The C-Word

It's scary, looking the monster in the face. All these thoughts spinning around: it's cancer. It's nothing. I'm paranoid, it's a parasite, it's gluten, it's my imagination, don't be ridiculous. Could it be my imagination? There is pain. The pain scares me. I wonder if I am scared because I feel pain, or if I feel pain because I am scared. The cart and the horse, running circles around one another; the chicken or the egg?

The doctor, whose bedside manner resembles that of a construction crew boss, orders tests. There is little point, he seems to think, in attempting to explain anything to me until he's "gotten in there and had a look around." He says bodies are like machines; they wear out, parts go bad and have to be replaced. This is almost dead opposite of the paradigm I work from on a daily basis, encouraging my clients to think of their bodies as allies, intelligent organisms with multi-layered, elegant, sensitive systems that want to heal themselves and will do so with the right level of input. 

He hasn't said the c-word, but I can hear it whispering in the corners of the room. I can hear it in my own head, dogging my thoughts. It scares me. It also, simultaneously, is doing something I never expected: slowing me down. Distilling each moment down to its bare essence. Today, taking a shower, the sun came slanting through the window and turned the water droplets into thousands of prisms. I stood still, hands raised to my face, bathing in rainbows. It was so beautiful I could barely breathe. Not every moment, but many moments are like this lately: clouds moving across the sky. The white flash of a dove's wing. Water bouncing off my skin. The feeling of falling, when I'm in bed, just before I drift into sleep. The smell of my boyfriend's hair.

And when it turns out that it isn't the c-word, after all; when the tests all come back negative; the gratefulness and ease begin, strangely, to recede. The spinning thoughts of death and the stress and the mental agony, they go, and of course I'm glad to see them go, but also that deep joy in living, that slow loveliness--where has it gone? Daily life rushes back in, demanding, pushing, stamping its foot. My brain reverses and goes back into its usual spin, gets caught up in the little shit. Gotta go here, gotta get there, gotta book another client, what about paying the bills, did the dog get a long enough walk today, what's going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month?

And clearly I have lost my mind again. I find myself missing Death. It was teaching me something. When it was possible that I had something that could kill me, I suddenly knew with absolute clarity what was Important and (just as clearly) what was not Important. None of the daily shit that I worry about is Important. All of the things Death highlighted: the slow savoring of a meal; a conversation with a friend; water running across my skin; sunlight on my face; taking time to make love; feeling the breath fill my lungs; all of these things are Important. All of these things are Now. So what am I doing, right now? What did I do today? Did I do any of those things? Yes, but did I do them consciously, gratefully, as if it might be the last time? As wonderingly as if it were the first time?

I don't want to have cancer. I don't want to live under a death sentence. But I'm thankful that I did taste it, for a little while. I'm thankful for today, for being alive, for being here, now. It doesn't mean feeling happy, not really. Not today. But deeply, insanely thankful. This is a good place to inhabit and I plan to stay here until it's time to leave.


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