Listening to the Silence

In my last post, I wrote about hoping, trying to open and deepen and awaken. What does that look like in my day-to-day life? Some of what I’m aiming for is tangible: meditating for 20 minutes a day several mornings a week. Writing (reflecting) often. Much of what I’m doing is less tangible. I’m trying to be in my body and in the world and in the moment in more mindful ways. Trying to hear the silence and listen to what comes out of it.

Pausing my work life has created a huge opening. For the first time since I started my career 15 years ago, there is space in my life for new, as of yet unknown “things” to enter. I have always been very Type A. I have always been very much a planner. I have always struggled to be still. And for the past 9 and one half years since my son was born, I have also juggled a fairly consuming career alongside the consuming life of a parent. When I think about when I’ve had “space,” I think about the week my family and I spend on a secluded island in August, when all of life’s “noise” falls away leaving a beautiful, internal quiet. I think about the 8 weeks of maternity I took when each of my two children were born, weeks that weren’t particularly quiet, but were beautifully simple in that all I had to do was focus on my babies. So much of my life in between my maternity leaves and our week in August has been filled with going, doing, rushing, fixing, thinking, making, doing, doing, doing. Just writing about it makes me breathless.

Looking back two years, five years, ten years from now, I expect I will think of the months when I was in treatment for breast cancer as a time when I had space. Creating that space has been intentional. I know I need it to truly open and deepen and awaken.

Why I Love Eve Ensler

Eve Ensler, perhaps best known to the world for writing The Vagina Monologues, also wrote the following in her cancer memoir, In the Body of the World:

What if… when you got sick you weren’t a stage but in a process. And cancer, just like having your heart broken, or getting a new job, or going to school, were a teacher? What if, rather than being cast out and defined by some terminal category, you were identified as someone in the middle of a transformation that could deepen your soul, open your heart… And what if each of these things were what we were waiting for, moments of opening, of the deepening and awakening of everyone around us? (p88-89)

What if?

When I read this passage in Ensler’s book, I nodded, I smiled, I dog-earred the page, I felt not-crazy. I felt like someone understood why, instead of running screaming crying in the weeks after my breast cancer diagnosis, I flung my arms wide-open, welcoming transformation. Often since my diagnosis, I’ve thought: I want to be changed by this. Not because I long for a better life or a better me. I have a wonderful life and all-in-all, I feel pretty good about me. But because if something as big and surreal as breast cancer is going to land in my 39-now-40-year old lap, there has to be something to show for it. I want there to be something to show for it.

And so here I am, opening, deepening, awakening. (Hoping and trying, at least.)

(In addition to reading Ensler’s book, I encourage you to listen to Krista Tippett’s interview with her.)

Being Apart (Who Am I Now?)

I walked with my friend Keegan today, and as I talked with her about the snow day on Tuesday, and how, sitting around Hannah’s kitchen table, I felt like my old self for the first time since the diagnosis, I realized how much I haven’t felt like my old self.

Neither of those experiences—feeling my old self on Tuesday nor not feeling like my old self over the past months—has been negative. Quite the contrary, I absolutely loved sipping vodka and sodas and talking the afternoon away with a few of my closest friends. Just as I’ve been quite content spending the last many weeks on the fringes of my old social scene, showing up here and there when I’m up for it, leaving when I reach my threshold far earlier than I’ve been used to, not feeling obligated to anyone or anything other than my body and my mind.

But I don’t know that I’ve put words to how much I’ve felt apart from my old life, my old friends. How different I feel when I walk into a room now – not so much from everyone else, though I’m sure that’s there, too; but from my old self. I feel so changed, in ways I haven’t begun to realize yet, ways I haven’t yet named. But I feel it. I feel the shift, like the earth has moved beneath me and I am now standing somewhere else. And that somewhere else is apart from almost everything and everyone I knew before October 22. My friends and family no longer know the same person. (Do they know me at all?) I no longer am the same person. (Do I know who I am? Other than changed?)

IMG_0513I know I love the new space this experience has created, and that I want to hold onto as much of it as possible. To not fill my days with plans. To not fill my body with that racey, I-need-I-want-I-should-I’m-going-going-doing-doing-everything feeling.

I love the freedom to do what I want—and that I am working hard to figure out what, exactly, that is from moment to moment; and then, to honor it. To not live by habit or by reaction but from my own, authentic self.

I love that I don’t feel the same urgency to be a part of everything. That I don’t feel any urgency at all. A twinge here and there, yes, but nothing that doesn’t slide off of me with a breath, all that new space, the new-felt freedom to be and do and discover what I want.

I love that this experience is mine. That I get to be changed. That I get to be apart.

Searching for Myself

I just watched the inspiring documentary States of Grace about a woman who is physically disabled after a head on collision on the Golden Gate Bridge. She wonders, like I wonder: Who is this new person… who am I now? Who do I want to be?

who am II feel a bit weighed down by these questions of late. And by the seeping in anxieties about time (the passing of; the use of); about choices; about what I am doing and what I want to be doing with my life. It feels like I’m beyond the first phase of this cancer thing, and that suddenly, everything feels harder. Or is it just my mind that is making things feel harder? I don’t have that blessed-out-gratitude-love-happy-in-the-moment feeling anymore. I have instead the more everyday life-is-complicated-and-emotional-and-the-mind-is-complicated-and-chaotic feeling.

I think I know what is at the heart of my emotional/spiritual/mental discomfort: I want this time to be significant, worthwhile, life-changing. I want my life to change. Not because I don’t have a happy life, I have an incredibly happy life. But what good is cancer if I don’t use it as an opportunity for deepening, opening, transforming?