The New York Times Well Blog has recently found a lot of fodder in the topic of insomnia. I've noticed these posts appear on the homepage -- but I've never actually read them. I didn't think it applied to me. I sleep like a baby. Usually, that is. Except tonight. Tonight, I can't sleep. I've been tossing and turning until I decided to do the only sensible thing that I could think to do: pull my computer into bed with me. Logical, right? (I did think to read first but I'm find this Stieg Larsson book to be a lot more work that the hype.) I would rather blog.
Last week, I learned some news that I don't know how to process. It's the sort of news that requires the big girl pastor pants -- where I don't dare share too much for fear that I'll totally fall apart. Indeed, ministry goes in circles but I'm a freakin' mess. Last week, while sitting in a meeting on ordination expectations, I got an email from my father that my step-mother has breast cancer. That's right. Breast cancer. The whole story unraveled over the weekend when she had surgery -- along with my ability to have any logical perspective. The surgery was fine. They didn't need to remove much of the lymph nodes. Good sign. They discovered that it's one of the more rare, aggressive cancers. Bad sign.
Now, it's probably obvious to you that this is my worst fear. Actually, in my worst fear, I have breast cancer. I die the same death that my mother died. Painfully. Awfully. Tragically. While I know that my step-mother is not dying, my heart is totally broken. How could this happen? Why isn't there a cure yet? Dear God, in all that is holy, how could you let this happen? I mean, I know you're rather busy with the oil spill on the Gulf Coast and the forest fires in Canada. I know that you're pretty pissed about the sins we've committed to this natural world -- but really? How could this happen too?
Of course, I'm not really praying right now. I'm not really talking to God at all. I'm mad at her. I know it's not her fault. I know she didn't cause these things to happen -- but I don't feel her tender caress. Instead, I feel the hard lump in my stomach that is so familiar to my grief. I feel the brimming of tears. All of this scares me. It scares me that my step-mother is going through this awful ordeal that may or may not result in chemotherapy, radiation or even a mastectomy. It scares me because I'll have my own mammogram next week. It scares me because my prayers have started to look like breasts -- which has given me pause to wonder if this image could be a symbol of my own salvation. And then, the lump aches again. The tears brim and I can't sleep.
It's hard to know how to deal with one horrible reality -- like the diagnosis of an aggressive cancer -- when it keeps bumping into the other horrible realities that have made life challenging for so long. My prayer has always been that this disease never, ever, ever strike someone I love again. My prayer has been that there would be a cure. I've walked, donated and lobbied for that cure. It's not so simple that I can be angry because there is so much sadness too. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross doesn't have a stage for that. She doesn't offer an adequate explanation for my confused grief characterized by insomnia, sadness, anger and tears. It wouldn't matter if she did. I would reject it. I don't want it explained. I just wish it wasn't happening. Obviously. Who wouldn't wish that?
And so, I'm trying to figure out how to get out of bed in the morning. I'm hoping that I actually get some sleep before getting out of bed -- but as that damn psalmist insists, joy always comes in the morning. Bullshit. I'm attempting to brave the pastoral life of loving people when I can't let them know how much I'm hurting. I'm trying to figure out what I'm supposed to do -- and how I can possibly begin to speak to God again without yelling and shaking my fist.