The room where I am my very best self

In this room, the room where I currently sit, I become my very best self.

I am a bit ashamed that it takes a room like this to get me there. But, I think we should take our very best selves however they come when they decide to make an appearance.

In this particular room, a small library, I await my youngest son. We are at the Wellness House outside of Chicago, a cancer support center his father—the cancer patient—does not utilize much. But my youngest struggles, at times, with the reality of having a father with cancer. And the children who bring him the most comfort are those he barely knows, at least outside of this center. They are the ones with a mother or father who sometimes sleep whole weekends away, who cannot open the refrigerator during chemo for fear of vomiting and anaphylactic shock, the ones whose surgery scars bear witness to a recurring battle. With these peers, he does not have to explain. He gets no curious stares. They are, for the time being, his peeps.

This room makes me calm. The blue walls, the shelves filled with books meant to encourage, to heal, to advise, to comfort. The sofa with silk pillows, the light pouring in through the windows, the employees and volunteers who ask no questions whether I am reading a book, sitting with eyes closed, wiping away tears, laughing hysterically. Here, I am not a writer on deadline. I am not racing anywhere. I am simply someone whose family needs support in the moment.

My teenager will not set foot in this place. At 16, he denies he needs any comfort or support. I do not force the issue. Never having a parent with cancer, I can’t imagine how to tell him to deal with it. He has always been a bit of an island that way, very much like his father.

But my youngest—he speaks of platelet counts far too often. Is familiar with cancer staging and post-surgical protocols. He needs an outlet. A place to complain that teachers don’t seem to get he will be alright one day and a mess the next—and that this may or may not show on the outside. A place to figure out how to deal with the social isolation on a weekend his dad doesn’t feel well enough to leave the house—and he doesn’t feel like he should leave his dad.

I have sat, it seems, in too many rooms like this one. When my mother was dying, the hospice house had a “quiet” room. Ironically named, as the hospice was always quiet. In moments of black humor, I would think of posting a sign that read: “Quiet, please. People dying.” As if any of us needed a reminder. In that room, also, were books. A meditation cushion. A sofa and comfy chair.

It is not that any of these rooms imbue me with any Mother Teresa traits. I still am my same impatient self when I walk out. But something about the energy inherent in these rooms changes my behavior, even if only temporarily. As if the collective of fervently uttered prayers, total surrenders to tears or hysterical laughter, the quiet moments of reflection, oozes into my pores for a bit. When someone cuts me off as I pull out of the parking lot, I could care less. I don’t even react. My mind is on the mother with children who were leaving with pensive expressions just before us. On the people shuffling in for the anti-cancer diet cooking class in the kitchen. On the man who wandered into the library while I was there, muttering aloud to himself about the books. We’re all in this soup we didn’t ask to be in. So are our families. It’s not great but no one wants pity either. There is living to do—day by day. And dying, yes, if we’re truthful.

I have found the losses of the past few years have changed me. I find it harder to relate to those whose idea of a “fun” party is too many cocktails and comparing exotic vacations. I sometimes want to shout, “Do you not want to figure out what the hell you’re here for beyond THIS?” Perhaps that makes me sound crazy. But, the clock is ticking. I can do silly. I can do frivolous. Most of the time, however, I now seek the divine more than ever. I have always been a spiritual seeker. My path over the past few years has just accelerated that a bit.

In this room, this blue room, time seems to stop for just a while. And maybe that is why I find it comforting. When the future is so very uncertain—or the end all too certain—pausing to be still is a blessing beyond belief.




48 Comments Add yours

  1. srbottch says:

    Wonderful story, Kay. The ‘blue room’…such a wonderful concept if all of could take time to visit our own ‘blue room’ and come away better for it. Give my best to your son. As a school crossing guard, I see a few kids daily who seem to carry burdens they shouldn’t have to, at this age. All my best.

    1. candidkay says:

      I wish we could all visit our own blue room just because we want to get to our best selves–instead of because of some unpleasant bit like cancer. I’m hoping we reach a world where we all learn to get a bit quiet and focus on what matters regularly:).

  2. mekathy2 says:

    ‘When the future is so very uncertain—or the end all too certain’ Loved that, well said. It is a rollercoaster journey for sure.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you. Sounds like you have some experience with this.

  3. I read somewhere about Death being great equalizer. It makes things simple, and places are like that, you can feel death. It stops you from fretting

  4. What’s beautiful is how you found this room. And that’s the practice – to keep finding these rooms so you can get back to this place, your best self.
    I loved reading this.

    1. candidkay says:

      Honestly, I wish that I had found this room in any other way :-). However, it is nice to be able to find calm and peace in the middle of a storm. Thanks, as always, for reading!

  5. No words for what your kids are facing. And you’re right. Place bears a great impact on our person. You’ve been in that place too often (and I don’t mean just that room). But I appreciate how you’ve let it bring out your best self.


    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you. Now if she would just stay, regardless of place!

      1. Ha ha ha. She’s in training.

  6. kathygiddins says:

    Beautifully written. So sorry to hear that you’re going through such a difficult time. I used to go to counselling so I know the feeling of those types of “quiet” rooms. All the love xx

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you. Amazing what a quiet, peaceful space can do for us . . . we should create more of them.

  7. MollyB111 says:

    Beautiful words to a difficult situation. You at your best. HUGS!!

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you:). If only my best self would remain a constant!

      1. MollyB111 says:

        Oh but you are that, too! We are at times just to hard on our self. (( Hug ))

  8. I loved this. You have no idea how excited I was to see this post on my blog roll, today, as I was checking to see what I missed from the week. Your children are in my prayers.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, Gabriela, thank you! That means so much. One of my friends once said, “When your blog appears in my inbox, it’s like Christmas morning. I can never wait to unwrap the gift.” Makes me happy you look forward to it:). And thank you for the prayers–I believe they hold power.

  9. Amy says:

    My friend, my heart is there with you in the uncertainty and the sorrow and the hope. You are strong, wise, and good, and that’s equivalent to perfect in my estimation. Thinking of you and your dear ones tonight and sending prayers and love. xxoo

    1. candidkay says:

      As always, your words touch my heart. Thank you, dear friend.

  10. George says:

    I remember sitting in a room on the ninth floor of Sloan Kettering in New York as my grandson went through his chemo treatments along with other children. It rearranges your priorities. It speaks to you with an understanding you should have had your entire life. It paralyzes you and it never, ever, lets you go.
    Not ever.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, George. I’m so sorry you had to go through that. Truly. It does change you. If only we could all get the inherent lesson without the pain.

      1. George says:

        Thankfully he is doing well and enjoying life. Watching anyone fight this disease is difficult, watching kids is obscene. I pray your children finds way to cope and understand.

      2. candidkay says:

        I’m so glad to hear he is doing well! Blessings:).

  11. Thank you so much for sharing beautifully from your heart and the depths of your soul. Your words inspired a post on my blog here
    Blessings, Grace, Peace, & Joy (even in the midst of sorrows) to you and your precious family,
    Valerie Curren

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you so much. I will visit your post. I appreciate your thoughtful comments on mine.

      1. Thanks much! Blessings, Valerie (belatedly)

  12. Oh we all need to visit this room. We need this room for perspective, clarity and reflection. Time is short. “What are we doing here?” We better answer that question sooner than later. BTW you are a beautiful Mum, and your son’s, as tough as it is for them, will see life more deeply than others. That is a gift.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you. While the result of the room is so beneficial, I don’t wish the actual experience on anyone. Perspective any other way seems preferable.

  13. Beautifully written from one of those wisdoms of reflection Kristine, and a time when your hand is close to your heart, and giving from that place to those you love…all else doesn’t matter.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you. Kind words.

  14. I think, for a moment, I let myself be there with you and I understood. Thank you.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, not only is this a comment which shows how beautifully kind and empathetic you are–but it’s one of the nicest things I think you can say to a writer. Thank you, Rachel. Truly.

  15. I just want to give you a hug. You are your best self always for your children and husband. Our best selves are flawed and beautiful. They get angry at strangers who cut us off in traffic, burn dinner, and cope with unbearable pain. They give children the room to understand the world without us, and take children to a safe place when they need it. Kristine, you are beautiful to share this with us, but don’t forget in all that you are managing that yourself is always your best. ❤

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, brought tears to my eyes. Thank you. Was raised to think my best self had to be perfect–and it’s been years of undoing that teaching. Sometimes, I forget. Thanks for the reminder.

  16. fritzdenis says:

    My wife and I are Quakers (she more than I). When Judy was in the hospital a few years ago with gastritis (on top of her vertigo) I sat beside her quietly and meditated. She could feel some peaceful energy coming off of me and would become calmer. I’ve learned that when someone is suffering it helps the most to just be there and share the difficulties with him or her in silence. Platitudes and false encouragement usually make things worse, put a burden on the sufferer.
    Thank you for this post.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, I love that you did that. I’m more and more a believer in the energy we feel, but most of us don’t see. I think if we could all raise our own energy, it would create a ripple effect in those around us. Particularly thinking of those people who enter a room and everyone lights up.

  17. FSD says:

    Particularly meaningful at this very moment. As the husband reminds me – none of us are getting out alive

    1. candidkay says:

      And he is so right:). I tell my son, on his toughest days, that his dad could outlive plenty of people who seem perfectly healthy now. There are no guarantees–but we enjoy and live each day to the fullest. Hard concept to grasp/learn at 12.

  18. darlasue22 says:

    Amen, thank you for sharing! Pondering eternity changes my perspective and purpose more than anything else ever has. It’s like, in those moments, we can transcend all the pain and sadness and imagine a world without it. I can’t wait for that day….

    1. candidkay says:

      Yes–something about seeing our loved ones facing eternity is sobering. And yet, makes us embrace the joy in life more also. An odd dichotomy.

      1. darlasue22 says:

        Yes, and face the fact that we are all facing it! We are all human.

  19. Such a soulful and moving post, K. Thanks for it, and my best wishes to your family – especially younger son — at such a challenging time.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you, Cynthia. I’m a big believer in prayers providing strength for those prayed for:).

  20. What if we painted the world with permission to be so vulnerable; if color could map assurances that we might ask for what we need with generosity? Beautiful post, Kay.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, wouldn’t that be nice, Marie? If we could be so gentle and accepting with one another.

      1. And ourselves. I’ll buy the paint!

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