All right. All right! ALL RIGHT! Universe, I hear you. I am angry. Are you happy?
Oh, anger. I don’t like you. I don’t want to acknowledge you, I don’t want you to be part of my spirit, I don’t want to be anywhere near you. Yet, I have to acknowledge you, let you in, and cuddle up next to you.
Gregory was diagnosed with cancer just over five years ago. He was 3 years, 8 months. From that moment forward it was getting through to the next moment. Loving the crap out of each other along the way. I never saw the value of being angry at his diagnosis or the chaos that our lives were thrown into. It was a wasted emotion that could not serve any part of our odyssey. Yes, some will argue that anger does serve a purpose, but it does not serve my purpose or spirit. It leaves me wrung out and agitated. I would much rather bath in love. Which I have done, until the last several months.
I went back to school January 2013. I am now in my fifth quarter and pursuing a Bachelors of Science and Nursing (BSN). This was the beginning of my re-entry into ‘the real world’. The world where life does not revolve around childhood cancer. It’s been an amazing experience and it has been challenging in ways I did not expect. At the same time, I became part of a group of women devoted to being vulnerable and gathering in the spirit of what is. We call ourselves Full Moon Goddesses. FMGs for short. We gather once a month, around the full moon. We have created a diverse community of women who support, love, honor, educated, grow, and enrich each others’ lives. Yet, this is a group that has been expanding and I find myself surrounded with women who know nearly nothing about Gregory and the last five years of my life.
Several months ago, a few of us found ourselves at a local restaurant having coffee on a weekday morning. This is a place where I used to gather with girlfriends, every Friday morning, prior to Gregory’s diagnosis. The days when my kids were still tiny, healthy, and ‘normal’. As we sat there drinking coffee a large group of moms sat down at the next table over. They were in various states of new motherhood. A couple were pregnant and there was a passel of kids under the age of three. They were stylishly dressed, make-up’d, and coiffed. I was triggered. The anxiety descended, my pits started sweating, I could not focus, my eyes began darting all over the place, unable to settle. I wrote it off to my perspective as mom to a childhood cancer survivor. What do those women know about life in their perfectly dressed and adorned selves? They have no idea how good they’ve got it and someday life is going to let them know! *big deep breath* Little did I know.
Since then, I have found myself unable to be around small kids Any kiddo under the age of four. I don’t want to interact with them or their precious moms. I have told myself that I am capital-D-O-N-E with that stage and am grateful I can’t have any more kids. I have zero desire to be supportive of friends with wee ones. Kept everyone at arms distance and let other people help them navigate those waters.
At our April FMG gathering we had a truckload of littles. All under the age of four. I avoided them like the plague. Them and their mothers. I crawled into my anxiety and welcomed the panic like an old friend.
Then it dawned on me. I am filled with anger at cancer. I am starting to process some shite I don’t want to admit is in my heart. Then I got angry at being angry! Seriously. I can’t be angry. I loathe angry! I don’t have time or room to be angry! Which only exponentially increased my anger. In my anger and trying to find my way out, STAT, a dear friend sent me this:
Anger is also a form of alchemy. It’s transformative – it’s hot and burning and has the ability to melt, to re-form and even more so, it has a profound opportunity for release and for expansion. Anger has the potential to fire through the outer layers of our emotions and, if we allow it to, it will reveal a layer of a somewhat softer, calmer texture. A texture of remembrance, of guilt, of shame, of the inability to forgive, of stored trauma, of deep sadness… of hurt. – rebellesociety.com
I’m letting the anger in. Not only am I letting it in, I am taking my own best advice and surrendering to it. I have to, if I want to heal. Except I could only begin to allow this to happen if I knew why I was angry. I had to admit to the why. I had to surrender to the loss I feel in my soul. Here’s the deal; I don’t remember Gregory’s years before cancer with the clarity that I can recall post-diagnosis. I don’t remember Gregory’s years before cancer with the soft nostalgia that I have for Curtis and AnnMarie’s pre-four-year-old years. Cancer stole that from me. Cancer ripped the softness of that time in our lives. Cancer arrested our lives at 3 years, 8 months of age. We have no less than three years of suspended life. Being around littles in that age range hurts. It’s a reminder of what was and what could have been. I want to rage, scream, destroy something, and get this anger out of my body. It’s not that easy. I have to befriend it and learn to reside with it as a part of my being. I can’t cut it out. It’s part of me. It’s an unexpected visitor, so I welcome it in and make space for it. Which is how I have navigated this odyssey and it has served me well.
I have learned that I don’t ‘move on’ in order to heal. I have cracks, scars, dents, and dings a plenty. I am surrendering to the reality that anger is in there, too. I was starting to implode and I can’t do that. I must integrate this anger into my spirit, in order to even my keel. I’ve been short-tempered, bitchy, crabby, and just plain mean. That is not who I am. I need to surrender to the anger, embrace the hurt, find the love. Work in progress. That’s me.
THE GUEST HOUSE
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
— Jelaluddin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks