The major consequence of chemo so far has been flatness. I wish it meant fitness or skinniness or smoothness, but what I’ve felt ever since Thursday (day 1) is like some of the energy and air of my normal spirit has been let out. I mean flat like a boring road that leads somewhere but we’re not really interested in getting there fast or otherwise. I mean flat like stale, flat like fries without salt, flatness. I am used to being the one that is enthusiastic about everything, so not being so, agitates.
There’s only one thing to do when life gets flat: make a mess of it so there are bumps and jumps and unexpected turns. I played the drums, started reading a story and deliberately took myself on a walk. They didn’t fix the flatness, but they were a form of defiance against the presumption of chemo, to deaden all of me a little, to kill the cancer that would otherwise. I want it to do its job, I also want me to remain me.
For some, cancer brings anger, for me dullness. I took the dullness to adoration today, and left it before our Lord. He’s been kind enough to arrange little visits with me where it’s just me, and I pour out all of it, all the worries, all the fears, all the hurts that come from recognizing, this is a long road whenever I let myself think about the journey ahead. He lets me just cry in the heart, and doesn’t get upset if I fall asleep in the process.
We all know, we cannot have the triumph of the Resurrection without the passion and crucifixion. We all know, we must take up our cross. Embracing it, holding it, dragging it, is a moment by moment decision of the soul, and not always done with a full heart.
Duty sometimes supplants zeal, until zeal returns. It is in those moments, when we discover whether we meant to have deep roots of faith and yield one hundred fold, or withered because the time of trial was more than we imagined or wanted to bear. We go forward, and we put on the brave faces of smiles and confidence, and do all we’ve done up to now when it has been effortless, and it reveals the depth of our devotion, because we do it when we do not feel it.
These days, I’m teaching students to research something they care about, and explaining that if they do not care now when it is new, they will care less when it is old. We are teaching that if you aspire to be something beyond what you are, you can never settle for doing the least, but must be questing to do the most and the best, and over and over again, until it is second nature to seek to push beyond one’s self.
These lessons I’m saying to them, I’m also saying to me. Get up. Get ready. Go out the door. Smile. Do the more my brain yelled at me. Do it even when the feelings aren’t there, because that’s what you would do if you didn’t have this condition, so that’s what you should do with it.
To pull inward, would be to put the light under a bushel basket. We don’t often think about it, but we’re called to shine, to warm the world, to be a source of hope and light and warmth and joy. If we pull away when it gets hard, then it sends the message to the world that hope and light and warmth and joy are only possible when things are easy, but that’s not when such things are most needed. Hope is needed when “all other lights go out.” –to quote Tolkien. Light is needed, when we face darkness; warmth when the world turns cold, and joy, when the temptation by all the world, for all the reasons the world can give, is to despair.
Joy does not merely await us, it seeks to infuse us, so that we are more than any of our sufferings, any of our trials, any of our failures. It is more pervasive than chemo, and far more luminescent. It is luminous. The road may go ever ever on, but it leads somewhere better than we’ve been and part of that journey is through the flatness. We have to trust that any time in the desert is not the end, just as any time in the storm at sea is not the conclusion of the story, but a necessary part of it.
Can’t wait to talk to the students tomorrow, and help them decide that this research they’re doing, will light up the world. I hope to help them discover that this part of the road they’re on, is just the beginning.