So...here it is October and I realize that I've had a very unintended hiatus from the world of blogging. It wasn't for lack of productivity...precisely the opposite. This past summer
ranks among the busiest ones of my life. Biggest of all milestones...my sister got married (and five other friends). It was a summer of weddings. But besides the requisite travel time and cluster of booked Saturdays...my summer was spent working on projects for Melissa's Living Legacy.
It's hard to recount all the amazing things that transpired in this past action-packed summer...but the energy has carried straight through to the fall.
Particularly, the past seven weeks have been a true journey...in every sense of the word.
It started off with Lauren sharing an idea...that this year's Journeys (the annual dinner and fundraiser) feature performances from the teens.
What followed was a long and winding endeavor as the teens of TLC (Teens Living With Cancer---aka the support network of Melissa's Living Legacy) began an artistic journey into their own stories. When Lauren first approached us with the idea...none of us could have known how much soul searching was going to take place. None of us could have known how much stronger the bonds within the group and beyond were going to become.
Weeks of brainstorming, sharing sessions, edits, revisions and rehearsals followed. Creativity blossomed and there was a lot of fun sprinkled in. As they crafted and created their stories...it became so much more than storytelling...it became an expression of their deepest selves. By working with literary, theatrical and audio visual professionals who had donated their time, the teens each developed a piece of about 3 minutes in length to be performed in front of a live audience. Together as an ensemble production it will debut in a program called Our Journey So Far. Fittingly it will be the highlight of this Saturday's JOURNEYS, the annual dinner and benefit for Melissa's Living Legacy.
I am truly and honestly honored to have had the chance to not only see this beautiful program come together, week by week, story by story...but am also a part of the process myself. I was persuaded to come outside of the role of advisor and cheerleader to these teens and share my story too.
I haven't the words to really sum up all that I have learned, not only from this project, but from so many other things we've worked on with these teens. I watch these teens and they amaze me...they are stepping slowly outside the battle with cancer...and giving others something. Their honesty, their intensity and their perseverance lifts them so far beyond their years. They are traits that have not been acquired easily, or without sacrifice.
At times this process led me to think back to the years I spent as a teenager...chronically ill, having been denied the advantages of normal teenage life. Forces beyond my control pushed me out of a world of blissful normal into a harsher reality. I couldn't help but think back to that...
I hand't been diagnosed with cancer yet then...but the feelings all lead me to think of that time. The teen years are hard enough on a healthy teen.
Wise beyond your years...this is uttered often and applied to a myriad of situations...but unless you've faced serious illness in a pivotal time like adolescence...its hard to really wrap your head around this old expression.
These teens have an understanding and a grasp on something mostly unseen and undetected by peers around them. Nothing seems simple anymore. Wisdom like this has a price...but can be truly priceless when its lessons are passed on. Imagine if that rare understanding could be communicated and shared? That is exactly the excitement of what's about to happen Saturday.
As teenagers who will be sharing the intimacy of their own journeys...I see the power that they possess. Perhaps they see it in themselves, the capacity they have to teach others. Cancer itself is a horrific illness...but in all its ugliness beneath it lies beauty. And it rests with the hearts and minds and spirits of those who fight it.
With every voice...each one magnificently unique...each journey not like any another...they are beautiful. I have been given a rare gift to join these wise souls. As they take their places and as I join them on stage I'm going to be reminded that I am so lucky and so blessed to know the other side of illness...the part where I have to glance back at my path and how far I've come, so I can continue to help others rebuild.