Facing What Must be Faced


In this pic we were so very happy. Some moments are this happiness manifesting like flowers opening to the sun. Some moments, not so much. You know this too.

Living as a contemplative means continually facing what must be faced. The hard stuff simply cannot be avoided if we are willing to keep opening our hearts and minds, day after day. This is the part I don’t want, the part I wish I could avoid. But that never works. Our vacation days at the beach made that clear again.

The sun was low on the horizon of our first vacation day on Orange Beach when I finally closed my eyes and drew in some deep breaths. The waves continued to crash in rhythm. The gulls continued to call. The shade of our umbrella moved east as the sun lowered in the west. And finally I began to let go.

The string of struggles and heartaches have gone on too long. The stresses have piled up on us and done grave damage. And we can’t avoid the impact, even at the beach.

My wife interrupted the wordless space to ask me to remind her when she began the Adriamycin for breast cancer. I told her that was November three years ago. I recalled the day before Thanksgiving that year when her energy nose-dived. I recounted the moment at work when she said, “Take me home.” Exhaustion had caught up with her.

She remembered finding the energy on Thanksgiving Day to put on her wig and some nice clothes. We tried to enjoy a delightful, traditional meal at Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Her inner resources lasted for a bit, and then left the room like a cat darting away from an imaginary sound. Her energy would appear and then suddenly disappear in those days.

On a relaxing beach, surrounded by wave sounds and clearing skies, we found ourselves talking about the months of taking the chemotherapy called “the red devil” by the nurses. We remembered together how our families had to come to us for Christmas that year. I saw the scene again when I just could not care for her alone, and keep working too.

I had been overwhelmed for months without knowing it. The eruption of my irritability surprised me, and shamed me, and let me finally know I was in too deep to go it alone.

We started that cancer journey three years ago. We don’t want to retell the story to each other. We don’t mean to, especially on a relaxing beach. But we look up and are simply telling of a moment when everything changed.

I wonder if we will still be telling each other our tragedies in forty years, (except that we are unlikely to be around that long).

Then I realize I am reviewing our story on this page right now. We spoke the story on the beach, at least the parts we could bear to recall at that moment. Today another part of the story is pouring out onto this page. Something in me is compelled to write the story down, right here in the middle of a discussion of my meditation.

This kind of life review, the retelling of personal story, can weave us together in our broken places. At least I hope that someday I will feel woven together. Right now, not so much.

Perhaps this is why I need my meditation times so badly. There are these broken places. Always have been. And settling into the inner stillness, beneath all those jagged edges, can ease the hurt a bit. Down there in the dark, in the silent places, something or Someone is weaving me back together.

After the meditation I can sometimes sense the weaving is going on, and I want to make contact with that Weaver.


About soulcare4u

I am the author of Monks in the World: Seeking God in a Frantic World, published by Wipf & Stock and available through Amazon.com; and of a blog on Wordpress.com, "A Contemplative Path." I serve as the founding spiritual director of The School for Contemplative Living (www.thescl.net), adjunct faculty of Loyola University, and as a pastoral counselor and spiritual director in private practice.
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2 Responses to Facing What Must be Faced

  1. Patricia says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. The world of my husband and me also changed with the diagnosis of cancer last year. My husband was also given the “red devil” (also called “red dragon”) chemo. I am finding f that once the uninvited and unwanted “guest” of cancer enters your family’s world, it never really leaves. I can so relate to everything you wrote….

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