awareness · community · fatigue · fear · friendship · growth · hope · sharing · the middle way · trust · truth · vulnerability

On Leave.

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The thing about being a good little soldier is that
eventually you suffer battle fatigue.
Over the past two weeks, I’ve had doctors appointments up
the wazoo because of a liver enzyme test that came back extremely elevated.
Granted, it’s the first time they’d ever run this test since I finished chemo
last Spring, but don’t try and tell them that.
In the meantime, I’ve gotten panicky emails from my doctor
to stop drinking alcohol immediately (check), to get another test immediately (check), and
asking if I’ve had my hepatitis vaccines when I was a kid (check).
Being the good little soldier I am, and using the wisdom of
not pushing the panic button, I’ve done pretty well these past two weeks, doing
what I’m told, following up diligently, and trying to follow the new all-organic
diet suggested to me by my naturopath.
This is all well and good not to panic when panic isn’t
prudent. But yesterday I came to see, while reduced to a ball of tears in front
of a friend, that there is a third option between panicking and “soldiering
on.” There’s acknowledgment of my fear.
I told my coworker the other day that I just feel weary – that trying not to freak out is exhausting; that
trying to maintain an emotional equilibrium is hard work.
And underneath that even façade, which also has a thick vein
of veracity, is fear. They can co-exist, but I have to acknowledge that they
both do.
It is activating to have to go through all these tests. It
is not my favorite thing to google “autoimmune hepatitis” (which, we learned, I don’t have). It is even less my favorite thing to contemplate that the reason for
this trouble in the first place is a result of something doctors did to me – despite the rational
fact that they
had to. I had
Leukemia. The cure is chemotherapy. Chemotherapy causes havoc.
I am not freaking
out, but I am concerned. And I am “activated.” It’s hard not to be – I’ve had
legitimate reasons to freak out in the past – but even then, if you were a
reader when I was going through that, you saw that the times I freaked out were few and far between –
and then, they weren’t panics or freak outs, they were the falling-armor
acknowledgments of a real threat to my security and joy.
I was a good soldier then too, but it was also very important to break down sometimes with someone
trustworthy. To acknowledge both sides: Bravery and Vulnerability.
Which are coexistant. The first does not preclude the
second. And I’m pretty sure the second enhances the first.
It was not as if I had some grand easy epiphany about
allowing all of my emotions to be valid. I sat yesterday with a group of
folks, and by the end of our time together, I was leaking silent tears. I
didn’t anticipate to do that, but we create a sacred space together, a place
where it was safe to allow something I didn’t know was happening arise. And
because of that, a friend was able to see my pain, and sit with me while I let
the soldier take a rest, and let the scared and weary and angry woman take a
spin for a while.
I felt better after I acknowledged all that was going on.
And coming to realize in conversation with her that I’d been forcing my
experience into two categories: Panic and Perseverance. Acknowledging fear does
not equate panicking, is what I learned. And it was important, so important,
for me to let some of the rest of my emotions out, besides good humor,
diligence, and perseverance.
Because I believe that without letting some of that pressure
out, without allowing that vulnerability to arise, our capacity for soldiering
is greatly hindered.
What happens is burn-out, instead.
When I only allow validity to one side of my experience, I am
hampering my ability to move forward.
I don’t have to be a crying mess about having to seek out
only organic meat and my fear of the cost and the inconvenience,
and wondering if I’ll have to now be like those people in food addiction
programs who have to carry around heavy-ass glass containers of their own food
to restaurants because they can’t eat anything else and become a burden to
myself and my social life…
but sometimes, at least once(!), I do have to admit that
these are thoughts and emotions that are happening, too.
I’ve never really been a fan of the Buddhist term, “The
Middle Way,” but fan or not, I seem to be learning all about it.

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