My hope is to offer encouragement to writers as well as those who simply love to read. You will find eclectic snippets here—news of projects I’m working on, comments regarding books I enjoy, favorite authors, quotes, and reflections regarding my own experiences. I especially like to write about my dreams—those parables in the night seasons. Symbols and metaphors delight and intrigue me. You will find them here.
A good friend explained to me that he believes many people in our culture are afflicted with "FOMO"--Fear Of Missing Out--that somehow choices persons make about how they use their time, could leave them missing important and meaningful experiences in their lives. I am intrigued by this term, because I can identify with the fear myself. However, this year when my health took a nosedive and I was diagnosed with cancer, the fear dissipated. In my pre-cancer life, I often felt as if I was one lap behind in life's race and out of breath--relationships, writing, work, exercise--the list went on and on. Do more. Be productive. You'll miss out if you don't. Then cancer. My focus changed. Had to change, or I might not survive. During the months of chemo, I had never experienced such physical weakness, depression palpable. I could do nothing more than lie on the couch some days. I would rebound a little, but then I'd be hit again with another chemo treatment and faced with the difficult side effects. The experience was like living on a spare "energy" budget. I had to say "no" to almost all outside activities. I had little strength for anything but basic living. I felt free to stay at home with no reservations, because that's all I could do. And many days home was a sanctuary where I could rest and write and read and think and pray on the days I felt better. A haven. Margin. I had no fear of missing out on anything, grateful to be alive.
I knew her as Mrs. Wyld (pronounced "wild"). I never knew her first name, but most nine-year-olds don't know the first names of their teachers. Each day she wore matching polyester suits in various shades of earth tones--browns and golds, beige and olive. Her skin was pale and her short, immaculate nails were always painted in clear gloss that sometimes glinted in the sunlight that poured from a line of windows in the fourth-grade classroom when she wrote on the chalkboard. Mrs. Wyld's hair was styled in a bevy of ash-blonde curls that waved to her shoulders. A pair of wireless glasses perched at the end of her nose, and every so often she would push the glasses up with her index finger with a sigh, almost exasperated. She was strict too. She allowed no funny business. She was intent on teaching her students proper grammar and making sure we knew how to do long division. She always gave us ten extra minutes for recess.
Mrs. Wyld, though, had one flaw. And it was a major one. She was a shamer. No one was immune from her sarcastic barbs. I dodged many of her arrows, because I was a pretty good student, so when we had to go to the board and write sentences or "show our work" for a math equation, I usually did well. Frequently, students were the victims of her censorship. "James, how come you got that wrong? We've been working on diagramming sentences for weeks. You're a disappointment to me." Then James would hang his head and slink back to his desk. Mrs. Wyld didn't shame every day. She would sometimes go weeks without any toxic statements. The class would almost get lulled into a false sense of security. But it never failed. She would always strike again.
This week I watched a movie, Collateral Beauty. Will Smith plays a successful advertising executive who is sidelined by grief when his six-year-old daughter dies. He is rendered almost silent by sadness, speaking to few people, separated from his wife, and letting his business go. He begins writing letters to "time," "death" and "love." His colleagues find a creative way for him to receive responses from each of these concepts, and he begins to find his way back from the anger and helplessness. At one point he is challenged to consider the theory of "collateral beauty." In other words, pondering the idea that there could be a possibility of finding beauty in something as ugly as the death of a six-year-old.
Is it possible?
God might be found in brushing the dog. God might be found in scrubbing the sink. God might be found in doing a load of laundry...God is in the concrete facts of our life. The leap of a young dog is a joyous prayer.~Julia Cameron (From Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance)
It is a brilliant day, blue and fresh. The River Birch tree branches just outside my window are bobbing softly, a gentle breeze caressing their leafy arms. The sun is not too warm. Yet I feel as if I'm suffering an anxiety hangover. Just yesterday a very different weather picture filled my window, the River Birch boughs bent mercilessly by tropical force winds as Hurricane Irma marched across the southeast. I'd spent the last few days preparing for her arrival--calling forty plus clients at work, alerting them to the clinic's guidelines in case of evacuation. I heard their fretting and sighs of concern, the maelstrom of "what ifs." Who could blame them? This hurricane season has been pummeling millions of people all over the south. Finally, though, all were called, and I could move on to preparing my own home. There is always ambivalence regarding evacuation, but there was no mandatory order from the governor to leave, so Giovanni and I decided to stay. We packed up the important documents, moved my car to higher ground in a downtown parking garage, lugged all the outside furniture inside the garage, all the potted plants as well. Anything could be a projectile. Then we waited.
The winds came and flooding commenced all over the city, the storm surge higher even than last year's Hurricane Matthew. We were fortunate, with no damage, and only about thirty minutes without power.
And so why do I feel as if I'm standing on the edge ready to fall into an abyss? Perhaps it's because there is another hurricane brewing in the Atlantic. I heard that it might be heading our way. But if I stare into this chasm too long, surely I'll be sucked into more anxiety. I must begin walking backwards away from the edge. But how?
Walking through the parking garage after work last week, I noticed a bumper sticker that brought me comfort. It read: "Love>Fear." Just prior to seeing the sticker, I'd been caught up in my mind with feelings of anxiety. Even though I'd completed the last of my chemotherapy treatments, I felt physically weak and vulnerable. Feeble. The reason I was walking inside the parking garage was because I could no longer walk up more than two flights of stairs before being winded--something I was almost embarrassed to admit. Before cancer, I'd park my car on the eighth floor so I could get the exercise walking up and down the stairs each day. Now, I could only walk downstairs and up only one or two flights. I'd walk those one or two flights, then head to the elevator that took me to whatever floor my car was parked on. As I trudged to my car, I bemoaned my weakness and asked, "What if I never regain strength?" "What if I'm not able to once again find a way to exercise and empower my body?" "What if the cancer comes back and I face chemotherapy again?" "What if I'm not able to work?" "What would I do about health insurance if I couldn't work?" Negative, disempowering thoughts curled out of my mind. Then the bumper sticker interrupted the noxious thinking. A mercy from God, no doubt.
I began to remind myself of how deeply I am loved by God. He had gotten me through the treatments and provided support from countless people who love me. Countless prayers from His army of believers. He'd supplied many good days when I felt well and was able to work productively. I was still consistent with walking, albeit a slower pace. My husband had gone to every medical appointment with me and cooked me boundless healthy food, washed the floors and told me every day that I would make it. My daughters stood by me like rocks of Gibraltar. My sisters and family in Italy regularly checked in with me. Even colleagues surrounded me with good wishes and filling in for me when I couldn't make it to work. Friends sent me texts, emails and letters, brought me flowers--lifelines of encouragement. Yes, love truly overwhelmed fear in my life. When I got to my car I remembered God's supply over this year--His incessant forbearance toward me.