A few days ago a friend posted on Facebook that her closest friend had received a grave and startling diagnosis; heading into emergency surgery with an open-ended prognosis, would we hold her in our thoughts? I remember that feeling, like losing my peripheral vision; the feeling of looking towards the westering sun.
In private, our mutual friend asked if I could get in touch with Lavender* and offer some words of encouragement. Such a request is a powerful gift, but also a bit intimidating. How can we comfort someone else, if we have not worn her shoes? Or even if we have, what is the "right" thing to say in such a situation? But no one travels these paths alone, and if the people around me hadn't taken the risk of saying the "wrong" thing, they might have said nothing at all, which would have been much, much more difficult. So I tried my best. I began by quoting someone who had offered me comfort and support.
"There is PLENTY OF TIME. Do not get caught up in the medical urgency paradigm. Nothing is different other than some lab test. ALWAYS insist on consulting a second opinion from another specialist outside of the practice.
Breathe, it will work out and you are safe. There are many alternatives and the one which you feel most comfortable about will come to your awareness.
Trust your body. There is a reason, a cause and a way to address this."
Breathe in Peace.
Breathe out Resistance.
Sit mindfully and watch your thoughts. The calm will help more than anything. Don't judge your fears or your resistance or anger or desperation or feelings of betrayal by your body. Just BE with your thoughts. Observe them. Find a place of centered-ness, of feeling grounded. Go outside and sit on the Earth. Look at the leaves and the grass and hear the birds. Breathe in. Breath out.
Focus on the breath.
Do that as often as needed.
Pause and BE in this moment. You are amazing. You are alive. You are strong. You are present for your children. You are in this moment. Focus on your breath.
And take some Rescue Remedy. Put it in water and sip all day. You will be ok. You are a strong and powerful healer. Your body is amazing and wants the best for you. You are healthy and confused. But, you are healing by focusing on the breath.
Do this first. There is plenty of time. There are millions and millions of moments and breaths. Be present with your breath.
All is well. Find that center. Be grounded in the present moment. You are ok, Right Now. The rest is chatter, speculation and supposition about tomorrow.
We are here. You are not alone. You are safe in this moment. Be present in this moment."
And as I read those words again, I realized how true they are.
I am struck by how unexceptional, how ordinary, it is to carry these burdens. My uncle has an aggressive form of melanoma. My mom has spasmodic pain in her neck that can be immobilizing. People close to me have lost pregnancies, dear friends, relatives. I have contemporaries with lupus, fibromyalgia, rheumatic arthritis, chronic fatigue. Birth complications, divorces, abandoned careers; the list waxes and wanes, but winds ever on. What is extraordinary is not that so many deal with so much with such grace, but that we generally recognize the positive as the norm. The challenges are just that. We go through them and grow through them; what else can we do?
Whenever we know of someone who is facing illness or loss, we extend our charity and our sympathy, as neighbors. Again and again, we are undaunted by the frequency of these occurrences.
This is very telling. Our reserves are much deeper than we think until we test them. There really IS time to breathe, and the odds really ARE in our favor.
*Not her real name.