As I write this, my domain name (marthabrettschneider.com) is still making its way through cyberspace from my old webmaster-controlled business website to this blog site. It’s sort of comforting to have a little bit of space before everything is instantaneous.
Space. I have spent the past three years creating a lot of it in my life. Just before my 45th birthday, when I was gearing up to get my consulting business rolling again after returning from a three-year posting in Germany, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though it was caught very early, malignancies in three areas led to a mastectomy and reconstruction, entailing four surgeries over six months.
Life was put on hold while I waited for my body to heal. I realized that what little energy I had, I wanted to save for my family (my sons were 10 and 13 at the time). I cleared the calendar of everything except for doctors appointments and the boys’ sports events.
I had always been a multi-tasking overachiever, packing as much as possible into any given day and life in general. My calendar was always full. I saw this as efficiency. (I had been an economist, after all, and economists are all about efficiency.) If a square on my calendar was empty, I made sure to find something to fill it–another volunteer activity, another dinner party, another museum visit with the kids, another networking meeting for the day when I would be ready to take on more work hours as the kids got older.
The universe plucked cancer from its toolbox to deliver the message: “Sit down and shut up, Martha.”
So I sat. I sat in doctors’ waiting rooms. I sat in exam rooms with my feet freezing. I lay in bed at home after each surgery, waiting for the fluids to drain from the tube dangling from my chest. I had been blessed with a strong, healthy body my whole life. I was an avid gardener dependent on digging for my mental health, and I was under doctors’ orders to not lift more than a few pounds for weeks at a time. I could barely lift the hairdryer for more than a few minutes, let alone a shovel. It felt like house arrest trapped in a stranger’s weak body.
Looking back, though, I realize this was the period my head started to clear. With fewer obligations packed into the schedule, there was less detritus cluttering my thoughts. It was also during this time that I became highly sensitized to positive and negative energy flows in my environment. I will be writing a lot more about that in future posts.
For now, suffice it to say that cancer grabbed me by the ears and turned my head from an external focus to an internal one. Years ago I would have seen this as selfish. Now I see it as a real contribution on many levels, another topic I’ll be exploring on this blog.
And as is always the case, just when things got comfortable, it seems I’m supposed to dip my toes into the outside world again.