February & Surgery
It’s been 17 years since I faced off with death and sat in an Auckland hospital with bandages on my chest post mastectomy, having defeated breast cancer. Today as I write this, I am sitting once more with bandages on my chest. This week I have chosen to have those implants replaced to protect my health. It gets you thinking about the fragility of life.
Randomly I realise that it was exactly the same month, the same week in fact in a February all those years ago that the younger me first sat looking out that hospital window with a fresh and beautifully stitched scar on my chest. The very next year that same week I was looking out a different hospital window holding my newborn child suckling against my remaining breast, a great blessing after the year before.
Right now, as I look out my bedroom window at the beautiful Tallebudgera river here on the Gold Coast of Australia taking some time out to write, sleep and recover -my beautiful middle daughter is all grown up, taller than me, claiming her important independence and I am exploring life in a whole different way in my early 50s.
I was recently asked a really cool question by one of my friends. “What is the biggest thing that your cancer experience taught you?” I was gobsmacked for a minute and sat for a time just looking at her, as I tried to formulate what 17 years out the back of a life- threatening disease had shown me.
Inside, I was really pleased to have been asked the question that I think has radically transformed my life. As a therapist, it is a rare thing for people to ask me how I am doing or what is going on in my head, it’s my job to do that most days for others.
“I” is not your friend” I said.
‘What on Earth does that mean?’ My friend asked – one eyebrow heading skywards. I was not sure exactly what I meant by those words, they had just poured out of me somehow.
But it is my truth these days. The constantly seeking “I” is not my greatest ally.
My greatest joy is peace and ease and the greatest enemy to that is the “I” or the ego that constantly wants to be in the centre of a dramatic life where she is fed and made to feel enough. An “I” based life is one where she constantly judges how she fits against everyone else’s “I,” getting more and more triggered and ratty along the way.
I guess it boils down to one thing really, life for me these days is about the pleasure of the day in “being” alive – not trying to “do” life too dramatically or make life fit me, but simply to enjoy every moment of its sweetness. I think you can only know that if you have faced off with death or lost someone you loved.
Freedom from the ‘I” needing to be liked, or to fit in to impossible society standards is a wonderful thing. Maybe it’s just something that just happens to most people once they head into their 50s and release the need for perfection and beauty, once the wolf whistles stop from strangers and in the invisibiity of age there comes more space to make sense of the perfect imperfection of a messy, soul smash of a life.
These days I have zero tolerance for drama or war and keep only those near me who are cheeky, easy going and intimately joyful about serving others or our planet’s best interests. That is not to say I haven’t had my fair share of dramas – I’ve been married and divorced twice, loved and trusted unusual souls with my care and done more stupid things than I can count. But right now, I am happy. I am happy because I am living as honestly as I think I ever have. There is a kind of a freedom in that.
The key to happiness for me in this time is doing what I dearly love in my work in helping people find peace and making sure I surround myself with uplifting and kind hearted people in my friendships. Taking time for quiet, for self-care and educating others in my therapy work is important to me.
For a long time, I have felt like a one-woman band, railing against other humans stuck in a “cult of busy-ness”. There is nothing beautiful about screeching at speed through life trying to wrangle ten things at once, all the while activating stress hormones, messing up the adrenal system and missing the point of life. We celebrate busy-ness as a nation, as a planet, as women, as men, as children and as humans. We have become human-doings instead of human beings. I would love to leave my mark as a soul here, with people helping them see that this is the biggest hand-brake to a healthy happy life.
Life happens in those quieter moments, when you see your child’s soft eyelashes laying on their sleeping cheek, when watching the waves crash as the sun goes down to kiss the ocean, or breathing in fresh air while out walking in nature. So often empathetic people can get caught in the trap of seeking out ‘three-legged dog’ type people to “fix” – you know the ones that are trouble and have absolutely no intention of being anything other than a nightmare! So many of us gentle souls spend decades locked in this work. One thing I have learned is that there is one clear law in this Universe, and it is Free Will. None of us are allowed to push people up the mountain if they don’t want to go. You can always feel it when you are going past that line with someone. Let people be who they are and Do You – the world needs you to do that.
So, February’s have become a special time for me – hopefully no more surgery or hospitals in the Februarys to come – but I hope they continue to become a time for reflection, for gratitude and for becoming more raw and real as each day goes into the next.