Pity Party, Table of (at least) 1. That would be me- sitting there in my pity party ready hair-shirt and orthopedic shoes. (The orthopedic shoe part is a lie. I like cute shoes- even for a pity party. justsayin.) On those days when I sit at that table- the hardest part isn’t leaving the party…. it’s letting myself off the hook for attending.

I’m complicated like that. Most of us are.

Here’s the thing- Pity not a moral failure. When we think of OTHER peoples struggles and pain- we see pity as a part of compassion. When it’s directed towards ourselves- we see it as selfish. Or, maybe that’s just me.

Don’t get me wrong- cancer, chronic illness, loss, grief, all kinds of pain can cause us to become myopic. (Near sighted. Which: I actually am. But is not the point.) Our own pain takes center stage. We focus on it because it is so large, so (seemingly) all encompassing that we can’t see anything else. Forget about  not seeing the forest for the trees- somedays-we can’t see other people’s needs because of our own pain.

Come on, let’s be real, how could it not? Attending and acknowledging that self-pity is healthy and a necessary part of coping.

So is- changing your hair shirt for something cuter and more comfy- (I recommend faux-ga pants. Which is what I call yoga pants never worn to actual- yoga.) Putting on your cute shoes, a pair of glasses (if necessary to change your perspective- I recommend some awesome sunglasses- but that’s again: me.) and taking a look around you.

Not at YOUR circumstances- but at those around you.

The stranger next to you at Starbucks.

The OTHER patient at the cancer center.

The tornado victim.

Cancer tries to steal that from you. You don’t have to let it.  You also don’t have to let it paralyze you with  self-condemnation for a few moments at the pity party. Both are tricks cancer tries to mess with your mind while it tries to kill you or those you love. Cancer is a thief.

This week I took a step away from the pity party-without heaping guilt on myself.  And I took steps to change my perspective to something less myopic.

It wasn’t a big deal. It was actually- technically partly selfish. Part of my coping mechanism (besides cupcakes) is knitting. Monday was a Cancer Center day- and I decided last week that instead of thinking constantly about what WE are facing- I’d concentrate on others. So, I knit hats. Which was good for me… and for others. Bonus.

4 of them.

When we went to the U of M Monday- I dropped them off. You’d have through I was dropping off a donation of gold bricks. Apparently- not many patients/ families of patients drop off hats. (They’re of course- more often to need them.) Honestly- the lady’s gushing made me feel silly. It wasn’t a big deal just a few hours of knitting. That I enjoyed. and that helped me.

She saw it differently. She saw it as meeting the needs of someone else. she knew it would make a small difference in someone else’s suffering.

Some part of me did, too.

I left reminded that even at our lowest- hardest times… looking outward and finding some small thing to do for others- makes a difference. To us. And to them.

So I’m committed- I can’t control cancer. I can’t think it away- juice it away or pray it away- God will do what he chooses in our lives in that regard. I hope He heals. I pray He heals. I trust either way.

Here’s what I can control: Me. What I see. How long I sit at the pity party and what I do when I leave that table. And whether- I DO leave that table. Honestly- the decor- sucks. Nate Berkus doesn’t do Pity Party tablescapes. It’s not a place to stay. It’s a place to sit- catch your breath and then move on to do the next thing.

When we do- without heaping guilt and condemnation on ourselves- cancer loses.

So cancer—- this week- the PSA may have climbed again- but you still lost. Because- I refuse to let you steal my compassion for myself or others because of you.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Roman’s 8)

I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, theLord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.  (from Exodus 33) 

Dear lord-help me to have compassion- for myself- my family and others. Help me let go of self-condemnation over pity party attendance. Help me to be a conduit of compassion love and grace to others.  Thank you for helping  me look around and see the pain of others. Thank you for eyes to see. Give them to each one who reads- help each one who reads to let go of condemnation and accept that self pity is part of compassion. Help us to love others the way we love ourselves.- In your power. I love you lord- even here- amen