“I am telling you this story so that you do not think of any part of your journey as wasted time. So you do not feel a need to rush. To speed ahead to fulfill your calling.”
We were in his office, some days after the end of round three. If I’ve collected oncologists in the last fourteen years, in the last three I seem to have collected pastors.
On this day, with this pastor, we were camped out in his office. I was nursing my mid-afternoon tea while he was working through a late lunch. He had just finished a story about a woman who entered the priesthood in her mid-fifties and who went on to accomplish incredible things over the forty years that came after. When asked if she regretted the fact that it took her so long to arrive at her calling in this life, she would respond that she needed that first half of her life to prepare her for what would come in the second. And how could she regret that?
* * *
“How do you think you have changed?” he asked me as we huddled over our laptops at the coffee shop. This pastor – as both my spiritual director and dear friend – has seen first-hand some of the darker corners of my last year.
It was just after chemo had ended, but before the shock of its failure had entered the scene.
“Gosh, I don’t know,” I sighed. “I have no idea how to even begin explaining that.”
“I do,” he chimed in. “You aren’t grasping anymore. You aren’t running around trying to figure out what comes next, what is right, what you are supposed to do. You are waiting patiently. Letting those things come to you.”
That afternoon he and I had been putting some final tweaks to my application to the Living School at the Center for Action and Contemplation – a center founded by my teacher Richard Rohr, S.J. It was a long shot, but seemed like one I should take, so we spent the afternoon pressing “submit” on answers that tried in vain to explain just what it was I had experienced in the time since I woke up in that recovery room and heard two nurses discussing my diagnosis.
* * *
I did quite literally nothing this past weekend. It felt amazing and awful at the same time. By Friday evening I was feeling completely depleted and knew I needed rest more than most anything else. So I napped and I read and I watched an entire season of a show I had been hearing a lot about. I walked Hope several times and I talked to my brother. I took a lot of baths. But I did nothing that required much energy at all. Because I didn't have any.
* * *
I have had a lot of questions about the road I am on, and where I am headed, and what comes next, and try as I might, I can’t provide an answer that seems to satisfy. I know I am going to do something. But I am still in the waiting period. More will be revealed.
While I am waiting, God has lit up the next stages of my preparation for whatever lies ahead. I have been given the opportunity to study yoga under my teacher Katie Silcox. I have studied informally with Katie for a year and a half, and the opportunity to complete my 500 hour certification with her is quite literally a dream come true.
And last week I opened the letter informing me that I was accepted to the Living School. For the next two years I will be studying under a faculty of contemplative teachers whose books I have devoured for the last 18 months. It is an incredible opportunity, and it still feels surreal that it is one that has been offered to me.
I don’t know what will come of these opportunities in the end. But I am not rushing the answer.
It will come in God’s time. Not mine.
* * *
I had a minor melt down over yet another medical bill recently. A well-meaning friend tried to talk me through it, suggesting who I should call, what I should say, how I should proceed.
“I can’t,” I cut him off.
“Of course you can. There have to be options.”
“No – I actually can’t,” I stopped and looked at him as we stood in the middle of the road, Hope tugging on her leash. “I am too exhausted to fight this bill. I have no fight left. For anything.”
I am coming to learn that part of this recovery year is accepting the complete exhaustion that has seeped into my life. I am exhausted physically – a result of the one-two punch of chemotherapy and menopause. I am exhausted emotionally. I am exhausted financially, and I am even exhausted spiritually some days.
I desperately need rest.
This is difficult for me. I am not good at resting. My internal dialogue transposes the letters in rest somehow into those that spell out lazy and I find myself quietly berating the fact that I am not getting anything done.
I don’t like wasting time.
* * *
Come Sunday evening I needed to get out of the house, so I headed to a gentle yoga class. The theme? Non-harming. And how we can apply this idea to ourselves.
Well, geez Louise.
I left that practice with a realization I needed to have. I need some lazy time right now. My body is still very much healing. And for as much as I may want to run a marathon, or bike to spin class, or operate on six hours of sleep – I can’t. And trying to do so is self-harming.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that opportunities to study closely with two of my dear teachers have been presented in this moment. My studies will require me to lay low. To read and write. To keep some of the physical challenges I might so quickly take on just to prove a point on the back burner for a bit. Both Katie and Father Richard will require me to continue to examine myself and my desires and my needs and through that I am sure I will come to discover even deeper strains of healing that need to take place.
This exhaustion will fade, I know. But for now, I am going to learn to love it and to let it serve its purpose - to prevent me from rolling over God's will with my own desires.
Its time to sit back and heal and let Him do the heavy lifting.