I have not been able to write in the past six months. I have had the desire to write but I just could not wade through the fog to articulate my thoughts. Over the winter and early this spring, I have had two people I respect tell me that I should read Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May. I have not read the book yet but the title was enough to get me thinking. I needed and took a time of wintering without even knowing it. I may need to do this more often. In this time of retreat, I have mulled over my thoughts regarding this story I have been telling.
The story falls into the category of hindsight and self reflection on this path I have walked to see if there is room for improvement or a shift in direction and to share with others. The world felt like it had run so fast that I am not sure how much reflection I did before I plowed into the next set of experiences in life.
The entire planet has hit the slow down button in the past year with COVID. It is like when I listen to an audiobook in half time. When listening to a book slow, the speed of my thoughts don’t necessarily slow down but the time and focus given to the words in my mind increases. A depth can be sought and connections made that would have possibly been missed before. It also leaves time and space for me to sit with my shadows and my fears. To be in the scratchy moments that leave me squirming in my own presence.
Cancer, death, pandemic, raising teenagers, jobs, and living a 21st century life – That’s a lot. When I reflect on the past chunk of time since about March 2018, when Jenn and I got married and got back from an amazing trip to Barcelona until today, the words that come to mind are: What…..the….fuck….just..happened? The image that accompanies these thoughts is from our trip to Barcelona that is our favorite. Jenn converted it to black and white and it is me smiling and Jenn kissing my cheek at Park Guell. I loved that trip and I love that photo. The photo symbolizes the bliss and ignorance from what lay ahead for us. A mindset we will never be able to go back to. It was like the last of our innocence was captured in that image and for that I am grateful.
I do feel like we are at another bookend to that period of time. We have made it a year and a few months without cancer. The year mark was big for me mentally. I wanted to post something or celebrate or honor it but it just didn’t happen so I am honoring that. Apparently it is how I needed to experience that milestone – internally without outward gesture.
I am rereading my blog to potentially flush it out into a book. I never reread my posts as you all may be able to tell by my many creative typing errors. I was in a space to get it all out when I wrote all those words. I thought that I should go back and read to edit, but I remember distinctly being adverse to doing that. Like I couldn’t live it again at that time. Many posts were written through sobbing tears. It was that writing allowed me to tap into thoughts and feelings that were tucked away many days to be a mom, to be a good partner, to get my work done, and to not drown in my feelings. My writing was for therapeutic not creative purposes.
I see that there is much that I left out in the original posts. There were things I couldn’t face yet, just didn’t want to talk about or didn’t have the ability to see yet. I was very wrapped up in my journey and my experience, and rightfully so. I don’t know if I could see past my experience to really hold space for or really observe the full experience of those around me. I have spent the last year really working hard to stay alive and also to make sure my cancer doesn’t come back. Much of that work involved changing the kind of food I eat and timing of eating, exercising , meditation but most importantly is the internal work of my mind, my heart, my relationships. In all honesty, this cancer journey did a number on our marriage. In March 2018 we finally decided to get married after six years of being together and the universe was like – “ok, let’s test this ‘until death do us part’ stuff” right off the block. There was so much growth for us to do together and we were committed to that. It was not something that we were given the liberty to unpack or evolve together at a reasonable pace. All while raising a 14 and 17 year old. It has been a crash course in partnership.
I think we hit our breaking point early on in 2020. My surgery happened, my grandmother died, we were informed my cancer was stage 4, Jenn supported her dad in his passing and we decided to not do chemotherapy. All in the time frame between January 10th and February 16th, 2020. I did not know how to navigate the journey of my experience with a stage 4 cancer diagnosis along with the journey my wife was on with me along with supporting the passing of her dad. Then COVID came with all of its adjustments and emotional rollercoasters.
Over the past six months or so, I have pulled in somewhat. I would want to peek my head out to the world every once in a while and would fall into old habits of getting busy with static. I know that is not what is going to help me heal and grow but it is my familiar space. My desired path ahead is to learn how to settle my soul or at least be able to soothe without the busy fast pace and static. Staying busy, eating, drinking are ways I have coped and avoided. I do believe there is a sweet spot of putting myself out in the world. I just want it to be from a solid foundation of self. I need my roots strong and firm in fertile ground for me to bear the long, creative, fulfilling life I have ahead of me.
In summary, I am trying to slow down to dig deeper into my human experience, remove all familiar no longer helpful for healing coping mechanisms, and learn how to be open and vulnerable in my relationships. My quest this weekend was to approach conversations and people with curiosity and empathy and observe my defensiveness and judgment which have been my armor of protection that no longer serves me and actually makes my interactions more difficult. I am also trying to identifying when I feel shame. I try to observe the shame to see it for what it really is rather than just reacting to the emotion. Sounds simple, right?
It is not simple. It is complicated and takes focus. I am flexing new emotional muscles and creating new circuitry in my brain. I am speaking up to take up space, to clarify, to tell the story I have in my head to shed light in the shadows of my insecurities. All of this is bringing up things like internalised homophobia, fear of failure, fear of success, fear itself, living with ADHD, the eternal self inflicted shame as a parent, imposter syndrome, aging, surviving cancer, being in relationships- I say bring it! This is going to be good. Lets unpack these. I don’t want to carry these backpacks around anymore. It is going to take some time so I am going to need about 50 more years before the grim reaper tries to pull my dance card again. Step aside I say to my tall dark friend, we shall have this dance someday but for now I have some really amazing things to do.