Category Archives: Inspiration

“Whatever comes, good or bad, don’t make a move to avoid it.”

Maurine Stuart Roshi

I think about the ways that we construct a reality. I think about how we absorb emotional experiences, intellectual information, challenges and mythologies – cultural, familial, personal –  and determine a ‘view’ for the world we inhabit. This view is only ours, and it is subjective, limited, and perilous.

I think about how what is simply is, regardless of whether we have integrated it yet.

On Tuesday, I learned that I have colon cancer. When I woke up that morning, I reminded myself that whatever I learn at the appointment already is. The cancer didn’t just arrive at 2:15 that day. It had been building for a long time. My awareness of something in my body being imbalanced began several months ago, but the imbalance began long before my awareness of it. The groundwork for its manifestation began a long time ago.

There’s the micro-second between sleep and waking up where I have forgotten, and then I remember, and the remembering settles its downy wings over me. This happened the morning after the election. And the next morning, and the next morning. It happened the morning after my dad’s death. And the next morning, and the next morning. This is part of the grieving process. The old view — the default — is still a residual part of the burgeoning view. It has to reshatter each morning as it reconstructs itself. This is part of integration.

I have spent most of my life working on grief and loss and transitions in academics, in practice, and in art. My first thought after I received the news was that this will transition into some fantastic art. It will give me the next layer of my teaching and my writing. It will forge my soul into its next thing, and what I learn I can bring back to others through my books and classes.

Absorbing this knowledge of cancer is a slow process. It’s like pouring water on the earth. A little more awareness seeps in each day. A little more integration. But the cancer was there before I knew. That’s the first piece to address holistically.

I am not fighting this cancer. I will not be at war with my own body. I will not hate it. It is a tremendous body, and it has done good work. I do not like the language of illness most of Western medicine uses and I will not use it. I will not stand in a place of aggression towards myself. I will not “beat” this thing. It is not a villain to be destroyed. It is not an invader. It is my own body’s response to too much inflammation. It is, ultimately, a gift to be unpacked.

I will alchemize it. I will integrate it and I will transform it into something else. I will not kick its ass or blast it away. I will not put my emotional energies toward destruction and I will not let the dualistic language of medicine turn me against my own flesh.

I will extend my hand to this gift and I will put my energies toward reconception. Rebirth. Renewal.

This is not passive.

I am actively seeking help from a blended group of sources. I am meeting with a surgeon on Wednesday and I will have the tumors removed. I feel like this step is the equivalent of first putting out the house fire so you can understand underlying structural issues. The ‘fire’ must first be contained. But there is more. I do not want to rebuild the same structure. This is my opportunity for new architecture. I have several incredible healers in various modalities in my life who I am privileged not only to have in a professional role, but also in a deep-love space. From my Taoist yoga writer friend Cain Carroll, to my acupuncturist Traeger Stertzbach, to my massage therapist Carolina Morton, to my genius Jungian therapist Dalena Watson — I have help.

I am grateful to have access to top surgeons down in Phoenix. I am grateful to have a flexible job and loving friends and family and cats. I am grateful for health insurance. I am grateful for my panel of alternative healers and my background in psychology, grief theory, trauma and mythology and story.

Everything I do in my life revolves around writing and teaching. I am at the threshold of the next door, and I will not look away.

“In the heart of the fire lies a hidden spring.”


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#persist #sisu #cancergift

Stay Sane Inside Insanity

made w/Paper 53

From the darkness of Frank-n-Furter’s castle in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Columbia sings out, “Stay sane inside insanity!” I’ve thought of that line frequently since the election. I’ve felt like everything that mattered to me–the planet’s health, women’s reproductive rights, the ACA, civil liberties, on and on–has come under attack. I’ve been tossed away with each day’s news, and I’ve felt the fear of helplessness start to silence my work. I grow more afraid as I watch many news organizations start to normalize the gaslighting of a narcissist-on-Twitter. What rabbit hole is this?

What does a novel matter when the world is flooding and heating up and our new government could care less? What does fiction matter in a world where facts are apparently optional and synonymous with opinion? Why should we write at all when there’s talk of registries and walls, privatizing education and repealing health care?

And then I remember Eugene Ionesco’s play, The Rhinoceros. If you weren’t an English or Drama major, you may not know it, but it’s a phenomenal work in which, in a far-too-simple synopsis here (sorry Professor Dunn!), a rhinoceros comes to town and people debate it, ignore it, and eventually normalize it. Then, they become the rhinoceros, willingly abdicating their humanity in favor of the force and power of the rhino. Only Berenger, our protag, refuses to capitulate as the whole world turns rhino.

And that is one demonstration of the value of what we do as artists and writers. Ionesco wrote the play in 1959 as a response to the rise of Fascism and Nazism prior to World War II. The play is still relevant today.

What we writers write in these unsettled times serves many purposes:

1) Helping us, the writers, stay sane (which allows us to show up fully for our families, jobs, and activism work)

2) Providing respite, laughter, and contemplation for people fighting difficult fights (Never underestimate the value of escapist literature in mental health!) Don’t self-censor your stories by thinking they’re not ‘important’ in these new times

3) Providing cautionary tales for future generations

4) Resisting, resisting, resisting normalcy of the rhino with every word in us

The coming years promise unfamiliar ground for many of us. Be vigilant. Take a stand for the rights of others. We all will need each other.

Writers are often the canary in the coal mine of societies’ trajectories. Don’t stop sending the signals. We never know which ones will be heard. Be gentle and compassionate with yourselves as you find the ways of resistance that work for you.

But do not, do not, do not become the rhino.