A few hours after my parents told me that I had cancer, I went to the movies.
It sounds strange, but I was 17, and all I could do was keep cancer from taking over my life. That effort would start with keeping it from ruining my afternoon. I had plans. I had plans to live, in fact, and I was going to go through with them. Naivety can be such a blessing when it offers us such unfounded courage.
So this was my 17-year-old logic for why I had no business sitting at home and crying about cancer when the world was waiting. A bright, bold world that I had known I wanted to be part of, but in the light of new risks, I wanted it even more. You can read the full story of my diagnosis here, but for now, let us digest these strange circumstances with open eyes.
First, that the power of the mind to control our mood is unlimited. If you can tell a clueless 17 year old that her life is in danger, and she refuses to be scared, then I’m quite certain the possibilities for you are endless.
Second, that these little moments of clarity in which all that truly matters, and a basis for our most natural and self-aware intentions come to light, we should show a little gratitude. That clarity continued through my afternoon.
Standing in the mall downtown waiting for the show, I found myself in the center of a complex. People bustled from one side to the other, one store to the next. It was Christmas time, thus even more busy and chaotic than usual. Reality might have well been just a painting for me. I stood, feet planted in the marble lobby of this huge town center, words and energies swooshing by like water colors, moving in currents in every direction. Everyone had wishes on their lips, and wants on their lists, a concern for everyone they loved attached to their wallets. But I couldn’t make out a single thing. It wasn’t that the room spun around me, but still I became the center of it. Or maybe centered by it, the room and the world all around me in every direction.
I don’t know what’s going to happen, I realized. I’m not sure if what I plan to do is going to work. But I have to try.
This was the second truly profound moment of stillness – the first being while my parents told me the diagnosis, and I realized I could interject with “No.” Those little pockets of silence, the energy vibrating in pulses through your bones. The mind can’t attach to any one thought.
I know you know the feeling. It’s waiting just at the moment when your tears take a pause as you mourn someone you’ve lost. Or just after you’ve jumped into the lake, as you float just under the surface, and all stands still right before you come reaching back for air. Or right after the words ‘it’s over’ have left his mouth, and you’re not sure what to say, now that you’ve heard the words you were most scared to hear…
Have you noticed that little pause? That little quiet that the universe gives you like a hush across all the world? When you can see, even within the deepest of pain, that the world still continues around you…
All it can do is realize your physical presence, from head to do, and all the space around you that extends endlessly in every direction. Don’t worry about the past, don’t fret about the future. Just stand still, and breathe deeply.
In my moment, I’m just a girl, a girl who’s very sick, but a girl who’s right here right now, and is certain of what she’ll attempt to do. Though all this time I thought I understood everything about the world in a manageable way, but in truth all I am is a single entity. Really, I am just standing, pulsating, watching the water colors zoom by, and thankfully the world is giving just a brief break in the chaos to help me look outward…Oh what a gift it truly is.
Just like the gold in the changing fall leaves and the way the world is always in balance, these still moments are just proof the universe’s endless love for us. A quiet little pocket when we can choose to react in any one direction. These little moments that we experience all alone, whether painful or joyful, are gifts that remind us of the moment we are living in, a moment always in motion.
So much of our time and energy is absorbed with reaching for what we want to be, or fleeing from what we hope we aren’t. Whenever I’m online pinning for inspiration, I can see it. All the positive messages emblazoned on mugs and t-shirts and Instagram photos. All these words to remind us to work hard and keep focused, and how capable we are of getting to where we want to be! Oh if only it were as easy as a mug on our desk to make us a hero of our own lives!
But silence speaks the truth. It so softly whispers of our power to choose our mood, our action. When we listen, listen listen…sometimes only because we’re begging the moment to move faster and it doesn’t…we realize the moment. Here we are. Right here right now. And all the happy mug messages of “she believed she could and she did” don’t make any sense anymore. Because all ‘now’ can say to us is “there she is”. And all we can say back is “ok here, now, is where I’ll start from….”
It’s ever a journey onward, whether facing backwards or forward. The moment is always moving. But when you get the gift of sudden stillness, or better yet if you can train yourself to stop, take a look around, and put yourself at center again, you’ll open your eyes and hearts to much more than you ever thought possible.
Take a breath in. Freeze the thoughts that are coming in – the fears, the anxieties, the worries, the excitements. Just stop and be still and let the breath be your focus.
What around you is really happening? Who is here with you? Why? Regardless of the fight you’re in or the situation you’re trying to solve, what do you really know is here, now, with you?
What does your heart say? What feels right? Give your trust to the wisdom of life, and stop trying to over-plan what happens next too much. Have faith that the answers are presenting themselves even as you try to invent them, and let yourself be a channel for whatever life might have in store for you.
The movie, by the way, was The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. I couldn’t tell you a single thing that happens in that movie now. Although Anderson is still my favorite director – shout out to you Wes, you’ve been there with me through some tough times. Nothing but love for you.