Friday, January 08, 2010

We interrupt this show for an important breakdown ...

Okay, so, I jump from the Interseminary Retreat straight into a Very Amazing New UU Curriculum Training. No problem, right?

Unless, of course, I have some conflicting feelings left from the retreat that I haven't dealt with?

The conflicting feelings were not at all about the retreat itself, or the interfaith dialogue therein, which was all wonderful and which I'm really going to write about, I promise.

No, the conflicttion was about ... what else, childhood cancer.

Issues: a) don't want to be "that" person -- the "Hi-my-name-is-Lizard-Eater-and-my-daughter-had-cancer-twice" person.
b) don't want to talk about it, period, because it's a conversation killer. Toddler with cancer -- it's gotta be right up there on the list of "Things That Have Been Enshrined As Too Horrible To Think About" ... at least, thinking about them for longer than a St. Jude's commercial.

So, I went to the retreat, with Not Going to Talk About IT fixed firmly in my mind.

And kept finding myself talking about it.

Didn't want to. But this was a religious retreat, we were talking about Deep Meaningful Experiences, and darn it all, it kept coming up. Not in any sort of a big way, but it just always seemed to be popping up; I kept having to reference it in some fashion. It's like this -- you're talking about hospitality and about the deep need people have to take care of each other. Well, I've had a pretty powerful experience of that this year. But I can't talk about that without mentioning Make-A-Wish. And I can't mention Make-A-Wish without explaining that my daughter had cancer. So I wound up doing this quickie little thing each time, that went kind of like:

"Okay, see, my daughter had cancer twice, she's 4 now, but she's completely fine now." Done all in one very fast breath, kind of like one giant word -- "Okay, see, mydaughterhadcancertwice,she's4now,butshe'scompletelyfinenow."

Inauthentic? Me?

And since then, I've been kicking myself over and over, not for being inauthentic, but for talking about it at all. "Can't you find other examples?" I berated myself.

This was one of those experiences where the real magic came through people being open and honest, two things that, for better or worse, I've always been. Probably too open and honest. Til now. Because the truth of the matter is, my pain can hurt others. It just can. A child with cancer is too many people's bogeyman.

But hey, retreat is over. I need to deal with it, and figure out a plan. Maybe I'll send an email to X, who has gone through something similar. When I get time.

That whole "God said Ha" thing.

So, I'm in this Very Amazing New UU Curriculum Training led by someone I've gosh darned nearly worshipped for years, and we're talking about religion. And emotion. And the connection. And then we watch a funny clip of a movie, except that it's not so funny because the funny character in it is me, happily going along, "Yeah, yeah, Mrs. Lincoln, other than that, the play was a success ..."

And then we listen to a song about a missing heart and armor and roadblocks and oh shhhhhhhhh....

I've mentioned before that God is occasionally not at all subtle with me because, I don't know, maybe I have a brick head or something?

So, here's the layout: It just kinda happens that on one side of me is the BFF-DRE who has lived and cried with me all through this. On the other side is Prez, whom I've known casually for several years, but who had the amazing "luck" to call me the night before LW had her Big Surgery (age 8 months) -- the friend who asked what he could do, and was tearfully told, "Well, if things don't go well, can you help me find a UU minister who will do the funeral?"

In front of me is Rabbi Shaman. Next to him was the Elder Stateswoman, who has sat silently and comfortingly with me in hospital rooms.

You know, because subtle doesn't work on me.

So, we listen to the song, and then we are to call out what we are thinking or feeling. And so, with tears now streaming down my face, I choke out,

"Sometimes we don't share our pain because it will hurt others.*"

You know how sometimes ... very, very rarely ... we're able to actually see ourselves as something separate, like another person? Well, there it was. "Oh you poor idiot," I said to her. "You were at a spiritual retreat. Your daughter just finished treatment a year ago. And she's had cancer twice. It WAS an intense experience. OF COURSE it is going to inform your feelings on just about everything right now, certainly on anything religious. I mean, really, you think the examples that spring to your mind are going to come from Schleirmacher or Kant or even Frankl? Your daughter freakin' had cancer. Twice. By the time she was 3. You poor, dumb, sweet girl."

So, the breakthrough happened. Unfortunately, sometimes when the waterworks start, the knob breaks off and there I am, a weepy leaky faucet.

Sometimes, a breakthrough looks like a breakdown. So be it. "So don't mind if I fall apart; there's more room in a broken heart." And this is Unitarian Universalism. Our religion. Our religion that helps with the healing of broken hearts. So may it be.

*Personally, it kind of pisses me off that the Hysteric Cleric (see comments: Dec. 29) called up God and ratted me out, but what can I say, it is a scary power he wields. The tattletale.


Lilylou said...

Whew, what an experience! We all worry, I think, that our own pain will cause others pain and that we will appear to be maudlin or hogging attention or whatever. But our pain helps others learn, too, in addition to the dangers. We learn by both giving and receiving.

kimc said...

Kitchen table wisdom.