Getting back on the Horse
It appears that I have taken a 6-month hiatus from writing. I suppose it is all too common for life to take over to the point where we lose ourselves in unavoidable things, and unavoidable people. So much so, that we stop doing the things we love and enjoy, or that which fills us up. We can get so “filled up” with other people and their stuff that we forget what our stuff is. Sort of like a tornado that passes through and you get sucked up into the vortex- black hole swirling. Spinning around inside. Common sense tells us that only rubble will be left behind in its wake. There are usually red flags and sirens when a tornado is approaching, but not always. Sometimes they are sweet talking and stealthy. Sometimes we simply ignore the red flags because we are too trusting in the fair weather. Blissfully walking around outside when we should be running for the bunker.
Since my first blog post on March 22nd, almost 10,000 people have read this blog. (That’s 9,999 more people than I thought would read it.) I am overwhelmed by the many touching messages and words of kindness that I have received in response. So many people have reached out to share their stories and to say how the blog has given them a voice. That they sometimes struggle with the ability to articulate their own feelings, and that reading the blog helped them to identify and to process their own pain. They express how happy they are that someone understands and thank me for putting into words that which they themselves had been struggling to express. Words have so much power. The power to encourage, support, and inspire- or to tear down and silence. I am committed to the former.
Most of the messages were from strangers, but some of the women I knew personally. I knew that they were strong women. It’s no surprise that the strongest among us are the ones who are the most silent. No one ever thinks to ask them if they need help because they are always so capable.
Sadly, we have found ourselves in a culture that is afraid to speak up for fear of judgement. People who feel they don’t have “permission” to discuss unpleasantries. So many people subscribe to the “Good things happen to good people” - therby also subscribing to- “Bad things must happen to bad people” mentality. While that is a nice, albeit simplistically naive paradigm, it is not however, reality. I used to subscribe to that thought. You reconsider when you get your head out of the clouds. Evil people prosper. Every. Single. Day. Good people suffer. Every. Single. Day. People like Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Jesus, Nelson Mandela. Every child in the cancer center. Did they “Get what was coming to them?” Were they not positive enough?
When bad things happen, or if we are dealt something in life that doesn't fit the mold of "normal," people feel shamed. Silenced. Afraid to speak the truth, crippled by the fear of being judged. Our culture is very good at that! Social media has created a culture of unrealistic happiness and perfection that simply does not exist. Holding people to ridiculous standards of “positivity” and constantly upping the bar. I would agree that I don’t want to listen to a Negative Nelly anymore than the next person, but I also don’t want to have to listen to anymore inauthentic bullshit. Yes, it is always good practice to have a “Glass Half Full” mentality. To be grateful and to always look for the good in each situation. But I want people to have permission to speak their truth. Bad things happen. They just do. Discussing them ad nauseam isn’t helpful, but giving our pain a voice is. Expressing is different than wallowing. Making people feel like they have to be silent- about anything- is destructive.
After 5 posts, I can say that blogging proved to be a surprisingly cathartic practice. What began as a casual– “Oh, we should write that down”- has ended up being a sort of release valve- allowing whatever needed to be released to come out in small doable bits. With each post I felt lighter. Even if no one were reading the blog I think the effect would’ve been the same. The simple act of hitting the “Publish” button had given it another place to live. I would typically post right before bed and then cry off and on the entire following day after each post. I couldn’t control it. The first time it happened, I didn’t even know what was going on. It was coming out bit by bit. I had no idea that the writing would end up being a type of therapy, but my friend – a psychologist- assured me that the entire process of sharing the trauma narrative – what she refers to as “Exposure Therapy”- is textbook, normal, and necessary. She explained that humans have an undeniable need to make sense out of suffering. She encouraged me to keep writing and forwarded this link to an article about Viktor Frankl and the importance of making meaning out of suffering. http://www.logotherapyinstitute.org/About_Viktor_Frankl.html
I am a painter, so no one is more shocked than I that writing unwittingly became my outlet for expression. It is so unlike me, but I’m embracing it and letting the words flow.
As a side note, I want to be clear that the story I am telling in the beginning of this blog happened in 2013-2015 and that we are all better. The blog is simply the last step in our healing process. There was some confusion when people only read Page 5 and didn’t understand the progression of the whole story, so I felt the need to clarify. I also want to be clear that we are continually finding the purpose. Making sense of the experience and being grateful for the outcome. It takes a bit of time to be able to be grateful for a bad experience, but cancer has brought the clearest perspective.
Everyday, I am a work in progress…
Quotes taken from The Cancer Journals, Audre Lorde