"Things are always in transition, if we could only realize it. Nothing ever sums itself up in the way we like to dream about. The off-center, in-between state is an ideal situation, a situation in which we don't get caught and we can open our hearts and minds beyond limit. It's a very tender, non aggressive, open-ended state of affairs."~Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
One of the reasons I adore Pema Chodron's teachings/writings, is that she shines such an honest, gentle, light on the darker shadows of the mind.
I have been feeling disjointed - disassembled - as though the old me (or my perception of the old me, at least) was being deconstructed one bit at a time, just as my tumor is destroyed, little by little, piece by piece.
My external and internal worlds are getting smaller, simpler. And Pema Chodron is right - this off-center place is where I can open my heart and mind beyond their usual, well trodden paths. There is a tenderness to it, too, because my horizon has suddenly been pulled right up close, like a sheet tucked under my chin.
Until I got sick, I don't think I fully understood my Ego's desire to fly from the mundane.
I don't get up in the morning with a head full of ideas anymore - for writing, or jewelry or adventure. My mind was often like a house-afire .. always groping and searching for the Next Big Thing. Anything to save me from Tuesday, from the dull, repetitive thump of my days.
I wanted to feel something extraordinary, or do something extraordinary, every single day. Maybe it was to write that piece that would finally set the internet on fire, or have a creative idea that would launch my business into the stratosphere, or find more ways to spread the word about women and addiction - bigger platforms, louder megaphones, more ears listening.
Next, Bigger, More - those concepts drove me much more than I realized. I hardly ever just woke up, stretched, and said, "why, hello, Tuesday".
These days my thoughts revolve around medication schedules, traffic patterns to get to radiation on time, side effect management, what I will (or won't) be able to swallow today. I experiment with soft foods - banana yogurt is a hit!, chocolate pudding is not! - and gently move myself from one end of the day to the other.
I spend a lot of time waiting. In my car in traffic, in waiting rooms, in exam rooms. I've gotten really good at it. I sit in the Radiation waiting room and study the increasingly familiar faces there. Sometimes we exchange a smile or a nod, as we sit in our polka-dotted johnnies and socks. We keep a respectful silence; this is not a place to exchange symptoms, side effects or diagnoses. It is a place to simply be.
Simple tasks like folding laundry bring me pleasure. The fresh, clean scents, the making of a messy pile into something orderly - I am noticing the simple pleasure in these things, and they are a balm to my darker thoughts.
I am finding the extraordinary in the small places - brushing my daughter's hair in the morning, helping Finn sound out a word, teaching them a card game. I know they were here all along, these moments, and sometimes I would see them, if I stopped long enough on my mad rush to the Next Big Thing.
But now they feel like little gifts, these moments, not something to get over with quickly.
And when the darker thoughts come - and they do come - I am learning to open my arms and embrace them, because I can never, ever outrun them. It's futile to try.
"To stay with that shakiness - to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge - that is the path of true awakening. Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic - this is the spiritual path."~Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
Although nothing about my life feels familiar at the moment, being ill is bringing me closer to my center. It is forcing me to walk through boundaries, through walls that I thought protected me from fear and vulnerability, but really only separated me from true peace of mind.
As I slash and whack my way towards truth, shed light on dark corners of my mind that I never thought I'd have to visit (hello, Cancer Patient; hello, Pride; hello, Avoidance; hello, Fear) I am getting closer to a true sense of self, a warrior's sense of peace.