My husband is a man of very few words but this is what he said to me when I told him that sometimes I don’t know what I am fighting for in my life. Often when I return home from time away, the reentry is full of rebellion. The multiple demands of a complex family life feels like an intrusion rather than the life that I chose. Sometimes I can slide so deep into the rejection of these demands of marriage and children that the outcome of the story I am envisioning becomes unrecognizable. Spinning an internal story that blames your relationship repeatedly for some personal unresolved issue, or even for the frustrations and transitions that arise from aging will create a failed relationship.
The story that we spin about illness is no different. Cancer has always struck me as some weird mutation of the self. The same cells that have always inhabited us suddenly start making mutated and bad decision. Cell replication gone seriously wrong and suddenly our healthy cells are creating tumors and white blood cell count nightmares cleaving us in two. The treatment of choice – to kill the bad replicating cells either through radiation or chemical toxins is a little bit like destroying ourselves.
Sustaining your life through serious illness forces you to make sure you know what you are fighting for. Reinventing your attachment and commitment to both your life and your identity in the process of life and death treatments is nothing if not clarifying. The eloquent voices of cancer survivors and their families on the stories of the reckoning with life choices and relationships is the silver lining of the experience. We realize we have no more time to lose and we love more fiercely, we live with more intention in however much time is left us than for a whole lifetime before. The story conforms to the outcome and blaming illness for a failed life begets itself.
Knowing and naming our feelings is one thing. Like storm clouds that move through over head, they fertilize the ground and cleanse. Feelings should not be allowed to define our story. They are too impermanent for that kind of responsibility and yet this crossover in not uncommon. My own recent urges towards my own identity showed me how quickly my feelings, legitimate as they might be, can spin a story that annihilates the relationships that I worked for years to build.
Disease can give you the opportunity to redirect your life force and to invent a story that can transform the health of your body and relationships. Begin with expanding your experience of love in the world. Let the wonder of natural things dominate your senses. Be generous with the love you feel for yourself and others. Smile when you see other people laughing. Watch funny movies or crazy political satire. Invent a story that lets you take nothing small for granted and opens you to the largeness of the present moment.