Sunday, May 15, 2016

Stories We Tell Ourselves

This is a photo of my son's memorial tree we planted on the first anniversary of his death (or we might have planted it on his birthday, I forget). The tree has proven itself difficult to keep on a straight growth trajectory. I keep having to adjust the tension on the green rope you can see in the picture. Such adjustments are not uncommon in my life--on trees, on my son, on myself. It's all part of holding the tension on the various threads of my life.

One of the threads I need to adjust in my life is in the stories I carry, the things I tell myself. We all do this (I think). Many of the stories are helpful and true (for example, I am tenacious). But some of the stories we repeat to ourselves are bald-faced lies (example, I am an annoyance to my friends). The lies are the ones that weigh the most, and they are the ones that do us the most damage on our journey.

It is part of a healthy growth journey to recognize the false stories we carry, and to ditch those things before they become so deeply embedded in our souls that they may as well be true (because we are living as though they are). I can't speak for anyone else but I know I sure don't need any extra (toxic) weight to carry. "Do not believe everything you think."

Sometimes other people tell you stories. And you must discern how meaningful or valuable those stories might be to you. This past week at MD Anderson, I heard many stories. My doctors and their assistants explained much to me about how my surgery and treatment for breast cancer is going to go. They spoke in calm tones with authority and assurance about some hard things. I came out of the day with a peace about how things were going to go, and with a feeling that I was going to be all right. I'm a sucker for that kind of calm talk (I never think about how easy it is for someone to sound calm and confident when they aren't the ones going through the stuff)!

(I'll be having a lumpectomy, probably followed by radiation, with hormone therapy possibly thrown in for good measure. That's the bare bones of the plan for now.)

But now that I am home, and away from the doctors and their reassurances, and as night is creeping in, doubt and her stories also tries to creep in. Yet, underneath the doubt, and the occasional fear, I feel good about it all, that I'm getting the best treatment available and I'm doing the best I can do for myself.

I have a few healthy, growth oriented friends who affirm my "good self-talk." I like to remind them that I have learned a thing or two through my trials. And also, that my good self-talk is a bit like my tennis playing, that is to say it is often inconsistent. And at times like those, when I sound like I am thinking I will one day have these tasks mastered, I have friends who remind me that I will never "arrive," that I am progressing!

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Passion Vine: Trust Your Roots

We planted a few things last weekend, or rather, my aunt planted things while I watched and did something else that seemed important at the time, though I can't remember now what it was! One thing she planted was this Passion Vine. I've been trying wanting something to vine on the old gate and haven't had much luck. We will see how this effort goes.

I was sitting on the porch, drinking coffee and thinking. The vine looks rather pitiful here, almost like it's ready to give up and quit. I watered it real good but it still looks wilted. I couldn't help but compare it my own self, after this news about the breast cancer. I have had bouts of feeling pitiful, not quite ready to give up and quit, but feeling like maybe I'm not up to the struggle.

What I thought about the Passion Vine was that it just needed to get firmly rooted in the soil and accustomed to the new spot it's now in. That was Saturday.

It wasn't until Sunday, when I was sitting in the swing with my prayer flags behind me that I remembered a sermon I'd heard preached by a tiny little Texas preacher woman that resonated with me when I first heard it and now surfaced again to reassure me. She was talking about things to do when we're faced with problems. I can't remember all the details of the sermon but I distilled it down in my head to the two things she said that day that spoke the loudest to me. She was talking about the strength of trees. She said, when times of trouble come (and they always do), "trust your roots," and then, "feel the weight of your trunk."

The Passion Vine will never be a huge oak, but once those roots settle in and the vines grab hold and start shooting their tendrils out to grasp the wire of the gate, it should be all right. I've had my moments of being a bit shaken by this new spot I find myself in, but I've got some deep roots I know I can trust. And I've got a strong trunk that will help carry me through. I'm grateful for these two things, and for friends who encourage me in this spot.

(And I remembered I have two blank prayer flags that I wanted to use for the reminder to trust my roots, and feel the weight of my trunk. Maybe I'll write these words on them the next time I am up there.)

It was a beautiful day. I picked these flowers (they may actually be considered weeds) and got out in the sun to take their picture. It felt good. I felt very much alive. Life goes on. One of the harder parts of dealing with stuff like this is the waiting to find more information after being first informed of the problem. The temptation, for me, is to shut everything down, until I can hear "the rest of the story." But, yes, life goes on. And I really can't be wasting time shutting down every time something like this happens. So I'm trying to do better with the whole breathe while waiting thing!