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letting go

Mom and Dad returned home after a lovely visit built on lasting memories. It was early January 2005 and I was awaiting results from mom’s tests. She had already shared the results from a pet scan, results that showed some activity in her lungs. We were in a holding pattern as her doctor had ordered more tests, a cat scan and some blood work. Here I was again, two potential life transitions taking shape at the same time, one I was definitely not ready for. As my breathing shortened and the muscles in my neck tightened, I braced for what I knew in my heart was not going to be good news from the second round of tests.

At the same time, I was facing a transition to a new role, in a new state. Before that was possible, I first needed to negotiate and secure agreement from my former husband to let me move with my children.  As I processed these experiences unfolding one right after the other, I reflected for a moment on how I was doing. In this moment, I was actually feeling a little stronger, a little less like the sky was falling. After surviving the events of the previous eighteen months combined with the continued expansion of my heart, I realized now that maybe I was strong enough to handle more.

I thought about this new role that had been created seemingly out of nowhere and realized that something about it gave me energy, made my heart sing. When I checked in with my lawyer on the likelihood of securing court approval to move with my children, he informed me that the Colorado Supreme Court had blocked two similar cases, even situations where the mom was the primary provider for the children. His recommendation was to convince my former husband directly, bypass the court system, and figure out something that mattered more to him to make this work. Wow. My lawyer really thought I was capable of negotiating an agreement with a man who had chosen opposite sides from me of any topic related to the children since our divorce a year ago. Not so much I thought. That type of agreement was legal and binding and seemed like quite an insurmountable task, definitely not in my direct control. I paused and closed my eyes, asking for answers. I knew my best chance for agreement was to focus on following the job process that was unfolding in front of me, let go, and rely more on my faith that this situation would work out, in the best way for all of us. Maybe my stubbornness and strong will was learning to listen a little more, take a back seat,  let my heart lead, and be comfortable expanding my edges beyond what I knew possible.

I was not really looking for a chance to change jobs at this point. My current role was increasingly requiring that I travel more, work more in California at the company headquarters. Traveling often was something I was not able to manage very well. At least not while giving my children love and support they needed and a strong foundation to heal from, with me around. While the role I had been in for almost a year had afforded me the grace of space and time to heal, I was learning to adjust to my new way of life. I was mastering the balancing act of competing demands and juggling my many roles – as a mom, sister, friend, marketing director, house cleaner. In the meantime, my mind increasingly felt like it had fallen asleep.

I was not feeling intellectually challenged in my current job and my creativity seemed stifled. My passion had faded and taken a back seat to day in and day out responsibility. My life was kind of leading me I guess. I had somewhat accepted that as my norm and was not so sure that anything needed to be different.  And as I considered this new opportunity that had fallen into my lap, my heart was jumping for joy and guiding me to let go, let something bigger than me reveal the path, if I would just get out of the way and let God lead. My part was taking the action I needed to and becoming clear on what was important to me. My priorities seemed so very simple at this point in my life- what was becoming more important was to be present in each moment and passionate about what I was doing, how I was feeling, versus achieving some feat or conquering the world.

My thoughts shifted back to mom as she awaited more results. My earlier feeling that mom was not long for this world all of a sudden resurfaced from the box I had tucked it away in so neatly. The box was shattered wide open as I listened to her share the news. There were nodules in her left lung that required a biopsy the following week, she said. I could hear the fear in her voice as it cracked when she read the report to me. It didn’t look like cancer on one report but did on another, she said. What did that mean, I wondered, how is it they couldn’t tell? I could feel that mom was in shock and didn’t want to talk anymore. I hung up and imagined wrapping my arms and love around her, prayed that God would fill her with grace. On one level, I had been preparing for this day, on another, I was in complete denial. My heart knew I had to let go and honor mom’s journey as it unfolded, that I had no control and couldn’t change the outcome. In that moment, I was grateful that mom was still seeing her oncologist in Houston who had guided her so successfully through her breast cancer and recommended the surgeon who had operated on her a year before. When mom had returned from our visit a few weeks earlier, Dr. Smith had recommended the tests and now the reason for mom’s pain was being revealed, one test result at a time.

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inching forward

As I was settling into my new life in March of 2003, the fog of depression started to dissipate. Clarity started to settle in. I had a little more energy to make it through the day. I started to hang pictures on the wall and had unpacked all the boxes in my new home. My job situation had become clearer with some focus. . One of my new job requirements of raising two children as a single mom was to limit my travel, a challenging need to fulfill working for a company based in another state. I relied on work contacts as I considered options and continued to try and let go of where I was to work next.

And then it happened- I was offered a new role in a new division with the same company, just three days before I was to be laid off. A corporate marketing role, something I knew well from my work experience and tasks that came easy for me. What a gift, a job that was not very demanding on my focus or energy, allowing me the grace of space and time to grieve and heal my broken heart. A life giving experience of trusting in the bigger picture unfolding. Trust that whatever path emerged, it would unfold just as I needed it to and just in time.

With my work situation clear, I was able to continue moving into my home. I painted the main bathroom, finished hanging the pictures, and completed the basement organization. Wow. Felt good to do something with my hands. Something I could control, I guess. Up to this point, I had made it through each day feeling like I was in somewhat of a holding pattern, not able to bring myself to start something new or finish anything completely. With clarity and success, I was able to inch forward again, make progress.

In parallel, mom was progressing through her post-surgery chemo, day by day, with minimal energy. Her normal mode of energizer bunny was put on hold as her body succumbed to the poison. Poison from drugs that were killing off the cancer cells, while also having a noticeable impact on her healthy cells. Impacting her ability to eat, causing her tear ducks to clog, and more. As she struggled day to day with the effects of the drugs, mom began to try and understand what she was supposed to be learning from this experience.  In her journal, she wrote- ‘cancer is about claiming your space, having a right to be here on this earth and appreciating the contributions I make.’ She kept track of her feelings each day, what she was able to manage and whether she had any energy. One entry, the day after my birthday, she wrote ‘what did I learn today? to be aware, notice things in my life, notice that I had a wonderful marriage, a warm feeling in my heart to know the power of love.’ Mom continued to focus on healing and on May 13, she wrote ‘no more chemo!’ A triumph for sure to end the poisoning of her body, create space for her energy to inch back little by little. The downside was she stopped short of the recommended amounts of treatment.

By June 4, mom’s energy had increased more. She wrote- ‘1st time more energy after watching TV in evening! played bridge, had dinner and cleaned up! energy returning, thank you god!’ As my home life started to feel more settled, I knew it was time to focus on mom again. Mom’s journey was taking its toll on my father and he was experiencing some health issues. I needed to connect with mom, see what was going on with dad, so I headed back to Austin for a visit. Mom and I were able to get out of the house for a while to have a pedicure and go shopping. We caught up and the bond in our hearts expanded further. She shared her feeling that she was ‘cured’ of the cancer. Wow. Could it be she was triumphant again of the evil ‘c’? I was supportive but inside felt different, felt more like maybe she was healed. I was relaxed and at peace as my mom and I enjoyed some time being totally who were, authentic from the inside out. My father was ok, he just needed his medication adjusted. At dinner, dad was able to laugh and tell jokes, like a stand-up comic, something I had never experienced before.