Northern Minnesota’s winter has been very messy .. tons of snow, freezing rain, huge snow drifts from extremely strong winds, and frigid below zero temperatures … yet, there is an underlying beauty about it. It is definitely a cumbersome mess in life if you have places to go and things to do. However, if you have the time to relax and look deeply into the winter you can see that it has coated everything in a blanket of white that covers the dead undergrowth, hides the flaws .. it acts like a blank slate .. or better yet, wrapping paper covering our anticipated gift of Spring.
“The Fullness of Life is Incubated in its Messy Places” ~ Amy Dickenson
Life is messy … and the messiness of my life over the past 2 years took me far away from the blogging world. I was too tangled in the mess to have anything worth sharing and no desire to delve into my mess in a public place. Life is still messy for me and probably is for most of you, too … however, today I am peeking out through a whole in the mess and seeing some daylight. Maybe it is the bright sunshine of the day that drew me to sit down at my computer and write an update for all of my loyal followers who have been looking for me and still dropping me notes to find out where I am even after a several year absence.
My Life Mess in short (very short) … my mom got sick, very sick, prolonged-hospital sick and then she died. Three months later, I was diagnosed with a rare cancer – no cure, a few weeks later my dog died of cancer, then about two months after that my dad got sick and he died, too. I was deathly ill on a strong chemo (mourning the loss of my parents, my dog, my hair and my independence), family estate issues were causing major family strife, I could no longer work (I was depressed missing my school family and giving up my career) … Blogging didn’t even enter my mind … Life was too much to deal with. I kept thinking … one more thing and I am done, I can’t handle any more … however, I did handle it some how (what else can you do but ride the wave of life?). Maybe it is true “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle … with His help”.
Please do not feel sorry for me … life changes for everyone, whether we want it to or not. I went through a lot of “forced” and unpleasant changes. But, in hindsight, I can now see that my life is more than just different, it is actually better in some ways.
Life is messy … but I found that the mess teaches many lessons and increases faith immeasurably. I was at the bottom of life and others were my rope out of despair. Friends and family were there when I needed them – without me asking and filled my life with meaning and hope .. after I hit the height of my anger and fear and sadness, I somehow was able to let go of the controls (most of the time) and have faith that things would work out for the best. Letting go is really tough for me, but I have been strengthened and the stress flows away as I let things flow as they will and trust it will all work out okay. Realizing there is no reason to worry (very often) as most of the things we worry about never happen. (I am still working on this)
My Life Mess has slowed me down … it took me off “auto-pilot” and 24/7 life of a teacher living by hourly bells, multitudes of deadlines, and the demands and needs of students that I allowed to run my entire life. This was a complete and huge life change for me that was probably just as hard or harder to deal with than the cancer. Finding new ways to fill my days and nights with meaningful things, looking for purpose, a desire to be helpful and stay involved … but too sick to do much of anything but get out of bed some days. School defined who I was and the staff were like family .. it was a huge loss to me. (it still hurts, but less and less as time passes .. many of my school family have remained in my life)
Messy Benefits … One benefit of my life mess and being forcefully taken out of my busy “auto-pilot” life was the increase in my time and ability to see more and think more deeply about things that really matter. It took some emotional healing time. I went from feeling sorry for myself because of all the death, loss, and sickness with its overpowering life sucking power… To now, with a calm mind and open heart with a new awareness of all the hard battles everyone else is fighting, too. Life is still messy and hurtful at times, but I am finding ways to live with my mess… and hopefully helping others with their battles, too.
” … be kind, because everyone you will ever meet is fighting a hard battle.” ~ Bob Dylan
Another benefit is the ability and a new permission to share life messes with others. Like many of you I was pretty good at hiding my personal and messy battles and keeping them tucked away inside. Several times during the last 2 years, in the middle of my major mess, I would look around and see the world just continuing for everyone else like nothing was messed up … busy people all around me who were not aware of my battles and seemed like they had their battles under control. That feeling of aloneness in my life mess together with a slower daily life and a search for purpose (why am I still here?) changed my vision. It opened my eyes and heart much wider to the numerous battles going on in all of the people around me. Other peoples battles are different then mine, but just as painful. It is hard for me to help others when I am struggling, but I do believe my “purpose” is to try. Cancer may not win. Like everyone else, I could have an accident or a hidden issue could shorten my life … time is precious no matter who you are and what your battles are. We are all living unpredictable futures … nothing is written in stone and we all need each other to fight the battles.
Life is Messy … However, we are not alone in our mess or our battles … Everyone has a messy life with battles to be faced. Be kind. Offer your time. Pray for one another.
Details: I have LeiomyoSarcoma (1% of cancer diagnoses are sarcoma – my version is 1/6th of that 1%) – a rare cancer of the smooth muscles. My abdomen has 5 large tumors and it has spread to my lungs. I was originally given a year (to maybe 8 yrs if chemo worked). 1st chemo treatment did nothing and almost killed me (I was even wishing it would at times). My 2nd chemo treatment worked, shrinking my tumors to half of their size. I have been off that chemo for about a year trying to get healthy again for my next round .. probably starting in the next few months (unless I get some more miracles). I have a wonderful team of sarcoma specialists at Mayo Clinic that have found ways to help me live with my cancer so far. The longer I can live with my cancer the more chance there will be for scientists to find something that works … it is a long shot, but the only one I have as I will never be free of my cancer (or will there be a miracle?).
I have no doubt that the hundreds/thousands of prayers from friends, families and strangers are being answered for me … I feel blessed to still be here – even with cancer. I was able to see the birth of a new nephew and watch him grow (plus, spoil him like his grandmother would have if she was still with us), I have had time to work on craft projects (long ago stored away) and learn new “crafty” things. With no school demands or bells ringing I have the freedom to do things and go places when I choose to (and when I am physically able). I volunteer at school, maintaining the website and even creating/designing a new one a few months ago. I have a small cancer support group of friends to talk and pray with, friends and family willing to go on small and crazy “adventures” with me, and in my heart I know that …