I went to my second group today. I arrived with much less anxiety and ambivalence about being there. The homework from the week before was helpful. What did I want to change in 8 weeks? I was less apprehensive about the other women in the group. Two fewer people came and this seemed to help. There are now six of us plus the facilitator. I felt more open to listening and hearing what this has been like for others. To my surprise, there was little talk of cancer today - at least not directly. The "thing" or "things" that people wanted to change were the issues that had always been with them in one way or another and were not fundamentally about cancer. Rather they were impacted by cancer. Sometimes made more difficult through cancer, but often cancer made the issue clearer for them. I realized I was not going to feel "the same" in my cancer experience. No sooner did I realize this, I understood that our shared experience was clarity about the questions and coming face to face with our core challenges. We all experienced cancer bringing us up close to a mirror we knew was there, but had previously opted out of reckoning with.
My need for people closer to my age fell away and I felt open to their stories and struggles. I listened for the ways I could relate and for the lessons I could possibly take as my own. I felt incredible relief and appreciation for the work I've already done to feel as good and okay as I do with this unbelievable few years I've had. I again met a woman much older than myself who was struggling to work less and to let herself make the easier, more enjoyable choices just because she wanted to, without guilt or shame. Listening to her I know down to my bones that if my treatment had not forced me out of my primary job, I would have tried to work through this. Or at least until something happened that then forced me to stop. In this society of having too much and doing too much, the idea of stopping and slowing have become synonymous with failure. If you could, you would do more. If you can't it must mean you are weak, incapable or just foolish. I am always surprised and alarmed when I hear others doing this. I hear myself wishing for them, that they either could stop or that something not too frightening would stop them. I am neither weak nor incapable nor foolish. Yet I still find myself struggling to make the choices I know are better for me - especially when the costs (less money, questioning looks, self doubt) are high and frequent.
The woman who runs the group believes in mindbody wellness - that there is no separation between the mind and the body. She ran us through a guided meditation and visualization. She asked us to think about the main thing we each wanted to change. She asked us to find the place in our body where we could feel that thing and to place our hand there. Reluctantly I put my hand on my heart. I had begun to cry and could feel intensely the sadness I want so badly to go away. She asked us to turn up the intensity on the feeling we had and to feel it at its fullest. She then asked us to notice if it changed or moved and where it went. My throat began burning. There are things I need to say. To people and to myself. I felt how blocked I often am about writing - anything - and how afraid I often am that it is not "right" or "permissible" in some way. She asked to state an affirmation or positive statement about what the feeling in our body was telling us. I need to speak authentically. I need to write. I am not doing enough of either.
After the meditation, we all shared what had come to us and got our individual assignments. They were personal and seemed helpful. In discussion I realized, I wrote most during the active phase of my treatment. But I needed to write most once treatment ended - and this was when I stopped. I wondered what this also had to do with the other writing ideas and projects I have had and not done. It was easy to write when I had cancer. But when all the treatment and distractions calmed down and I had time alone with my thoughts and feelings, I did not want them. I created new ways to stay away from them and could only occasionally touch them, feel them or write about them. This is perhaps also why this sad feeling has stayed so long. I haven't let it out.
My assignment for this week was to "journal" about this. We are free to journal anyway we wish. Given my questioning about what's okay to say despite the encouragement I get about writing, on this blog and in general, it seems important to get back to the blog and keep going - until there really isn't anything left to say.