Difficult Things.

IMG_3517My friend Fonda, who is ridiculously wise and insightful, says that everyone has a difficult thing (or things).

This is truth. Rather: Truth (note the capital T).

Somewhere along the way, life, if you live even a little bit at all, will hand you a Difficult. Thing. Of some sort. Likely more than once. Sometimes it will be Very. Difficult.

Maybe you were born with your difficult thing: a chronic disease or a miserable family of origin or something that makes you differently abled.

Maybe you grew up around a lot of violence and are unable to trust or feel safe. Maybe you’ve lost someone so dear to you that it seems the sun can’t possibly still be rising every morning. Maybe you battle anxiety or depression or just struggle with staying mentally well more than most. Maybe you deal with ADD, or have a profound learning disability, or are on the autism spectrum. Maybe you are a long-term caregiver for a dearly loved one.

Maybe the dream of what you thought your life would be has been shattered, beyond fixing it seems, and the path to some sort of wholeness and joy feels so very hopeless and long. Broken dreams are some of the most difficult things–because in their breaking we lose, even if temporarily, our sense of self, often finding ourselves navigating landscapes we don’t even recognize without so much as the most rudimentary map to guide us.

Difficult things. 

Mine no more or less than yours. Because, as my friend Meghan says, life is not a “suck competition.” Sometimes it all just sucks. For all of us. In a thousand-and-one different ways.

Difficult things.

Real, painful, life-shaping, mighty, awful, difficult things.

The havoc and grief and fear and isolation that COVID-19 has unleashed on our world and our communities is a Very. Difficult. Thing. For reasons medical and practical and logistical and otherwise. And, perhaps most of all, it is damaging our collective psyches in ways that I believe we are only just beginning to see. This drawing apart from one another, even if we must, even if it is the right thing to do, even ifeven ifeven if…is leaving an indelible and painful mark on the most inward places of our souls. And the healing will take more time than any of us will like.

Difficult things. 

On March 13th, the Friday before most of my beloved Kentucky shut down due to coronavirus precautions, I was visiting, for the first time, the office of the doctor who I now know as my oncologist. He ordered many, many tests that day, the last of which took place on Good Friday, nearly a month later–a bone marrow biopsy, which, let me just say, I do not recommend as a fun way to kick off your weekend. Maybe go for a root canal instead.

As it turns out, I have a relatively rare form of non-Hodgkins lymphona.

And y’all? This is a Very. Difficult. Thing. The Universe and I are still struggling to come to civil speaking terms about this. Because I have plans. Things to do. Experiences to share with those I love best. I have a daughter that I fully intend to see to adulthood, lymphoma be damned. I have Things. To. Do.

Cancer was not on the list.

Difficult things. 

There was a time in my life when this would have leveled me. When I was weak in every way a person can be–in body, in mind, and in spirit. When dysfunction of all sorts had me hemmed in, and I had nothing even close to the mighty village of loved ones who have rallied around and behind me these last few weeks.

This is not to say this diagnosis has not brought me to my knees. It is to say, I did not stay there. And even if I drop there again, I will not stay there, unless it is in fervent prayer to the God I believe is with us in all things, in all times, in all places, no matter what.

And so, I am grateful that if this cancer has to be, that it is now. And not then.

I am also grateful for a brilliant and experienced medical team, and a supportive employer, and excellent health insurance. (All of this is privilege, and I have promised to not take it for granted.)

I am grateful for a faith community that believes as, I do, that prayer matters. How or why or when, I do not even pretend to know, I just believe it does. I am humbled by the prayers rising on my behalf. They give me more strength than I could even begin to name.

And I am grateful for texts and phone calls and FaceTime dates and Zoom happy hours and every other way we have of staying connected during these COVID days. I am grateful for those who know that super heroes and ginkgo trees are talismans of hope and resilience for me, and so have populated my life with reminders of them in recent days.

But most of all, I am grateful for the redemptive power and unending mercy that I believe real relationships create in our lives. I crave the touch of those I love; long for the day when my backyard deck is full of my favorites once again; cannot wait to hold hands and share hugs.

This gratitude is saving grace.

Difficult things. 

A week or so ago, I came across the poem pictured up top of this blog–it is from The Cure at Troy, by Seamus Haney. And it seems just right for these days I am–we all are– living. Because we are in difficult things. All of us. And, I, for one, have had more than a few days of finding hope hard to come by on this side of the grave.

But y’all–even in our difficult things, even in these days when we’ve hurt each other and are scared and unsure–even now, we are people made to be in relationship with one another, because it is only in committing our lives to one another that we find anything resembling our best selves, and so make room for the sort of mercy that falls in great and graceful torrents into the most aching places of our souls such that hope can grow.

Difficult things. 

But also…

Farther shores to reach. And healing wells to be found. 

Justice League has been playing in the background as I write tonight, and it is no coincidence (because I don’t believe in those) that as I finish this post, the last lines of the movie can be clearly heard. They include, “Darkness, the truest darkness, is not the absence of light. It is the conviction that the light will never return. But the light always returns….

May it be so. 



12 thoughts on “Difficult Things.

  1. Dear Julie,I have been enjoying your blog for a couple of years now, I think. I don’t even remember how I found you, but I’ve followed your journey through adventures, challenges, and trials. And I hate that you are dealing with cancer. I just wanted to be in touch real quick, and say that stinks. As if isolating from a pandemic, and probably home-schooling your kiddo! isn’t enough right now! But I venture to guess that I am not the only reader who is cheering you on from cyberspace. This is one of those times when you wish there was something really concrete to do – bring dinner, or walk the dog, or something practical and useful – but since that’s not in the realm of possibility right now, I’ll settle for this note to say I’m in your corner. I’m praying for you. Hugs to you and Curley Girl. Donna DiMeo-HammellTraveler, Blogger, MinisterBornwithgypsyshoes.com From: Someone Stole My CoffeeSent: Saturday, May 2, 2020 9:08 PMTo: donnamia2@gmail.comSubject: [New post] Difficult Things. jerich75 posted: "My friend Fonda, who is ridiculously wise and insightful, says that everyone has a difficult thing (or things). This is truth. Rather: Truth (note the capital T). Somewhere along the way, life, if you live even a little bit at all, will hand you a Diffi"

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Julie, thoughts and prayers surrounding you and Curly girl as you take on this very difficult thing! So sorry!! Grateful you have the resources around you that you do… Prayer’s for healing and for hope!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There was a time in my life when loving and caring for someone with Non Hodgkins was the Difficult Thing in my life. I am heart broken to hear that this is something you and your family now also have experience with. You have my prayers. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Julie I’m truly sorry you have joined those of us fighting cancer. It is a blessing and a difficult thing. And surely more than you needed on your full plate. Prayers and love coming your you and curly girl on your journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Julie, I have been enjoying your blog forever. I so identify with all you write. You write what I have in my heart. Thank you for sharing your beautiful gift.
    My heart and my prayers are with you not only during this difficult time but for all time that I am here on this earth.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Your friend Fonda also says that some people have more hard things than is imaginable! My heart broke as I read this blog and I was also encouraged in your words. I know you have a great village around you but know that you now have another praying for you. I wish I could sit with you by a fountain in the evening air of the dessert and just pour loving thoughts your way. In the meantime, know that they are coming from Florida. My phone rings day and night. If you don’t have my number Matt does! Praying for you and M as you walk through these days!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Dear Julie, Oh, I’m holding you in my heart right now. I am so sorry to hear this is your journey now.

    People will give you a lot of well meaning advice so I won’t unless you ask me for some. I will give you one fact: in April 2014 I was diagnosed with a rare Sarcoma cancer with no cure and now, five years later I am alive. Use that as a nugget of hope when you are able, which might not be for awhile. Like you, I had plans and wanted to see my son graduate from college so I surrendered (I am not a fighter and was not going to “beat this”).

    If you need a neutral ear or some confirmation on anything practical or weird, please use me at 502-424-3706.

    Holding you, Maddie and your parents close in my heart and prayers. Take care and be well, Melissa Draut

    Sent from my iPad



  8. Praying for you and curly girl and the rest of your family! I will seek updates from my sister in law when she has them but if there is anything that Kit and I can do (on top of praying) please let us know!!


  9. Hey this morning, My name is Susan and I live in Berea. I have followed you for a very long time on your “Someone Stole My Coffee”, . I use to own a coffee shop in Berea ,KY . A dear friend of mine is David Grandgeorge and he was my minister at First Christian in Berea for many years. He knows you and we have shared many talks about your writings over the course of time. Another friend of mind is an artist , working in Berea and ,now retired, had a working studio for years. He made a very special set for me years ago and I would like to share with you. Few people have shared my love for the Gingko tree. I am praying for you and curly girl every day. I have a new prayer app ECHO and you are at top of my list. I love this because I can not forget those I love to pray for……even though God knows I still like to say the names out loud. It gives me joy and comfort…… If you have a PO box or an address I’d love to share this token of my admiration for your writings and your spirit. I promise I am not crazy and would never share with any one. Please know you and your insightful words have helped me through many a rough day nursing and also just in my everyday family life. You are so right I am currently praying for my daughter who at 32 was diagnosed with type 1( juvenile) diabetes. She is on second month with the closed loop insulin pump. Like you we are blessed with jobs and insurance . She has the grace of an angel and I think since she is a teacher I see her being an advocate for her young diabetics in the school system. I share this just so you know I am sincere and just want to share a little hand made hope with you. 😊 I hope I get your address and if I do I will mail. 😊

    Sent from Mail for Windows 10


  10. Light comes from within and you are showing that through this article. Thank you for allowing light to return to many. May your light daily continue to bless others and may you be blessed. Light returned when you were born and you are shining.


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