Welcome back to another post-chemo week!
I’m on day 5, no day 6…
Ok, the day of this posting is day 7.
I’ve been picking up my computer to start writing and, in the midst of my chemo brain fog, "it" just hasn’t been coming to me.
Yes, chemo brain fog and forgetfulness are very real - similar to pregnancy brain. You lose thoughts mid-sentence, forget where you put your keys, and generally wonder if you’re going crazy.
But, alas, a new update for the blog - foggy brain and all!
In terms of my diagnosis, I’m on week 7.
SEVEN WEEKS SINCE I WAS DIAGNOSED.
It’s hard to wrap my head around that - seven weeks since life for the next year changed my daily, weekly, and monthly schedule. Seven weeks since the foreseeable future changed significantly. Seven weeks since the rest of my life changed for, what I think, is the better.
Seven weeks since I’ve come to learn what kind of community I’ve (inadvertently?) surrounded myself with over the years - and I could not be more thankful.
It lead me to ponder the idea: What’s community?
Some cities will tell you it’s a neighborhood or a physical location.
Some churches will tell you it’s organized groups of people who get together every week.
Other groups will tell you that community shares some kind of identifying characteristic - like a physical trait, ethnic background, gender, sexual orientation, etc.
A piece from The Atlantic last year talked about the morphing definition of community:
I love that - a transcendent kind of togetherness. An active, transcendent togetherness.
When I initially announced my diagnosis to family and friends, there was the small group of go-to friends I told. The ones I’d trust with anything. The ones I knew would pray for me and keep me going on hard days. I didn’t really know how to sort through my thoughts at the time, so they just let me ramble and overshare.
I also told my family right away. The family that’s with you in thick or thin. The family that doesn’t care how soon you need them, they are right there regardless of the circumstances. They formed a wall for me and helped me feel strong.
And then came the Facebook announcement.
And that’s when the tribe appeared.
Here’s what none of us plan for: being faced with a situation in life that is so dire and draining we have to rely on the strength and encouragement of those around us to hold us up. Many people, myself included, are thinking of ways for how we can do that for someone else, but no one typically plans to be the one that needs the help.
When I look now at the people supporting me and our family - with everything from phone calls and texts to meals to helping with the girls to sending cards and care packages in the mail to fervent prayer - I’m overwhelmed by the broadness of our community.
Just off the top of my head, it includes:
People that I grew up with in Raleigh and people I’ve only met in recent years.
People across the United States and those living overseas.
People of varied denominations and faith backgrounds.
Parents and the teachers of kids in the girls’ classes at school, many of whom I’ve only met once.
People who are a difference race than me.
People who are LGBTQ.
People who have been through breast cancer before or people who have directly supported family members with cancer.
People with kids and people without kids.
People figuring out their own careers and people retiring from long careers.
People who are going through their own trials.
People who I've never even met.
What a list!
These people - this community, my tribe - is more than I could ever imagine or pull together.
When I read through this and see who’s truly in my community - I’m thankful.
I’m thankful that at some point along the way, my parents raised me to be kind to everyone I encountered.
I’m thankful that I learned to value friendships at a young age and not let the opportunity to make a new friend pass me by.
I’m thankful that Carl and I have been intentional with where and with whom we spend our time in order to grow genuine friendships.
I’m thankful that even though I haven’t seen or spoken to so many of these people in a long time, they’ve popped right back into our life as if we never dropped a beat.
Most of all, I personally believe that God places the right people in our lives at the right times. None of this was a plan on my part. I’ve just been fortunate to have incredible people come into my life and stay in my life.
I say all this to drive home the point:
You cannot plan your community.
You can’t create it in a neat little box so you can take it out when you need it and put it away when you don’t.
Community is about the relationships you foster over time. The quick texts, the replies on social media, the cards in the mail, the coffees when you can. It’s about making even the smallest amount of time available for people that matter.
If there are people in your life who are draining your energy, your positivity, and just generally bringing you down, they are not your people.
Community builds. It gives more than it takes. It’s not selfish, it’s generous. Community is kind and fiercely loyal.
Consider today the people you’re pouring into and the relationships you’re cultivating.
Consider the people you're simply associated with.
Consider the friendships that have become stagnant and which ones might be overdue for a simple “hello” text or an “I’m thinking of you” phone call.
Consider how you’re prioritizing the relationships that matter most.
If there's anything my community has taught me during this process, it's to be excessive in asking those around me: How can I help? What can I do for you?
Big or small. Cancer or no cancer. Near or far.
There's so much more we can be doing to build each other up, and it only takes a small amount of intentional effort to come to fruition.
Notice I've turned on comments for the first time (!). So many of you send me notes that are inspiring, I'd love for the rest of the world to read your ideas, too.
How do you cultivate community?