Sunday, April 25, 2010

- Wholeness In An Age of Brokenness

I've been contemplating the notion of "wholeness" lately in terms of who we are as people. When I think of someone who's 'whole', I think of someone who doesn't feel fragmented or dysfunctional; someone who feels their basic needs have been met or are being met.

I think of someone who feels "rounded out" as a human being - someone who feels loved; emotionally secure and stable. Someone who does not need to obsess over whether or not he (I'm using 'he' here to represent he/she) is socially acceptable or not. . . that person has arrived at a place of being content with himself. He is set free from worrying over what other people think of him - it is no longer of crucial importance.

Some of the terms used by to describe wholeness:

- not broken, damaged, or impaired
- intact: containing all the elements properly belonging; 
- complete: uninjured or unharmed; sound; 
- pertaining to all aspects of human nature, esp. one's physical, intellectual, and spiritual development: education for the whole person. 

But is it possible to be emotionally whole in a culture that is so broken?


Depending on your age, you may remember a time in our society that was very different. In the late 60s, the parents of a girl in my elementary school were getting divorced.

I was stunned. Nobody I knew in our small town had ever been divorced or had parents who were divorced.

I remember avoiding this poor girl, and some of the other kids teased her because of her parents' divorce - how cruel! But it was somewhat of a scandal in our community, in my mind, anyways. Parents just didn't do that in those days.

By the 80s, however, it was another story, and divorce had gone mainstream. It had begun filtering down into home after home. 

In the 90s, I found myself  volunteering as a Pastoral Animator in the same high school I had attended as a teen. I began teaching Moral & Religious Education classes to Grades 7 through 11. As part of my course content, I talked with the students about issues pertinent to morality, self-esteem, and so on. 

We discussed what they thought made up the foundation of good self-esteem & a sense of emotional stability, including family. And in the classes where I asked kids to indicate which ones still had their "original parents", only half put up their hands. This a mere 20+ years after I had encountered divorce for the very first time.


That's not to say that those of us (and I am one) from broken homes cannot achieve emotional wholeness or enjoy a sense of good self-esteem. But from my experience, a broken home has made these ideals more difficult to achieve. For much of my adult life, I have felt broken in various ways, as I'm sure many of you do, too. 

Sometimes dysfunction seems to be a regular part of who we are as human beings. And it's an ongoing process to embrace emotional wholeness and to maintain it.

Do you feel whole? Or fragmented? Do you feel as though your emotions were being churned up by a backhoe as you were growing up?  Are you from a family that could not offer you the foundation of serenity you craved? 

Or are you one of those fortunate ones who came from a stable home environment, full of love, acceptance and encouragement?

IMHO (for those of you not completely familiar with email jargon, that's an acrostic for "In My Humble Opinion"), one of the keys to our emotional wholeness is a sense of community. Hunh. Good luck with that if you are a North American and your ethnic background is WASP (another acrostic! White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) - or I guess we could also say WASC - White Anglo-Saxon Catholic (I made that last one up!) 

We haven't been doing community for a very long time in our society.

Conversely, I find that many of the sub-cultures have wonderful, vibrant communities,  chock-full of aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces & nephews. The Italian & Greek friends  I know - from what I can see - rarely experience lonliness, along with many of my Jewish, Asian & Middle Eastern friends, who seem to be very strongly connected to their relatives. 

But it seems to me that the "less ethnic" and "more white" a North American is, the more polarized he is likely to be. It's very sad to say that for many of us, we do not possess a sense of family nor of community. 

Increasingly, North Americans are feeling isolated and alone, with no strong sense of family ties. And yet living in & feeling part of a community is one of the key ingredients that makes for emotional wholeness. Remove that, and a lot of us feel disconnected, vague and just not good inside ourselves.

What I've also noticed is that every time a new piece of technology is created and becomes a mainstay in the North American home, more of our quality time with others goes out the window. 

We brought TVs into our homes and people stopped talking to each other,  sitting side by side, staring at the box.

We introduced computers to our homes, and people now stare at the screen for hours at  a time (another box), often communicating with others by keystroke rather than face-to-face.

Introduce an ipod, an iphone, or a what-have-you into the mix and watch people vanish into their own virtual worlds, oblivious to their surroundings or to people seated inches away from them - on a bus, for example. A total bubble effect for everyone with one of these techno-toys (I am one, unfortunately, addicted to my Palm Pilot).

And so I ask myself:

- How on earth are we going to ever be whole if we continue to remove ourselves from meaningful human contact? 

- How can we experience emotional wellness if we cannot afford the time to sit, relax  and interact with each other?

- How can we continue to foster empathy towards one another if we do not feel a connection to them? Do we honestly think road rage would occur if we all knew each other well? It is much easier to be cruel to a stranger than to someone we know we'll have to face again the next day .  .  .

Anyways, these are some of the things I've been pondering . . . being swept "forward" by the "advances" of our culture.

Today,  I'm thinking that some of those advances are bringing us back into the Dark Ages.

Friday, April 9, 2010

- The Power To Choose

I was listening to a show the other day on CBC radio and the subject was "choices." It got me thinking about life and about the incredible power & privilege we have to make choices. 

When you think about it, life is just one long string of choices, from the moment we learn to walk until the day we die. Is there any other single element in life which can affect our future more than choices? 

From the moment we wake up, there are choices to be made. We choose what time to get up, what to eat for breakfast, which radio station to listen to, what to wear that day, which mode of transportation to take, whether or not to stay at the job we have or quit, whether or not to go back to school, whom to marry, who our friends are, where to live, whether to live selfishly or unselfishly....

One of the points brought out in the radio show was how too many choices can be simply paralyzing. For example, have you ever stood in front of a cereal display in a supermarket and tried to choose a box to bring home?

I mean, it's staggering! Good grief, how many different types of cereal does any one store need!?!?!? It's overwhelming!! Can't we just have 5 or 10 basic ones to choose from and leave it at that??? Not that I should complain, but really!!!

Not only that, we then have to move on to the dairy aisle and choose the type of milk we want - skim, 1%, 2%, Homogenized . . . auggghhhh!

Anyways, that's the Power To Choose. It's the privilege that comes with living in a free society where, for most situations, we are not told what to do. There is no dictator forcing us to submit our wills to his choices; no army watching over what we do or severely limiting our options.

The Power To Choose comes with the power of economic prosperity. People in poverty have very few choices; poverty does not allow for that luxury. And those born into squalor often have zero choices; in fact, they may not even live long enough to ever make a single, independent choice of their own.

The Power To Choose brings responsibility. Do you have The Power To Choose? Then what are you doing with it? What choices are you making? Are they pointing in any specific direction, or are they random choices, made on a whim? 

If you look back over the past year, what are some of the significant choices you made? Are you happy with those choices? Knowing what you know now, do you wish you could have chosen differently? Or would you have made the same choices?

If you look at your choices these days, are they in line with where you want to be a year from now? Are they well thought out choices, or scattered and hasty ones? Are they common sense choices, or are they based on the emotional need of the moment?

You know what I find fascinating? The idea of looking at someone's life and imagining how it would have or could have been so very different if that person had made different choices. I find it so intriguing that an entire human life can be propelled into a vastly different direction because of one small (or not so small) choice.

A pregnancy. A marriage. A job acceptance. A job refusal. The decision to get behind the wheel drunk. The decision to steal something.

I find it mind-boggling that something as small as a choice can alter the course of human history. Or of one person's history. And it makes me want to think very carefully about my choices. 

In fact, I think as young people, we should all be given a mini-manual to read, or a course, or a class on the subject of "CHOICES". I wonder how many lives would be different if we did that. I wonder how many of us know when we start out that we can have an incredibly easier life if we'd only make the right choices.

Well, I dunno where all that came from! I just felt like writing about choices, so I did! :) And I'm very happy with the choices I've been making lately - choices to try and do more with my music (not one but two concerts in the planning! One for late May & one for early June), choosing to take it easy at home and not push myself too hard during chemo, the choice to eat lots of chocolate.... (oh, but that last one has SUCH consequences!)

I also have a passion (I know, it's an overused word but I like it!) to see people living intentionally, not squandering their lives, abilities or resources. I've said here on this blog at different times that I think one of the greatest tragedies is to waste our time and resources, and I've suffered far more in the periods of my life where I've felt I've done that than in the period I'm in now, going through chemo.

Speaking personally, I don't think illness is the worst possible thing that could happen to me. It would be far worse for me to feel I was going through life aimlessly, not knowing why I'm here, searching for a purpose and feeling like I'm not finding it. 

I hate that feeling! I hate the frustration of wanting to make a difference but not having a single clue how to do so. The internal churning of knowing there are gifts & abilities within me, yet not seeing any avenues of expression for those talents. I lived like that for many years, feeling trapped & useless.

And now? It's just a delight to wake up every day and feel like I have a reason to get up; that I have found some constructive ways of contributing and giving and helping others. Avenues of expressing the gifts that God has given me, in a healthy and productive manner. 

My health, to be honest, feels very much like a side issue, a necessary reality that needs to be taken care of, much like going to the store to buy needed groceries. I go to the hospital, I get my chemo because it's what I have to do (or, in the context of today's subject, what I've chosen to do); I come home, get some rest, and then jump into one project or another, expressing my gift of writing or planning an event or whatever. How cool is that?

I'm not being Ollie Optimist here (I just made that up!); it's how I really feel! I get to write this Blog, and the Christian Devotional I've been sending out for 4 months now, and I've started writing some new songs again . . . I'm planning those concerts . . . I'm resting (well, not as much as I should) and y'know, life is good!

I'm not in pain, I'm not in discomfort, and there's no nausea. I have a roof over my head, I have enough food to eat, and I'm being treated for cancer at the best hospital in the city (and for free, thanks to socialized medicine). I have plenty of clothes to wear, friends who care about my well being, and Timmy the Cat who keeps an eye on me. 

So from where I'm sitting, life just isn't all that bad right now. And I'm profoundly grateful. Who'd a thunk it, eh? But it's true.

Well, that's about it from me. Have an awesome weekend, and don't forget: think carefully about those choices! The ones you make will determine your tomorrows and carry you into the future . . .

Love, Wendy

Friday, April 2, 2010

- Here I Am! (Your Love Is Extravagant)

Yep, here I am! You may not be hearing from me very often, but I'm still here, hanging out on the couch in my living room, drinking tea, watching TV, and getting more and more addicted to Facebook. 

My energy levels are about on par with a turtle who has been drugged, and my mojo has left the building. 

But I'm here! I'm still here!

Well, last Saturday was my concert and boy, was it fun! George and my friend Darlene helped me out a lot, along with Jennifer, Tabitha and Nicole. 

We had a full house! 110 tickets were sold but there were probably 120 people at the concert if you include the Canadian Cancer Society gals who were there to share about the Relay For Life that's coming up, Jill from the West Island Cancer Wellness Center, and of course, my trusty friends who helped out in all sorts of ways.

Does anybody out there have any photos they took of the concert? If so, can you send them to me? I didn't take any because I was playing the guitar & singing, and I find it really difficult to do both. I'm just not all that good at multi-tasking, I guess. This is the only photo of the concert I've got! A big thank you to Seta, who took it for me.

Anyways, it was bunches of fun, this concert! I was, like, super exhausted & had to sit down a lot, but thankfully, I can still sing even when I'm sitting down. The audience was super duper & laughed at all my jokes, which makes them all automatically my best friends in the whole wide world. 

Abi & her daughter Lieska helped me sing the Menopause song, which was also a riot. Gosh, I wish I had a pic of that! Lieska is a teenager, so we had to make her an honorary menopausal woman, since she isn't really menopausal. 

Lieska shaved all her hair off awhile ago so she could give her hair to charity to make wigs with. Isn't that neat? So great when people do things for others like that.

And the film crew was there as well to film the entire event, although Lovely Liliana couldn't be there that night. Maybe I'll be able to get some film clips of the concert from her, and maybe I can figure out how to upload them onto my bloggy-blog here. 

I thought I'd be SO--O-O-OO exhausted after the concert, since I was already exhausted *before* the concert started! Guess I underestimated adrenaline - I got to bed at 2 am that morning & was up at 6:30 am until midnight that night, with no nap! Hmm! I'm a tough cookie, eh?!?!? Heh heh heh.

Other than the concert, not much news at all. I go every Monday for my chemo and that is progressing nicely. 6 down, 6 to go! I'm going to be finished in May, and then I get a month off. 

Or I might do those two remaining cycles of AC chemo that I never did . . . Dr. Cohen is nervous about skipping them, in case there are any maverick cancer cells that don't get a sufficient wallop. So we'll see.

And then I'd get a month off. That's when I might get some additional surgery to fix up the mastectomy scar - it could use a little tweaking here & there; I'm not happy with how it looks.

Then, in July, radiation starts every weekday, 15 minutes a day for five and a half weeks, for a total of 28 sessions. That will bring me into August.

After that . . . another 3 months of Herceptin by itself, which fights one of the hormone receptors found in my tumor, HER2.

So by November 2010 - I'll be done! Or should be. What will I do with myself then? No chemo appointments, no doctors to see, no schlepping back and forth to the hospital . . . good grief, I'll have to get a life again! What will that be like? Guess I'll find out!

By the way, the chemo has kicked me into menopause . . . it's my third month of it! Lots of hot flashes, I can tell you! Someone said I should think of it as my inner child playing with matches. I liken it more to my inner child playing with an oil furnace & matches, but that's just me.

Well, have a blessed long weekend, enjoy your chocolate Easter bunnies, if that's what you do to celebrate Easter, and behave yourselves. 

Here's a really sweet song by the group "Casting Crowns" ~ a nice, easy-listening tune for you . . .

See you back here real soon,

Love, Wendy