes up this wonderful life. Gorgeous you.
    (and great scarf in that last photo 🙂

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  3. Letting the wind carry you is true wisdom. What we long for, if it comes in the form we have visualized, will ultimately disappoint because it is not as big as our psyche. Trusting that the unknown will reveal what your growth needs is the most appropriate fertilizer for our individual soul’s growth.

    I have also been struck this week with two parallel realizations:
    First, I don’t know what to expect of being 75. It is not my parents’ lives – though they did pretty fabulously from here to 85, exploring doors they had never seen before they arrived in front of them.
    Second, how do I spend my time to make it count.
    With this second contemplation, a friend happened to ask a question which moved me to refer her to Joanna Macy (who deserves the Nobel Peace Prize, though I don’t know how to recommend her). And that moved me to YouTube to watch Joanna in action at 86 – faltering a tiny bit in the passion of her vision that I have experienced before, and in the strength and precision of her presentation. But truly inspiring still. Joanna is the politically savvy Great Earth Mother: from 2014: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qojnmYJQAxQ and a month ago at Spirit Rock (both talking to a Buddhism-based audience – and she is a Buddhist scholar): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9usbR7g5BiA&spfreload=1

    She, too, was carried by the wind – and she has become a typhoon of wisdom, seeding islands of sanity in a turbulent sea.

    With great love in sharing this journey, Jenny

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    1. David, I’d be interested to hear/communicate more about what you’re thinking and learning about “making it count.” My whole concept of what it means to make time count is shifting. My whole sense of the point of things is shifting. Perhaps Joanna Macy will shed some more light for me!

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  4. Dear Jenny,
    Happy Birthday to my favorite niece!
    I have been touched by all your writings this past year, and urge you to continue writing – it is what you do and who you are.
    Hugs and smiles!
    Uncle Mark

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  5. Dearest,
    I love this post. It is honest and rich and vulnerable and complex and beautifully crafted.

    Today, I have spent some time returning to 41 years ago this morning when you and I finished laboring to bring you to this shore. What a beautiful and powerful day that was! I can feel it in my body as I write to you, feel the light and joy of your arrival, and now I pour it all back out to you and the remarkable family you have created with your Beloved, Josh.

    There is so much in this post, so many layers and dimensions. Each time you write, I find much to learn, much to be in awe of, and a beautiful manifestation of your sacred artistry. For some time, I’ve been sensing a shift building, and here you are, articulating it so masterfully.

    Even with the blessing of a front row seat to some of your life, I have grown such appreciation for what you share here and enjoy the anticipation of the next post as I submerge in each of your offerings. This one touches me especially; not necessarily more than others, but it quickens in me that voice that says “More! More!”

    It is my strong hope that you will continue to come back here to share with us. And I’m confident that I am not alone in my respect for you and reverence for your work.

    So, count me in; I’m happy to keep floating with you.

    Happy Birthday, my Darling,
    Mama

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  6. So . . . this might be tacky.

    But – would it be okay with you if I used your “wall of cards” photo on my Facebook page? I will understand if not! You look so sweet and gorgeous in it, I want to say something about the power of an ACTUAL CARD and also point out that one is a Weehah card. : )

    PLEASE be honest. Truly. I can understand if you’d want it to be private.

    L.

    louisa wimberger owner / designer weehah greeting cards and invitations grown in charlottesville . now in northampton http://www.weehah.com 413.341.3558 (studio)

    >

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  7. I call it the fertile void. My friend Nora Wellman shared this with me once (your dad knows Nora). And I would assume that every person’s vision of the ‘fertile void’ takes on their own feeling of what it is. For me it’s the time between what was and what will be. You know about the former, but you don’t know about the future. I envision a green, kind of bucolic meadow, with high mountains on either side. No one around. Just you. I’m a bit sad and empty, the past is slipping away, thus the void. But change is in the air, the possibilities are abundant, thus fertile, even though you don’t know what those possibilities will be. But for some reason they’re fertile and for me…better than the past. Thus, the fertile void. Enjoy my dear.

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  8. Dear Jenny,
    I marvel at your honesty, bravery and urge drive to live.
    Please don’t worry or be ashamed, it’s normal to be happy and suddenly sad, life is like that, you can’t all the time be happy. I wish you go on flying with the wind and writing.
    Lot’s of love Mariejeanne.

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