Today I read the book of Job from the bible. I have never read it before. I have to admit I have never read an entire book of the bible from beginning to end. In all honesty, I don’t know if I have ever read an entire page of the bible.
I grew up loving our church and it’s magical community. In college I was drawn to the Zen Buddhist Temple. Then when my children were young, I sought out a church community that resonated with me as my first church did and we ended up at the Unitarian Universalist congregation, where I become a book signing member teaching 8th grade Sunday school for a few years. I was more of a generalist for religion/spirituality rather than a literal follower of the word of anyone in any direction.
Most of my life I have known that my Grandpa Snazy, as he was known to me, had an affinity of sorts for the Book of Job. It made sense as his wife died in her forties from cancer leaving him as a widow to four children. The youngest who was 4 years old at the time, was my mother. He remarried shortly there after to a woman who left carnage in her wake after she took him for as much as she could, as I have been told. He did end up marring a third time. That relationship lasted into my early childhood before they parted ways.
Walking through my own trials of divorce(s), illness, and loss, I have thought about the Book of Job. I had a vague understanding of the story – man loses everything and is plagued with illness as a trial from God and he learns his lesson. I own that this is a very short sighted recap to the actual story. For awhile I have been wondering more about the details of the story as they relate to my grandfather’s life and also for myself.
A successful man, Job, loses all his possessions, his children are killed in an accident and he is then riddled with painful illness. In the wake of all of this, Job was stuck in a bit of a state, his pride blocking him from seeing where he was faltering in the test that was brought before him. Caught up in his own hamster wheel, Job’s friends came to illuminate perspective on his woes. Alas, they were also misguided in their council. After giving his elders the right away, Elihu, the son of one of the friends, spoke wisdom to the gifts in the darkness they were all missing. This prompted God to join the conversation to add on to what the young man was revealing. God brought the smack down on the elder men, along with a challenge for Job to battle a gnarly beast, that is even feared by the gods. (I am doing no service to the spectacular description of Leviathan, it is worth the read.) In the end Job realized he was being a brat, checked his pride and privilege and he admitted that he thought he got it but now he really gets it. He graduated to the real layer of understanding, not just the talking points.
Through the story are little nuggets, sprinkled like treasures to remind us that if we open our eyes a little wider, and get out of our own way, there is more to be seen. There is an allegory to the jewels of wisdom found in the depth of the darkness. Another gem was, that not sinning is not enough, we must work towards the greater good of all, in all our deeds. Do not turn a blind eye on those around us in need. Check our lofty sense of self at the door. It’s not about material possessions or status. Humble yourselves folks.
I also loved that it was the youngest of them that brought the wisdom into conversation. Wisdom is said to come with age and yes, that is true, but also, regardless of age we all have wisdom to share. Those younger than myself are walking a different walk that I did, and I am sure there is lost wisdom of youth that I would be eternally grateful to receive a reminder to return to that childlike self. As we age we can become infected with the grind of life and forget the point of this ride in the first place.
Nestled under a palm tree on a beach in Cancun, Mexico, where I am visiting to get cancer treatment, I wrapped up the last pages of my reading. Once all my belongings were tucked away, I walked toward the water, as I have every evening I have been here thus far, to swim my laps. In my recovery from surgery, which was 7 weeks ago, I have been looking forward to restoring the muscle mass I have lost. The ocean seemed like a perfect vehicle for my healing skin sack to lay the building blocks of strength and longevity.
The water was vibrant blue and the sand was soft under my feet. I was lathered in sunscreen that tinted my skin a dead mans palor and cast white shadows on my black bathing suit. I did not mind the repellent effect this may have had, as I didn’t really feel like talking to anyone. I walk out until the water is just under my breasts. Once we hit that point of the body, it is best to just plunge the rest under water. The alternative is a slow torture. My routine entailed swimming to one side of the roped off swimming area to the other. The first day was two laps. The next day was four. Today I did five.
Unlike the days previous, the water today was choppy. The serene and easy days previous were warm ups to leveling up ocean swimming skills. On my second lap, a wave rose up and smacked me in the face. Saltwater shot up my nostrils followed by a sputtering, choking cough. Not pleased, I had flashbacks to the terrible feeling on the NG tube down my throat in the hospital that offered a similar kind of burn that apparently can be simulated by snorting saltwater. The sensation eventually passed as I kept swimming, determined to keep to what I started.
Stopping swimming was not an option. So, I had to figure out how to work with the waves. When I swam to the east, the waves were in my face. Conversely, when I swam to the west, the waves were at my back. Swimming into the waves, I would watch to the left of center for the oncoming foe. When the wave would come, I worked to be on top of it, which meant, halting my stroke to treading in place briefly while the wave passed. When I came to the end, I would turn around. This was the break, where I could just swim and ride the waves to the west. With that respite, I could face the challenges the east held for me, so I could reach my goal of the day.
If my life was a Choose Your Own Adventure book, I don’t this I would have chosen the paths I walked. I have regrets, regrets as recently reintroduced to me by Brene Brown in Atlas of the Heart. From those regrets have come wisdom that could not be attained any other way. I needed to crawl into those dark places to find the sparkly bits. Yes, I had another scary cancer diagnosis and now I am in a beautiful place taking the time to really heal. I am riding the waves.
Today, Job and his buddy’s were my teacher. The ocean was my antagonist. Tara at Hope4Cancer was my guide. The news of a friends passing from colon cancer was a reminder. The quite holds me tonight in this tiled, air conditioned hotel room. One star, maybe a satellite, shining in the sky. I have my breath. I am full of gratitude.
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