New Middle Ground
Having lived 40 plus years with the undercurrent of expectation that I'd live a long life, I find myself post-cancer unable to swallow this assumption wholeheartedly any longer; my conscience won't allow it. It knows, on a whole new level, that there is no old-age guarantee. Initially, my mostly unconscious response to the loss of an assured ride to grandchildren was to mentally pack up, close up and brace myself for the inevitable. "If I'm gonna go soon then let's just get it over with," was the recurring thought. Not a very happy space, but one that felt safe nonetheless. Over time, as the "hunker down and wait" kind of living started to strangle me, I began instead to try and pump up the belief that I could and would live to a ripe old age anyway. I've never been adept at faking it, and the effort and awkwardness of trying to climb back into the reassurance of a long life felt like putting on a wetsuit and I soon tired out. Knowing I needed to find new ground, but being unable to move away from mentally bungeeing between the two extremes, I started to cry. A lot. A few days of tears and a helpful conversation brought my hurt and fear into the light: I finally understood I was honestly grieving the loss of a foundational belief in another 40 years and even though I didn't KNOW I would die sooner rather than later, it felt incredibly scary to make myself vulnerable to living all the way again. Big losses have a way of doing that - of inviting us to choose between death and life, between fear and love, on a whole new level. The conscious awareness that opened up on the other side of my tears brought with it the possibility of a new middle ground, a new living space, one where I'm gently invited to bravely give up my love affair with knowing how things turn out. It's surprisingly peaceful in here, and I'm beginning to believe my arms really can open wide enough to hold another 40 years AND an unexpectedly short ending. Reminds me of a favorite meditation where (with a hand on my heart) I say to myself, "No matter what happens I'm okay. No matter what happens everybody's okay." It's the truth, after all, and allowing myself to fully rest in it does set me free - free to just be alive for now and embrace what's right here in front of me.