From S. Elise Peeples, author of the novel Strands and non-fiction work, The Emperor Has a Body, comes a memoir of the events surrounding her breast cancer and mastectomy. This is an account of her openness to guidance from the seen and the unseen and of the active support she received from her community. This book details not only ways to handle illness, but also ways to handle whatever “things” show up in one’s life.
“You have been impeccably real and naked to the bone with yourself and with us… You have shown us how, when given the chance, a community can be essential to healing and transformation…how a community is transformed by the journey of any one of its own.”
—Elenna Rubin Goodman, ceremonialist and convener of the Bay Area Daré, a sacred gathering for healing and peace building.
Reading it [When Things Happen to People] was like being inside of a giant poem where someone was examining courageously the elements of it. —Peter Buttross, poet and philosopher
This book documents my personal journey before, during, and after I had a mastectomy on September 4, 2009.
This account is not meant to be a “How-to-Turn-Negative-into-Positive-in-Nine-Easy-Steps” kind of book. Rather, it is a “how-to” book only in that it demonstrates how to, while on a difficult journey and in life in general, cultivate an attitude of receptivity and openness to guidance from both the seen and unseen and to involve community.
I can only speak to the first steps, that of receptivity and community. The next steps must be discovered/unveiled by each person on such a journey, only after the first are taken, not just once but before every step.
I began the book so that I could publish a series of e-mails that I sent out to my community and the responses I received back from them. A strong theme in the book is how crucial community was to me all along the way. The community brought with it a larger lens, changing the focus of my attention from what was “me” and “mine” to a wider awareness of peace-making and healing, not just in my life, but in my communities and beyond.
I compare this change of focus to a film I once saw called Cosmic Voyage where the lens of the camera looked at reality from different distances. First, it zoomed in to the microscopic level, and then it zoomed out in stages all the way to outer space. At the microscopic level, atoms looked chaotic until the camera zoomed out a little, and the pattern became clear. Then it zoomed a little further out and everything looked chaotic for a while until it zoomed far enough out to allow one to once again recognize patterns.
You will see that at one point in the story I was asked if I could be the vehicle for a miracle for the community, and I answered, yes. To me, a miracle occurs when we can let go of judgment, cause and effect, reward and punishment—in fact, all dualisms—and keep the focus spacious, allowing for a glimpse into a different level of reality where miracles happen. With this different focus, events and what seem like isolated incidents and individuals show themselves to be deeply connected, forming a new sort of pattern. Seeing or sensing that other level of reality required that I disengage from the details of my daily life long enough to experience chaos, “not knowing,” and non-judging.
Events happened on this journey that are unexplainable in this day-to-day reality but which made intuitive sense when I zoomed out. These glimpses into a larger reality came in the form of synchronicities, dreams, messages from ancestors or animals, lessons from unlikely sources, and intuitions that I could not attribute to any likely source.
Neither good nor bad, this journey, but a reminder to us all of the possibilities of climbing beyond a one-dimensional life, to dwell more fully in the healing field, alive in its myriad dimensions, seen and unseen, still and full of vibration, always and forever connected to each other and to all creation.
“When a ladder fell broadside onto the freeway in front of me, time stopped, giving me a chance to swerve around it, unharmed. This incident began a journey of teachings and synchronicities, from the appearance of The Stranger (tumor in my breast), through decisions, preparations for a mastectomy, surgery, healing frontier and becoming a healing presence.” –S. Elise Peeples, author
“I began this book because of a series of e-mails I sent and that were sent in reply to me before and after I had a mastectomy on September 4, 2009.”
—S. Elise Peeples, author