Monday, December 29, 2008

Taking off from a New Year’s meme

I’ve done this meme in past years. I’m doing it now because I’ll be in the car all day, back and forth from the dermatologist, on New Year’s Eve. (I really don’t want to make that drive—but I still have this ridiculous rash, and I’d like it to be seen before February.) I’m going to the Ranch when it opens again after the holiday break, and I’ll be mostly there until Epiphany West.

So, here again is a paragraph of more-or-less nonsense, disjointed story-telling, the year in fast-forward. If you want to play, take the first sentence from every month in your 2008, and string them together.

Sleepily checking in from NOLA; it's 3:16 am West Coast time. I had another calling-dream, last night. Have to write a reflection paper; it was due a week ago. I’ve been only peripherally blogging, for awhile. I’m just going to sketch yesterday out, so you’ll know what you might expect if you or a friend ever has to ride this rollercoaster, and for my friends who are watching me. I am still so scared, underneath everything. Because my liver is toxic—and I don’t feel as bad as that sounds—I get to go back to the Ranch this weekend! I took a whirlwind trip to Berkeley yesterday, to keep an appointment at school. I had a conversation over IM with a friend [in New Orleans] this morning. The hardest thing is the unpredictability. No sicker than usual, but my wireless is. Still here, just busy… and trying to work through nausea, headaches, and no brain.

I had no idea, when I wrote that check-in from St. Andrew’s parish house in New Orleans last New Year’s Day, where I’d be a year later. (I could have guessed, curled up under a blanket on the floor in my best friend’s office, but that’s not what I’m talking about.) This year has taken me places I would never have imagined.
***

A conversation over sushi, a few days before Christmas:

“I’m still talking about losing my fears… and a year ago, I went to New Orleans alone. For a month. Before I had cancer.”
“Yes.”
“I was scared, but I knew I’d be okay once I got there. And I was.”
“That’s the difference. You had to be brave. Now, you’d just go.”
“Well, yeah. Now I have friends there.”
“That’s not what I mean.”
“Oh. Yeah, now I’d ‘just go’ to Timbuktu.”
***

Let me say, again, as clearly as ever I can: Cancer sucks, but I would NOT give it back. This whole journey has given me way more than it took. I would never have found this fearlessness, if I had not had to. I would never have learned to trust myself, or my community, or my God, the way I do now. I would not be who I am, without the past eight months. Or the next six, until my treatment’s over. This will be working in me for a long, long time. And I want it to.

I miss my brain. But I can do things from here, that I could not do when I was well. I’ll get the cognitive function back. And I’ve become so much more spiritually open, and intuitive. I want to hold on to that.

I never want to forget how deeply and unspeakably grateful I am, to be alive.

I’ve known for some time, that the biopsy scar on my neck makes me human. I’m learning what that truly means. I touch it now, frequently, in utter thanksgiving. I have this story. I am a cancer survivor. I have a wound I can never deny—and I have the healing of it. I can go places I had no entry into, when I could act like I’d never been touched.

[I’m thinking here of Jacob wrestling with the angel. All that the angel finally had to do was touch him—and Jacob limped forever. But we all do. It’s just that some of us fight it, or don’t know it, or deny it. Jacob went everywhere he needed to go, the way that he needed to get there.]

I don’t believe that God gave me cancer. But God moved into the space that cancer made.

The nerves around my neck incision still feel a little sleepy. My jawline tingles, still. I’m not in a hurry for that to recede. I have no need to feel “normal.” I know this is a place I could get stuck in—but I want to fully inhabit where I am, before I move on.

We went to church in Capitola yesterday, before wandering out to the beach and the redwoods. (Big trees, and wet muck between bare toes—a glorious afternoon.) The sermon touched on “side effects.” She said something like, “perhaps leprosy, or insanity, may be a side effect of finding God.”

I’ve been rubbing that together in my fingers, ever since. I’m still not sure how I’d phrase it for myself. I’m not sure whether getting cancer (and going through it the way I did, and am) is a side effect of finding God—or whether finding God is a side effect of becoming truly human. Whatever the conjunction, I can’t separate them. Both happened. The wound healed me.

I know too much about resurrection, not to believe with all my soul.

3 comments:

it's margaret said...

yeaaah!

(I'm glad you are tending to the rash....it's been too long around now.)

Grandmère Mimi said...

I’m not sure whether getting cancer (and going through it the way I did, and am) is a side effect of finding God—or whether finding God is a side effect of becoming truly human. Whatever the conjunction, I can’t separate them. Both happened. The wound healed me.

I know what you mean, Kirstin. I'm still praying.

A Blessed and Happy New Year to you!

Jane R said...

Peace to you and happy new year -- and thank you for witnessing!