So for the purposes of this blog we'll all just have to agree that all faiths are equally valid and no matter what god you believe in, we're all more alike than we are different. I am speaking specifically of faith. Not the politics that can come of religion, or when people use their religion to impose their beliefs on others. Let's just pretend that that never happens, and we're just a big sphere of people with different and beautiful belief systems that never ever cause strife of any kind. Just go with it, will ya...
For those of you who know me, I identify myself as a Pagan. I have been one for a very long time, since college. I sometimes advertise it, I sometimes keep it close to my vest. It really depends on my audience, because sometimes it's just hard to explain. But I discovered Paganism in college, until then I had always fancied myself an agnostic. But then much to my surprise I realized I actually did have a belief system and it took me time to figure out what it was. So I read and read and one day, I read about Wicca and I thought, ooo, I get that. That really speaks to something inside me.
But with deeper study of Wicca I learned that I didn't completely mesh with the dogma, but the more general title of Pagan, that fit. Now like all faiths, I struggle with mine. I tend to struggle with it mostly when nothing is going on in my life. That's when I have a harder time defining my belief system, that's when I find myself missing my Catholic upbringing, or when I feel left out (which I sometimes do). Baptising my daughter was an odd experience. I proudly baptised her Catholic because we are going to raise her Catholic, and when she's a teenager if she'd like to chose another path or know more about mine, that's cool. But I had to pretend I was Catholic when what I wanted was to be acknowledged. I was a Pagan mom choosing to raise a Catholic daughter and I didn't like that I couldn't do it openly.
The thing about Paganism to understand is that it's a very autonomous religion. You direct 90% of how you worship and whom and so forth. But it's more than that, there's a major DIY vibe which is why so many of us are drawn to it. At times like this when things seem so out of your hands, a Pagan will find a way to grab onto something and regain a sense of control. We have many tools for this. Not that we are alone in this, I'm just explaining...
So this all leads me to this. When I first got my diagnosis I struggled with the idea of surrender. I had the hardest time during my Pet Scan and MRI. Part of me thought, just let it all go, whatever the Universe throws at me, I'll take it. But I couldn't, so I just kept begging. Like if I begged hard enough I could somehow will my scan to be clean. I simply could not let go. I imagine that's normal, I imagine I am united with many many people in my exact position in this regard. The distance between learning bad news to the learning exactly how bad it is, is a long one. No matter how many days or weeks, to you the waiting may as well be centuries. I lived several lifetimes in that 4 days of not knowing where my cancer was. But the worst part of that 4 days was believing I could somehow influence it all if I just concentrated hard enough. I felt like it was my responsibility to keep on thinking, keep on concentrating and visualizing. Like I'd be failing myself if I didn't.
When we got to Sloan, learned all the facts, there was another question that was raised. The cancer I have has 1 of 3 possible genetic markers. 1 marker has a very promising drug (I just learned I have this one, whew!), 1 marker has a drug that might work with chemo and 1 marker was just plain lethal. It would take two weeks for these results to come back.
It was something else to beg for. But I had nothing left. So I didn't. I felt no compulsion to. John and I just looked at each other and said, things haven't been going the way we wanted to let's just assume it's the lethal one so we're prepared. It was natural, I didn't have to will myself to feel this way, I just did. I had finally made it to the surrender. The thing I wanted to do while waiting for my insides to light up in that little room, but my mind wouldn't let me. But this time it just came.
Of the two states of being I prefer the surrender. It took the burden off of me. I stopped feeling responsible for things I had no control over. It let me concentrate on the things I could control, my self-confidence, my mind set, my waking up every morning grateful. Not forcing myself to beg was the best thing I could do for myself. Now I've decided I will not beat myself up too much for anything I felt or didn't feel in those 4 days. There's no manual for how to deal with a devastating diagnosis, and you have to let yourself feel what you need to feel. But to just let it go, to just say Universe whatever you got, I'll take it. It's a freedom.
So now I can take my usual DIY religion and say, ok I'll use those tools now. I'll align my brain with the chemo inside me and I'll keep meditating on the idea that I can beat the odds. But it's not the same as being in that machine and begging for my life. It's better. And I like it here in surrender land.
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