When I was growing up, a favorite pastime was to create a play tent. My brother and I would begin by placing a card table in the center of the living room, covering it with a blanket, and continuing to build. By the time we finished, the field of blankets would stretch across the living room, forming a table-height tent. My Mother would sigh and remind us that we had to be ready to clean it up if someone stopped to visit.
But for us kids, the fun was just starting. We played for hours, days if no one was coming to visit. The tent was a place for imagination and stories. Our stuffed animals and toys lived lives of their own. And, best of all, no adult could fit through the narrow “door,” even if they had wanted to crawl on their hands and knees into the tent. As small kids, we experienced the freedom of being hidden, invisible, of creating and living in our own world.
I’ve been remembering the happiness and joy of those long-ago play times in the tent. I’ve been thinking about the time before I began writing about “living with what is.” It too was “tent time,” a time of hiding and being invisible. It was a time when Jon and I chose to share my diagnosis and our experiences only with family and close friends.
I’ve come to understand that hiding was a necessary response to having our world plunged into the unknown. In 2014 after the diagnosis of ovarian cancer, I wanted to hide. I’m thankful that Jon supported and honored my desire to hide. Hiding created a tent-like space where Jon and I could safely re-imagine the world. It was a shadowy shelter – half light, half dark – that enclosed our sadness and despair, joy and hope, reflection and creation. It was a shelter where a new chapter of my own story and our shared life story could gestate and emerge.
I’m not hiding anymore, but I know that shelter exists in any moment that I need it. Jon and I are deeply grateful for family and friends who continue to come and join us in our “visiting space.” In that sheltered space, we sit, visit, talk about what matters to us, laugh, and sometimes cry – imagining new stories and embracing life and the love that surrounds us.