It has again been a while since I’ve written…I’ve had a number of posts cross my mind, but I’m finding that the energy and concentration/creativity it takes to flush them out into something cohesive and understandable doesn’t come easily when I’m fighting fear. And these past few months have been quite consumed with fighting fear.
What I have been more diligent about is shows. There have been many evenings where the most the four of us could muster after engaging in our respective battles of the day was a solid session of binge watching. I’m certainly not claiming that this is the very best coping method, but it is one we’ve employed. We’ve traveled the world with the Amazing Race, uncovered the mysteries of time and space alongside the Dr. in his TARDIS, and most recently found ourselves LOST.
I’m the only one of the four of us who watched this during it’s first go-round; the kids were so little when it originally ran, and Eric was still steadily advancing his drinking career. One thing that, oddly, caught my attention from the pilot episode all those years ago was how Jack handled fear.
Well, fear's sort of an odd thing…the terror was just so crazy. So real. And I knew I had to deal with it. So I just made a choice. I'd let the fear in, let it take over, let it do its thing, but only for five seconds, that's all I was going to give it. So I started to count: one, two, three, four, five. Then it was gone. I went back to work...
Over the years that somehow stuck with me, and in scattered situations I tried this method out - take it in, feel the fear, then force it out. I don’t know that it has ever worked all that well for me, but what I’m recently finding is that when given even the slightest bit of reign, fear is a frightful adversary capable of lightening fast exponential growth. Through these last months, it feels there has been so much lost and so many things to fear…the time frame we had hoped for Eric’s surgery was pushed back somewhat indefinitely and chemo was extended, we lost access to the medical system that had become Eric’s “home base” and were moved back into the system and oncologist that had originally told us there were not many options available to him, we’ve lost large portions of any semblance of “normal” in our day to day living, and I fear for how that wears on every single one of us in unique ways, I’ve lost the dreams and plans I had for my last year fully homeschooling my daughter, and just last week we received news that the maintenance chemo that Eric has been on for the last two months has lost it’s effectiveness. That one more than anything, given even just the slightest number of seconds, can bring me to growing afraid.
But if that’s all that I focus on from the events of the last few months, I’ve also lost perspective…for many, many things have been gained. Memories of laughter and family walks and days at Disney, watching our children perform in their fantastic school musical, experiencing the swelling joy of our daughter accomplishing a goal she set for herself this year and finally learning to ride a two wheel bike, the kindness and generosity of both strangers and friends, five precious years of sobriety, and only just yesterday the addition of another year to our son’s running life count.
What I have been finding to be true for me in handling fear is that while it may be natural, understandable, and in many cases even seem fully reasonable…I have to let it go. And this isn’t just a random release into the ether, but a moment by moment invitation for Perfect Love to cast out all fear. The two cannot coexist. In the places where I find myself so fiercely clutching fear, rather than giving it seconds to grow I have to ask for it to be released and I look for the love. Or, I look for how I can love.
And do you know what happens? I begin to lose things again…my narrowing of perspective and full insistence on how something (or everything!) must be done, my lack of patience with everyone around me, and my bitterness, however entitled I feel I am to it. Only then are these lost things replaced with a growing love and wonder. Only then am I even able to begin to clearly hear and respond to God’s direction for me. Only then can I be effective, and know true peace regardless of circumstance.
This week there will be many opportunities to continue to hone this growing realization and practice. We will get results from CT scans to show us if the cancer has spread beyond Eric’s liver. We will meet with multiple surgeons to discuss options (which will be greatly influenced by the results of said scan), and with the oncologist to discuss non-surgical options. I will make many, many phone calls to continue the campaign for Eric’s access and insurance coverage, and the kids and I will do our best to begin tying up loose ends so we can finish out this school year learned and intact.
Learned and intact. In my opinion that sounds so much better than lost and afraid.