As I’ve opened myself to grieving the loss of my career, I optimistically survey my new realities and receive much clarity.  I see that for the most part the largest change in my life is energy level. 

I’ve been asked a few times (and have wondered what the answer is myself on many occasions): what percentage of my previous energy do I now have?  It’s a tough question to answer because cancer came barging into our house when there were two 11 month old present.  It had only been 4 months since I was waking every night to nurse a babe or two.  I’m not sure I even remember what ‘rested’ feels like!  I don’t really know what my old “normal” is to compare to.  But slowly over the last couple months I’ve been pondering this question more.  I’ve been surveying my memories of energy levels before the monster attacked my brain, and poison was used to try and kill it, and radiation left me utter wiped.  I remember being in Disneyland with Rayna, post-op right before starting treatment.  I remember feeling so good there, feeling so normal, feeling 98% like myself.  (And here I release my anger that the best we do to treat cancer is to bombard it with cancer-causing modalities!!!! — brief vent, deep breath to compose myself and let’s move on).  I was normally a very high energy person.  Pre-kids I worked 5 days a week, worked out/ran 5 days a week, volunteered weekly with youth group, and had hobbies: writing, reading, hiking, playing games with friends etc.  Post-Rayna I worked 4 days a week, ran 3 days a week, and enjoyed many leisure activities.  Post twins I went out every single day, started running again 3 days a week, and kept 2 babies alive and breastfed.

Sixty-five percent.  This is the number I am landing on: I have 65% of the energy I had pre-cancer.  I often try to pretend that I am still that high energy woman, and at this point I can do so for a day or 2 and then I crash. Hard.  I have an energy tank that I now view as a weekly tank.  I can steal from tomorrow’s energy; but if I do that, tomorrow will have that much less energy.  I also feel like an old cell phone whose battery doesn’t charge properly.  You plug it in and it says 100% charged, then start to use it and it drops to 65% instantly.  And sometimes my battery’s on 25% and then a second later it’s shutting down on 0%.  And then there are “new” factors which fatigue me.  It bothers me that stimuli overload (noise, lights, commotion) also depletes my battery.  It’s not simply physically and emotionally draining things that tire me.

This has been hard to come to terms with.  I fight my new reality; but it always wins.  And when I fight my reality I end up exhausted which lands me with exhaustion’s struggles: mostly impatience and anger (plus then my body starts to ache because in my fatigue my posture slumps and tension rises…).

In this all I struggle with identity.  What is my identity?  I am not who I used to be.  I’m sure this happens to us all as we traipse down life’s path and seasons come and seasons go.  I struggle with grief because I am no longer pharmacist.  I struggle with shame because I am not able to care for my own children by myself for extended periods of time. I struggle with disbelief that my once patient persona has been hijacked by impatience and anger (when that first reared it’s head at first I wanted to blame it on the cancer, then I realized it is my humanity rearing her ugly head— tired people are prone to impatience and anger.) 

My personality is a performance driven perfectionist.

I’ve been stripped of my ability to perform to the capacity I’d like.  I’ve been forced to be “less than”.  I’ve been forced to slow down (but, oh, how I still fight this one.  I fight this one hard).   I’ve been forced to leave things undone and/or imperfect.

 (I’ve begun to see how intimidating I may previously have presented myself to many people by striving to be and appear perfect.  As my “perfect” life crumbled with my diagnosis, I was newly able to engage in tender and beautiful conversations and interactions.  This area is a work in progress; but an area where I expect good and beautiful buds to continue blossoming.) 

I am now humbled; and I am also gifted with seeing the beauty of life in the slow lane.  Before having kids quiet times were commonplace and life-giving in my day.  After kids such times all but disappeared.  I don’t know if I would have ever willingly slowed down, given how hard I still often resist my new reality and I keep trying to “perform and perfect” in new capacities.  So in many ways I am grateful to have been forced into the slow lane.

But what is my identity in all this turmoil?  If I’m not pharmacist.  If I’m not a very “capable” mom anymore.*  Who am I?  If I can only do 65% of what I used to. Is that enough?

My dear friend, Andrea, shared in church awhile ago, about her own struggle to have a positive perception of herself and a struggle to have a healthy identity.  From the outside it seems shocking.  She is an amazing, educated woman.  She is a working mother of two small beautiful girls.  She is poised, friendly, and warm.  She is so easy to like and absolutely beautiful.  But she is at war, just like I am at war, to be rooted in a life-giving identity.  To combat the negativity that can so easy worm its way into our lives, she created a list of affirmations and a prayer to declare daily.  With her permission I share them here.  They are so good! 

Affirmations about God to declare daily:

-He is strong when I am weak

– He is courage when I’m facing fear
– He is peace when my heart is in turmoil
– He is wisdom when I haven’t a clue how to parent
– He is support when I am weary
– He gives when I feel like I have nothing left
– He is love and grace and mercy everyday, no matter what
– I am a dearly loved daughter of the Creator of Heaven and Earth and he is pleased with me, just as I am

A prayer:

“God, today I claim your victory in Christ! My identity is NOT in my short-comings, my failings, past experiences, or my successes. My identity is in YOU!! Daily I will declare this victory in my life and walk out the day in thankfulness for each new day and your Goodness that fills my life.”

I am not enough.  No matter how hard I try.  No matter if I appear put together.  I am never enough.  If it wasn’t cancer (previously, it was being a new mom) there would have been other matters to rattle me and jar my identity. 

I received a couple notes from women I know indicating sentiments to the effect that they could never be half the woman I am.  Right here, right now I want to uproot and discard that sentiment.  Of course you couldn’t be half the woman that I am!  This is because you are 100% wholly the woman that YOU are!!!  And you are beautiful! You are treasured! You are loved by an Almighty God! You and I have different gifts and talents, but each is equally beautiful.  I also hear from time to time that I am inspiring.  First off, it is by God’s mighty work in me that I am the woman that I am.  If I am inspiring this is only God working through me.  I am merely a woman trying to make the most out of what life gives me.  I hope this is what I inspire in you: to survey your realities and your giftings and make what you have come to LIFE through the divine power of God. Less of me, more of God; its so much better that way (understatement!!!)

 I encourage you, find your identity, right there where you are and declare it out loud!  Don’t let your short-comings, your failures, your past experiences, or your successes hold you back.  Shout it loud and clear:
I am a dearly loved daughter (or son) of the Creator of Heaven and Earth and He is pleased with me, just as I am!!!

 *I am so thankful that I read a book (When a parent has cancer by Wendy Harpham) which stated that a parents job is to make sure a child is cared for.  It is not necessary for the parent to be the one doing the hands on care, especially if they aren’t able; their job as parent is fulfilled as long as they are ensuring the child is cared for.  I return to this information regularly, reminding myself that I am not a bad mom because my kids are in daycare while I’m at home.  I remind myself that this is healthier for us both (remember Cheryl, fatigue drives you to anger and kids know just the right buttons to push even without trying!)  But it certainly is an on-going challenge in our “super-mom” culture.