I had not seen Tom much since his first wife had died. We had gotten together a few times after her death but somehow just drifted off as some friendships do. I spotted him in a crowd at a Christmas concert the other night and was so excited to see him. There with his new wife, he looked happy and was equally pleased to see me.
How are you? he asked and without thinking, I responded, Great! Immediately puzzled by my own answer, I back peddled. Well, honestly, Tom, I am unwell and then proceeded to fill him in on the details. He mentioned how sorry he was to hear about it all. After a while he said something that took me by surprise and caused me to tear up a bit. I cannot remember it exactly but the essence was that he said I was one of the most beautiful people he knew and that I had always had a beauty within me. Without missing a beat, I heard myself admit, That’s not me. That comes from deep within me. We understood that I meant that was God spilling out of me and that in many ways, I could not contain it. I believe we all have this Divine spark that is meant to light the world but that some of us get too burdened by the darkness and lose it temporarily.
Part of the reason I cannot remember our exact conversation is because I have replayed it and tinkered with it since that night. I have explored the fact once again that I do not think I am a physically beautiful person in the sense of fashion magazine status but I do believe that I have always had something beautiful to offer as do all of us. We all can add some sparkle to the world. Sometimes we must let go of certain blocks before that light shines forth. On occasion, it gets lost in the dark but I firmly believe that it never gets extinguished. This time of year is about the Light coming in the darkest night and this brings hope to my heart that folks can rekindle their own sparks.
Interestingly enough, I actually have responded to the how are you question this week with good to great answers. I even told the long-term disability agent who will be in charge of my case that I was good when he called on Friday. I had to back peddle again, explaining that good is relative in my case, hoping I was not jeopardizing my claim. I have been feeling almost normal this week and my ability to taste seems to have miraculously recovered so I have an appetite. I have gained back some weight and have a bit more energy than I have had recently. I have been sleeping way more than I ever thought was possible but accepting that I must let it go. The theme song from Frozen might become my new mantra.
Ironically, when I saw the social worker from CancerCare this week, I checked in with him to see if he thought I was depressed. He asked me a couple of questions and we had a good laugh about a few things. We decided that I am not depressed. At one point, he shrugged and asked And so what if you are a bit depressed? It’s not like you’re on vacation. He recognizes that I still have a long way before I can let go of my old self and embrace all of the lessons that I am learning about being instead of doing. I had been talking about choosing to remain on the couch and watch TV instead of gathering up my strength to clean off the kitchen table or to read a good book. He was right. I am not going to pack up books for the cottage and settle down and read them all right now. The most self-compassionate act I can do is to sleep and to let go of any judgment I have about that.
We talked about being instead of doing. I have been a doer for most of my life so learning to be is unnatural for me, but not unhealthy. I have had to let go of so much. I love to be engaged and active. I love to serve and the hardest thing for me to accept right now is to receive instead of give. I was relating how lately I have had some superb conversations with the CancerCare nurses and I have felt useful. One of the biggest lies rumbling around in my head as I look back over my year is that I have not been productive. My Christmas letter, still unwritten at this late date, is usually chocked full of details of an amazing life. Cutting myself some slack and being proud of the fact that this year has been about still being here has meant some major reconstruction in my brain’s normal check list for productivity.
Looking back over these last nine months of not working, I can choose two frames of reference. I have nothing to show for this year OR I am so grateful that I am here. That requires a huge letting go of a value base that society has pushed on us. When I first picked up that shiny stone, I kept flipping it over and over, trying to make sense of it. What have I done these past 12 months? In reality, beyond my illness, recovery and subsequent treatment, I still have done marvelous work that I can be proud of. I see how God is using me still, and perhaps even in ways that show it is God, and not me, who is at work. The Incarnate One moves through me and that beauty my friend Tom mentioned is still very much there. This has been the truth that has replaced the lie that I have had a worthless year. This has been one of the greatest gifts that I am still unwrapping. I am sure that I am not alone at listening to the lies that want permanent residence in my head but I am glad that I can serve eviction notices. A little Light sends the cockroaches scurrying away.
What lies have taken up residence in your head?
How does the beauty of the Divine within you spill over to bless our world?
Come and shine your Light
through me to the dark places
in this world that needs healing.
May beauty spill over and bless
all within our reach,
calling forth Goodness in each.