I went to see Wonder Woman last weekend. Although I enjoyed the movie, I still can’t figure out how women fight in skimpy, leather, strapless, cheerleading outfits and their boobs don’t fall out, but that’s another commentary; I mean story! My story starts with the upgraded AMC theaters near us. I was excited to be able to pick my seat rather than hope good ones were still available by the time I arrived; excited to have a reclining seat; and excited to have my own arm rest. Essentially, I had a smile on my face as the movie began. So excited was I at the experience I was about to have, watching a movie I wanted to see with my good friend Leanne, who was sitting to my right.
About fifteen minutes into the movie I noticed something on my left. Have you ever been so focused on one thing that you sort of forgot about everything else in existence? It’s just you and that thing which is consuming your concentration. Then, something pulls you out of it. A noise, maybe. First you don’t hear it, then it seems far in the distance and undecipherable. But, if you turn any of your attention towards the noise, you're never going to be able to un-notice it, if you decide it is has the potential to ruin your experience. That was me watching Wonder Woman and the noise came from the guy sitting directly to my left…the Ice Chewer. So excited was he to drink his soda so he could get to the ice. He’s probably the only person in existence who asks for extra ice when he orders his $8.00 soda. Part way through the movie he got a refill. Ice, not soda.
He didn’t chew it continuously for the two hours, but it was regularly enough that, if you weren’t careful, you might be on alert waiting for the cup to be raised, followed by a slight shaking of it to dislodge the ice. Then, gravity would take over, causing the ice to tumble over itself, as if, each piece was racing to be free of the confines of the cup only to find themselves landing on his back molars to be crushed into nonexistence. But I didn’t go there. And what could this experience possibly have to do with cancer?
Nothing and everything.
Nothing, in that, while it seems everything in existence can cause cancer if you believe what you read, I have yet to hear chewing ice causes cancer. It may indicate anemia if you believe what you read, or give you a brain freeze, but not cancer.
Everything, in that the Ice Chewer didn’t ruin my experience, and its because of cancer, or more appropriately, everything it has taught me about myself. When I realized he was chewing ice, a habitual response began to happen - a bit of indignation. I mean, who chews ice in a theater? If there was a reason to be irritated not many people would disagree with this one! But the indignation stopped, because I realized I was at choice. I didn’t have to be irritated. Within my body (most of the time) I feel peaceful and relaxed. In that moment I thought, “Renee, you can choose to be irritated by him and that choice changes your internal state from peaceful to irritation. Is that how you want to feel? Irritated? And then be distracted from watching the movie and become more irritated, blaming him all the more?” And my answer was, “No, I choose peace.” I heard him throughout the movie but its as if the sound went through me rather then sticking, if that makes sense.
I contemplated how I arrived at seeing this as a choice rather than an automatic response of irritation as it would have done PC (pre-cancer). In the past, I lived with low level irritation/ impatience as part of my being. If that is the state I occupied, and someone chewed ice next to me in a theater, there was no way I could have been at choice! I would have reveled in righteous indignation! I mean, really, who chews ice in a theater? The rest of us look for loud, on-screen situations to open a wrapper for God’s sake! This guy shakes the ice into his mouth and loudly chews it while Wonder Woman contemplates saving the world! Seriously, come on! I would have debated whether to give him a dirty look, say something sarcastic (“Would you like my ice when you’re done with yours?”), accidentally bump his ice on his lap, or any number of other scenarios all created while the movie played on.
When I walked the world with irritation, and encountered experiences that could be considered irritating, the habitual response was to run with it. I think our beings want to bleed off the yucky feelings we carry inside hoping for a bit of peace. For a brief moment in time, having a place to put the irritation made me felt better. Telling all my friends, who then sympathized, made the good feeling last longer. But the irritation inside still remained seeking out other experiences to direct its energy and falsely blame for its existence.
It took cancer for me to get to a place of peace, to realize that no thing outside of me, including cancer, let alone an Ice Chewer, is responsible for how I feel. It took cancer for me to realize that our natural state is one of love, equanimity, and peace and to get to that place is a matter of letting go of all that is false - our limiting beliefs, all of which came from someone else. We were born with none.
If you see the Ice Chewer, thank him for me. I got to be reminded of all that and I got to be reminded that I am always at choice in how I respond to situations. I got to be grateful for the peace I feel, and I got to enjoy watching Wonder Woman! (Why do women action heroes wear virtually nothing and men action heroes are covered head to toe? But that’s another commentary. I mean story!)