I just watched a video of a little boy who was stuck after pushing his head through an iron stair railing. There he was with his big old pumpkin head lodged firmly on one side of the rail, with his little 3 year old body wiggling on the other. His parents appropriately panicked and tried to maneuver his head back and forth in an effort to dislodge him. No matter how hard they tried, they could not ease his head back through the gap in which he had come. He was stuck and having done something similar as a child, I’m sure everyone was in distress.
His poor dad used his arms and even legs and feet to try to bend and expand the space. Nothing worked. It wasn’t until the little boy realized that he could move forward that he calmly and easily slid out of his predicament. With his head being the widest part of him, the boy simply shifted his shoulders and hips sideways and moved through the opening with almost no effort. He was free! With a little change in thinking, he moved immediately on from stuck and scared to free and unburdened.
And so I’ve been, stuck in my own circumstances lately. My big head has weighed me down after the set back of health issues, work stress, and not enough energy to go around anymore. I get sick easily now, and it comes on quickly. I also can’t keep pace with my normal life and find myself spending more and more time in or near my bedroom. My world has gotten smaller and I’m feeling the loss around the divide between Cancer Land and normal life. It’s hard and it’s kind of sad. I’m feeling it for sure.
But then I think about all that boy and his parents did to try to free him from the bars. They put so much energy into trying to change his circumstances and nothing worked. Likewise, there is very little I can do about my circumstances right now. Even though I keep trying to push against them and find some bend, I just get tired from the effort. I cannot bulldoze my way through this, like I have everything else.
If you don’t know me, I’m the kind of person who will work every angle, try every single thing until I conquere the issue. It’s a decent enough approach when you are young and healthy. But it’s not going to work right now.
I have to sit where I am and think about a new approach.
I know I cannot go backward. Neither could that kid. I always used to double my efforts, work longer, harder, more focused until I cracked the problem. There were few things that I couldn’t just throw a little more elbow grease at to finally prevail. But not anymore. The same old strategies just won’t work- I can’t go back to them. So I have to quiet my mind and my heart and wait for something else to come to me.
I have to move forward. Force won’t cut it, so patience will have to.
It’s funny to be stripped of your normal problem solving strategies. These muscles of calm and peace and quiet are atrophied. Have I ever used them? I worked very hard to drown those things out, and now I have to sit with that? Oi.
But remember, before this all started, I drove up to the mountains to take in the night sky.
I was tired and broken and I prayed for change.
The universe has heard me. My prayer is answered. I get to change, alright. In all it’s lovely, ugly glory.
I will admit, this is hard for me. I have felt very depressed lately, then frustrated by my depression. The novelty of cancer has worn off and I am sitting with an often sick, low-energy body. I don’t feel very much like myself lately. And yet, a seed has been planted. I know that I have been given this opportunity to create something wonderful in my life and I have to push forward toward that despite my circumstances. I have to be brave enough to try, and strong enough to believe that a better life is still waiting for me. That can be overwhelming difficult when life is hard but hope is an under used skill that I believe I can cultivate over the next few months. I believe I will have to save myself from my old foolish thinking and grow into something deeper, more sturdy and more permanent.
It’s time for change, indeed.
And so, I too will be moving forward. I’ll figure out a way to lift my eyes to the sky again and continue to ask for change. Deep, meaningful, lasting change. There are some kinds of love and courage you can only gain from within, and I’ll go to that well and see what I can pull up. It is the opportunity I was waiting for, presented in a package I was not expecting. But life has a way of handing you exactly what you need, and I’m coming around to the idea that I am perfectly positioned to squeeze every bit of love and growth out of this. I just have to change my mind a little, and try something new.
Give em’ hell.
P.S. If you’ve ever gotten yourself unstuck, please comment and let me know. I’d love to learn what worked for you. It would certainly inspire me and put a little spring in my step.
7 Comments Add yours
Hi Katie! This is Kaetlyn–we met a few weeks ago in the infusion room and have a really similar diagnosis. I’ve been thinking of you and wanting to say hey! And to send you some good vibes:) Your blog is so beautiful and resonates really deeply with me. Like you, I’ve been determined to use my BC experience as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for growth and positive change. This image of the boy with his head stuck in the railing–what an amazing allegory! There have been several times, throughout my treatment, when I got stuck. Before my diagnosis I was a person always on the go, go, go. I’m a stay-at-home mom of two ridiculously active little boys, and I also work part-time from home and while my kids are sleeping. Accepting the fatigue during chemo was such a challenge. I simply couldn’t do everything that I was doing before. As I struggled to accept our new (and ever-shifting) normal, I realized how much my self-worth was tied to my to-do list, on the concrete ways that I provided for my family. Which was a really conditional kind of self-esteem. I’ve worked on letting go of that, of getting comfortable and then happy with just….being. Most recently I’ve started exploring meditation and reading some buddhist wisdom, which I never, in a million years, imagined myself doing before. I haven’t been to support group at the CSC in a few weeks, but I plan to go next week. If you haven’t tried it yet, I highly recommend it! Hugs, Kaetlyn
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Buddhist wisdom, huh? I’ll have to check it out! Let’s do a coffee date soon!
Katie thank you for writing. You reminded me of an experience I learned from as a teenager. I had just turned 16 and was driving an old farm truck to my first day of work on a weekend yard-maintenance job. As fate would have it, that morning I also had my first tire blowout on the interstate while en route. I was very scared after having a blowout experience at a high rate of speed. Once I got off to the side and stopped i was quickly hit by panic. I didn’t want to be late to my first day at work and my timing didnt allow for a tire change. (Also, cell phones didn’t exist yet so I wasn’t able to make a call. How did we survive?). As I set out to change the tire and bulldoze my way through it I realized I had stopped on a slope and wouldn’t be able to jack-up the tire. I noticed a flat spot up ahead where the jack would work and decided I would push the truck to that spot and quickly change the tire. I put the truck in neutral and lined up to push the truck to the flat spot. I pushed and strained and fought thinking I would eventually manage to move the truck. I struggled for quite some time thinking my strength would overcome. The truck never moved. I eventually sat down in the cab wishing someone would stop and help me push. Again, many minutes passed as I waited for help but no one stopped. I was scared from the blowout, panicked about being late to first day of work, sweaty and very frustrated I couldn’t push the truck to the point where I knew I could change the tire. After shedding some tears, saying a prayer, and wallowing in my frustration I quit trying and accepted the fact that I would lose my job. While sitting in the truck defeated, at some point a thought of clarity finally hit me: “start the truck’s engine and drive it to the flat spot. Why are you killing yourself trying to push a truck that can drive itself?” The tire change went quickly after I drove the truck to the flat spot and my benevolent boss forgave my 2 hour delay. On review, many factors and lack of experience combined to cause me to focus on my own strength. It took me lots of effort and frustration until I recognized my oversight of perspective. I don’t mean to reduce your battle with cancer by comparing it to my story. I would simply say, many of the amazing qualities and strengths that have carried you to a successful attorney, mother, spouse, and happy individual are the same qualities that you will use to prevail in your cancer battle. You haven’t lost any of those qualities because of your diagnosis. Your unique qualities, individual strengths and personality have not been reduced. Lots of love coming your way from Southern Utah. You’ve got this. Go give ’em hell!
The best way I get unstuck is to set near-term, modest goals and not let up until they’re achieved. You may be used to a few lofty goals (new firm, new home, etc.), but you will see that even tiny ones add up, and in fact, may even be more rewarding. Knocking just a couple out per day will validate how productive you are and knock you out of the slump you describe. Maybe your new goals are just getting in a walk, a call to an old friend, and a business task done, but you’ll fell so accomplished that you’ve successfully clawed onward.
Thinking of you and praying for you and family! In hard times, God’s word is always the most powerful force to give me hope. Two scriptures come to mind.
“Rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” from Romans 5
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2Corinthians12:9-10&version=NIV
You are a gifted writer. Thank you for sharing transparently and for inviting others in on your journey. – Claire Bryce
Katie, you are a brilliant writer and I think many of us can relate to the parable of the boy. I’ll say that the day my view of the world was shattered and I was faced with a terror my heart couldn’t fathom, all I could do was pray (I hadn’t had a relationship with God in many years) and wait. I held on to my pain and mourned for who I was before my eyes were forced open, I mourned for my loss of optimism and innocence. However, I realized that was only making it worse and though I missed who I was before, there was no going back. The only way out was through. SURRENDER. That revelation helped to catapult me to make changes in my life and use my struggle to make me stronger. Nobody likes change (especially those of us who have a firm facade of perfectionism facing the world)… change is usually a disaster at the beginning, messy in the middle… but glorious in the end and I needed to believe I was being molded not by my circumstances, but by my will and faith, into the person I was meant to become. But, you have to surrender who you thought you were so you can become who you are meant to be…there is that word again, surrender. It makes my skin crawl, but that word and the action behind it is how I got unstuck.
You know, I don’t think I will ever square myself with the old adage of “Everything happens for a reason…” Honestly, it still pisses me off when I hear it, but I do believe we can give reason to what has happened by shaping ourselves into a better version of us. My heart goes out to you and your beautiful family and I thank you for your bravery in documenting your honest journey. There are so many things about your personality I can relate with, the perfectionism, the grit, the outer strength and inner insecurities. Being faced with the unimaginable that has forced you to shift your perspective and fight for your deepest self. Give em hell, Katie. Thank you for allowing me to share.
Medical crisis has a way of helping us “unstuck” ourselves. The NICU did that for me. I had to learn patience while little Dax grew out of his 2 pound danger zone. I had no other choice than to sit and wait, something I was never very good at. So I started meditating to calm my mind and was able to find peace in most days. That experience changed all of us and now as we navigate life with Dax’s challenges, we are all a little more patient and kind.