Archive for Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Beginning a journey back to self

October 26, 2011, 2:32 p.m.

Updated: October 26, 2011, 4:07 p.m.

I had forgotten how lovely the night sky could be until I stepped out my front door on a crisp, clear morning before sunrise and looked skyward. The heavens above were a map of star formations — constellations once so familiar I could name them all — and planets whose place in space I could name like I could recite my own address.

Not so that morning. Though the night sky was familiar and seemed to evoke a feeling of homecoming, I could not quite name all that I saw above me. I turned slowly and looked about overhead. I wanted to call out, “I know you. I know you. Do you remember me?”

Overlooking the river, to the east, a crescent moon was on the rise. It looked like two discs, one atop the other. The disc on top was gray and opaque. The sliver of new moon underneath was bright and white and clean as though underneath the darkness, a light was seeping through.

I did not know what had called me from sleep to awaken so early that morning and take a walk outside. But as I stood there with the cool seeping in through my sweats and breathing in the crisp morning air, I was filled with enormous gratitude that I was standing there under that night sky and watching the new moon rise.

There is a new moon rising. Two years ago this month I completed a series of treatments — chemotherapy, surgery, radiation and another round of chemotherapy — for breast cancer. Out of the darkness of that journey, which covered me for three years like the opaque disc over the new moon, a clean, white light of hope has emerged.

On that journey I became a stranger to myself. The map within me that I knew so well became blurry and I was not sure I could find my way. I would look in a mirror and say, “I don’t know you. I don’t recognize you.” Not knowing myself made me a stranger in a world I once knew so well, and I could not name the stars or the constellations. In that sense, I was entirely alone.

But the stars and constellations did not abandon me and though I forgot their names, when I walked out the door that recent morning, I came home to the sky overhead and began the journey back to myself. As the night embraced me, it was as if the earth and stars had been waiting for my return.

I believe the journey back to myself began that morning, under a sky that never really changed; beneath a heaven that waited even as I wandered through a desolate place.

Wherever my journey takes me, I want to hold onto that feeling that though I may feel a stranger to myself, the stars know my name.

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