One and a half years of cancer treatments have left me feeling like a broken house. I am all smashed windows; a trail of litter and destruction running up to my door. Maybe like a house that looks like you have been burgled but actually it was just your toddlers. Littered tea-plates and bits of blackberry jam smudged on the table top, old bottles of half-drunk red wine and dirty tea towels. You get the picture.
I have found life post-active treatment and hormone therapy very hard. I have struggled with anxiety and depression. I have spent many hours in the garden as I feel safe there, not just safe; I feel alive. I feel present. I feel connected. Once I can connect to the plants, I feel a subtle but noticeable shift: I’m connecting to myself. One of my favourite things to do when anxiety crashes in, is to make something to eat from what I can pick in my garden. My husband jokes that I need a portable herb garden. Now, that would be a thing!
Although our garden is small, it is a central focus for all the family. From our worn-with-love wooden kitchen table, we often stop, mid-mouthful and laugh at the antics of the squirrels and gasp with excitement when we catch the coal tits feathering their secret nest, the inner world we will never get to see. My family and I anticipate and countdown the arrival of the sumptuous and delicious pink cherry blossom tree in our garden, the promise of tightly curled blossom, pink curls. As ready and ripe as smiles. The garden is a visual feast.
It's also a metaphor for all our lives. Blossom trees and the small scribbled colours of Spring are Nature’s way of telling us to breathe. To feel grateful for all we have. Trust. In the joy of renewal. There’s something deeply comforting about seeing our own very human existence echoed in Nature. Moments. Cycles. Resting. Ideas. Potential dreams. Blossoming. Changing. Trusting in the process.
The trusting part is what I have found really difficult since finishing treatment. The anxiety dwells within an abject fear of a cancer recurrence. I have been writing about this loss of, and longing for, trust a great deal recently. It is the deep knowing, the process of trusting in renewal – our own renewal; on a cellular level and on an emotional and spiritual level, that I lost. The poem I wrote for Shona’s new body oil/perfume, joie de joie helped me understand what it was I was looking for. The joy of renewal is the renewal of joy. It’s trust. I’ve written on Self-Love in this blog before, but what I’m teetering on here, is trusting yourself. That’s hard for me.
When we filmed the poem earlier today, I had to do a few takes. I found myself emotional. I didn’t expect it. Shona, I said, I felt so deeply when I wrote these poems, the smell, it really took me somewhere, somewhere I needed to go. Shona, I said, I felt really down at the time, but something changed, something lifted me. Oh, wow, she says, that is the Sweet Fennel. Sweet Fennel stimulates cell regeneration and it uplifts mood.
My own Fennel, proudly bobbing its feathers in the wind behind us as we talk, nods in approval.
Oh, and the Palma Rosa, she says, relieves anger, nerves and anxiety. Also uplifting to mood. As ready and ripe as smiles.
I could talk to Shona all day in my garden, with the birds tweeting and the herbs swaying, about her ingredients and the therapeutic properties of them. Writing this now though, I think I know why reading them this morning was emotional. My words, this poem, retraces a path; each word, image, phrase is a stepping stone or a bridge – all part of my messy, quiet, silent, disruptive non-linear healing. And when I read out, I am the joy of renewal. I am the renewal of joy, I remembered both the desperation of losing that easy joy in the everyday and the deep comfort of taking steps to come back to myself, hands out-stretched. Because, we are all renewing, all the time. Every moment and every breath is a renewal.
Katie Murray is a published writer, poet and founder of Love of Literacy www.loveofliteracy.co.uk. Katie is resident writer for Skin Elixir, publishing two blogs per month. Katie writes poignantly of her recovery with lobular breast cancer. It is an absolute honour to call Katie a great friend and wonderful that she shares her words of healing and power with us all on here.
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joie de joie will be available to buy from tomorrow 💚