Turning the Fear of Transformation into the Transformation

Adapted from the writings of Danaan John Raymond Parry
Sometimes I feel that my life is a series of trapeze swings. I’m either hanging on to a trapeze bar swinging along or, for a few moments in my life, I’m hurtling across space in between trapeze bars.
Most of the time, I spend my life hanging on for dear life to my trapeze-bar-of-the-moment. It carries me along at a certain steady rate of swing and I have the feeling that I’m in control of my life.
I know most of the right questions and even some of the answers.
But every once in a while as I’m merrily (or even not-so-merrily) swinging along, I look out ahead of me into the distance and what do I see? I see another trapeze bar swinging toward me. It’s empty and I know, in that place in me that knows, that this new trapeze bar has my name on it. It is my next step, my growth, my aliveness coming to get me. In my heart of hearts I know that, for me to grow, I must release my grip on this present, well-known bar and move to the new one.
Each time it happens to me I hope (no, I pray) that I won’t have to let go of my old bar completely before I grab the new one. But in my knowing place, I know that I must totally release my grasp on my old bar and, for some moment in time, I must hurtle across space before I can grab onto the new bar.
Each time, I am filled with terror. It doesn’t matter that in all my previous hurtles across the void of unknowing I have always made it. I am each time afraid that I will miss, that I will be crushed on unseen rocks in the bottomless chasm between bars. I do it anyway. Perhaps this is the essence of what the mystics call the faith experience. No guarantees, no net, no insurance policy, but you do it anyway because somehow to keep hanging on to that old bar is no longer on the list of alternatives. So, for an eternity that can last a microsecond or a thousand lifetimes, I soar across the dark void of “the past is gone, the future is not yet here.”
It’s called “transition.” I have come to believe that this transition is the only place that real change occurs. I mean real change, not the pseudo-change that only lasts until the next time my old buttons get punched.
I have noticed that, in our culture, this transition zone is looked upon as a “no-thing,” a noplace between places. Sure, the old trapeze bar was real, and that new one coming towards me, I hope that’s real, too. But the void in between? Is that just a scary, confusing, disorienting nowhere that must be gotten through as fast and as unconsciously as possible?
NO! What a wasted opportunity that would be. I have a sneaking suspicion that the transition zone is the only real thing and the bars are illusions we dream up to avoid the void where the real change, the real growth, occurs for us. Whether or not my hunch is true, it remains that the transition zones in our lives are incredibly rich places. They should be honored, even savored. Yes, with all the pain and fear and feelings of being out of control that can (but not necessarily) accompany transitions, they are still the most alive, most growth-filled, passionate, expansive moments in our lives.
So, transformation of fear may have nothing to do with making fear go away, but rather with giving ourselves permission to “hang out” in the transition between trapezes. Transforming our need to grab that new bar, any bar, is allowing ourselves to dwell in the only place where change really happens. It can be terrifying. It can also be enlightening in the true sense of the word. Hurtling through the void, we just may learn how to fly.
This is so true for me. And yet it starts mid-way through the story. Not only must you release the holding bar to propel through the transition onto the next holding bar – but even before that your swing is comprised of forward and backward movements. Just getting the speed up to let go requires at least as much backward motion as forward motion. I live that – backward action is critical to my ability to launch. “Pumping” on a swing happens on the backward stroke. Forward and backward, in and out breaths start the whole process. Forward and backward produce the energy for change.
Or no, maybe that isn’t the start. Is the start actually reaching into air for the first time to grasp the bar coming toward you as you move your feet off the platform. Propelling yourself into the unknown. Reaching is acceptance. Acceptance is the start.
Or no again – isn’t the start putting your foot on the first rung of the ladder up to the unknown of the platform, the propulsion off the platform to grasp the first bar. Courage is the start
Or perhaps it is the intention to do all of that – maybe that is where it starts. The call to do all of that – the need, pulled or pushed by life’s events to do all of that. Yes, intention is the start for me.
Love of my heart – there is so much back and forth, up and down, out of control, unknowing on this journey. Risk comes from all directions, uncertainty from as many. For Alexa it starts with intention to risk and learn and climb and reach for air and propel off the platform. To pump as the action is backward, or forward, and ultimately let go. Is it so for all of us? Blessed be.
Yes Mandy is the trapeeze artist for those who know her. She is the catcher. Isn’t she powerful in her catching?

Great news

The wonderful Dr. Bicher said today that my scans and tests couldn’t be better. I’ll visit her again for more assessments in 3 months, and again in 3 months… But today is radiantly free of worry.
 Enough (David Whyte)
Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.
This opening to the life
we have refused
again and again
until now.
Until now
My spiritual director Scott Quinn talked with me about Quan Yin, a female avitar of the Bodhisattva. Credited with many qualities, in this photo, which he also took, she is saying yes, accepting what comes with her lower hand and also pause, or stop, or not too much with her upper hand. I’m still balancing how much energy I have and how much I want to do. As I return to more and more activity, the one hand open one hand holding back image is one I need to retain. Pace myself. Her message of love, compassion and mercy are great for me today and always.
Thank you all for all your prayers over the months of our family’s healing. Thank you for all you have done and the well wishes you have rained down upon us.
Blessed be, Amen.

Waiting (again)

While I’m glad I acknowledged and celebrated my last scheduled infusion, I also emotionally jumped the gun and now have several weeks with chemicals in my blood making me tired and weak. In short today and for some time I’m still in the midst of treatment and I feel it. I’m looking forward to a big appointment with wonderful Dr. Bicher and to getting these chemicals GONE so I start to feel more normal. I’d wanted to go to the Climate march SO much, but just didn’t feel strong enough to do so. Four for 4 – no Women’s march, Tax march, Science march, or Climate march. Yesl, I’m a week away from the end of this cycle.
All of this makes me think of a wonderful reading by Thich Nhat Hanh.
Our true home is in the present moment. To live in the present moment is a miracle. The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green Earth in the present moment, to appreciate the peace and beauty that are available now. Peace is all around us — in the world and in nature — and within us — in our bodies and our spirits. Once we learn to touch this peace, we will be healed and transformed. It is not a matter of faith; it is a matter of practice. We need only to find ways to bring our body and mind back to the present moment so we can touch what is refreshing, healing, and wondrous.
Dear God – yes to bringing Alexa’s mind and body back to the present moment. The beauty of the dogwoods this year is extraordinary. They are so full and they are around every corner. That too is about healing as the fungus that is killing them has paused for this year at least.

Last scheduled infusion – check – done!

The title says it all. And of course there are more steps. I have a full body CT scan which we can all pray finds nothing. I have a visit with wonderful Dr. Bicher, and then in 3 months another visit with Dr. B and then in 3 more months another CT scan and more visits with Dr. B. But right now I’m celebrating! Punctuation point. This is done.
With the help and prayers all of you have given me, my body’s done all that was asked of it. Also with my family’s loving support and many many miles of driving by Ken and hand holding by him (literally and figuratively). I’m done with this phase of my treatment. Yea, double yea.
I watched a documentary about Ram Das last night. Not my favorite spiritual leader, but it was about aging and his struggle with life after a stroke. I wanted to see how he made meaning of it all. He says “he’s <been> seasoned by the stroke”. He also says “spiritually <this has been> fierce grace… Healing is not the same as curing. Healing is not going back to the way things were before but rather allowing what is now to move us closer to God.” I can’t wish for anything more than that.
Prayer for today and for the last 6 rounds of chemo.
Dear one – Alexa too has been seasoned by her disease. Let the process of Alexa’s healing bring her closer to you. Let the fierce grace she has experienced during this time move her closer to you. Let all of us move closer to the essence of our being, whatever we call that, through this shared journey of healing. We pray healing is curing in this case, but the journey is the same, healing or curing at least for now. This journey is about spiritual practice, growth of patience, and holding onto hope in the mist of change, loss and pain. It is once again, moving moving Alexa closer to the essence of her being which for her is intimacy with you.

Round 6 begun!

At the end of Round 5 I was darn tired and had some edema. It looks like I may have made a mistake in one of my medications along the way, and that could explain it. It also could be a cumulative effect of the infusions. Or it could be all that fun I had (travel to Saint John, a week of college touring over spring break, and then a week of visitors and excitement over my birthday). For 3 weeks I was constantly on the go. Anyway, round 6, the last scheduled round, is begun and I’m very excited about moving on to life post chemo! Thanks for all your support and love as I’ve gone through this. I really want to say that all of us have gone through. All of us, Ken, Nathan, friends, family, church, intern congregation, pastoral support. Whew, who knew it took a village to heal from cancer?
Little Sermons of the Big Joy, James Broughton
Shake out your qualms.
Shake up your dreams.
Deepen your roots.
Extend your branches.
Trust deep water and head for the open,
even if your vision shipwrecks you.
Dance on a brink.
You are closer to glory
leaping an abyss
than upholstering a rut.
At every crossroad
Be prepared to bump into wonder.
Only love prevails.
Nothing perishes;
nothing survives;
everything transforms!
Blessed one – journeys well begun, journeys in transition, journeys coming to an end. Let us appreciate the journey as well as the destination. Let Alexa honor this journey, as well as this destination. Only love prevails. Blessed be.

We had a restful, magical, beautiful, and healing trip. Never have I felt a getaway so deeply when it was so short. From departure through return Ken and I had a vacation mentality and it was glorious. Lots of sleep, long walks, a boat ride, clambering around rocks and snorkeling each day. Nathan was at home and fine, and we were AWAY.
Before I left my Spiritual Director and I agreed that I would focus on light as a new spiritual practice throughout my time away. My goal was to be mindful of the light, to pack away images and strength from all that light and bring them home with me. Of course with light comes darkness.
When we first moved into our house Nathan was a newborn and the family next door had kids who were much older. Their oldest child was a boy who could ride a two wheeler and was allowed to ride down the sidewalk to the Dark Spot formed on the path by a shady tree overhanging the way. He had to stop and rest at the Dark Spot while adults caught up with him, or if he was alone he had to turn around at that point and come home. Either way the Dark Spot was a punctuation point for a pause. And so I’m talking about the dark that accompanies the light. My Dark Spot is a moment for rest and reflection and reconnoitering and deciding on next steps. Forward or back? Rest longer or move on? Doesn’t it feel good here in the shade when the sun out there is really pretty darn bright? I found myself walking from dark spot to dark spot in the heat of the day as I pushed myself physically and took the rest I also needed.
My spiritual director and I also talked about the under water feeling that my treatments sometimes produce in me. That feeling of moving slowly and with some difficulty, exhaustion, and lack of inspiration. I added to my spiritual discipline of observing light and dark the spiritual practice of observing light and darkness while I was in the water. What a perfect place for that with my love of snorkeling and all the snorkeling I was able to do.
When I was a kid I used to go into the pool just to hold my breath face down and see the water sparkle and reflect on the bottom. How much more so when the bottom is undulating sand and there are fish swimming by.
It isn’t possible to catch pictures of those water colors I loved, but do know that I was constantly on the lookout for those blues and greens and mixes of the two. In every hue, in every changing moment I was there.
Dear source of light – Alexa thanks you for the the richness of her time away and the joy of her return. She thanks you for the endless displays of light and the appreciation of dark as a time for rest, reflection and recuperation. Thank you for the glory of snorkeling with all the corals, fish, and other creatures there. Bless the sea which gives life and heal the sea from our excessive human use and abuse which were both visible much too often. Bless Alexa’s return for Chemo round 5 starting tomorrow.