Grasping (How do I “Be. Here. Now.”?)

I feel like I have been (or at least had been) living more in the moment than I ever did in my life before this, not because I’m suddenly more evolved and hence successful at doing what I’ve aimed to do for the past 20 years! But because circumstance has forced me (in a beautiful, welcome way) to be more present. For example, because I don’t know how I’m going to feel from one day to the next, me, the great planner of all kinds of events weeks and months into the future, rarely plans anything at all anymore—and when I do, it’s always with the caveat that it’s tentative. There’s been something so liberating about this for me, one piece of which is that it keeps me in the moment in ways I haven’t been in the past. This state feels almost the opposite to waiting; it feels instead like simply being.

Already I feel this state of being slipping through my fingers. In past posts, I’ve written about how, as soon as I start to feel better, my mind gets busy planning-planning-planning the shoulds and coulds and want tos: I want to finally get that mediation practice up and runnImageing; I want to finally get my long-fantasized writing project off the ground; I want to finally organize 9 years of kid photos and baby books; maybe it’s time to go back to work; how about all those house projects I never have time for; and of course there’s exercising and parenting and cooking and cleaning and laundry and and and and…. suddenly I’m no longer in the moment like I was all those weeks that I was mostly couch bound with only two or three simple options before me for days on end: reading, listening, watching TV.

How do I hold onto the couch-bound, in the moment mind-state as I venture off the couch and back into the world? How does one (how do I) hold onto the many gifts of an experience like this as the experience passes? I know I am far from being through it, but already, I feel how tenuous everything is: life, certainly, but also life’s lessons.

Bumpy Landing

It’s been awhile since I’ve written. My silence is a reflection of how I’ve been feeling emotionally—like I am through the initial whirlwind of a cancer diagnosis and beginning of treatment, and I have since landed in a “now-what?-all-the-hoopla-has-died-down-and-I-have-nothing-new-to-do-or-report” kind of quiet. For so many weeks there, I was on this strange high. Odd considering the circumstances, I know. So odd that I hesitate to admit it in front of who-knows-who is reading this.

But this is what transpired for me: I was diagnosed with cancer on a Wednesday. I (barely) moved around in a drug-like haze for the next two days. Then I woke up IMG_4220on a Saturday, bubbly and excited to make Harrison’s 9th birthday party that afternoon all he dreamed. After another day or two of continued bubbly, I started to think I was in some deep denial and that any day now, I would snap and feel the darkness one is “supposed” to be feel with a cancer diagnosis. But the darkness never came. Instead, friends and family came (in the form of cards, calls, meals, visits, texts, packages) with a stunning vengeance. A great night out with Josh came. The sun came. A beautiful rain came. The holidays (which I love) came. Special time with my kids came. In other words, everything before me felt like a gift. I was so happy. So blissfully grateful for my life.

I still am grateful! But I’m not riding the same high I was through the holidays. Though it makes sense to me now, I never expected my emotional state to decline as my physical state improved. But since I’ve been responding to the chemo with more ease and therefore able to do more, my mind and my ansiness have been busier, searching for things to lock onto. charlie's anxietiesI’m more troubled again by a cluttered home. I’m anxious about my future: What I will do in the short term as I finish treatment, but now with more energy and comfort than I had before? What will do in the future beyond my cancer treatment now that I’m letting myself dream up a different kind of work life?

I’m also starting to feel the weight of constant company. Having my parents here has, up until now, been utterly blissful. What a dreamy, happy, perfectly fulfilling and present holiday we had, just being together, in the moment, letting the days unfold. I never wanted it to end. Felt my familiar “I want this to last forever” grasping early on in the kids’ school break. But by this past weekend, it felt time for the kids to go back to school. And around the same time, I started feeling us grownups bumping up against each other a little more. My parents have been living with us for a month now, and I am craving space.

Everything felt so blissfully easy (however ironic it might have been) when I was feeling so crappy, and all I was doing was attending to my health from moment to moment to moment. So little anxiety. So little thinking about the future. So little thinking about the endless possibilities in life. Now, the more capable I feel, the more complicated things feel, and old familiar patterns of anxiety are seeping back in.

My New Normal Feels Too Normal

woman yellingWhy is my whole life not suddenly in beautiful perspective now that I’ve faced death in a more real way? The little things still get to me—like my morning being upturned in a not-awful way by a sick-home-from-school-Sophie. It’s not like I woke up and got diagnosed with cancer, so what’s the big f-ing deal? I’m still yelling at my kids. I still feel anxious about the mess in the house. I still feel like normal old me, which is disappointing, honestly. It feels like everything should be different.

The truth is, I want everything to be different.