“I’m just asking for grace … to take joy in my place at the table/And the rock that it’s standing on.” –Take This Slowly, The Gray Havens
I realized as I was flipping through my day timer in preparation for entering a new month I had completely forgot to set monthly goals for September. According to a note in said day timer, the thought of September goals had blipped across my radar shortly before we found out what the plan was chemotherapy-wise for Jeff. And then it promptly fell off my radar until a month later.
At least I didn’t beat myself up for it. Instead I more or less shrugged my shoulders, and wondered what I could get done in October. It’s lovely what learning to show myself at least a bit more grace can do.
Here’s a bit of an odd situation: I’m finding myself between two thoughts. The first, unsurprisingly, is that Jeff and I were not having to walk the road we’re on now. True, the chemotherapy protocols, when compared to the ones Jeff had 10 years ago, kick butt. His appetite is not taking the beating it did last time, and the nausea has been very well managed during his first two rounds of treatment. We hope that continues to be the trend for the remaining rounds. But, all the same – it would have been okay to not learn of these advances from personal experience.
Now for the second thought: I can’t say I would trade all the things we have learned so far, that I would want to give back the lessons I’m learning. See, when Jeff first had cancer and went through chemotherapy in 2008 we kept everything pretty quiet. Not a lot of people outside of our respective families and workplaces knew what was going on. We said very little to most of our church family. Our pastors knew, and a few friends, but that was about it. I won’t speak to Jeff’s reasons for it, but I know for me I felt like I had failed as a Christian in some way—I had not prayed enough or correctly, that somehow my faith was weak and this was some sort of testament to that weakness. (Gosh, what an unnecessary weight to put on myself in retrospect, though I learned lessons through that struggle, too.)
Even when Jeff had cancer again in 2014, we kept things fairly on the down-low, saying only for the most part he needed to have surgery. Further treatment wasn’t required, so it made it a bit easier. Still, it was in its own way exhausting.
Because here is what we’re learning: People need to be given room to help. And when we give people the room to help, when we admit where we need it, then the strength of others can come in and help carry us along, help see us through. I’m less concerned with putting on a ‘brave face’ or a ‘strong front’. Not that I’m dumping everything on everybody … but I’m finding a goodness in opening myself up in this way, and to taking part in the hard work of being part of a community. I want to truly be a part of my church family—in a way that moves beyond merely occupying the same space as them a few times a week—even as it means I have to be vulnerable, face the fact I won’t always ‘get it right’, and show the mercy and grace I know I am in desperate need of from those around me.
It’s worth it, though. It is worth it.