Hello, this is out a bit late this week, but I just needed to take a breath after some devastating “probably” I just received. And staying up until 2 am to finish a blog post that 120 people will read is not something I can/should do anymore. This week I had a CT scan and found out that there is another significantly sized mass, and very likely cancer in other parts of my body. So another biopsy is needed to determine what can be seen by the specialists but needs to be formally identified (IF they can even reach the spot it is located…). Until this moment I had hope that the cancer had escaped only as far as my right armpit. I had hope for a usually successful procedure for a fairly common cancer that most women walk away from with a reasonable expectation of a good outcome and life expectancy. But today, the light at the end of the tunnel looks like it might be an oncoming train.
I never want to seem ungrateful among all the well wishes and “you got this’s” and the “so and so had this and it was pretty straight forward’s” and the “everything is going to be fine’s.” While I didn’t want to be a Debbie Downer and everyone says you just have to stay positive , I knew in my heart that it would be harder and more complicated than everyone thought. Now I know why. What I don’t know, again, is just what this all means and what the treatment is going to be. We may be back to chemo before surgery. Even after all of the emotion and the whole “man I hate being right,” I know that even though it seems to be much worse and I think I have heard the word “inoperable” (this needs to be confirmed), I am still good with whatever happens. Because I know there are reasons this is happening for me. Some I won't ever know or understand and some I am seeing right now.
As I am trying to write this I am weeping, in a moment just to myself that I invite Him into. My Heavenly Father is there, waiting. I have to set the laptop aside. I don’t want write. “Father in Heaven, please help me!” You know that I will. “Show me what can come from this. Give me courage to do walk this path! Healing or not. What is my part in this? Please tell me if this even matters!” Pick up the computer and write this conversation down. You are not the only one that has been or will be here. Life is more than this. You are more than just this moment.
And I am ready to accept wherever this is going to lead me, and maybe you too, dear reader. I am and have always felt called to be a voice. Is that where songwriting and any kind of art comes from? If I am honest, as mortifying as it is to put myself out there, I have known from the start that this is what is needed. Come what may. Regardless of any other gains that come for the work I am doing before I leave this rock. Come what may. So I am doing everything I can with diet, treatment, positivity and trying to remove stress. I am learning what I can and plan to squeeze every bit of good from this that is possible. There is so much “information” out there, even just that can feel like a runaway train. But add all the emotions and the impacts and accountabilities outside of yourself and… you get the picture.
There is a still moment before an impact where everything is so clear, mere moments captured in a vista, a detailed short film, narrated even. Right now, I am in that moment. Contemplating. How did I get on this track in a tunnel in the first place? Is there room to avoid collision? Is there time? Is there hope of survival? Is this even happening? Is this even what it looks like, feels like? And then the whistle jars you out of it. The urgent call. “I am coming and you cannot stop me. Whatever has brought you to this moment. You are here and so am I.” And another, calmer, stronger voice whispers above the din; and so AM I.
And now, you too, dear reader, are here with me. People who love me, people who don’t know me but have been brought into the conversation by another who loves you. Hoped for audiences that will tap into this and be moved in their own experience, in supporting a loved one, or in just wanting a way to do good in the world. I am inviting you in. And it doesn’t matter how many of you there are. Each of you, for each of your reasons, matters to the One that is asking me to do this thing I really don’t want to do. And so, you matter to me. And there are those that have been on their own journeys that are there to help me navigate mine. I have been here before.
When my mental health was still so very bad, I remember many prayers and a blessing of healing where I truly believed I could be healed of this ailment, but was told that I needed to find my way through the process of healing so that I could help others do the same. Speaking about it, making music about it, (especially early on, three decades ago, when mental illness was such a taboo topic) in church, in my associations, in my work, has yielded some immense gains for others as well as myself. I remember the first time I spoke about it in public, about the struggle I was having. So many people told me that my words gave them comfort and courage. They were not alone. And so, then, neither was I. The things I have learned and shared about myself and about caring for my brain and nervous system, about roots and feelings, relationships and navigating, overcoming, are out in the world doing good. And I hope they will continue and broaden their reach.
I think my first psychotic break (although there may have been others before) came as a teenager when I had no idea about mental illness. We don’t really cast our energies much farther than ourselves at that age and I just assumed this was normal. Over the years, especially looking back with clearer vision, I recall a few times when my mind and spirit were shattering. Where I stood and faced that oncoming train, not knowing enough to get out of the way in time, not knowing if I would survive the impact. Finding myself back on the same track in a different tunnel and wondering why I was here again. Sharing my story, my journey, in all the ways I have along the way, has been good for me and has helped others. And so I am grateful for it. And learning from others and their stories has helped to mentor me. We need each other. We are not in isolation, not truly, not any of us.
A community is simply a cluster of individuals in the same place, brought together by geography, economics, personal journeys, needs, hopes, and dreams, personal circumstance. Sometimes by choice, sometimes not. Individually and collectively, we face those oncoming trains. Sometimes we are in a small group that huddle together against the impact. Other times we are on the sidelines throwing out warning, advice, and epithets. Always we are inextricably connected into and influenced by the fortune or failing of the others.
What I have learned in my years working in community development and trying to support our “most vulnerable” members, is that we are all vulnerable, fallible, in need of being held, taught, comforted. And, conversely, all of us have something to share, wisdom to offer, a light to shine. And when we can see every person in the community as worthy of our care, with a voice that matters, even if it is sometimes silent, or speaks through actions
rather than words, when we see the value of each person to the greater good, that is when we are all truly successful.
When we are needing help we need people who can help us. When we are ready to help, we need people to help. And we need to help! It is good for our humanity, and our well-being! We need to be willing to walk beside each other by times, do some pushing and pulling, by times, and be, ourselves, prodded along by times. To listen and to be heard. To know that we are not alone and that our efforts are for something bigger than ourselves. The antithesis, which is just a strong and emotionally laden word for an opposing force, to addiction (or in my mind, any other dysfunction like hatred, apathy, selfishness, crisis, the insanity of doing the same things expecting different results, trauma) is connection. Trauma is in all of our roots. Not just in the roots of those who seem to be struggling the most. Let me say that again. Trauma is in all of our roots, either experienced, inherited, or shared. And the panacea for trauma is community. A community that cares about everyone.
I am weeping out the regrets, the fear, the built-up stress, the vestiges of doubt, the need to know the way ahead. “Help me take off the bindings from my eyes so I can see, as Thou hast done before, what I am able to bear. Keep me held in Thy comforting enfolding embrace while I face the things I cannot bear to see, just yet. Help me to keep a balance. To know what to let go of and what to move toward.” There is a song that has been forming for years as I have gone through times such as this. “Who's getting the best of me? I give myself away so easily. Help me see as clearly as I can see. So the ones who need me most, are getting the best of me.” That is my prayer for all of us as we brace ourselves for the impacts ahead. Those lights at the end of the tunnel where what is and what could be, should be, collide. Where what comes after is so much better than we could have possibly imagined and cannot see from this side of it. I know. I have been here before.
Here is another song for you, that encompasses the emotions of the moment for me. Carry Me - YouTube
And please consider visiting and sharing the link for our Music for Good page, too. Be a part of something bigger and buy and download the music to help DMG raise dollars to do more good in our communities! It is a great last minute virtual Christmas gift that keeps on giving...