The generosity and solidarity, abound. I will begin with the generosity.
I've just been sitting here contemplating the prolific generosity that has blessed my world since my cancer diagnosis. This morning when I awoke I leaned up and checked my pillow for falling hair. I guess that is a common reaction when someone begins chemo. That when will it happen? Kind of like waiting for your period when you are hoping to be pregnant. So my pillow held no clues today, and I tugged a little bit while running my fingers through my hair, only for a couple of strands to come loose. That is nothing for me, I have tons of it, a nd I lose hair everyday. So it was a normal day still.
But the feeling of generosity that came right up from my heart and caught as a grateful little tight stone in my throat was the memory of Valentine's Day. The day I had a joy-filled girl's day in the city with Brooke! And I never thought in the moment (the reality of some things are taking a bit longer to land) just how much that haircut she treated me to at one of the best salons in San Francisco, cost her, all the while knowing that it was but a fleeting phase in the existence of this treatment. A month maybe, at best? Just the giving of that joy with that idea of "short-lived" melts me. And then a trip to Jacqueline's perfumery to buy me a bottle of French perfume I had been coveting. That perfume that has already needed to be stored away so that I don't develop an olfactory bad taste for it during chemo. Two great big, gloriously thoughtful gestures purely from the goodness of her sweet heart. All for an offering of very short lived joy.
And there have been so, so many of these thoughtful gifts and deeds that I cannot even mention them all. Human kindness. Humankind ness.
And then the solidarity.
There is a man that I dated many years ago. It was a sad ending. Sad because a very good thing ended without explanation. A crushing kind of end to a woman who truly did not see anything coming. A slow, unspoken end. The kind of end where someone just keeps moving slowly away, without any answers. A nothing's wrong but everything's wrong kind of end. That process took me a very long time. Ours was a great, fun, passionate relationship when it existed. Opposites attract proven true. I was 11 years older than he, a spiritual, hippie, kindergarten teacher from Northern California. He the young, Baptist, Navy SEAL from eastern Tennessee. I always had this vision of my hand putting roses in his rifle. Some 1960's folk song come to life. But for the while, it was an intense and joyful love. But then, finally, one day, many days, in bits and pieces, he was all gone. Far away. And time went by.
Many years later, in 2011, I got a call from him telling me that he was coming back to California for his Phd program and would I help him out and look at a house he wanted to rent in Santa Rosa. I did this. And he moved here. And I never had the courage to get together with him. Until one day when I hadn't even showered and I was walking around Spring Lake, and I bit my bottom lip and randomly texted him with flying fingers and told him I hadn't even washed my hair but would he like to meet me on the hiking path. Why in the hell I mentioned my unwashed hair is beyond me. I shut my eyes and cringed at this silly disclosure. He still made me go teenager.
He said yes and was on his way. And in 15 minutes there we were hugging for the first time in many years outside the women's bathroom on the trail next to the lake. And we walked and chatted and caught up. We talked about my family, his family, work, school. Everything but what happened between us. I couldn't go there. And seemingly neither could he. And then that was it again. Several hours, a kiss on the cheek, a hug, and poof. That was it again because first ending was too hard for me to go anywhere near a repeat of saying so long. And I probably would have ended up there inside my loyal heart without any intention or direction. I do that.
So when I was sitting deciding who to include in my original email about my diagnosis, he was included. By now he had moved to Colorado, but he was a friend I wanted to tell personally. But the way he has responded to me - with a solidarity beyond anything I would have dreamed of - has moved me to closure and peace. Not only by his truly selfless gesture of shaving his head as I prepare to go bald, but the long, long letter that accompanied the gesture. I have his permission to share it here, in all of its depth and clarity of went went on so many years ago. Solidarity of heart. Heart moved beyond romance to truth. Words I never expected to hear. And the lesson for all of us that things happen as they should when they should. We just keep walking our straight path and things come to light.
So here is Michael with his shaved head. And here are his words, all grown back. I asked him if I could share his email here on my blog - to tell a very important story, to me, of ways this diagnosis has cracked so many parts of my life open. And he said yes.
As I told you in my initial response to the news of your cancer, I have now put the full force and purpose of my life behind your healing. Everything else is on hold here. I'm not physically with you there in your beloved northern California, but time and space mean little to souls that are deeply connected.
It got me to thinking about the “story” of us. Our story of joy and love and pain and forgiveness…but mostly of love. I am so honored and blessed to have a place in your life. Shall I tell our story, then? Yes…it is a beautiful story.
You: (Laughing) “Guess what happened in my kindergarten class today!”
Me: (Smiling) “What?”
You: “This little boy in my class, (more laughter), was running around all over the room chasing this little girl…(even greater laughter)…and then he suddenly stopped right in front of me and farted! (We are both laughing now) And then he looked right AT me and said, ‘Life IS good!’ And started chasing the little girl again!” (We are still laughing!)
This was just one of the joyful, tender stories that you used to tell me about your Waldorf class when I would come up from San Francisco for the weekend to see you in your sweet little Sonoma cottage. That was some fifteen years ago now.
I was 35 and recently separated...you were 44. I was pursuing a high-powered career in consulting in the city following ten years as a Naval Officer and would drive up every weekend to see you. We first met after talking online (in those days it was AOL) for quite some time, at Harris' Steak House in the city. I’ll never forget that evening. You were stunningly beautiful. Your long, dark, flowing hair...your angelic face...your tall, statuesque body...your incredible lips...and those impossibly gorgeous eyes. I was smitten from the start. I was soon to discover that your soul and spirit were even more beautiful.
Our love affair started out white hot…and became downright nuclear over the coming months. You captivated me in every way possible. I had never met such a kind, gentle, loving spirit in my life and I fell deeply in love with you.
I can remember packing my weekend bag in my little house…on Thursday nights in anticipation of the end of the work week and my drive from the city up to Sonoma to spend weekends with you.. I'd bring my music up with me...I was on a big Fleetwood Mac kick back then...they had just gotten back together for the first time since 1987 and completed their live album "The Dance" in 1997 and I felt that Lindsey Buckingham had written his incredibly powerful ballad "Bleed to Love Her" just for the way I felt about you. I still think of you and our weekends whenever I hear that song. I must have played it a hundred times as I sat in your cozy living room while you cooked something incredible for our dinner - and I was swept a million miles away from my high pressure life in the city...and slowly, but surely, away from the pain of my former life.
But as you knew, I had been very recently separated from my wife and that had been a profoundly painful and humiliating process for me. I left her in a rage after discovering her infidelity and it had rocked me to the core of my soul. Suzanne and I had married soon after I completed my Navy special warfare training in San Diego seven years earlier. My childhood and adolescence had been miserably painful years for me and I took refuge in the strength of my body and mind and after 4 very difficult years as a cadet at The Citadel, was commissioned as a Naval Officer and become a Navy SEAL.
The contrast between the life I had known before meeting you and after was, putting it mildly, profoundly stark. As I think back on it now, it's clear to me that I was actually in a state of disbelief…maybe even denial throughout the entire time we were together that someone could be as genuinely loving and joyful and kind as you are. “What an odd couple!” you would laughingly say to me...the conservative, Baptist, Naval Officer from east Tennessee and the organic, hippie, flower-child, Waldorf teacher from northern California.
Ah, sweet Marianne...if you could only see the smile that's on my face as I write these words. It wasn't long before I fell in love with your amazing children as well...I remember taking Zak to buy his first car...a brand new VW Bug over in Santa Rosa...we rocked out to loud tunes all the way home...and afternoons spent playing silly games with precious Camille out in the yard next to your cottage under the trees...and hanging out at the dining room table with Alex, talking, watching you cook something impossibly yummy…and observing both Shannon and Brooke – by then, out of the house - as they were becoming young women and were going through the trials and tribulations of dating…Oy vey! What wondrous, magical joy and love surrounded me when I came into your world there in Sonoma.
I also fell in love with your beautiful parents. Your dad and I had an immediate connection…two southern Baptist Navy men who loved you and were content just to be in your presence. In fact, I fell in love with your whole life. You introduced me to a whole new belief system, mindset and way of thinking...and living. It was you who first introduced me to organic food…and to the BEST burritos on the planet…and to the Waldorf education process…and to peppermint soap…and to field mice…and a million other wondrously special things that I might never have experienced without having known you. And it was you who introduced me to Marianne Williamson and her profoundly life-changing views on A Course in Miracles. I guess I've read it half a dozen times since...and now teach from her works myself. But, you...and she...both the Marianne's in my life...were the catalysts for a transformation so overwhelming that I don't even remember who I was before I met you.
And so our love affair went.
But, my demons would return to haunt me. Transformation of the soul takes a minute. And it’s really scary.
It was too good to be true…your love for me….my new life and way of being with which I was suddenly confronted. It couldn’t be real. My fear of being abandoned yet again, overcame me…and I began to distance myself…to again reinforce the wall I’d built up over the years between the world and me. I withdrew…safe in the knowledge that if I left first, I couldn’t be hurt again. Pain has always been one of my best teachers…and let’s face it…I’m a very slow learner.
Then Suzanne, who must have sensed my true happiness, and from whom I’d been separated for nearly 2 years, came back into my life. Just like good ole’ Charlie Brown…I fell for the siren song of her promise not to pull the football out from under me…and again she did…but, not until after I’d severed myself from the gentle kindergarten teacher who had changed my life so deeply. I had allowed myself to be fully taken in and deeply hurt again. I moved to Atlanta to escape it all. I was lost again.
Just like my demons, the Navy wasn’t done with me, either. After 9-11, I was recalled to active duty and sent to Iraq and Afghanistan. Like many of my brothers and sisters in these wars, I sustained a traumatic brain injury after being struck in the head by an F/A-18 Hornet on the flight deck of USS Nimitz in July of 2003. I was medivaced off the ship and sent first to Bahrain, then Germany and ultimately back to San Diego where I began a five-year rehabilitation process that began with learning how to tie my shoes again and continues to this day as I continue to struggle with the after effects of that injury and the associated Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
In 2011, after many years of rehabilitation and therapy, I moved back to the bay area…to Santa Rosa to enter the Master’s program in Counseling Psychology at the University of San Francisco. I completed that degree this past August. I’m now completing my internship at the Denver VA Hospital counseling Traumatic Brain Injury and PTSD patients. I've come a long way.
It was you who convinced the owners of the house that I rented for those two years while I was in graduate school in Santa Rosa to lease it to me without ever having met me…despite the fact that nearly 20 other people wanted it. I had called you from Tennessee where I was staying with my parents at the time to go to the open house in Santa Rosa for me. You talked the owners into renting it to me, though I wouldn’t meet them face to face for several more weeks. This is the just the way you are with people. They know an angel on the planet when they meet one.
I spent those two years in Santa Rosa mere minutes from you…though I didn’t know how very close to you I actually was at the time. Even though we were that close to each other, we somehow weren’t able to get together. And then, just before I moved to Denver last summer, you asked me to take a walk around Spring Lake with you. We talked and caught up and reminisced. And it was good. When we embraced as we parted after our talk, I felt a peace and serenity come flooding over me and I knew the love was still there.
I used to hold a lot of guilt over the things that happened in the past. The transformation that took place for me following my injury up until now has helped me forgive myself…and others for so many things. I am still on the journey to becoming what the Lakota Sioux would call “a true human being.” You, Marianne, have walked the path of a true human being for as long as I’ve known you. You were always there for everyone…including me. And now, I intend to be there for you. As I said before…time and space mean little to souls that are deeply connected.
And so, our love affair continues. We share the kind of unconditional love that develops over many years of journeys of self discovery…of gaining the kind of wisdom that is forged over a lifetime of learning, growing, loving, hurting, healing, and forgiving. The kind of wisdom, joy and love that I first came to know those many years ago when I first met a hippie kindergarten teacher from Sonoma.
My dear, dear Marianne…thank you from the bottom of my heart for being the woman you are and for the gentle and loving way you helped me begin my journey to who I am all those many years ago.
When you first emailed me to share the news of your breast cancer, I decided to move into a place of high intention around your healing. And I brought in some big guns to assist me. I’ve called upon the angels in the Science of Mind community here in Denver and there in the bay area to support you through prayer and their powerful energy and metaphysical work. There are literally hundreds of people (whom you have never met) who are now engaged alongside me in our healing work for you. Also, as a small gesture of my support for you during this time, I have decided to shave my head. Please find my recent photo sans plumage attached to this email.
You are SO loved!
Marianne, I leave you with this final thought for now…and I will be here when you need me…
Nothing real can be threatened, Nothing unreal exists, Herein lies the peace of God. – A Course in Miracles
And so goes, my Blogland friends, this tapestry of life. And I share this very intimate account with you because I have so much faith in the Universe, and how we are taken care of beyond our wildest dreams if we have patience and faith. There is a plan, and our growth happens in how we respond. I hope this is an example that may help the next person find peace in outcome. You know: Thy will be done. Not mine. These are good words to try and live by. I know I'm trying.