This Calvin and Hobbs cartoon by Sam Waterman has been speaking to me lately.
Being human means sometimes we make a mess of things—but we don’t need to make it worse by perseverating and catastrophizing the event. The body aging and a diagnosis of cancer offers challenges and forces us to come to a new balance. Doing so requires acceptance and not creating a narrative that may or may not be true (like, why me?). In the process balls get dropped, our “to do” list changes and sometimes there is a mess to clean up: the mind. My mantra was, “No Double Arrow, I will maintain perspective and not make things worse than they are.” With my back hurting and a diagnosis of breast cancer I had to juggle less balls and I did not like acknowledging my limitations and the sadness that came with it. Persistence was required to heal and maintain perspective.
Yes, the lump discovered in a mammogram was cancerous. Yes, I had a lumpectomy. Yes, it went well and only needed one day surgery. Yes, my surgeon was excellent. Yes, I do not need chemotherapy or radiation and yes, I still have two breasts and only a crescent shaped scar. I am lucky and grateful. Yes, this is not automatic and it is a reminder of my mortality and has me question how many balls I have in the air and note that I am not as quick and alert as I used to be. It takes persistence in being mindful and honesty in examining my priorities.
Relationships are a priority as is continuing to do service. My niece had a baby about a month ago. She lives 3000 miles away but I had no hesitation visiting her and her family and meeting my grand niece. Looking at the perfection of her little being, seeing her eyes open and begin taking in the world, observing my niece as a mom is a privilege. How wonderful. It is also wonderful to be able to go back to my place here in California where she lives and see the trees blooming. The snow is melting back east but covered the ground when I left. Tomorrow I and a colleague will conduct an eight day training for people who want to teach Mindfulness-based stress reduction. He is older too and we have a pact to remember self-care and pacing. We will have a longer lunch period to be able to rest. I believe everyone will benefit. Being of service, teaching and doing work I love is priority. Enjoying the time I have to not do is also priority. I find myself savoring walking the dog or looking out the window and seeing the trees swaying in the wind and noting how the light falls on the branches. I have begun painting and drawing trees that have deep roots and are multi-colored.
I am here. I am well. I am older. How lucky is that?