Even When You’re Not.

It’s National Cancer Survivor’s Day. I’m going with this picture to commemorate the day. It’s me, right after my last chemo in November 2014.

imageI think it says a lot. It says things I like to say and that people like to hear.

What it doesn’t say? Cancer: It’s terrifying, and expensive, and so lonely, no matter how much the people who love you try to love you during and after. And none of that has anything to do with how hard you “fight,” because that isn’t the way it works, and sometimes angry and depressed people make a full recovery and sometimes people full of peace and joy and light and positivity and do not. Because Cancer doesn’t care about your attitude. Or how much money you make. Or what kind of insurance you have. Or how you voted. Or if you’re a nice person, or an unkind person, or a religious person, or a person with a family. It doesn’t care because it’s not a person; it doesn’t strike because it isn’t a missile and it wasn’t aimed at anyone. All it does, really…is happen.

And I didn’t think so much about it before it happened to me, but now, just in the two and a half years that I’ve been in remission, it’s happened to so many people that I know and care about.

And I see them being strong and brave and wise and funny and–well, Ripley. They are all Ellen Ripley. Badass. The hero of the story. Not fearless, but enduring all kinds of things in spite of, and while continuing to experience, fear. Which is the actual brave part, because–and I am kind of only now figuring this out–you couldn’t be brave if you were never afraid in the first place. So rock on, you fantastic, bald, port-implanted, needle-bruised Ellen Ripley.

And I, well, I maintain that I’m Hudson. At least I have in the past. But you know what? No. As great as he is, I want to be Ripley, and we all get to be Ripley, all of us who have to go up against this thing that we REALLY DID NOT WANT TO GO UP AGAINST EVER. Ripley probably wants to fight an Alien Queen about as much as any of us want to sit in a chair and have poison pumped through our bodies. Some of us would RATHER fight an Alien Queen than have chemo, particularly Adriamycin.

So even though I kind of hate the “fight” and “battle” terminology around all of it, it’s not really going anywhere, because maybe that’s too much a part of who we are as a people. And if it has to be framed as a fight, I say every last person who ever has to do it gets to be the iconic, ass-kicking hero (if they want.) Even if you cry; even if you puke; even if you can’t even get out of bed sometimes, much less operate a Power Loader; even if sometimes you are too
much for the people taking care of you; even if you feel like it should somehow be transforming you as a person and it’s not, really; even if you find yourself still caring about things you never thought a person would still care about once this has happened but, surprise, you’re still you and you still do.

We’re all Ripley, which is definitely better than if we were all Spartacus.

So tell yourself you’re Ripley even if you’re sure you’re not and your achievement for the day was not puking up Saltines; tell your puny friend or loved one that they’re Ripley, even if you’re secretly just really over this and are approaching a point where you can’t anymore. (Because you’re a little bit Ripley, too.)

Unless you hate “Aliens” a lot and need me to stop because it has nothing to do with cancer and yet, here I am.

Happy National Cancer Survivors Day. You’re awesome and you’re doing great.

Even when you’re not.

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Voyeur

It was really interesting looking at the #thingsonlychristianwomenhear discussions on Twitter today. Why was I reading that in the first place?

a) Because I was procrastinating and
b) Because even though I don’t go to church anymore and am probably a godless heathen in the eyes of several people who care about me–I’m still a voyeur. I like to check in with Matthew Paul Turner and Rachel Held Evans. I also read National Review and Christianity Today so that I can at least try to understand some things.

A lot of the experiences that women shared in that thread were funny/sad. Some were horrifying. There was a lot of kindness and support in many of the feeds.

I also saw a lot of the following types of responses from both men and women:

“Look at these evil liberals attacking Christianity” and

“Wow, the way you’re focusing on negativity is really divisive. We’re called to unify” and

“Well then you were in a bad church, my church would never do anything like that, that’s not widespread, it was your church and only your church.”

There are a lot of reasons why I left. Those are some of them. Did every single Christian I’ve ever met act like that? No! Certainly not. But those are attitudes I encountered again and again. The idea that anything critical is an attack, and the idea that by speaking out about a problem, YOU’RE the problem, and the idea that anything bad that happened to you is an isolated incident.

There’s an experience that I was repeatedly advised not to be open about. Why? Because it might have backed up negative things people already thought about Christianity. Because it might have influenced somebody who was on their way to getting saved and then because of me, they didn’t. Because that was focusing on negativity. Because I needed to be better at forgiveness. Because it’s not a widespread problem. Because sure, it’s really unfortunate that this happened, but remember, #NotAllChurches.

Please let me be clear, this is not an attack on your faith if you’re a Christian. If you’re still reading, it means you’re probably someone who’ s take would be of value to me. d I don’t think you’re The Enemy and I’m also not in, like, an Athiest Coven. Primarily because I’m not an Athiest and also because that’s not a thing. Why am I still talking? Because for some reason, I really want Christians to Understand.

I can’t speak for everyone who leaves or falls away, but I can assure you that I didn’t wake up one morning and say “I hate Jesus. I’m not a Christian anymore.” That’s not true at all. And I didn’t get lured away by something evil and shiny. I did not think, “You know what I want to do instead of going to church? DRUGS!”

I got really tired. I got really worn down. Maybe I allowed myself to feel that way because my faith wasn’t strong enough, or was never real in the first place. It was the seed that fell on the stony ground and made a good showing for a while, but not long. Those attitudes I mention were not in the hearts of the people closest to me. They were just…so big. They were All Around. I couldn’t remember a time without them.

Those ideas can exist anywhere, and everywhere, and they do. It’s not unique to Christianity: “any criticism is an attack” and “just stop talking about it and it won’t be a problem.”

I guess what keeps me up at night is that sometimes, I feel like I take a step back in the direction I came from, and peer in, because I am hoping it will have changed and it will be different.

I keep doing this.

I have been doing it for years.

That probably won’t change.