Tag Archives: Faith

the sky is empty

“I talk to God but the sky is empty.”
~ Sylvia Plath

Ge’ez, Sylvia Plath is sure a downer!

When I was little, I thought my grandparents lived in heaven, not because they were dead, but because they lived in Arizona (a stretch to see how I got here, I can imagine, but bear with me)….

I came to visit them with this kind of sky:

From this kind of sky:

So, when we went to visit (usually in early summer) our plane went up above the clouds, but never came back down through them… so, they must have lived in heaven, right? Please, also note that this was also around the time I was very saddened that Zeus and the pantheon of gods was not “real” and that my mother found me once, kneeling in the front yard praying to the moon-god. I was a wildly spiritual child.

Considering my family did not practice any real form of faith as I was growing up, they were Protestant in Roman Catholic countries after all – and any Protestants that lived where we were tended to be evangelical missionaries and not the most fun to be around – add in that we were considered to be “converted” and there were all those heathen Roman Catholics and indigenous cultures that needed to be saved. 

Many people tell you to lean in to your faith in trying times like this. It is amazing how much you seek something out, something that requires faith. But looking for something that is comfortable, that does not mean I must have a rebirth in any fashion, that means I don’t have to believe fossils were put on earth by satan to lure us to his evil ends,  something other than the spiritual connection to the cancer I got is because I have mommy issues, something other than I am not godly and got cancer because I am being punished… 

fuck – fuck – fuck – fuck

FUCK

How do you find faith in the midst of such fucking insanity.

Notice that is not a question, though it probably should be.

Anyway.

I learned that I had a sizable chunk of muscle removed with my last surgery. Granted, it was not the breast surgery removal of days of yore when women begged for a radical (nay, they wanted uber radical) mastectomy – the kind that took out muscle and bone (think ribs and clavicles). I’m missing 2 inches of chest wall muscle… and I’m still in disbelief… faith.

The way humans think is sometimes shocking to me. BUT, and it is a YUUUUUGE “but”, I get it. While my head understands that if treated correctly a lumpectomy has the same results as a mastectomy and you heal faster – but WTF does treating something correctly mean? My tumor was muscle adjacent, so does that mean that one of those a$$hole cancer monsters escaped and is it hiding somewhere? Somewhere that chemo and radiation can’t find?  Faith.

This is where finding faith again is crucial – but it is so freaking different this go around, faith that is.

If you are prone to that which is beyond the physical and don’t judge, I can share how I am re-learning how to lean in to faith again.  The thing is, I will most likely appear a heretic to you.

The one thing I know, is that I don’t think faith is about re-birth (that concept is what caused me to abandon faith before)… if it is for you, that is awesome – but I don’t buy it one effin’ iota.

I, beautifully enough, am finding this process of rediscovering faith kinda cool. and a bit painful.

It is especially nice since there is a disquiet in this process, of being a person diagnosed with cancer. It was present the first time and it is present again this time.  The subtleties of it that I experienced the first time is magnified, but both of my cancer experiences, so far, are incredibly similar… at least internally.

Because my first round was stage 1 and caught super early and only required surgery it was subtle. I felt like a fraud of a cancer patient because phht, it just needed surgery. People (most of them), aside from the time during the surgery put me at the bottom or low-end of a cancer continuum (that was practically equated with being cancer free).

In this round, where I am currently listed as stage 2B (and probably only because they did not take out more nodes and we will see if that changes after the next battery of test results come in), it is still sufficiently low on that continuum that I still feel like a fraud (though only less so because, after all, it looks like I am getting chemo and radiation this time) and the news about the cancer itself has just gotten progressively worse. Many of those same folks from my first experience are still like “well, you aren’t dying”.

I am adding silently  in my head; “that I know of” because I am still waiting for more tests and results of tests.

No, I am not dying (well, at least I don’t think so, but as I said… I will have a more definitive answer after I see the results of the next test). Trust me I celebrate that!  I am not healthy, I have a chronic disease that gives me (according to my radiation oncologist) an 81% 5 year survival rate (though this varies depending on the sites with such data). Yes, 81% is super awesome, but before this all went down I was with most others and had the general average population of a smidgen over 98% . A 17% drop in my life expectancy is still a crappy thing to have as a part of my life.

Trying to balance a good attitude with crippling doubts is a strange place to be.

I struggle. The struggle is real. Not because I have a Christian need for an after-life – but because I want to be more than just a life form – I want something divine to be a part of this experience, I want to lean in to something when I am so riddled and consumed with anxiety. A set of rituals that I can be a part of, a community where I feel like I belong. IN my head I often say to myself, I just want to be loved through this.

I read about Sherman Alexie today, something that I struggled with, but which spoke to the spiritual little girl in me that the unseen world is there for those that listen.  (the story is here).

I have found great comfort in so many people in my life, women and men – willing to be a part of this process with me.  I hate to lean on them, how do you answer the unanswerable to someone like me desperately seeking?

 

 

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Faith – 99/366

I have faith that_______________

::sigh::

I am starting to dislike the word faith.

Faith is confidence or trust in a person or thing; or the observance of an obligation from loyalty; or fidelity to a person, promise, engagement; or a belief not based on proof; or it may refer to a particular system of religious belief, such as in which faith is confidence based on some degree of warrant.

When I woke up on the Easter before last and read some things I hope would be inspiring but instead just made me nauseous and drove me to the point of thinking “I can’t do this any more”. The Christ that was held up to me on that day was not the icon I had grown to appreciate. The ideas and notions seemed so foreign, so distant, that they felt cruel to me. So, I moved closer to one end of the agnostic spectrum. The funny thing is that I can’t say it is that it is about feeling let down, but it was more of things  that I had help on to in faith just disappeared. And I was strangely and calmly OK with that result, though very perplexed by what had happened. I am still confused, but it is a gentle confusion… no ranting or tearing at my hair and breast… it is acceptance that this is just what is. My curious nature wants to explore, but how does one explore nothingness?

I noticed yesterday that many of the folks who had started following this blog are devout Christians. I read through their posts and about me pages and was so curious. I suppose I am not open enough about how I feel, as I would assume they would not have interest in someone who tends to reject what they are so passionate about. Reject, however, is not the right word.

I am trying to come up with things that I would have faith in… and I draw a blank. Then, I feel guilty… because in my mind it seems like I should have faith in something, if we go the loyalty route I would have to say my family….

BUT

I can’t claim that. I love my son, I love my husband, mother, father, brothers, sister…  but do I have faith they will love me in return? Not after this past year, except for maybe my son and husband.

I suppose the biggest enemy of faith is doubt. I have plenty of that. I am at a point where I am screaming for anything to show me. Until that moment when I am shown, I am skeptical. And in that moment, I recognize how temporary things are.

I have faith in friends… no in specific ones mind you, but in a collective. People being there for me to some capacity, without name or face. A strange notion to ponder as well. When I try to consider specific people, faith in them rings a bit hollow… many of my close ones seem nebulous in terms of faith though I love them very much and do not think I doubt them.. but in trying to say if I have faith in them, it seems trite and a silly consideration.

I am, in perusing my prior word, not doing a good job at trying again to explore this.

These gems have life in them: their colors speak… (day 33)

The Day 33 prompt is:

What is/will be the subject of your next book?

The story I am writing about centers around a young woman named Clara and how her life is filled with love… a gift imbued through some magical experience had during her parents conceiving her. It is a story about how love has so many faces and how it is so important for humans to experience it. The story looks at how love contrasts with so many different emotions (as personality types). It examines the duality of life, but with rose-colored glasses. It begins with a description of Clara and her family and how they fit in to her ancestry. It follows her as she navigates out of childhood and moves into maturity. It examines the people she loves and how they are part of the magic spell she was cast upon her conception. It is a story about the role of others in personal redemption stories. It is about love, all the different kinds of love.

Image used from this article.

I remember, as a child, sitting in my gated front yard in Quito, Ecuador, looking at the people passing by on the street in front of me. A mix of men in hats, women in indigenous clothing carrying a small child strapped to their back and leading a yellow dog on a rope used as a leash.  Considering the tremendous difference between the huge Spanish colonial home behind me and the various levels of poverty and status in front of me…

I knew the gate was to keep people out, in part because I was young and vulnerable and with a high potential to be kidnapped. I stared at the glass shards embedded on the top of the wall surrounding our property, and thinking that the sun glinting off the various colors of glass made them look like jewels.  This memory, combines with many others serve as background material for the story. I had a truly magical childhood. While it was not without some pain, it was still magical and I want to re-tell it in the style of literature that came from that part of the world.

These gems have life in them:  their colors speak, say what words fail of.
~George Eliot

My hat tip today goes to Laura Hile, because she had me at pirate!

Every breath you take (day 5)

I now get to step five of the suggestions this article has for addressing the negative:

5. Breathe. We’re at the half way mark and I’d like to offer you a sincere congratulations on completing the first half! Our natural tendency is to suppress these uncomfortable thoughts and emotions, often telling ourselves that we’ll deal with them later—but honestly, does later ever come? Unfortunately for most of us, it never does. So even just by taking the time to become conscious of, and identify these unpleasant thoughts and emotions is a huge step! Let’s not stop there however, because here’s where the really good stuff starts to happen.

For the past week, I have been taking part in the mindfulness summit. I can say that this has all been very complimentary to what I am trying to accomplish personally. I first learn about mindfulness from my doctor.   For the previous year I had endured a health problem that we had trouble trying to identify. I was sleeping almost 20 hours a day on average, and felt a lethargy like no other. I know something was wrong, but I had no idea what.  A fluke helped us diagnose me with valley fever, and the immense relief was fleeting. After a year of intense worry, I was frayed and very depressed and prone to sudden and intense anxiety. My doctor, as luck would have it, was a practitioner of MBSR, and was getting ready to host a session for willing patients. It was something that my insurance at the time would cover. I signed on right away. I hated being medicated for the anxiety and depression. I took his 8 week course and my life was changed. This happened about 20 years ago, I have had maybe 3 anxiety attacks since then and all within the first six months after I finished the course.  Within three months after finishing the class, we decided to stop my medication. I felt like a new person in so many ways. I was able to bring a mindfulness to everything I was doing.

My cancer diagnosis, really threw it a curve-ball. While I don’t think I was having anxiety attacks, I was experiencing something very different, though built-in with anxiety. As I found myself less able to manage the stress that I had been able to manage in my early days of practicing MBSR. A friend mentioned that she was considering doing it, I told her she should and then realized that I might need to have a chance to revisit those lessons. That I had most defiantly moved away from a life of intention and presence.  I decided to bring my son on this journey with me. In part because another friend was talking about how the school he works at is bring in mindfulness to their curriculum, for both students and teachers.  If they could do this with kids, I certainly could with my son. So, I found a free online class, and we started the lessons.

They are something that I consider both easy, and not easy. They make you ask yourself some interesting questions and you have to make some big choices about the person you want to be.   While not a physically taxing endeavor, it can be emotionally.  I had to realize that I was not in a very good place. That it had to do with how my family and I behaved before, during and after my diagnosis. That I could not be accountable for them, but I could be accountable for myself. Sounds easy, it really wasn’t.

I have since learned that it is not unusual to experience the year or so after your treatment options end with more intensity than any other part. This article outlines pretty well, though it speaks to breast cancer which is not what I have had.

“But for many, the time after treatment is a stage of uncertainty physically, mentally and socially.”

I find thoughts of maybe I should have asked for Chemo just in case (I did not need it, my stage 1a1 and type, said it was not necessary), mixed in with concerns over aches and pains being signs of recurrence. This is all a brain trick. On one hand I know better, but my body doesn’t believe me.

I have arrived at a point where I know this is ok. I have three weeks of my efforts and personal mindful mediation coupled with one week of mindfulness summit behind me, these experiences have re-awakened me to less of that negativity that was invading my space. I look forward to my future much more than

The next steps are vaguely reminiscent of the aspect I have been including as a reflection at the end. I wonder how this will go. ♥

Action – reflection:

I was at a leadership retreat recently where we did an exercise in which we had to picture us as an 8 or 9 year-old. We were to talk to her about how wonderful she was, because it is easier to do that than to tell ourselves. It is much easier and carries a much deeper felt reaction to do this exercise.

IMG_7461                 E62EDBED-16E4-46FD-B424-D4875F8D33E9

Little girl Blair, don’t forget to breathe. You are loved. Never ever forget that.

A year in my life…

A year ago, I had sent my son off to Europe and missed him terribly.

I think it was the Starbucks app of the week that was a picture a day app. I downloaded it, because;
1) it was free
2) I was thinking about documenting how much I missed my son

So, I took the selfie… and time flowed and I stuck to it and yesterday I got a notice that I had taken 365 photos.

One year, one insane year.

A son sent abroad at a very young age and being diagnosed with cancer. Not really sure which was hardest at the inception.

I missed my son terribly and was so happy when I reunited with him.

And hearing you have cancer sucks, sucks, sucks… and somehow it infiltrates everything.

But I missed my son and that was the hardest thing ever, and yes.. in a way, it was harder than being told one has cancer.

But the cancer things has its own craziness, craziness that makes everything outside the norm seem so much scarier.

So here is that one year of selfies, and as I sit here trying to figure out what all to tell my oncologist when I call him tomorrow, I think I look so much happier now than I did when I missed my son so much!

A seasonal urge

I grew up in the land of eternal spring… some even called it eternal fall.

I never have experienced four strong seasonal changes… usually it was two… but it could even be argued that there was one season unless one counts “more rain” as another season.

Ecuador had that… rain and more rain, it was eternal spring, or something akin to the glorious autumn season of the southwestern US.

Yes, it is confusing, but the big seasonal denominator for me has been the presence or absence of rain.

Today was that kind of day here in my beloved American Southwest… overcast and lightly rainy. A huge high pressure system that seemed unexpected causing tension headaches and achy bones. The release when the rain managed to push past. The smell of creosote wafting in the air.

I always feel a different kind of contentment in the rain, no matter in what part of the world I am in. If there is rain, I get this feeling. It isn’t particularly productive, but is a certain kind of peace or contentment. Though I do tend to write more when I can hear water droplets hitting the windows or the cadence of rain on the tin roof of my back porch. I feel the magic that my favorite authors are able to convey about this world, the kind that feeds the stories of Borges, Allende, Esquivel, and Garcia Marquez. While I do not claim that there is a Latin Exclusivity to the genre, as a daughter of its lands, I can understand the origins every so deeply.

When it rains, the world feels magical.

                                                     Rain in the magical jungle city of Tena in Ecuador

“The seasonal urge is strong in poets. Milton wrote chiefly in winter. Keats looked for spring to wake him up (as it did in the miraculous months of April and May, 1819). Burns chose autumn. Longfellow liked the month of September. Shelley flourished in the hot months.”
Helen Bevington

Invincible summers and calculated acts of kindness

“My dear,
In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.
In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile.
In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.
I realized, through it all, that…
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.

~ Albert Camus


It was late on December 20th, 2014 and I was still recovering from my surgery.   I read an email from my friend Gail in which she asked if the Junior League of Phoenix (JLP) would be interested in hosting a movie screening. Gail works at The Arizona Partnership for Immunization.


It was this movie screening:



I watched the trailer.

I called her to talk on the phone.

I pretty much told her that I didn’t know but I would find a way.  We talked about how I could manage this in my capacity as the member training committee chair and we came up with a plan. The next morning I sent out some emails to my Team Leader in the Junior League and my co-chair. Both were supportive.  Gail and I discussed venues and what options we had. We decided that my cousin, who is Lead pastor at Scottsdale First Church of the Nazarene, would be a good person to approach. So an email went to him. I received immediate replies and all were supportive. 

Here I am 2 months later. The JLP team lead I serve under, has allowed for this to become a bigger deal within the JLP.  More partnerships have developed and are included below.

Our goal is to provide one large movie screening with a panel that is targeting about 200 viewers. 

If you are local – please save the date:

Date:
Thursday, April 9th 2015

Location:
Scottsdale First Church of the Nazarene
2340 N Hayden Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85257

Time:
 5:30 – 9:00 pm / Movie starts at approx 6:30

Tentative Agenda:
Sign in opens with a meet and greet: 5:30
Movie and topic is introduced and screened 6:30 
(movie is 80 minutes long)
Panel discussion at end of film
closing meet and greet


Community Partners: