I was having dinner with my good friend Mari Ellen two days ago, and we were talking about a woman whose husband has two weeks to live and who has been writing beautiful blogs despite the impending tragedy. I mentioned that I didn’t think I’d have strength to project so much serenity in the face of such horrendous loss, and Mari Ellen said, “Sure, you would. You’re committed to encouraging others.” I might have nodded and given vague assent to her statement, but something in me was jarred by her words. Yes, I’m all about finding the lessons and beauty in any circumstances. I’m all about using what happens to me to impact others. I’m all about choosing how I react to those unexpected challenges that threaten to hobble me. But at what point does that commitment become disingenuous? At what point does my desire to express a real-life (real-crisis) faith hinder others (readers, students, loved ones) from seeing the not-so-glamorous human side my determined optimism might mask?
I’m scared. That’s what I want you to know. I’m scared because I’ve been dizzy for nearly two months and no one can figure out why. Because I’m so tired that I sometimes find it hard to get out of bed and too easy to crawl back to it well before my normal bedtime. Because the dizziness got so bad a couple weeks ago that I felt the floor tilt violently under my feet, fell against the wall of my shower and couldn’t seem to get the world to settle for a few seconds. Because there’s nothing wrong with my blood sugar or blood pressure. Because the ENT found nothing wrong with my inner ear/brain connection either. I’m scared because a doctor yesterday told me “breast goes to brain” (i.e. breast cancer often metastasizes to the brain), because the MRI I might need to have will cost a horrendous amount and have to be paid for out of pocket (given my sky-high deductibles), and because I don’t want to have a German physician tell me I have brain cancer too. (They have the bedside manner of Attila the Hun…)
I’m scared. I’m not ashamed of the fear. But though there is quite understandable fear, there is no panic. That’s the gift my faith affords me–realistic fear without the crippling vise of panic. And yes, I’ve been combating the disquiet with my usual weapons of gratitude, focus on others and trust in a God who has carried me and will carry me. I choose to apply my mind to those, though the fear—that nagging, “what if” oppressor—still exists in the far recesses of my mind. I don’t want anyone to consider me immune to normal human emotions. I want to be as real in my fear as I am in my faith. The two are not mutually exclusive…
There are women in my life who give me perspective. One of them is Mona, recently diagnosed with a nasty abdominal cancer and just two weeks into chemo. She had her head shaved yesterday, a prospect that filled me with horror when I was first diagnosed. Yet she chooses to focus on gratitude, writing “How does one fail so often to see the full richness of what God has given us in our friends?” Kim spent the past three weeks waiting to find out if the three tumors in her breast were cancerous. The mother of three boys, already suffering from a debilitating and progressive disease, she kept updating her Facebook account with quotes like “Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades; Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame.” (It didn’t turn out to be cancer!!!) And Dotsy, my dear friend who just underwent another major facial surgery to repair her Mac-marred face and whose blog is ever brimming over with hope and trust, even as she faces another long recovery…
I look to these women with awe—I see their relentless pursuit of Faith and admire it more than I can express. And on days like today, when the dizziness and fatigue get wearying, I thank God that I’ve seen their fear too. It’s the gauge of our grasp on reality. And as long as it doesn’t drive a wedge between the anxiety and the Giver of Peace, it’s okay for both to coexist, at least for a time. (Fear, yes. But preemptive grieving? No. Not until I have answers.)
BFA celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday. Given my obsession with gratitude, it should come as no surprise that it’s one of my favorite holidays. I have so much—so much—to be grateful for. Whatever may come. And that strength and resolve that have wrapped Mona, Kim and Dotsy in so much resilience is a gift from the same God I know. The One whose Power is mine to claim and whose Love is a greater force than anything this earth has to offer. I am grateful for His Arms. “I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” (Ps. 23:4)
PS: In an attempt to rule out lesser causes before making the MRI-leap, I’ll be cutting out the multiple nutritional supplements I take every day. I’ll give it two weeks, which might also rule out recent play-related exhaustion…though I’d feel might silly about all this if it all boiled down to “I’m tired”! If after that the fatigue and dizziness persist, I’ll take a deep breath and enter The Machine! (But wouldn’t it be great if it didn’t come to that?! =-)
PPS: See? THIS is why people hesitate to voice honest emotions in such a public medium. I just got a call from Erin (former student) telling me that this post sent her and Squirt into a panic. Loss of sleep, etc, ensued. My purpose was to express to my readers that I am human and prone to the full gamut of human emotions, not to cause widespread pandemonium! If I’m not panicking, neither should you! We trust in a God who knows. He–knows. And He’s already equipping each of us for the joys, challenges and fears that will still come our way. When they assault us, we’ll be ready…and He’ll walk with us. Ain’t no need to panic–HE KNOWS.
THANKSGIVING PORTRAITS OF SOME MAUGENHARDT BOYS