The third word . . . hard.
Years ago, I was at Laity Lodge visiting with my old CPE supervisor and he was asking about some of my life experiences. I told him that I had had a charmed life, that I hadn’t really suffered. He smiled sweetly and said, “Oh, I see . . . your hard stuff is still in front of you.” Even now, I would say that it still is.
One of the hardest things is to own the parts of this experience that were hard without minimizing it on one hand or being dramatic and self-indulgent on the other. I’m still struggling with that.
The waiting was so hardest, as many of you know . . . . waiting for test results and doctor appointments, when the roulette wheel was spinning and hadn’t stopped yet, when we didn’t know how lucky we would be. Even then, I still was present to the reality that someday I won’t be so lucky—that’s just the reality of life—and I’m still learning how to carry that knowledge with less fear and more grace. Experiencing God’s sustaining hand in this experience has helped with that and so has remembering that that’s just part of being human.
The MD Anderson experience has been hard too. The women I meet and the stories I hear amaze me with their courage and perseverance—they are women of valor; at the same time, there is a lot of fear and sorrow in that place and I seem to get tangled up every morning in a heavy net of pathos that takes me the rest of the day to get out from under.
I’ve also been very present to how much harder this experience is for so many others—it’s harder if you don’t have health insurance, it’s harder if you have to choose between saving your life or saving your job so that your family can eat, it’s harder if you have a chronic illness other than the cancer, it’s harder if you have to have chemotherapy, it’s harder—no, it’s impossible—if you don’t have a loving partner or supportive family or faithful friends.
The whole experience has left me wanting to say to many of you, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know. I cared about your hard stuff—the compassion was real-- but I didn’t know and I’m sorry.”
I teach my clients about the power of “and”--the importance of living with the tension of things that are different, even at odds with each other, but equally true, so I’m holding my words in tension: lucky and fascinating and hard.