Friday, June 26, 2009


Alleluia, the great storm is over.

More in a day or two. All I've really got right now, is an animal yell.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Three, two... one.

I just did it again. And for the first time in many months, the act became a prayer.

Not in words: in presence. Not “Yeah me!” or “Suck it, cancer!” Not even, “Almost there.”

Nothing I can translate. Just reverence, patience, breath.

Friday will be all celebration. I’ll wait for my best friend to get home. I’ll do the shot with her, at her dining room table. Bang! and out to dinner. That will be the time for shouting.

Right now, I just want to quietly hallow this time.

Monday, June 22, 2009

On the cusp

I just did my injection. Only two more.

I did the thing that has made me sick for a year. I long since stopped fearing it, or being creeped out by it—it’s become simply a chore. I don’t even dread the effects; I just know what they’ll be. I do this because I have to. Because my doctors told me to. Because, though it makes me sick, it may also be keeping me well.

I know I’ll feel like crap tomorrow. And injecting myself has become a habit. I can do it without thinking. It takes about two minutes, each time. Wipe the skin with alcohol, open the band-aid up, wipe the pen, twist the needle in, dial the dose. Pinch thigh with one hand. Inject with the other. Bandage. Drop the needle in the sharps box. Drink more water; take four ibuprofen. Go on with my evening.

Tonight is different. I’m so close to done. And I feel so powerful, right now.

Take that, cancer. I’m still here, and I know that I beat you.

You taught me how to fight you. You taught me how to look you in the eye. You taught me how to stand up and raise my head. You taught me how to love this life.

If you come back, I will fight you again. I know what that means, and I will do it if I have to.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Lazarus, get up.

I never actually intended to take a month off from blogging. It just happened. I’m forcing myself to go back to it, now. This really isn’t the environment for me to do that, as easily as school was. Something about the fog, and the light. Maybe I’ll get more used to it, as I settle in.

But I really miss storytelling. So I’m here.

I had a conversation with a friend about a month ago, the week after graduation. I wrote this in an e-mail to another friend, because I didn’t want to forget the allegory. I’ve been thinking about it off and on, since:

[My friend] also asked me, where God was in the cancer. The first thing I thought of: A fish doesn't know it's in water. It just swims. The water is God. I surprised myself, with a perfect NW native analogy.

There's a creek just west of my hometown. Salmon spawn there. Which means, they're also born there. When they hatch, they dig themselves out of the gravel and start floating downstream. They're just doing what baby fish do. They have no control over where the current takes them.

Creeks meet rivers. When the fish get big enough to be seen, hawks and eagles fly above them. They get scared; they hide. And they keep making their way.

They don't see their bodies changing. They don't see themselves growing. It just happens.

Rivers meet the ocean. The fish has to change its metabolism, to breathe in brackish water. Without realizing it, it does. It hangs out there until it's ready. Then it swims for open ocean. It has long since forgotten, the rocks and roots and branches that it used to have to swim around, or jump over. The water is God. There are no boundaries. And the fish is that free.

I told my friend this story—and I wasn’t reaching for anything. This is, what is. I'm in the estuary now; I'll be in the ocean when I stop the shots, and start feeling better. And I know I'm headed there.

I’ve been in the estuary since, part ready and part waiting for opportunity and time. I’m settling in Monterey, in my instructor’s dead mother’s house. It’s a strange place to be. I never met my “host,” as it were, but I’m surrounded by her stuff. This morning, I’ll be attending her church. Her daughter has always been an ally and friend. Last year would have been very much more difficult without her. And now she’s giving me this.

It’s good. But it takes some getting used to. I’m used to fishbowl community. I really don’t know people here, yet. Today will be my first Sunday at church; that should help. I’ve also had a week of half-day Spanish classes, and met a possible friend. But I go home every day from that with a headache, so I haven’t tried to connect outside of class. I’m also in the middle of years of dental-care catch-up. I’ll feel more solid after next week.

I will REALLY feel better after next week, because I only have one more week of shots! I’m going up to A.’s house next weekend, to celebrate. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, done. I’ll get my body, brain, and energy back.

Part of me wants to sit with that for awhile. I’ve been so attentive to the cancer journey, over the past fourteen months I’ve been on it. But right now doesn’t feel like the time. I’m more like, “Yeah, yeah, yes this can teach you—but go be healthy, already.” So we’ll see what I do with that.

One more blood draw—which I probably don’t even really need. But I haven’t skimped on any piece of this, and I’m not starting now. Cancer has taught me all I know about dedication. Consenting to make yourself sick—and actively doing it, for a year—is commitment. I suppose I could say that I know I can follow through on anything now, but I don’t really. That still has to be tested, and applied, and learned from, when I’m doing things in the post-cancer real world that I’d rather not have to go through. Looking for jobs, for instance.

I’m in a gift-time right now, sort of a limbo but not really. I’m not expected to be even capable of looking for work yet—and in truth I’m not. So I’m in Monterey, finishing chemo, taking six weeks of intensive Spanish... and I have all the time around that, to immerse myself as much as I choose in Latino ministry. Which I know nothing about—but a question about it, five weeks ago in class, is how I landed here. It’s a summer thing—but I don’t have an end date. Whenever we feel like I’ve been here enough, I suppose, and what this is leading to becomes clearer. Also, when my instructor knows what she wants to do with the house.

I went to a meeting yesterday for Latino clergy. The canon I’ve been e-mailing with invited me. The meeting turned out to be in Spanish. I can read some, and understand some spoken. I don’t have the vocabulary to speak it myself yet. And I got more words than concepts yesterday; I really couldn’t tell you what was talked about. But being there was a good experience. I didn’t feel shut out; I felt, “Oh. This is what it’s like.” People were kind to me. They just conducted the business of their group, in the language most comfortable for most of them.

The host conducts services in that town—I think even at that church. He also does urban ministry in San Jose. I pounced on him to tell me about that—and I’m going up to check it out as soon as I can, probably after next weekend. They do education (child and adult) and what sounds like a huge food program.

Yes, church in the fields interests me. That’s how I landed here, and that’s where the diocese is responding to me. But it’s more idea than reality right now; meanwhile, urban ministry apparently has my heart. It took that kind of reaction in me, to show me how much I miss it. You know when God says, “Here.” I’m an hour and a half away from San Jose, by driving—essentially, it’s halfway home. Three hours, by bus and Caltrain. I’m going to drive, clearly. But I miss public transit. I miss the stories.

I’m going to get involved with COPA (community organizing) trainings, too. I’ve landed in an odd place; it’s weird for me right now to be in a small town and feel so strongly called to the city, though it is beautiful here. But I’m clearly meeting the people whom I need to get to know. And all I really have to do is stay organized, myself.

The obvious reason that I’m feeling rootless: I’m new here. I’ve been through something that is so significant to me—and not only am I a week from not having to talk about that (because it affects my limitations), but my story-keepers are scattered: in San Francisco, around the Bay Area, and all over the country for the summer. I went through this, in a student community that I’m not going back to. My parish knows, and loves me—but I’m also not sure when I’m going back there. Or how. I also miss the Night Ministry community, and I’m just far enough away, to make visiting impractical.

Which means, I’m just far enough from home, to have to plant myself where I am. And I get to decide how. Who I am is who I say I am, here. I’m feeling rudderless—but I will have a community context, as soon as I create one. And as soon as I participate in the community that’s been given to me.

When I was well, I was so fearful of everything. Traumatized and broken. Aching for safety. Now, at face value I’m just like you: capable, competent, and whole. My story makes me different. And how I tell that—or not—is completely my choice.

How I use it, internally, is also my choice. And I’m a week from it being story, not active present.

I’m on the cusp of I know not what. In every possible dimension.