raw

i walked out the door late this morning- sun mixed with clouds, steady gusts of crisp wind across the patchy brown snow.

i walked out onto the grassy trails of the wooded, brook-bound acres owned by our church, my home.

i took my jacket off, rounded the corner to face the chilly breeze, and put it right back on.

i wasn’t cold, exactly.  but the wind made the tears on my face feel like ice as they dripped down my collarbone.

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photo by Sara Alaica

the snowmelt reveals what has been hidden for so long, and i want it to be beautiful. i want the unveiling of Spring to be glorious in warmth and color- the whole cliche of new life for the whole earth and all that.

but i see layer upon layer of dead branches and leaves. melting dog poop. the toys we left out to freeze and disappear for months.  my fallen window boxes. my porch covered in the evidence of my long neglect.

the trails are mud here, ice there- the brown grass barely holding the earth in place. bare trees against blue sky- if the buds are there, i can’t see them.

this is the raw of Spring, and it isn’t what i want.

i want Spring to hold Promise and Hope, not the damage and runoff of Winter. i’m aching for warm earth, soft green buds, hints of the newness, the revival of life.

and i hate how desperately i want Spring to be the perfect metaphor for my heart.  but i do- i want the cheesy, overplayed platitude to ring true: when the harsh winter is over and the snow melts away, there will be treasure beneath, right?!  i get to shed this cold and aching season and see what i’ve become… i was placing a lot of hope on that being true.

but i’m still in the raw. skin raw from scraping away disease and newly stretched to cover what has been removed. body raw from months of poison-attack, my cells still pushing out the intruder and re-learning their roles.

my heart and mind are raw, tenderly feeling everything- EVERYTHING.

this is the place God enters- this fresh pain and bruised soul.  His movement hurts. i just want to lay still until it feels better, and He won’t stop pressing, touching, moving through my pain. and if this is peace and goodness and grace and healing, then i want it, though i’m afraid i might break into pieces.

so while i’m letting Him move and watching -quietly, painfully-  waiting for the healing, i may be silent here.

i’ll keep writing, and i’ll return. but i can’t answer your question yet: what has God been teaching you?  now that you’re ‘on the mend,’ do you have a new sense of purpose?  i know you ask in love, and i want to be ready.  but today showed me that i’m not.

what God is doing is in the dark inside me- i can’t see it, and i can’t name it for you. sharing a story before we see God’s presence and purpose in it is often unkind. unsafe, even. i believe in the strength of our stories- we lift them up as lanterns and light the way for each other. this one is not ready to be held high just yet.

thank you for your grace. i’ll see you when the raw has passed and the treasure of Spring is revealed.

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photo by liz west

a short list of absolutely unimportant things

1.  you probably knew that the hair on your body all grows at different rates. take eyelashes, for example.  they don’t grow as fast as the hair on your head. it makes sense, and i knew this before i had cancer. but now that i’m regrowing my hair, i’m supremely annoyed that armpit hair grows faster than eyebrow hair.  i don’t WANT armpit hair.  i DO want eyebrows. i’m drawing on my eyebrows every day.  i wouldn’t need to draw armpit hair if it was slow to return- that would be unnecessary. and weird. i find this whole situation unacceptable.

2.  our cat, Batman, gets into our shower all the time to catch the drips from the faucet.  this is fine, except when you don’t know he’s in there.  i have fallen off the toilet more than once when he leapt out happily to greet me. so now you’ve been warned- if you use our restroom, check behind the shower curtain.  or at least clean up after yourself if that becomes necessary.

3. speaking of the shower: i can shower again!  i made it 15 days post-surgery on careful and painful washcloth ‘baths’ because of the disgusting drain in my side. but it’s gone now, and i took a glorious shower.  you’re welcome, Matt. and all people who see smell me regularly. i am no longer cloaked in vanilla perfume and lavender essential oil to mask less appealing aromas.  side note: my surgeon was painstakingly clear that i was not to scrub the incision area vigorously. because apparently i look SO UNINTELLIGENT that i might take a loofah to the 6 inch incision on my chest. no… there is not going to be any scrubbing, but thank you for your concern, doctor.

4.  let’s stick with the bathroom theme: painkillers and constipation.  holy poop. there were a few days post-surgery that i afraid i was going to explode- like, alien style explode (i did not).  then there were the days i was sure i was either going to die on the toilet or have to call matt to help me.  how amazing would that be?  ‘honey, i’m having trouble pooping. can you come home?’ there are a LOT of un-sexy things about cancer and chemotherapy and mastectomy, but that would be pretty high up there on the ‘unattractive in a spouse’ list. i did not call. i also did not die, but i am DONE with those painkillers. and also a little afraid of toilets.  i’ll stop talking now.

thank you for allowing me to share 4 random (and relatively unappealing) things with you.  that was fun. for me anyway… between this and all the crying, you may have concerns about my stability as a wife and mother, but i promise we’re doing okay.

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i hate all the stupid crying

remember last week when i said i haven’t cried very much through this whole cancer season?  how i just don’t do it because it makes everything worse?

yeah- God called me out on that one.  oops.

i have cried an average of 2,000 times every day since i shared that my cancer is gone.  that seems excessive, even for someone going through treatment.  no?  you don’t think that’s a lot?  fine.  it feels extreme to me- my pajama top is wet. (yes, pajamas and zipper tops are the only things i can wear til my surgeon removes my disgusting drain.)  it’s not that i don’t have feelings usually, but i don’t uncontrollably leak emotion everywhere.

here are some exceptions:

IEP meetings (individualized education program- where we meet with julia’s awesome school team about her progress & goals).  i have cried grateful tears at every one of these meetings since she was 3 years old.  that’s roughly 20 separate occasions where i have either sniffled, teared up, or bawled in front of a group of 5-10 men and women i barely know.

Good Music.  at home, i listen to songs on repeat and sing loudly (not well) and sometimes cry- those tears are Truth making its way into the hard and hidden parts of my heart.  at church, i sit with my girls during worship (julia will not allow me to stand, in case you’ve ever wondered why the pastor’s wife stays seated when everyone else in the congregation rises). i look around as i sing, occasionally crying as i long for the Hope and Love we sing to sink deeply into my daughters and into my community.  those tears are prayers.

Writing. most of my writing is private.  it’s chicken scratch- incomplete, incoherent- just splotches of what i’m feeling and learning.  sometimes those messy little sentences have big Truth and important Growth in them, and my tears are just more words written in salt water.

Reading.  crying from anger over injustice, sadness over oppression and abuse… those are hard and necessary tears. books that make me laugh til i cry are my favorite, as long as i don’t also pee.  (too much?  i wrote about my breasts in my last post, so i’m just on a roll.)  every so often, i cry from the words aimed directly at me- either the completion of a long Work inside me or the beginning of an new one.

but today my tears are coming from somewhere less familiar, less comfortable.  i wrote to some long time friends who pray with me over email… women i know from weathering a decade of storms, celebrating a decade of triumphs, walking together through our everyday extraordinary lives.  i cried as i wrote because i miss them.  i cried because i feel so intensely for them.  i cried because i feel sorry for myself that i am here and they are there… so far away.

and then i cried because i need to be sharing those prayers with women here.  i know i have people here.  our community (all of it- church, neighborhood, school, and town) is an unexpected, unbelievable treasure.  i’ve been loved so well and so often by women (and men) who barely know me… meals made, groceries purchased, cards written, prayers lifted, gifts sent, tears shed, hugs given by those who just want us to know they care.  you see that we are hurting, and you care and you show it.  i know i have you, and i’ve barely scratched the surface of your friendship.

the truth is that i crawl away to deal with pain. i go to my hiding place when i’m hurt and scared. it’s warm and soft and safe in here, and it’s only big enough for me.

i came here when i was in labor- don’t touch me, don’t talk to me, don’t even move- just let me get through this (or i will rip your head off).

i came here when matt had cancer- i can cook, clean, potty train one kid, nurse another, make it through- just let me do it.

when i got my diagnosis, i swore i would try to be more open, let others in.  maybe i did a little… with those who were already so deeply embedded in my life that i couldn’t get rid of them.  (yeah, old friends- i think i just compared y’all to ticks.  sorry.)  i think i avoided my new friends along with the germs my nurses warned me about each week.  (awesome- now i’ve compared my new friends to viruses. i’m a great person, promise.) i think i kept everyone out of my hiding place, out in the cold.

a few brave new friends have asked since my mastectomy if i’m ready for people yet.  my heart just aches to even think about it… no, i’m still hurt.  i’m still hiding.  i’m just now feeling how sad i am… how awful this has been and how incredibly afraid i am that this is not over, that i am not ever going to be done with cancer and sickness and hurt. i can’t stop crying… and i guess that means i need people now?

NO. i want to do friendship on MY terms, with good wine and vanilla candles and bacon wrapped dates. i want to be cute- wear a pretty outfit that isn’t ‘mastectomy friendly’ and fun earrings that don’t look stupid because i’m bald.  i want eyebrows that won’t keep wiping off accidentally because I CAN’T. STOP. CRYING.  i don’t want to need to cry on you.  i don’t want to not know how to say what i’m feeling, why i’m still scared, still crying.

but i do want the friendship that comes from sharing all these tears, all this need.  i do want you.

so yes- thanks for asking.  i think i’m ready for people again.  be careful with me… i’m awfully fragile and soggy from all the crying.

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