In my post last week, “41st Anniversary: Not What I Expected” I shared the news that my life has greatly changed, that my husband and I have separated. Since then, I’ve been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from my family, friends, and readers. This time in my life has reminded me of the shock of having breast cancer, struggling down that path of loss– stepping through the grief, and realizing God’s provision for my needs each moment, each day.
In the post, “Manna,” I recalled how I received support to help me along that difficult journey of cancer. Months before I was diagnosed, I’d read in Exodus Chapter 16 how the Israelites traveling on their wilderness journey had received manna, ‘bread from heaven’ on a daily basis. It was just enough nourishment to sustain them each day. During my cancer wilderness I received encouragement through cards, calls, and meals that helped me deal with long days of appointments, feeling sick after chemo, and fear about the future.
Since telling others what is going on in my life, I’ve received manna; this time in the same forms as when I had cancer but expanded by my contacts now, nineteen years later. They’ve included Facebook messages, Twitter direct messages and tweets, record number comments on my blog post, and text messages.
Last week, my schedule was filled with support. There were dinners with friends, cousins, and my sister, and two of those meals were accompanied by thunderstorms that seemed to be the soundtrack for my life. One night while I walked, I had a long conversation with a family member. My friend who was in our wedding, called me from her vacation in St. Lucia.
There have been parts of all of my conversations that have stayed with me and I’ve had to work through– some with thorns of regret and recognition of truths I hadn’t seen. These interactions have been both supportive and exhausting. I’ve found rest in silence, avoiding the sound of my television or computer, choosing to sit and watch nature and listen to chirping birds and dogs barking in the distance.
The silence has reminded me of my solo journey to Kentucky three years ago. There I stayed for for a two-week writer’s residency at Artcroft in the countryside. Since I was the only participant, I had that house to myself; there was no television, no wifi. At first I had the impulse to go home because I didn’t think I could stand the silence. Eventually, I learned to live into that space, renewed by the solitude and silence.
On my walks at Artcroft in the cool of the early morning and at dusk, I collected the abundant thistle to make an arrangement for the kitchen table. I purchased garden shears to cut the thorny stems. I loved the form and pinkish-purple blooms.
This past Thursday, after my friend treated me to lunch and her listening ears, I stopped in Whole Foods and stood in front of the flowers, absorbing the color of the blooms. The bouquet that caught my eye was like the Kentucky thistle, surely in that same plant family. I loved the form and their heather blue. I didn’t consciously remember the arrangement on my table in Kentucky.
But looking at them now, I realize they called to me and are a reminder of the value of silence and space– the rest and renewal that was Artcroft.
While this time is painful with lots of prickly thorns, there is also beauty inside of that, like the pinkish-purple of the Kentucky thistle. The time at Artcroft was very productive, giving me what I needed to rewrite my memoir, which has now been published. The days in that house of silence were part of the transition to my literal and figurative next chapter.
May it be so now.
Referenced Blog posts:
My Memoir is Available in Paperback and Ebook at Amazon