11.03.2009


The soul's yearning to express itself and realize itself
is alive in every breath you take.

There are moments I remember, which in the entire span of my life, have no comparison for their poignancy and poetry. It’s true that the inexact habits of memory are often joined with the full cooperation of imagination. Memory brings an imperfect script to the stage of the present. Maybe, certain experiences do not entirely live in memory, anyway… or imagination… but in the true center of the heart. When you call up a memory and your heart knows the story better than your head. You can tell.

I Am Pruned and I Take My First Breath For the Second Time

I’m aware of bright white glare, nothing in focus; only sounds of metal instruments gathered and moved, the busyness of caregivers stepping from my bedside and back. “Breathe, Jeannine. Take a breath.” I gasp and fill my lungs. The voice affirms this breath and presses for another. I rally with the next breath and the next as sounds take form and the pleased eyes of a nurse enter my field. “That’s good. Breath deeply.” Oh my, I am back! From the recovery room I floated through halls in peripheral shadow until I was maneuvered into a room where the dearest of beings I am blessed to know stood at my feet and waited imapatiently while I was settled by hospital staff. I can still see their faces in an amber glow - lit with love and caring so intense and directed I was instantly cradled in the highest category of prayerful healing that science has yet to measure. But it will.

My mother and sister cared for me until I was again walking and functioning – now an initiate in the sisterhood of changed women. One breast gone but much life left to live. What happened to me is not just my story but the story of many. It’s been told and retold and it’s important it is told every time one of is pruned in this way.

Pruning, as you know, encourages new growth: Limbs are trimmed to stimulate a new set of branches, a stronger trunk, to bring forth blossoms and fruit; old branches drop and compost into rich fertilizer.

All of this is recalled - called up from my heart, to describe how my antennae had begun actively sensing for the way forward, for a new way to be alive and heal my soul. Or at least to listen to locate any soul I might have. And what about this notion of ‘soul’? Could it want a say in all the choices that lay ahead? I was suddenly exhilarated to feel aliveness and terrified to know what to do with it.

Soon after, I began to feel the stirrings of a restless yearning; unexpected feelings bubbling up unbidden. A tango-like rhythm caught in my throat. I felt a very wild and nutty urge to be careless with my thoughts and yes, actions. Did I have 2 years left? 5 years? More? As I write it’s been 15 years and the story continues. But, then, I was just past the pruning and had no idea of this gift. There was no time to waste.

Urgently, I turned all that was safe and neat into a new world of perfect, present moments. The details describe a reckless frenzy of letting go: of job, home, savings, beliefs, sensible shoes. To roam and wander… not lost but suddenly found.

This is an excerpt from the story of how my experience with breast cancer years ago inspired my spirit and expanded my heart... how I took my first breath for the second time. More to come.