Entering Shadowland

pokahoesunset16-04Cancer does this: Shake you out of the status quo and drop you into a different realm, one where your everyday priorities are rearranged and suddenly small talk, the cleanliness of the house, even your job ambitions seem ridiculous. Instead you give yourself over to what really matters: Being present to one another. Doing everything possible to tend to health and well-being. Emily and I call this place of intensity Cancerland. Life-threatening illness does a marvelous job of helping you reprioritize.

But so do other things, like the death of a loved one or losing a home or experiencing trauma. The last time our country did a collective gasp and had to reprioritize was 9/11. The recent election shocked some of us into a new way of seeing the world. Our national shadows—the parts of us that fear the Other, that wants to eradicate whatever seems to threaten our wellbeing—are now out in the open. They’ve been there all along, as people of color and immigrants and trans folks have been trying to tell us. But now we’re all plunged into a new reality: Shadowland, a country where democratic processes are scorned and fear has taken the reigns. (more…)

Beyond Hope

PokahoeSunset16.04When I first heard that my mother’s ovarian cancer had not been removed by surgery as the doctors led us to believe but had spread throughout her abdomen, I did an emotional nosedive. I’d been through life-threatening cancer twice before with my partner and had just begun accompanying a dear friend on his journey with brain cancer. I knew how devastating treatment would be. I knew my mother would likely never be cancer-free again.

Immediately inside me an old battle revved up: Keep hope! screamed one voice; Be realistic! screamed the other. Hope buoys the spirits, motivates, and reminds us to stay open to possibility—all of which I wanted, for me and my mom. Reality, however, is real. Ovarian cancer spreads like glitter. (more…)