Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person

I was reading on "My Crazy Sexy Life" just yesterday and found an entry by a woman discussing her cancer journey. She said that she had noticed an emotional cycle that she follows, where she is good with her diagnosis/NED status for a while, then she's anxious, then mad again, then depressed, then feels good for a while again, etc. It's good to read other stories like this, because I know for even the most seasoned survivor, the thought of all there is to deal with continually, while trying to lead a "normal life" can be so daunting. The scans and the waiting for results, for me, are especially killer.
But then I was listening to Elizabeth Lesser on the radio yesterday, and she made an interesting point. She said that we have to think about life as if it is a river, and we can fight it the whole way, trying to get upstream against the current, insisting that things go our way, living in a constant state of struggle. Or we can succumb to the river, let go, float, enjoy the ride, and accept where we are being taken. It is all a choice.
It's so easy to say that- so easy to say let go, let go of all the plans you made and all the dreams you had about what your life would be.
But when the time comes to fight, to do the awful treatment and have the surgery and spend so much time in recovery- when it comes time to make the choice to continue living no matter the cost- it isn't the picture we had created of our life that we are fighting for. What we are fighting for more days here, regardless of our plans, regardless of whether they are days spent floating somewhere we never planned on going or struggling against the current. And that's the thing that those cancer patients you talk to( -you know, the ones with that light behind their eyes-) seem to have gotten during their journey. That any day here is worth the fight.
It's noble and beautiful to come out of the situation with that new view. That every breath is worth a prayer of a thousand thanks.

But how did they get there? To the point where they are really the person that is okay with letting the river take them wherever it is going? Well, according to Elizabeth Lesser, it's really not so hard to be that person, whether we have had a cancer experience or not. And this is what she said that really blew me away: she said that in order to love your life no matter what, that every single day, you have to sit still. And in sitting still, we will be faced with all kinds of things: our disappointments, and anger, or fear, sadness, guilt, or even physical pain. As all these emotions and feelings arise, she said, you take note of them objectively and without any judgment.
That's it.
That's the key to unconditional happiness.

Because, just like sneaky Mr. Miyagi using chores and car washes to teach Ralph Macchio the art of perseverance, sitting in the midst of our reality and our pain little by little teaches us that we can survive anything and still be happy in the midst of it. When we allow what is to be, then, like you are in the river, you will float along and move through it.
Why is it when we admit our pain that we move through it so much faster? Because reality pushes on with or without us, whether we live in denial or not? Because struggling against the current is exhausting? Because acceptance saves us thousands of minutes of grief? Because time itself is the thief?

I guess the real answer is who cares why? It just does. The river will take us exactly where we need to go. There are no accidents.
Even if we fight it, we are still being pushed to the exact place we are supposed to be the whole time.

And if it's as easy as Mrs. Lesser is telling us, if I can love my life no matter how badly it can hurt, well, I'm sitting still every day.
And I'm making it a point to float on my back from here on out.



faye said...

I have that movie, Crazy Sexy Cancer. Obviously not for cancer, but I really like Chris Karr and like to lurk around my crazy sexy life. So inspiring. And Lesser? Did you know you can also listen/watch her on I feel like I get a lot out of her and want to go to the Omega Institute! Okay, I probably won't. But you never know. Anyways, click on "soul series." You can watch her, Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle and Jon Kabat-Zinn. It's really great. Maybe you already know that?

Anonymous said...

I have to remind myself everyday to let life lead me, I don't get to lead life. It's hard.

easterlygal said...

This is a story posted by AOL from the washington post. The most ignorant posts follow the story. But the article at least spurred some conversation...

Carver said...

Good post Lori. I hope you and Bobbi are having a great vacation (I saw that in your next post).

Jenngie said...

Wonderful post!

I needed that reminder today, thank you....



I'm Too Young For This!