I had an epiphany today. I haven't been living "in the moment" since my last radiation treatment. That's when the action stopped and all the waiting started. During treatment, there was always something to do. Go in for radiation or chemo. Get my blood checked. Squirt nutrition through my PEG tube. Keep my meds on schedule. There was no waiting around because there was nothing to wait for. The past didn't matter and the future was too unknowable to dwell on. So I just moved from task to task, living in "the now," not worried about the things I couldn't do anything about.
But since the end of treatment, there's been a lot of waiting and worrying. Will this blood clot clear up? Will the next scan be clear? Will I be able to run or act again? Without the discipline of a schedule, I let myself fall into the very trap I avoided through all the cutting and radiating and puking this summer. I started worrying about things I could do nothing about. And doing nothing about the things I can change. No wonder I've been so depressed. I've turned the Serenity Prayer upside down. I met with a new therapist yesterday. A head-shrinker, I mean. I've had mixed results with shrinks in my life. The psychiatrist's medicine cabinet always seems to give me better results than talk therapy, but I think this guy is going to help me get some things straightened out.
We talked yesterday about "values." Not the things you say you care about, but the things your life shows are important to you. I've had to look at the way I spend my time and to consider the things I value. Once it was work and making money. Now it's sleep and browsing around on Facebook. The shrink asked me about social interactions - what contact do I have with other people? I had to admit to myself that I've been hiding. I haven't been valuing all the people who have showed me so much love in the past few months. I've been valuing my depression. It has been my constant companion. That's crazy.
Well, yeah. That's why they call it crazy. If we were always rational, there would be no nut houses.
I spent some time in the hospital last year for my depression. Things had gotten pretty bad and I was lost. I felt like there was no reason for me to continue living. I had lost my job and failed at two others. Our debts were piling up and it seemed certain that we were going to lose our house. Mrs P felt a million miles away and all I wanted to do was cry. I was way past the point of "pulling myself together." We wound up sitting in a room with a social worker who asked me about an hour's worth of questions, then suggested I be admitted for a while.
I've never written about this before. Maybe I'll fill in the gaps some day. At the time, I thought it was the hardest thing I'd ever have to go through. In a way, it still is. It's a lot easier to tell people you have cancer than to tell them you're certifiable. Certified, actually.
Anyway, one of the things that they taught us in the hospital was that you can change the way you feel about things by changing the way you think about them. If I decide that my life is hard because people don't like me and are trying to hurt me, then I'm going to be angry and paranoid. If I can change that thinking, realize that life is hard because --- I don't know --- because there are just some things that happen and we can't change them, that is going to change the way I feel about the events in my life. If I think that life is insane and random and out of control, it makes me feel hopeless. If I think that God has a plan for me, one that I can trust without knowing or understanding what it is, then I have a reason to feel like things aren't always going to be so bad.
Someone once said that religion is for the weak, and to that I answer, "Amen." I am not strong enough to take on this universe by myself. But with God's help, I can do what must be done today. Say my prayers. Get out of bed. Make a meal. Walk the dog. Write. Call a friend. It isn't a very ambitious agenda, but it is a better reflection of the things I value than hiding under the covers.
I said I had an epiphany. I guess it was this: I have nothing to wait for. There is nothing around the corner that is more important than what is right in front of me now. I had a professor who used to say, "College students are always talking about getting out into the real world. I have news for you. This is the real world." I'm learning just how right he was. Eternity isn't something you wait for. Eternity is going on right now. There is no need to wait for God's plan because it is already in motion.
There is something sort of funny about this spiritual awakening of mine. I've spent most of the year angry and doubting God. Just at the time when I would have expected to lean on Jesus the most, I felt the most alone. Now that the danger has past, I've started to realize just how present God has been. God may not have felt close, but the people God sent sure were. They answered "Yes" when God told them to call or send an email or make a casserole. God was present in the faithful people who cared about me.
Maybe that's as good a definition of faith as any. Faith is saying "Yes," to life. "Yes," to love. "Yes," to now.
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