Friday, July 8, 2011

Becoming Pickles

The word "pickles" has never evoked a positive feeling in my core when spoken. Normally I get queasy and my nose scrunches up more than slightly. This is because I have a phobia, or so I've been told. If you want to know what I ate at the previous meal just put a pickle near my nose and you will find out. Never did I think that I would associate this word with adventure, laughter, friends, or healing, but I do. And for the same reason that I now get excited to hear the word pickles, I get excited for summers, like a schoolgirl that no longer has classes to look forward to but seemingly endless weeks of freedom. This, to me, is amazing considering many adults hardly know summer from winter due to jobs and hectic schedules, of which I have both. But in spite of my adulthood I have discovered a very new reason to look forward to summers. Every summer there is one week out of the year that I transverse from Reagan to Pickles... one week that I get to attend a First Descents camp.

Pickles is my nickname, specifically given to me at my first "FD" experience when others found out I have a phobia of something that most kids eat at baseball games. You see, everyone gets a nickname. I'm honestly not sure why but I believe it is used as a way to be someone else for a week, someone healthy, someone adventurous. At least that's what it is for me. We are all young adults with a cancer history, some current, some distant memories, but all dealing with the aftereffects. My first camp was nothing short and everything more than eye-opening. I can point to that first camp as the week I was emotionally healed of my scars from cancer (as much as anyone can truly be emotionally healed from such an experience). I've written about First Descents before, describing the details of my whitewater kayaking experience down the Colorado River, but more than a fun week that camp genuinely returned me to myself. I felt whole for the first time in years, as if my soul had somehow been returned to my body. I suddenly understood the feelings I had been having all of this time and realized that I was no different than anyone else in that room. For the first time since probably high school, everyone understood me, cancer and all. It was an indescribable feeling really. To hear near identical stories of people never feeling satisfied with their accomplishments because nothing seemed like enough to justify their life being spared, or an account of friends turning their backs to a "situation" that was too inconvenient to deal with, or people being more afraid of pain than death... I felt as if I was hearing a recording of myself. This coming week I will be attending my second FD camp, this time in Kalispell, Montana, and I am so excited about it. I know that it will be another great and life changing week. I will be posting my journal entries when I get back. Praying for another amazing FD experience.

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"Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting..... 'WHAT A RIDE!'"