Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thanks Giving - Prayers -

I adore Thanksgiving. And I love spending my Thanksgiving with the people I adore. I cannot think of a holiday that brings me closer to my softer side than this one. Sometimes I need to be forcefully stopped in order to really think about more than just the moment (I've become quite good at staying in the moment - not nearly so overwhelming). So when I have cause to pause, for four days, I can't help but think about the goodness that is inside me and surrounds me.

There are three Thanksgiving songs and prayers that come to mind that say what I think and feel better than with my own words:

"There is a time for every season and every purpose under heaven. A time for family and friends, a time for happy memories and thankful hearts, time for traditions and blessings shared. Thank you for the many reasons I have to give thanks." (Psalms +)

"For health and strength and daily food we praise thy name, O Lord."

  1. Come, ye thankful people, come;
    Raise the song of harvest home.
    All is safely gathered in
    Ere the winter storms begin.
    God, our Maker, doth provide
    For our wants to be supplied.
    Come to God's own temple, come;
    Raise the song of harvest home.
I am smitten by the fact that we have a national holiday to give thanks. Whether we have similar Higher Powers or not, stopping to acknowledge the goodness in our lives is good. Rather than finding fault and looking at the terrors and deprivation around us, we must be grateful, otherwise we live in a victim mode, and I refuse to be a victim. I am too blessed to be depressed. May you find moments over these next few days to give thanks. 

“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it's wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.”

Monday, November 23, 2015

Dancing Mashup -

I grew up surrounded by music. One of my first memories is of my parents teaching dance lessons on the cement floor in our unfinished basement. I remember Dad sprinkling the floor with sawdust, sitting on the fireplace hearth, watching people dance. My parents met through dancing. They danced quite a bit as young marrieds, even teaching youth groups. They are beautiful together on the dance floor. They know, in their hearts, how to move, how to read each other, how to help each other. I love watching them dance.

As a family we went to plenty of musicals, whether professionals coming to town (IF, Rexburg) or local - high school, college. I can sing most of the tunes to plenty of these oldies - South Pacific, Westside Story, Finnegan's Rainbow, Camelot, Sound of Music, Music Man, Dr. Zhivago, Man of La Mancha, Fiddler on the Roof. And we watched musicals and musical variety shows on TV, including Lawrence Welk. Oh, the lovely innocence of these shows (for a young girl who didn't look for hidden innuendos). 

I can sing, and I have rhythm, but I was never good enough or brave enough to put myself on stage. So I opted to be a set-designer, choreographer, pianist during my high school years. I did act in one play - a melodrama, put on for my church congregation. I was the heroine, my boyfriend (not LDS - yikes) was the hero. We kissed at the end of the play. Oh so sweet, and so forward of me! 

My parents wanted all of us kids to marry guys/gals who danced, so we could dance together. None of us did.

And - closet reveal - I like Glee (well, did for about the first 4 seasons). In my next life I will be a dancer; I love the music, the moves, the coordination, the feeling of being light on my feet. But for the meantime, and I'm in no hurry, I love the restoration of reels with the old tunes and the old actors and actresses and the old dance. Oldies, but goodies! And I really really love the mash-ups, juxtapositioning the old with the new - think A Knight's Tale (so sensual, so touching, so very very innovative). Like this one - Enjoy. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Bringing Tidings Conclusion - Lessons -

So now – 2 ½ years post-treatment - I am still learning, but I am implementing the "Life is great. My plate is full, but I wouldn't choose another way" lifestyle. And - I've learned to say "No," even to things I really want to be a part of. And I haven't lost any opportunities to grow, so it must be OK to say no! I’ve learned to live for today – in the moment, because tomorrow will come, whether I worry about it or not.

All the situations in our lives, from the insignificant to the major, conspire to teach us exactly what we need to be learning at any given time. Patience, compassion, perseverance, honesty, letting go—all these are covered in the lessons of cancer. 

I had dinner one evening, the night prior to my last chemo, with two friends. We were talking about life’s lessons, and what we were learning from the experiences we were having. In my innocence I said, “I am living this cancer as intensely as I can, because I want to learn every lesson cancer has for me to learn. So when treatments are finished, I can move on.”  Both friends smiled, and said, “Oh Ronda, cancer will be teaching you for the rest of your life. There will be plenty of lessons you can learn from it.” And dang it – they were telling the truth!

If we can be firmly rooted in the present, and not stress what's lost, or what might have been, or what could be, but calmly move forward, one moment at a time, we will find what we thought we had lost. Or we can at least be OK with losing, because it is part of being found.

I believe we will understand more if we never assume we've arrived at the place where we know. We can reach a point where we are reasonably confident, enough to take action. But I believe human progression depends on always being open to new information, new insights, new possibilities, more lessons. If we are too certain, we might stop asking questions. And if we stop asking questions, we might stop altogether.

In my humble opinion – I  have learned these lessons, as well as the ones mentioned – I have learned to live today today; to be patient with myself and others; to be gentle yet bold; to be authentic. To fall, get up, and begin again. Life is good.

John Banse, April 15, 2013, Boston Marathon Survivor said, "My soul is so full of gratitude that there is no room in me for sadness, anger, or fear." I can say the same. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Bringing Tidings 4 - Joy -

Life is beautiful, even in the pain there is beauty –

I have spoken with many survivors of various types of cancer. A theme that is consistent no matter what stage or course of treatment they had, is post-treatment phase of recovery, or "finding the new normal." There is good reason this phrase is repeated so often by us, and frankly by anyone who has endured a trauma or loss. While our loved ones might want to see us recover and resume our lives as close to how they were before as possible (for good and loving reasons), the truth may be that parts of us will simply never be the same.

Finding the new normal is often job number one following a treatment. I know how hard it can be to reassemble the pieces of a life following a long and exhausting treatment. While the good news for many of us is survival, there are new concerns and challenges (lymphedema, prosthesis, surgeries, neuropathy, and constipation). And just as unique as these are to each of us, so too will be the way in which (and depth to which) cancer touches our lives. But one thing is for sure, it touches something, and getting to the new normal takes time, patience, effort, and a good bit of help.

Life used to have one shape, now it has another. I used to do, think, feel one way, and now those things either don't work or no longer feel right. But the new perimeters do not reveal themselves like a runway in the dark, all lit up, and they can't be found with the ease of a Google search. No, the process of recovery, and rediscovery, is one of patience, honest assessment, acceptance and a lot of self-care (and self-love).

Still, there are days when I am sad. I cry. I hurt. I ache for me, for the innocent Ronda who was about to undergo a life-change she could not comprehend. Cancer is a bitch - and that day, and with the days that followed I lost any remaining innocence I may have had. I'm still in shock - I want to apologize to the 20 pound lighter, 53 year old Ronda, with natural blonde hair, for all she went through. I want to hold her in my arms, hug her, cuddle her, let her know she is loved. 

The result of our cancer is a new shape. If this happens at a slow enough pace, it is not overly stressful. You take it in one move at a time. And in that pain, and because of that pain, the joy - oh boy, the joy is immeasurable. Believe me. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Bringing Tidings 3 - Comfort -

Vulnerability is valuable –

Kurt Vonnegut said,
Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard.
Do not let pain make you hate.
Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness.
Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree,
you still believe it to be a beautiful place.

When I am at my weakest, I am my most vulnerable. I am fearing my own fear. Bitterness definitely steals my sweetness. Yet being vulnerable can be so rewarding, and beneficial. This is when friends and family, others can be by my side, supporting me – reaching out for meals, errands, cleaning, seeing me in my pj’s or sweats, no makeup, no hair – being brave and vulnerable enough to cry.

I have learned how to be comfortable with uncertainty. I learned how to have faith. I learned I wasn’t in control, and that was OK. Uncertainty became my middle name, but I knew my support system and my Higher Power had my back.

I had to learn what “need” really meant, and be fine with needing and wanting others.

Vulnerability taught me how to be humble. All games were tossed to the side, all of my facades were broken down, and there I was, in my nakedness, in my authentic self.

Life is precious. Not because it is unchangeable. To love life means to love its vulnerability, asking for care, attention, guidance, and support. Life and death are connected by vulnerability and remind us of the preciousness of our lives. I have had to trust my intuition on this journey, working at my own pace, and asking as many questions as I could. And I’ve found out life has all (well, most of) the answers.

“Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” CS Lewis

Vulnerability = Intimacy

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Bringing Tidings 2 - Support -

I am stronger than I ever thought I was, and I have learned how to ask for help –

As soon as I was diagnosed, I invited a group of friends over for a Sunday evening boob party. My desire was to be surrounded by folks who could help me with answers, with prayers, positive energy, and who were “move-the-body friends.” And I loved the support.

Brene Brown says we all need a “move-the-body friend,” someone who is going to show up and wade through the deep with them. She says this is a person who loves you not despite your vulnerability, but because of it.

I have several of these friends and family, who have supported me along many of my life transitions/lessons, and who still show up for me. Three are here this evening -  

Scott - He teaches me daily. He adores me. I am the most important thing/person in the world. Through him I am learning I can be loved, I am loveable. He saved me by saving himself; he has taught me about unconditional love. He is my first. He has taught me to have "more heart" and "love is stronger than terror." He has taught me I don't need to be strong alone, that we can be stronger together.

Jenna – I had the opportunity to rear my best friend - she is my gift. She kept me out of the cancer mode by sharing her daily life with me. When we were together, I was not a breast cancer patient; I was Mom. 

Mom – as much as I didn’t want to need her, I needed her. She held my head, my hands, fed us - put pounds on Scott and me, and kept me honest.

I had folks around me who said, "You sure were a bitch today, worse that you've ever been, but I know tomorrow will be better, I love you, I'm here for you, go take a nap, let’s go for a walk."

With loss, losing, finding, moving forward in newness, in gratitude for constancy and change, I think we need each other – women tend and befriend (mothers, daughters, husbands, wives, friends, support).

I also found out what I was made of, and I became my own friend. I had the strength inside of me to help me. I've learned lots about myself in all of this. I've had to turn inward to find strength to make it day to day.

I'm coming to the realization that what I had been searching for, for so many years, is deep inside me. I'm still finding that. “Being still” is a lesson I'm learning. Turning inside, pulling myself up, searching my own psyche rather than the internet, has brought me peace, a time for reflection. The support I have had has allowed me time to be pensive, reflective, hesitant. What I've learned is that I needed time and space for meditating, sorting, and sifting, bringing answers to questions. How often do any of us really take the time to stop and look inside? I believe we are "outsource" driven, looking for someone, something, somewhere, that we fail to realize that often our answer is deep within. 

Have you heard or shared the phrase, "God doesn't give you more than you can handle"? Oh my goodness, I really hate this phrase, and all of its cousins - "God must sure love you to give you this trial," is one of those nasty versions. Or how about these, after the "trial," "What did you learn?" "Have you learned your lesson, yet?"

Hardships such as bad health, sick kids, anxiety, cancer, these are things of this world - and so we deal with the natural consequences that come with this world. God doesn't give these to us, we don't ask for these hardships, they are just a part of this natural world.

When I had cancer, that wasn't God's love showing up in the disguise of a lump in my chest. That's the natural world - there was suffering that went along with this, there were hardships, sure, there was growth and knowledge and experiences gained, but this was no gift from God! Cancer is a bad disease that is somehow related to this world, not a temptation! And when my pain was too much to bear, I didn't buck up because God said I could handle this, I crumpled, and ran to His arms for comfort.

So I'm calling BS on "God doesn't give you more than you can handle,” and saying, “God doesn’t give us what we can handle, God helps us handle what we are given.”