February 23, 2018


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Until age 42, I could not settle into a moment. Well, sometimes I could – like the moment I knew I was in love with my now-husband. The moment my third child Lucky was born and I didn’t know if he would live through the night. The moment my daughter Anabelle skipped home from her first day of kindergarten, after which we sat on our front lawn discussing every detail. The moment my son Joseph, in the fifth grade, hugged me in front of all his friends on the playground. I could relish moments like these in all their beauty and heartbreak, with all my joy and fear.

But then they were quickly over – because they are only moments – and I would move on to the next moment and the next. And much of the time, this movement was a blur, and moving from moment to moment everyday often looked and felt a lot like sleepwalking. Your body knows how to propel itself forward without your full consciousness as an active participant.

Until I was diagnosed with cancer. I was scared out of my mind! I underwent a bilateral mastectomy, months of chemotherapy and radiation. I had more surgery. And the irony is, during this terrifying and difficult stretch, it was as if time stood still. There was no blur from moment to moment, no movement, except from the hospital to my house, from the couch to my bed.  Consciousness 24/7.

The quiet, a new phenomenon for me, was actually helpful, despite it punctuating the fact that I felt awful, physically and mentally.  I used the quiet to fill myself up with what I needed to bring in a crack of light.

In the stillness, I noticed things big and small. Outside my family room window stands a tree that blooms glorious orange leaves. They shimmer in the sunlight. The moon is stunningly gorgeous and shows us a different face every night. Having curtains on your windows and living room furniture is highly overvalued. Getting things done and checking them off your list … also highly overvalued. Playing a competitive game of Scrabble with your kids and hubby is all the fun you will ever need.

I also discovered that living by the adage “this, too, shall pass” can help one endure a life challenge, but can also serve as a crutch, allowing us to focus only on the passing and not on the being. It enables the sleepwalker in us to keep unmindfully moving until the unpleasantness has subsided. Even when life is excruciating, being all in, moment to moment, is a gift. In the space of presence you will find your greatest strengths, gain the courage and wisdom required for growth, and uncover where your joy resides.

A metamorphosis of sorts occurred during the darkness of my cancer cocoon. I emerged post cancer with a will and a few new skills to approach my life differently, in a way that feels good and gives me and the people I love more happiness. Yet, learning and doing are separate actions.  I do not always practice what I preach.

Four years post cancer, I still get stuck on autopilot, though I now know how to savor and hold a moment.  I apply devotion to the moment more times than not, noticing it, acknowledging its holiness, making sure I inhabit it and inhale it through all my senses so when it delicately floats away like a butterfly flitters from flower to flower, I can carry its sweetness to the moment that follows.  This is something I am still trying to get right.

Each day I am alive is another chance to evolve. I am still trying to get a lot right. And I am figuring out how to forgive myself when I don’t.

I believe in personal evolution, which may seem at odds with current spiritual tenets that say we are enough just as we are.  I do not dispute this: We are enough, always enough. We are also works in progress, ever unfurling and shifting from one state of being to another in response to our experiences. It’s OK to want to change the way we think and behave to enhance our lives and the lives of those around us. Seeking a better way does not mean we are unworthy of self love, nor does it mean we hope to be perfect – God forbid. Because people who appear to be perfect are BORING!

But we can be like the caterpillar that stuffs itself with leaves, growing plumper and longer through a series of molts in which it sheds its skin, until one day, it stops eating, hangs upside down from a twig or leaf and spins itself a silky cocoon. Within its protective casing the caterpillar transforms, eventually surfacing as a colorfully unique butterfly.

You can become the butterfly in every area of your life. So can I.

I will be blogging about my foibles as I navigate toward the best me. I hope my musings provide comfort and camaraderie as you navigate toward the best you. Know you are not alone.

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