I am happy. Have been for a long time now. So, it came as somewhat of a surprise when I noticed the Grim Reaper peeking in my windows a couple weeks ago. It wasn’t like he was trying to break in and run off with me; more like he wanted some attention. He kept tapping on my windows; I kept closing the curtains. Finally, when the tapping turned into pounding, I threw open the curtains and the window and exasperatedly said, “What now!”
I wasn’t sure why he was here. I had come to the realization that “fighting” anything in life was senseless and that included cancer and death. I had come to a really good space with the idea of dying whenever that was meant to happen...now...in twenty minutes...twenty months...or twenty years. It was in God’s hands; I was joyously living! I thought Grim would be proud of the acceptance I had come to which is why I was confused with his visit. Grim had an alternative point of view. “Wishy washy! You’re in a holding pattern. And you’re hedging your bets!” Now let me in!”
“Wishy washy?? Holding pattern?? Hedging bets??”
Curious, I opened the door and Grim stormed in. We sat down for a long conversation. (Most of the ensuing conversation became available to me because of what I learned in the podcast I had referenced in the previous post, David Manning’s “Cancer: A Mystical Initiation”.) Grim posed a question to me that David had pondered along his journey. “Look,” Grim said, “We don’t care if you live or die, you’re going to do the work either way. YOU have to decide. Do you want to live or do you want to die?” Most people, including me, when asked that question consciously say, “Of course I want to live!” This time I thought, “what have I got to lose with exploring the idea that some part of me may have a different agenda.” I was surprised at what I discovered, or rather, rediscovered, because the information has been known to me for quite awhile, but I saw it in a new context with Grim’s (and David’s) help. It came down to two more points Grim had for me.
The first: “Renee, do you have any long term problems or situations in your life that don’t seem to have a solution or, if they do, you don't like the solution?” He looked at me the way a parent looks at a child when they already know the answer to the question. “Most of you humans do, you know. It could be a long exhausting care of a loved one? Staying in a job or relationship you dislike but has its advantages? A chronic financial situation? chronic pain? addiction? to name a few.”
With these, life can feel burdensome, heavy, sometimes intolerable. I thought about mine and knew to what he was referring; a couple things I have lived with for so long they began to feel a part of me rather than an experience I was having. I had quit thinking a solution existed. I looked at him and he continued, “Because, if they do exist, death becomes a solution whether you realize it or not.” It made me think back to other times when I had had passing thoughts about dying and into my head would pop, “Well, if you die you don’t have to deal with that anymore!” as if I needed to find some benefit. A brief moment of relief and freedom would follow, but then, the thought would quickly pop out as fast as it had popped in…or so I assumed. Maybe it really didn’t pop out. Maybe I was actually shoving it down within me for the abhorrence of even seeing death as a possible solution to anything. I now see that some part of me, my soul maybe, was searching for any solution as a desire for freedom, for the abhorrence it has to being confined to human constructs of imprisonment.
I meditated on this longer, allowing for the thoughts of dying as a solution to stay front and center in my consciousness rather than shoving them down; to see where they wanted to take me. Eventually, I looked at Grim with his satisfied smirk on his face. “Thank you for making me aware of that aspect of myself, but no,” I said. “I do not want to die with any part of my being still held hostage to an habitual way of looking at the world. I choose to be excited and open to other possibilities I have yet to see. When I leave this world it will be with nothing still to be resolved. I will feel completely free while alive; not through death”. Satisfied with my answer, he nodded and proceeded with his second point.
“What emotion or energy is intolerable for you to feel?” he posed. Two years ago I wouldn’t have known the answer. In the past two years I have come to be able to answer that question with crystal clarity. “Disappointment.” I answered. I can’t stand it. Hate it. Disappointment has felt like death to me and it is extraordinary what I would do to not feel disappointed. The irony is not lost on me that my journey with cancer could easily be a journey with coming to a place of equanimity with disappointment.
“Most of you have an intolerable emotion,” Grim continued, “And if you discovered what it was you would be surprised how much it runs your lives, the amount of negotiation or distraction you do with yourselves to avoid it.” For others it may not be disappointment. It may be guilt, abandonment, boredom, sadness, etc. Again, I meditated on what he was saying, the part about it running our lives. Eventually a light went on and I got it! I saw why he said I had been wishy washy and hedging my bets.
It goes something like this. “If I can become completely comfortable with dying then I won’t be disappointed if I do.” “If I can become completely comfortable with dying then I won’t be disappointed if I commit fully to living yet end up dying from cancer anyway.” Never mind that in each scenario I’m dead and probably beyond feeling disappointed! When I saw the convoluted logic - avoiding disappointment by not fully committing to living - I laughed along with Grim. He gave me his knowing smile. “No,” I said, “I would much rather spend the time and energy working with disappointment so it no longer drives any part of my life! Again, thank you for making me aware of it!”
“My work is done.” he said and gathered his staff and left. Since the encounter I have become aware of two things.
Life force energy. We all have it and it is palpable, within ourselves and noticeable within others. With a life threatening illness I have become acutely aware of how important it is to have EVERY fiber of my being in agreement about living so that as much of that energy is held within me and not spread out elsewhere - to seemingly unsolvable problems, to avoiding disappointment, to the past over regrets, to the future with worry, or to distraction by any means because the present doesn’t feel good. If I am not present, here, right now, then my life force energy is somewhere else. If I want to heal, my life force stays within me and is turned on to full capacity.
The second thing I have become aware of is a fire got lit within me to live, to be excited about possibilities yet discovered and to experience new heights of freedom. What has become intolerable is complacency and the rote, repetitive way I have looked at certain things in my life. I thank Grim for the rebirth I am feeling…no more “wishy washy, holding pattern, and hedging bets” for this one. I am free - watch out world!