As I begin to write this morning, fear is a dark bubble all around and inside me. Exactly 18 years ago this week, I started the grueling chemo treatment that I endured for 13 weeks in the summer of 2002. Every Tuesday, my husband drove me to New York City to Sloan Kettering, where I was infused with five chemo drugs. I suffered terribly. These days, I rarely think about that dark time. But today I am petrified.
In the midst of the terror, I have a miracle to share. The other morning, on Shabbat, I was sitting on my patio near the hummingbird feeder, talking on the phone to my dear friend Kathy Joy, a writer in Erie, Pennsylvania. I was telling her how I received the diagnosis for my lymphoma, on the telephone, the night of my son Noah's Bar Mitzvah.
I was literally half dressed -- I had on the bottom half of a two-piece dress, navy blue with tiny rosebuds on it -- and the phone rang. The doctor said, "You're busy this weekend, why don't you and your husband come to the office on Monday and..."
I interrupted her. "I want to know right now what's going on," I said. "Please tell me."
And so she did. She told me I had a massive tumor in my chest, the size of a cantaloupe. She told me I would need "chemo and radiation."
And my teenaged daughters were on the staircase and they heard it too.
And you can't know how how how how how how how how how how
God help me. You don't know how hard it is to hear that...
I told Kathy the story of how I went up to the Rabbi, Andy Klein, the next morning, and said, "It's OK if I die, but I don't want my son to remember his mother crying at his Bar Mitzvah."
Andy smiled that lightning smile of his. And he said, "You won't cry. I know you won't cry."
And every time I looked across the room during the service, Andy beamed at me. And he was right, I gave my speech and I didn't cry.
As I was telling this story to Kathy -- at that very moment -- this plump little hummingbird -- later I found out it was a baby! -- landed on the feeder. She just sat there and sat there. And I got closer and closer and closer to her and took one photo after another and another and finally I was close enough to set my finger on the bird and I saw her tiny black eyes blinking and I kept thinking I want to touch her right there on her shimmering green back but I was
Mary said to me that she thinks the hummingbird is a sign that "the Divine is speaking to you personally." If that's true, I am ever so humbly grateful!
Things went south on Sunday, when Kellie texted to tell me that my mother's doctor -- the woman who diagnosed my mother's pancreatic cancer on October 9, 2015, just eight days before she died, passed away this week herself. My mother adored Dr. Sharon Rawlings, who apparently developed cancer this spring and died on July 7th at the age of 48. When I read this news from Kellie (Dr. Rawlings was also her doctor and Kellie also adored her)
FEAR EXPLODED and SUCKED ME IN>>>>>>>>>>
I have a minor virus my throat is scratchy my tongue is sore my chest is a bit sore too and somehow those physical sensations and the CANCER memories got all wrapped up with Dr. Rawlings very suddenly dying of CANCER >>>>>>
I had a PTSD-induced meltdown, a panic attack among the worst I've ever had. I could hardly catch my breath. It was Sunday but I called my spiritual therapist Mary and she talked me through it and we did tapping together to clear the memories.
She reminded me to surround all difficult situations in violet flames.
Enough. I won't write any more about the fear. Instead I will write about light. About this thing called "NATURAL AWARENESS," which I learned about a few days ago from my meditation and mindfulness teacher and dear friend Greg T.
Most of the time in meditation you focus on the breath and when your focus wanders you keep bringing your attention back to your breath.
Natural awareness is different. It's a form of meditation in which you focus on awareness itself. You think about the fact that you are aware and you dwell there in awareness and all that it feels. I said to Greg in an email that natural awareness feels perfectly wonderful to me. I said I AM WRITING A BOOK ABOUT HEALING AND BEING IN THE NOW, and natural awareness feels exactly like what I am trying to achieve morning, noon and night.
The article Greg sent to me is by a long-time mindfulness teacher at UCLA named Diana Winston. She says that natural awareness is an invitation to notice or become aware of the sensory awareness "that already exists and is available to you at any moment."
Like right at this moment, with my darling puppy dog Poco sitting on my lap making me feel so soft and warm and the birds making a sweet racket everywhere around my ears and the sun warming the meadow and my heart open and full of love. I'm smiling and relaxed and hummingbirds keep coming to dive-bomb the feeder.
I am feeling not a bit of fear right now.
Over on the wooden nesting box at the edge of the meadow, a tree swallow is resting. Or is it a house wren? No matter.
The purple cone flower is in bloom in the garden as is the bright orange tiger lily and the brilliant red Bee Balm.
And my husband just walked in and he said, "Hello darling," and he told me he wants to go for a walk and so I am going to stop now and I will go slowly through the day trying to stay aware of awareness. And I will be grateful that I am writing a book about healing.