Parenting

Healing, hope & slowness

Well it has been a good long stretch of quiet here hasn’t it? I used to be a fast processor but not anymore. These days the thoughts ooze slowly through my soul, taking time to steep while I fold the daily load of laundry, drive car pool, read books aloud or teach fractions. Everything takes more time  than it used to.

A few months back I started swimming again, lap after lap after lap, to wash my swirling thoughts away. Kicking to try and find clarity. It started from sheer survival - our schedule this fall with Aaron traveling more than he ever has before was frankly a bit much. My own exercise (other than my daily dog walk) went to the wayside taking with it a good chunk of my unanxious mind. My parents came for a visit and could see I was hanging on by a thread, I think. My mom had a come to Jesus type talk with me about taking care of myself and based on her verbally brainstorming for me I finally figured out that I could swim a decent amount in under an hour - in and out. Several of my kids activities take place at our local rec center with a pool, if not there is one close to drop offs. So swimming it is for now. The blue of the pool and quiet of my head under the water brings me a much needed peace. You could say it is what is saving my life these days.

I still constantly find myself having feelings about how long healing takes. Here I am a year and a half after looking at myself, unrecognizable, everything I felt I was shattered into a million pieces on the ground. A year and a half is not a small measure of time, and maybe it isn’t a long one either but I certainly thought I would have ‘finished’ processing healing already. Back to my fast processing and high coping self, of course having learned all the lessons and experienced all the growth I needed to in order to be a more enlightened person. (I wish I were joking.)

A year ago I wrote that healing takes more time than people want to give you and now I year later I am writing that it takes more time than you want to give yourself.

I remember when my therapist chatted with me about sectioning off a period of time in which to focus on my healing and my family. A period of time in which I would say ‘no’ to anything else. I landed on six months. I thought I was being ridiculous and gracious to myself to set out that long period of time.

Now I sit here with open palms, no set end date because I am much more intimate with this process. Two steps forward and one and a half steps back. Reminding myself to keep clinging to God who works all things for good. If there is one lesson I don’t want to loose there it is.

 

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Our culture tends to glorify ‘celebrity style overcoming’ and perhaps rightly so. When you are staring down a scary prognosis it is exceptionally encouraging to see people who have overcome ‘quickly’ with joy and enthusiasm. We want to believe we can self-help everything and to some extent we can. To some extent God gives us bodies and brains to help ourselves - sometimes a miracle looks like getting off our behinds and doing what God has made us capable to do. We can get our buts to therapy or yoga, we can seek out the wise treatments and therapies and modalities. But only by God’s grace does all the stuff work and we find ourselves on the other side - ‘healed’.

And then.

Then you still feel broken and lost and exhausted. Here comes the part of the story that doesn’t sell anything, so we don’t hear about it. This is where you find yourself siting in your ‘healed’ brokenness, feeling like you have messed up because this is supposed to be the easy part, the celebration.

This is the part where you get used to waiting. You get used to showing up and doing the right things to keep healing yourself even when it feels futile. Then you stop doing them and realize - nope not yet. I still need those things. At least for now but also, maybe forever. There are things you don’t get used to: feeling like a stranger in your own body, like a stranger in your own mind. You know there is more healing to come, you loose all pride you had about considering yourself low maintenance, resilient and being a high achiever.

You wish you could contentedly and serenely use prayer to let this draw you closer to God and wisdom and love (some days this happens). Instead, it is more likely you get irritated about life’s petty crap, about your unknowing what to do now, about how everything has changed and yet; nothing has.  You find yourself too agitated to make sense and plop things on a sticky note into your ‘God jar’. Not much here is pretty or presentable.

You listen. You listen a lot because you don’t have many coherent thoughts to share. You sit in silence. More silence than you ever imagined. You try to get comfortable with knowing you only know about two things for sure, while 1001 thoughts swirl around in you. You wait some more.

You move slow, slower, slowest. Sometimes you falter and shame yourself for your slow process but mostly you give yourself more grace than you ever have before. You rest more than before, because you still have to even 1.5 years later. At best this feels like progress (I’ve learned to rest!) at worse you feel like you will never be as healthy as you were.

And God. You still need to cling God. Because you aren’t as desperate as you were before, but you are other things instead. This was perhaps the most unexpected part. You are so grateful for your everyday ordinary life and also so many things are still being rooted out. You still feel sad, angry, frustrated, annoyed, tired and just done already alongside of grateful, grateful, grateful. More questions, more wresting, more learning. You are still in need of a savior and you are still in need of hope. Hope. The light. Rest from all the change and growing and learning. A glimpse of new life, an end (at least for now) of things dying away. You are aching for the bloom.

And then - and then it is advent.

Quiet. You find so much quiet and stillness. This is a natural posture for you now. Sitting, quiet. Being present. Palms open. Praying for eyes to see hope, hope everywhere. Perhaps more will die away but you are also open to receive. There is no magic. No single moment where you wake up and think ‘this is it I have bloomed’. Not yet anyway. Instead you listen for the next step, then the next, then the next. Slow, quiet, listen. Slow, quiet, listen.

This is the heartbeat of the healing.

 

Today

Life just keeps right on chugging along and here we are mid-July already, can you actually believe it? The garden is growing; full of weeds, a little too wild as usual and right alongside it my kiddos. My baby who I will always and forever swear was just born turned seven and asked to climb a real mountain for her birthday so they did - all 2407 meters (7898 feet) of Ha-Ling with daddy and her siblings, this mama who is afraid of heights stopping 4/5 of the way to the top.

My middle doesn't have many little girl years left so I am enjoying this one so much, watching her be so wild and free in who she is is a gift. She swims on scorching days and curls up with her cat and a novel on the rainy ones in between.

My oldest is growing into an almost teenager - serious and just and determined. He fractured his wrist playing soccer but hasn't let it slow him down much and has still played soccer an almost obscene number of hours this month which makes him happier than truly anything else in the world right now.

I finished a quilt I've been wanting to make for seven years. I've been playing with the kids and cutting flowers to bring inside. Taking us all to water when the weather allows. Walking the dog with Aaron after the kids are in bed. I went back to work (part time) a few months back so that has taken away some of my writing time but it's been okay - I've been working on listening as my default, instead of always contributing.

When I think back to summers growing up I remember what seemed like an endless stretch of days that didn't fly by as they seem to now. We swam at the outdoor pool and read book after book, played outside for hours with our friends. We always went camping to visit my dad's family where we restored all our souls surrounded by British Columbia's water. After September long weekend, I was okay with going back to school, ready for the newness and routine after getting my fill of floating through the summer days doing more as I pleased.

Now I'm a middle aged mother who wakes up wanting to make the most of each day because every year I can feel a bit more panicky about summer going too fast - about how many more years I will have my kids at home. A week can go by in a blink where I feel like not much happened except our regular life.

My grandmother is right, time does go more quickly as we get older.

Here I am smack dab in the middle of summer, smack dab in the middle of my ordinary, but oh so beautiful life. Perspective is everything, or so they say and I will say that having cancer, in my experience anyway, hones your perspective about almost everything.

Summer does go by faster than I want it to, each and every year but also: that is okay. These things I am doing in my ordinary weeks, I am glad for them. Not everyone gets to wake up and go to work, cook another meal, wash that daily stinky load of sports laundry, read bedtime stories, reach out to hold the person's hand to offer forgiveness first after a fight. Not everyone gets to scrub their toilets, pull weeds, get snacks for all the neighbour kids. All these things I used to see sometimes begrudgingly as 'have' to do alongside the playing and swimming and reading and memory making, I don't see it that way anymore. I see I don't have to's - I see 'get' to's.

God is in the mountain tops yes, and yes God was faithfully with me during sickness and fear. Those are easy for me to remember. But also today, this very one rainy summer day, this is the day that the Lord has made and I will rejoice and be glad in it. Because God is also here in this, the ordinary, everyday. All our 'have to's' are suddenly sacred if you imagine it all gone. I'm like Jacob, I have woken up and seen that the Creator is in this place and I did not know it. The holy ground of middle life.

Life may be shorter than you thought so do all the big things you want to do. Plan the trip, climb the mountain, start and finish the big project, for goodness sake get the tattoo you have been thinking about for more than a decade. Throw yourself the party you always wanted, jump into the water fully dressed. Follow where the spirit calls.

But also life may be shorter than you thought so be right here, today, don't waste it away in forever being slightly ill contented. Don't let what ifs and could it be betters and comparisons steal anything away from what you have today.

Settle into who you are and don't wish for someone else's dreams or happiness because this right here whatever God put in front of you is enough. Smile and stop and look into the eyes of the people you love (and maybe even at some you don't), cherish your coffee, find joy in all those get to's. Sieze the shit out of it. Do your ordinary, everyday things in between the big things and love them just as much if not more. No more panicking, just rejoicing.