Thursday, December 6, 2012

That's how the light gets in.

 I didn't mean to disappear from the blog after my San Francisco trip.  I've been happily busy teaching, being mom, getting ready for Christmas, and enjoying the cold weather.  No seriously, I'm kind of enjoying the cold.  I think a snowless December has something barren and beautiful about it.  The ground has a hardness to it, but the light is so soft. 

The above photo of the full moon and pink sky was taken after an early-morning swim practice last week.  That is pretty much what it looks like around here.  I would be happy for a big, nasty snow storm, too, but right now I'm enjoying this simple landscape and cold-weathery things like fires, hot coffees, and down jackets.

I have landed in such a quietly peaceful place, and I am grateful for that peace every single minute of every day.  Having had so much emotional tumult in my life has allowed me to now be truly thankful for the perspective it has given me.  I love the quote from Leonard Cohen:  "There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."  And I can feel the warmth of that light, even on these cold December days.  

And yet, just when I was ready to shout happiness from the rooftops and declare that everything was right with the world, two family members, my brother-in-law and my aunt, have been diagnosed with cancer in the last 3 weeks.  If I listed off to you all of my family members who have now battled or are battling cancer, you would either not believe me or think I'm being dramatic.  For some reason, cancer has become a frequent visitor, a primary character in our lives, so much so that there is something disgustingly-not-even-surprising anymore when I get another dreaded phone call about the most recent bad news from the oncologist. 

We know the drill all too well.  You have the preliminary diagnosis, then the biopsies, the staging, then the waiting and frantic googling, then the beginning of treatment:  surgery or radiation or chemo.  We cry and shake our fists at the sky,  and then we roll up our sleeves and get ready to fight the disease, because we know how to do this.  My brother-in-law Craig is, as I write,  on day 4 of 5 straight days of his first round of chemo.  Just brutal.

I wish that cancer and all the terminology that goes with it were still part of a distant and foreign language I knew nothing about. 

Even before these new developments, I had been craving simplicity this Christmas, to be close to my loved ones, to spend little.  Recent cancer diagnoses have only reignited that need for simplicity, for warmth, for time together with the ones I love. 

I feel less motivated than ever to buy stuff for people this year.  I need a trip to the mall with people pushing and filling bags like I need a hole in the head.   I am pretty pared down in my possessions right now, in my small condo, and I don't need a thing.  I don't need stuff.   I just want to bake cookies and eat popcorn with my kids and tell people that I love them. 

We got our Christmas tree early this year, mostly because I wanted to savor the twinkly-light time I have with my kids for the season. 
This one?  No, Reedo.  Too tall.

This one.  Perfect. 
little Lumberjack.

I am counting and recounting my blessings.  Reed and Skyler are doing so well.  They are happy in school, funny, articulate, and full of energy and Christmas cheer.   

In the past two months in Kindergarten, Reed has gone from being able to write his name only, to being able to write in sentences and to read many words.  He is a total sponge right now, and is so excited about school.

At school, if he gets to place his behavior clothespin on one the highest levels, green or purple, which he does most days, he comes out of school at the end of the day with both arms in the air.  He tries so hard to be a good boy.    He still acts crazy and wiggles a lot, and has a dangerous affinity toward playing games on my iPhone, but it is a Christmas miracle to behold him sitting in his bed and WRITING each night before he goes to sleep.

Skyler is a budding artist and a fierce mathematician. While Reed drifts off to sleep after writing "I like apples. Apples are red," Skyler asks if she can keep the light on for a few more minutes to do a few more pages of her math workbook, or to draw portraits of her stuffed animals. 

Skyler is eager to please and help around the house, loves to help me cook, and most recently, fold laundry (praise God).  She is saving her money to buy her beloved 2nd grade teacher a present because she said it wouldn't mean the same if I just bought it for her.  She gets it.
Christmas ornament making at the library. 

Sharing the magic of this season with my kids means I already got everything I want for Christmas. 

Life is fragile and unpredictable and full of cracks (and therefore light.) And I know these cracks are necessary or inevitable in helping us really know what is good and important in our worlds,  but I would like very much to have everyone in my life to be healthy and cancer-free.  Please.

Eat well, stay current with your doctor's visits, be proactive about your health, simplify, and hold each other close.  Happy cold December and holiday season to all of you.


LeeAnne said...

Emilie, what a sweet, sweet post. Bruce and I are keeping all good thoughts for Craig and all of you. My favorite thought for anyone going through cancer is from the Talmud:

Every blade of grass has its Angel that bends over it and whispers, "Grow, grow."

Rowgirl08 said...

Thank you for those words Emilie - have had a similar path of peace and unexpected sad news during these weeks too. I've been struggling a bit these past two years with celebrating this time of year, but this year I'm letting the little ones lead, giving time instead of something purchased, and, of course, cooking and baking the favorites of the season....and letting the tears come with the love they left me with.

love is written here said...

Love you. I'm so happy for your peace and am hear to hold your hand through the medical. It makes my heart feel so warm and full to hear you talk about the real stuff about Christmas. We are paring down out of need but it ends up feeling so so good. PS, the tree looks great in that window!

Nancy said...

Very glad to hear you're doing so well. Once again, you inspire me. To TRY to uncomplicate things, to pause and pay attention, to unstuff my life. I do so want to let the light in. Lord knows, I have plenty of cracks! Wishing you and yours love, peace, joy, and healing.

nurseness said...

Emilie, I read this post and it was if you had someway read my mind, felt what I was feeling, or just somehow understood the importance of peaceful quite times after "storms" I am so very happy to have stumbled upon your blog...It somehow connects me to a very positive time in my life, when good people like you were around fill the cracks in my life. I am happy the you are at peace and joyful in this time of your life. Your students are blessed to have such an amazing, creative, loving person to guide them..... Much Love and Adoration ~Julie