Just tell the truth

Welcome to my new, fancy, not quite how I want it blog.  We’ll march onward anyway.  I’ve ventured into the clearly superior WordPress world.  Anyway, welcome.  Welcome to 2018.  Here we are.  And I have some thoughts.

Look around you.  Really look at the people around you.  Your loved humans.  Are they ok?  Are they happy?  Are they fully operational?  Are they genuinely sharing with you about their life?  Or are they faking it, and just barely making it?

I’m someone who is usually pretty readable.  You can tell when I’m disappointed, when I’m frustrated, when I’m furious and the dragon that lives in my belly starts to huff and puff and eventually flies out and around Pittsburgh setting people on fire and eating them.  She is feisty.

But I’ve been unsettled.  I like many aspects of my life, but I’ve felt unsettled and quietly disgruntled.  And I’ve been brave enough to share a little bit of that with some of my favorite people.  And others who have been there at the right place and time.  And here’s what happens:  when I tell the truth, believing in their care for me, their acceptance of my “stuff” and their kindness…they tell me the truth too.  I believe we are all looking for some truth listening and some truth telling.

Some people, as the classic movie line goes “can’t handle the truth.”  I’ve learned this the hard way, and those people get the “I’m good, how are you?” treatment.  Rejecting someone’s struggle and shaming them back into ‘everything is fine” is a stinging poison that touches all of us and herds us into complacency and convincing ourselves that we are ok, our kids are ok, our relationships are ok our satisfaction with the life we’ve chosen is ok, our jobs are ok, our bodies are ok, our finances are ok, our church is ok, our mental health is ok, our spiritual journey is ok.  It’s all ok!  Right??  I’m ok, you’re ok.  Don’t think about any of this stuff too much.  Because if you do…it rocks the boat.  It rocks other people’s expectations of you.  It might require you to (gulp) change.

The question is, who do you want to be?  A person who bravely tells the truth about what is imperfect inside you and your life, and who listens without judgment and embraces the struggle and disharmony of others…or the person who says that everything is great and accepts only a similar response in return.

Not everyone can be a truth teller, and no one can be a truth teller all the time.  But my direction, for myself, is clear.  I’m seeking out truth tellers and truth listeners.  And I’m telling myself the truth, too.  My word of the year is authenticity.  And I’m embracing it with wild courage.

I don’t know how to fix much.  But what I do know how to do is create safe space for real conversation.  Come sit next to me, and let’s talk.  Let’s be honest about how things are going.  Let’s say the things out loud that we are scared to say.  and trust that there is no judgment or future gossip.  Let’s engage in authentic conversation where we don’t have to impress or convince or deny.  So, come on over.  I’m pretty much never more than ten feet away from coffee or a decent Malbec.  Cheers to authenticity.

Eucharisteo 2017

Thanksgiving reminds me to point my thoughts toward the practice of giving thanks.  Eucharisteo.  This idea that Jesus had this tendency to give thanks prior to asking The Father for something.  In her fine book, 1,000 Gifts, Ann Voskamp shares her story of an early life heartbreaking loss and how she went about the next couple of decades going through the motions of faith, but holding herself back, not really trusting this God she’d had decided was not trustworthy.  Eventually, she leans into her faith, deciding God may be worth trusting afterall, and she throws herself headfirst into this gratitude experiment.

I took that ride along with her as I read the book, dutifully making my list of things to be thankful for:  my exquisite, blue-eyed fairy daughter, the way sunlight beams in and makes rainbows just when I need to be reminded of my beautiful friend Laura who left this world way too soon, the nicest Malbec with a new friend, a Steelers last minute win, the way missing someone lets you know your heart still works, perfect black heels, feeling cozy and safe, laughing until I cry, not getting a parking ticket even though I totally deserve one, my pregnant friend’s pregnant lady glow, my hair growing back fuller and better than I ever thought it would.

Yo, I don’t have cancer right now.  (Or maybe ever again.)  How about that.

When I’m cranky and frowning and sniffing the air and crossing my arms and frustrated and disappointed…I think of Ann.  And I think of Jesus.  And I am reminded to give thanks.  Not just because that’s the example we have – but because this practice…this eucharisteo…it is a powerful force, infusing us with life and love.  It fights against fear.  It fights against apathy.  It helps you to decide not to give in to bitterness.  It keeps your heart soft and ready for whatever is next.

Along the way

I usually write a blog entry when I discover something that just connects for me.  Bingo.  A truth that I suddenly know – a problem that untangles itself and emerges solutionary (new word?) whole, ripe and well formed.  Something that helps.  Something that clarifies.  Something that heals.  I love those truths.  They are important.  They are answers to the questions.  The a-ha moments.  Oh, I do love me some answers.  Some wisdom.  Some decisive course of action.  Some powerful rightness.

But there is a tiny, fragile hint of beauty in the not knowing, too.  I just left a meeting where two people I admire were really brave.  Beautifully, inspiringly brave in the not yet knowing.  They were honest and authentic and willing to share in the midst of not having it figured out yet.  

That kind of courage isn’t celebrated enough.  
We value certainty and being on the other side of a problem too much.  The destination is palm trees and beaches.  Cocktails and selfies.  The journey is pot holes, flat tires and traffic.  It is tedious, tiresome, ugly.  It’s grumpy and impatient and loud.  Are we there yet?  

But so much of life is the getting there.  There are many to whom this is not news, I know.  But I’m me, and while I can enjoy a literal road trip, emotional, intellectual, relational, transitional, spiritual, life “journeys” seem best done quick and dirty.  Fast and simple and limited.  Fix it.  Decide.  Done deal.  
Where we’re going matters, of course.  But to a great extent, we allow the destinations to define us. And yet, who we are during the trip is, well, who we really are.  Who we are when we’re bored, overheated or lost.  When we’re behind schedule.  Out of snacks.  Achy from confined spaces.  Wishing for different traveling companions.  Unclear on the best route. Uncomfortable in the silence that magnifies the rattle.  Distracted by hopes and dreams and regrets. 
Who are we, then?  Can we be kind and humble and patient and maybe even occasionally magnificent in moments along the way?  In the uncertainty and not-yet-there-ness?  Or only when we’ve arrived? I saw it today.  And I want more of that. 

Dealing with the weeds

It’s been a good, long while since I have posted.  That is
for a few reasons.  Primarily that since my chemo ended and my last scan
revealed NED (no evidence of disease) I have been, well, getting on with my
life.  I ran in the marathon, had my 38th birthday, visited San Juan, Puerto Rico with one of my besties.  
Life post-chemo is strange.  On one
hand, it is quite celebratory.  It’s a
gift to be done with getting poison injected into my veins every two weeks.  It’s incredible to begin to heal and feel
like myself.  It’s a relief to know that
pretty much, each day I will feel a little bit better until I’m back to
But there are things that need to be addressed.  Shifting from survival mode back into some
version of a normal life where you live like most people do but also have to find out
whether your cancer came back every 3 months, is a very complex transition.  There are relationships that need to be
attended to – with cancer and treatment, it’s kind of an “all about me” world
that is not meant to be sustained. 
Shifting back to reclaiming responsibilities from daily chores to emotional
support of other people is both fulfilling and challenging. 
During chemo, you ignore so much. 
Basically everything.  Your routine
that keeps everyone on track, your child’s behavior, your marriage, your toenails, the health
of your friendships, your bad habits, the cardboard boxes piling up in the
garage that need to go to recycling.  The
perfect example of what I’m talking about happened when I went to unearth a
cooler from the garage and the precariously stacked mountain of cardboard
literally came tumbling down. 
Crash.  Mess.  Sigh. 
If we aren’t careful everything can come crashing down, having not
been tended to for so long.  Really need to get a pedicure on the calendar, people.  
I started my yearly garden recently.  Little seeds are sprouting and flourishing,
but all around them, weeds threaten to choke them.  I find myself in a daily battle, pulling them
out at the root, protecting my tiny seedlings. 
Why do the weeds grow so fast and strong and tall while the snow pea
seedlings need so much care?  I don’t
know, exactly – I’m no horticulturalist; I just grow a mean zucchini.  But I recognize the potential negative impact
of ignoring the garden for so long. 
My life garden has more than a few weeds taking over right now.  And it needs attention.  I can’t be sure, but I think it would be
easier if I’d had the kind of cancer that tends not to come back.  I could just deal with the trauma I’ve
experienced and move on.  But this cancer
lurks.  It hides and then pounces, making
another go of taking me down.  It almost
doesn’t seem worth the trouble of pulling out the gardening tools. 

But, in Christ, we have hope. 
So much hope for so many things.  There
is hope that I’ll live plenty long enough to completely screw my life up 🙂 
so it
seems sensible to put in the effort required in order to avoid that.  I want to be my best self, be the best mom,
the best wife, the best employee, the best friend, the best version of myself I
can be, no matter when my expiration date is, or if or when I’ll have to fight
this monster again.  In fact, should I
have to fight again, I want to be my best self to be ready. 


Even if He does not

You can learn in any number of ways.  But one of the most intense ways to learn and grow is to (either purposely or involuntarily) dive into the depths.  The physical and psychological places where fear originates and persists.  

The past 9 months or so, I was pushed closer and closer to the edge of that precipice with each doctor’s appointment and lab result.  At first I fought, clawing my way back, unwilling to “go there.”  But at some point, I stopped fighting, got up and walked to the edge on my own power and…jumped.  
It was icky down there.  (Not that I’m out of it entirely, now.) Confronting pain, suffering and the distinct possibility of not ever being whole again or even death.  That shadowy place of frightening possibilities.  Of sharp edges and dangerous creatures.  
It’s been a daily battle, to varying degrees, facing whatever lurks in the darkness, while going about my routine of dealing with traffic, workplace adventures and a preschooler who wants to wear the same dress three days in a row.  There’s an over dramatized musical montage in my mind of me slaying beasts with a bloody sword while wearing heels and approving a proposal via cell phone, while ordering a latte at Starbucks, late to pick up my kid from school.  Those were the good days.  Other days, the beasts were kind of winning.  
But that’s where Jesus shows up, right?  Well, not shows up so much as gently clears his throat and waves, reminding me he was here all along.  I kind of picture him looking like Ryan Gosling.  Hey, Girl.  Cheering me on.  Holding my hand.  Cutting a hole in my swollen eyelid like that scene in one of the Rocky movies so I could keep fighting.  Offering rest.  Hope.  Some cucumber water.
I got good news from my oncologist on Friday.  Still waiting for the official word from a radiologist, but my meticulous doctor smiled at the weird gray images of my organs on the screen and said things look good for now.  
What amazing words.  But I find myself wondering if they’re too good to be true.  I hesitate a wee bit to embrace the good news just because I’m pretty familiar with bad news.  But!  Just because I’m not assuming the good news is reliable just yet doesn’t mean anything except that, well, I’m realistic.  I’m not particularly afraid of bad news or convinced the news will be bad.  But I’m not doing the victory dance quite yet.  
This is interesting – some people of faith seem to chastise me a bit when I don’t, say, proclaim that I am healed.  Look, you can do what you want, but that’s not how it works from my perspective.  Sometimes the news isn’t good no matter how much we say we believe it will be.  No matter how much we pray it will be.  Sometimes we need to go through a tough thing.  Sometimes that is God’s will for us.  Saying out loud that God has healed me will not make it so.  Don’t get me wrong, I pray like gangbusters and expect you to, as well.  Prayer is glorious and mysterious and required of us.  And hope is beautiful.  I’m not saying don’t pray and I’m not saying don’t hope – I’m saying this “name it and claim it” stuff is crazy.  You know what’s way more powerful (in my opinion) than trying to (sorry if this offends) manipulate God into healing you?  Trusting Him no matter what.  Trusting Him in the darkness.  I mean…have you read the Bible?  People suffered, yo.  And beauty came from their eternal perspective.  Like, umm, Jesus? And Job.  And Paul.  
I love the passage in Daniel where Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are about to get tossed into the fiery furnace and they say (paraphrased) “Our God will save us…but even if He does not…we will not worship you instead of Him.”  Basically they know God can save them, they think He will, but more importantly, they trust Him no matter what.  EVEN IF HE DOES NOT.  To me, that’s real faith.  
Turns out, they get tossed in.  I wonder if they thought maybe God would send angels to scoop them up before they hit the fire.  And when He didn’t…was there an “Oh, crap” moment?  Instead of an angelic air lift rescue mission, into the flames they went.  But they were not burned.  And Jesus (or possibly an angel, depending on your interpretation) was in there with them.  
I’ll probably always wonder if the cancer will come back.  That doesn’t mean I’m not trusting God.  I’m not trusting Him to make my life easy because He never said He would.  I’m trusting Him no matter what crazy thing happens.  

California Love part 2

Today is a scan.  I’m nervous.  A little nervous. Not like crazy nervous.  But, unexpected bad news today would be really upsetting.  And good news, while very much hoped for, isn’t a guarantee about anything except right now.  Grappling with the idea that I may never feel totally free of cancer is hard and sad and weird.  But there is something special about the pronounced feeling of uncertainty.  Basically, I just have to live my life, trust God and enjoy each wonderful moment.

So instead of ruminating on fear and nerves, I choose to let it go (enter the Frozen song) and instead, tell you about my trip to California this week.
It was great!  
Our direct mail partners are so smart and helpful and treat us so well.  We love you, Russ Reid!  I also love the weather, staying in a nice hotel (nice hotels have such glorious beds!)  the actual work we do when we’re there (yes, I actually love staring at bar graphs!  Especially when they confirm that we’re doing good work!) I also love the views, the coffee (great coffee is everywhere!) and of course, my trusty travel companion/lap top operator, as well as my friends who have moved there.
Some pics:
And one from Detroit (the airport, anyway.). Because this fountain is sweet.

I don't know how to do this

Well, I don’t.  But one thing I’ve gotten good at is figuring out how to do stuff I don’t know how to do.  And it usually starts with asking people who have done it or are doing it in a way I can relate to.  So I’m reaching out to those inspiring people who have or are beating cancer and are living large – and by living large, I mean going about their business, working, taking care of families, accomplishing great things like finishing advanced degrees, having babies, planning vacations or emptying the dishwasher, being positive and thankful.  

My first order of business is to calmly wade my way through the next 9 days, which include Easter and a business trip to California, leading up to my next CT scan.  
I choose not to worry.  I have to choose this daily…sometimes hourly.  But it’s my choice and I can reject the temptation to fret, and choose instead to put my trust in God and get on with my day.  So that’s what I’ll do.  
And I’ll be calling on the cancer conquerors for advice and support.  
Also, my chemo destroyed the skin on my fingertips.  They are now covered in what appears to be a collage of hashtags.  
Exhibit A


The NEW new Normal

When I started this blog, my first entry was titled The New Normal

I felt it was necessary to acknowledge and even declare that we were in a new situation – that life as we knew it was a thing of the past and we were in a brand new chapter. Well, here we are again. While I won’t feel comfortable saying I’m “in remission” until my scan in a couple weeks, let’s just assume that I am and that is the new state of affairs. No longer a cancer patient, no longer a cancer warrior actively fighting cancer – but rather a cancer SURVIVOR.

In some ways, this new era is trickier than the previous one. On one hand, you want to shout from the rooftops ” I BEAT CANCER!” and “GOD HEALED ME!” and “YOUR PRAYERS WORKED!” and “MODERN MEDICINE IS A MIRACLE!” and “MY DOCTORS ROCK!” And on the other, you want to whisper “but it might come back.” When you’re battling cancer, you’re a street fighter – you’ve got your enemy right in front of you where you can punch it square in the face – you KNOW what the problem is and where it is. You can see it. It’s big and bad and ugly and it scares you, but you have a target to hit. In remission, you are tempted to see yourself moreso as walking through the streets at night with a hoodie pulled down over your face, ducking your head and nervously glancing over your shoulder, flinching at every skittering leaf and alley cat.

I don’t want to be that. So I’m not going to. And this blog is now going to be the story of how I figure out how. How do I parent and work and be a wife and a friend and daughter and mentor and mentee and human SURVIVOR that is vigilant and responsible about my ongoing health, without living each day terrified of it coming back? I’m not sure yet. But I have some ideas – and I’m taking this bull by the horns and wrestling with it. Sorry for the mixed metaphors – but that’s how it is in my head for now. Mixed.