I got a text message in the early days of my journey with what our culture calls: “aggressive breast cancer”. It was from someone in a very small group that I had shared the diagnosis with. He was texting to see how I was handling it. All I could say in response was:
“I’m just living the lesson I will learn next”.
There is nothing more to say. I already understand many of the deeper reasons that have brought me to this experience; they are all are very specific to me, and the path of learning that I have chose in this life to evolve my soul.
As I face my final round of chemo tomorrow on 11-11-11, I have to muse a bit. The irony of Armistice Day, a day celebrating the battle’s end, a “cease fire”, is not lost on me. For me now, it is a symbol of the end of the first phase in a difficult, three-tiered treatment that will reach full completion in early 2012.
The experience of working at the brink of life, and the conversation between what I want and what God wants for me is really advanced work. The times when there is nothing to do but stay present, without trying to explain it, to justify it, to blame it, but just to “live in the lesson” is a huge challenge.
At first I just wanted to bow out of the whole experience and say to God: “Father, thy will be done.”, but God wasn’t going for that. Turning this experience back to God, like a hot potato, wasn’t going to teach me anything. In truth, over the course of the first nine weeks of treatment, this way of thinking put me MORE out of alignment, until my ego could admit that in this conversation God was nudging me to choose. God’s will for me was to magnify my own agency, and choose for myself, and to ask it out loud of Him.
I am able, through dancing on the brink of life, to gain a clear sense of what I really want and to tell God so. Once I chose, the treatments, though no less intense, became miraculously more manageable, and my body began responding differently. I could feel a sense of contentment within my own physical sorrow (we call cancer). Once I chose, I could feel God’s contentment in me as well.
I had to roll my eyes a bit at the "Zen" of it all, when God also let me know that in reality He still holds all the cards, and will have the final say; yet it has been a vital and important part of my path to exercise the agency of my heart, and my will in this intense experience...To work in tandem with my Source and have a say, in God's say for me is a worthy experience. As I play with this delicate balance, I have realized at a depth not prior, that together we make a lovely team.
As human beings, we often resist having to actually “Live” the lessons in life, because they can get really, really, really tough. It’s our nature to try to either skip over it all or get mired in them as a way of ennobling our ego, because it feels like otherwise, we are unjustifiably out of synch with the status quo of health and balance, be it a physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual "cancers" we may be dealing with.
For me, I have found that this experience, at it’s core, seems to be, yet again, a re-alignment. It is placing everything in order. It is revealing the truth of who every person around me really is at their essence, it is holding me in a place of attention and receptivity, it is protecting me from things I cannot understand in this moment, that I may otherwise be experiencing if I was not dealing with this. It is refining me.
During this process, I have considered often, the popular attitude of seeking a life of “grace and ease” with the intention of immunity to the greater edges of what we think we can handle. The popular suggestion that we don’t really need to experience the tougher side of things, in truth, limits our ability to fully understand and realize our potential and what it can teach us. One of my favorite poems, by David Whyte, sums it up beautifully:
The Well of Grief
Those who will not slip beneath
the still surface on the well of grief
turning down to its black water
to the place that we can not breathe
will never know
the source from which we drink
the secret water cold and clear
nor find in the darkness glimmering
the small round coins
thrown by those who wished for something else
David Whyte, Where Many Rivers Meet
Copyright © 1990 by David Whyte. All Rights Reserved
Many Rivers Press (www.davidwhtye.com)
Though the coins of my grief have been many and there have been moments I have wished it would all just stop, even for just a while, I know this lesson in which I find myself is, at the very least, a great and deep opportunity...and that, I can say for sure.
For now, I am still just living the lesson I learn next.
Thank you for your prayers, kind words and tender gestures on mine and Tom’s behalf, be it spiritually or physically, each one is known to us; and they are teaching all of us on this path so much more than we may have the capacity to know right now.