Last week, I was invited to give a talk at a holiday dinner; when invited, the request was for me to share some of what I’ve been through this year. I wrestled a bit with what to say, and what ultimately came out was a kind of paean to community. To the sustaining force and healing power of community in various forms: family and friends, our synagogue community, the community created here online as a result of this blog, and the solidarity of being with others who are confronted with the same struggle. As I feel so deeply blessed to be able to draw from the deep wells of these resources, I wanted to share a few of the reflections I made in my talk:
As the news got out about my breast cancer, I was overwhelmed—quite literally bowled over—by the amount of love and support I was flooded with. Judaism is often characterized as being focused more on deed than creed; that is, that it is less concerned with belief or pronouncements of faith, more concerned with action, with what you do. Everybody wanted to do something; sometimes if I turned someone’s offer away, I would get responses like “You know it’s a mitzvah to let someone do a mitzvah for you.”
A medical advocate I recently consulted with said that I’m probably only the second person she’s ever dealt with that might actually have an overabundance of support. At the beginning, it was really hard to accept help. As someone who is used to hitting deadlines and getting things done, I had a very hard time accepting that I would need help with parts of my life that I was used to handling just fine. But over time, and in multiple ways, I learned how to accept what people were offering, I stopped saying, “no, no, it’s fine” and starting saying, “yes, OK, I’d appreciate that.” I deputized someone to run a meal and childcare calendar; when there was an embarrassment of riches, I encouraged people to direct their giving energies to other people in need. But once I was able to open myself to what the community wanted to give, it sustained us; it deepened my friendships with people; it showed me that maintaining a veneer of invulnerability is not always a good thing.