In the light of death, you see clearly what is important and what is not. You are amazed at how much time and life energy you dissipate in matters that, in the end, do not mean much to you or do not make much difference in life. – Ken McLeod
What is your difficulty?
I wonder if I am having a relapse of lymphoma. I had a blood test that signaled a possible problem.
My lymph nodes are enlarged, I’ve had a few night sweats, and I have a pain that, if I scoured the Internet, could make a case for a big fat uh oh.
I’ll have a scan this week.
How are you feeling?
Surprised and indifferent.
Questioning and not wanting to know anything.
Relaxed with bouts of anxious wondering.
Quietly joyful and sad.
I’m having memories of treatment, feeling nauseated, in pain, and dull and absent. I notice how these memories bring up a feeling of wanting to be free of discomfort. The idea of having physical pain, or not getting to do something I want to do is taking a lot of space in my mind. I’m remembering the past, thinking about the future, and imagining, even fantasizing, a story that is not real. I haven’t had my scan yet. (Oh, good. I see that I’m making shit up.)
I sit in my chair and imagine something else: my body as a boat. I push off and ride the river of having cancer with flamboyant openness. That thought lasts about a half of a second. Come back here, sweet thought.
How does this affect you?
I feel like I better get going and also like don’t get going. Yeah, don’t go anywhere, Susan. Stay with your feelings, Susan.
What are you learning?
I’m at the beach as I write the responses to these questions. I’m a little more right here with myself. I notice the sky and colors of the waves as they roll in.
There’s nothing like a magical moment of personal intimacy. The warmth of my heart managed to knock on mind’s door and say, “Quiet down, you little thinker.” And there in a rare, mature light of less thinking is a meet-up with Clarity, who has a way of wordlessly saying the inexplicable.
And now I know.
I realize that there is no “me” or “you.” This is tricky to explain. No “me” or “you” means that rather than express or suppress, I let go. (Sort of. I know. So mysterious.) I let go of what I think and what you might think and the stories those thoughts create.
I just live. (And begin to notice that I’m sitting on sugar sand, can hear the gulls calling to each other, and feel the salt spray on my lips.)
What I’m trying to say is that these moments (a beloved passes, stark illness knocks, or a disaster arrives) seem to bring the best chance of living, experiencing with no expectation, no result, no hope, no wish, no purpose. It’s pure experience.
I know. Ideal and impossible.
What is shifting in your thoughts or feelings about your difficulty?
My experience of freedom.
Well, my experience is not shifting. It’s enlarging.
Just the thought of a cancer relapse, even wondering about relapse or thinking I shouldn’t be wondering, brings up a wish for freedom from thinking (impossible, I sing!) or feeling bad or sad, of not feeling, Instead, I’m in my head trying to understand what’s happening.
Okay, this feels complex. I’m saying that if I seek to understand as a way to control or release myself from pain, I think that’s a way to avoid living.
I like this: it’s a good idea to live whatever shows up, as Ken McLeod suggests. When I first heard the idea, I thought, “Too hard.” But, my next thought is, I’ll do it. Live whatever is right now.
Hey, I’m still here!
How do you choose to respond to or work with your difficulty?
I choose to experience what happens (and to work with the noise of my heart and mind).
How’s that for simple? HA!
Okay, this might sound corny and crazy, yet this is what comes to me as a way of living: I choose to think of all others who are relapsing (or feeling not-so-good or afraid) and breathe in their pain.
Right now I’m looking out at a choppy Gulf of Mexico mirrored by a calm sky. I choose to think of all others lost in a sea of fear. I choose to take in their fear and send them this relaxed sea breeze breath.
How can you use what you’re learning in other difficult moments?
Connecting to others who might be feeling fear and pain will help off-set my conditioned sense that it’s impossible to think of others when my next difficult moment arrives. I can also think of others in happy moments. So, when I see the doctor this week and hear that my scan is clear, I’ll think of others.
I hope I remember.
NOTE: A bird walked up to me today and practically put his foot on my knee. This guy: