thoughts on showing up to all that is

Posts tagged ‘life’


You see it on a Facebook post. Someone will just write the word This and it will have a link to a meme or article. It is a short hand way of saying this is worth reading. This captures something true. This speaks to where I am living right now. This is important. It deserves attention. This one thing right now. This.

I am renaming my blog and making a new commitment to write more and send it out into the world. The name I have chosen is This Life. Maybe it is my stage in life…the last third, or perhaps it was my brush with cancer, or maybe it is the spiritual journey I have been on…but what I find most worth paying attention to right now is life itself. Living awake and alert to all that is happening. Looking for goodness and possibility. Savoring the small moments that are full of beauty and joy.

I read an article in the newspaper this morning about a man that has been taking one photo every day and has done this for 25 years. He said early on, he was in a lot of the pictures, but over time, he shifted his focus to outward. It has become a chronicle of the human condition and the journey we’re all on. That captured my imagination. I take a lot of pictures, mostly of nature. I do it not for posterity, or even to chronicle life, but rather because something has captured my attention in the moment, and I take a picture of it so I can post it and share the beauty with others. I think if I were to take on the endeavor of taking a photo a day, I would spend my day looking for the perfect photo op for that day (yes, I have some perfectionist tendencies that I am trying to recover from), and might miss living my life. But on the other hand, to go through life with the exquisite attention of a photographer, really seeing each moment with all the shadows and light, well, that would be something would it not? And to know that the memorable photo might not be the most exciting moment or the most beautiful thing, but the real thing where life is lived. That it is this. That would be a gift.

I am wired to be a restless sort. I am always looking ahead to what is next. I am a goal-oriented, achiever who needs a to-do list with check marks next to them to know that I had a productive day, which is a good day in my book. That part of me has served me well in life. Hard-working, conscientious, responsible. These are words that have shown up on my report card and performance reviews and psychological assessments. This part of me is well-developed to be sure. And then life gives you wake up calls. You don’t have forever. You might only get this moment. Things will happen to you that will force to realize you can’t always pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get it done yourself. You can be as hardworking, conscientious and responsible as you know how, and you will still find yourself in places that you cannot control or manage, work your way or think your way out of. All you can do is to live with a stance of curiosity and openness. Ok. So this. So this is here and this too is life. So now, how shall I live?

That is what this blog will be about. Ponderings on that question of how shall we live, now, here, in this moment, paying attention to this life. I come to it not as an expert or as one who has all the answers but rather as a sojourner who is writing from the field of living. As a life-long United Methodist, and ordained clergy, I bring a perspective of faith in the Christian tradition but that too has been going through its own ruminations and remaking which may well show up here. So let us begin. One day, one moment at a time. Eyes, hands, heart wide open, looking for what is in each moment, cultivating gratitude for this life.



I.Have.Cancer. Those three words keep bouncing around in my head. Yes. They removed the kidney with the tumor. Yes. The tumor was completely contained within the kidney. No evidence of spreading elsewhere in my body. But still, I have cancer. The surgical pathological report confirms it. Renal cell carcinoma, clear cell type, WHO/ISUP grade 2, pT1bNO. All those words and numbers means cancer. Everyone tells me how lucky I am. That we found it at all. That we got it early. That it was contained. That you can live just fine with one kidney. All that is true, and I am so grateful for how quickly we were able to move once the cancer was identified. Two weeks from ultrasound to surgery. But still. I have cancer and my life will never be the same.

So what I am wondering these days is how does one live in a way that cancer does not loom larger than any other part of my life. I may have cancer, but I also have health. I breathe. I walk. I sleep. I read. I laugh. I have life. I have family. I have my mind and spirit. There is much that I have. So what do I let define my life? At the same time, I cannot and do not want to deny that I have cancer. Are there things I can do to help my body be as healthy as possible and for the cancer not to return? I have been reading a lot on that one. Diet is major it seems. Nutrients and herbal supplements. Meditation and exercise. Supportive people in your life. Tending to cancer could be a full time job! My favorite idea I have come across is trusting your intuition. We know what is right for our body and soul. What that means for me right now: sleep. I go to bed when I am tired and wake up when I am ready. I take naps. Walks. There is something about moving your body, and breathing deeply while you do it. It is harder to do it outside in the winter, but in nature is better. I guess I need to buy some snow pants. Eating simply and what tastes good. I am not being rigid yet about the whole no sugar thing, but I am listening to my body and seeking to eat what is says it is hungry for. Fruits and vegetables mostly, and a little of the other stuff. Less and less chemicals. Although club crackers are pretty soothing to the stomach right now! And being patient with myself. I have a lot to process. Three weeks ago, my life did not have the words cancer attached. I was thinking about what retirement might look like and how I wanted to live the last third of my life, but not really pondering mortality.

I had spent the last ten years getting healthy. I lost 60 pounds. I became an active exerciser. I reversed my pre-diabetes. I was doing everything I thought I was supposed to be doing so I could live a long and healthy life. And still I got cancer. I have been a pastor too long and seen too much, not to know bad things happen and there is no rhyme or reason. None of us are exempt. But I am just a bit miffed. I do all the right things, and others eat like there is no tomorrow and never get off the couch, and I am the one with cancer. But I can’t go there. Getting angry, being sorry for myself, feeling like a victim, that is letting cancer take over my life.

What I want more than anything is to learn to trust my body again. That this body that has carried me for the past 59 years, is the same body that will support me into the future. That I don’t obsess over every little, pain or incident wondering if that cancer returning or my body betraying me. And believe me that is easy to do when you have weird things going in your body like tinnitus 24/7 for weeks on end now. But I also need to remember that the person who the week before her diagnosis was on a treadmill and running is the same person I am today. And she is still strong and capable and yes, healthy.

The morning of my surgery, I named the tumor. I called her Bessie. My dad always called our car, Bessie. C’mon Bessie he would say when the car was struggling to climb a hill. I thanked my kidney that worked long and hard for 59 years to keep me healthy. I said I was sorry it was going to have to be sacrificed but Bessie was keeping it from doing what it needed to do. And then I named my remaining kidney. I called it Angel. My mom said I have angels watching over me. It seemed an appropriate name and reminder to me. My Angel kidney needs to do the work for two, and I need to do my best to take care of her so she can do her job. Lots of water. Must drink more water. We are in this together.

I have cancer. And I have life. Both are true. We are in this together.