“Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”

Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith

         Have an attitude of gratitude, the glass is half full, put on your rose colored glasses. We’ve all heard the adages about how your outlook affects your experience, and that you don’t have control over anything in life but for your response to things.  This is the honest to God truth.

         But how do you discern between what is an appropriate response and what is not?  For YOU.  (We all have different reasons, aka justifications, for our sometimes fearful reactions. ) I like the four Byron Katie questions, when you are in a quandary:  Is it true?   Can you absolutely know that it’s true?  How do you react when you believe that thought?   Who would you be without the thought?

         It’s a good discipline to run yourself through. We all tell ourselves stories. Often, they are not helpful. Self awareness means being honest with yourself, observing what is going on, even meditating on the situation. That means asking, and then listening, for answers.  Katie says, “I discovered that when I believed my thoughts I suffered, but when I didn’t believe them I didn’t suffer, and that this is true for every human being.  Freedom is as simple as that.”

         Another wise tenet is the first of Don Miguel Ruiz’s “Four Agreements. “Don’t make assumptions.“  I find myself making little ones all the time.  Seldom are they helpful; mostly they are worst case scenarios.  As if, thinking about the worst thing that could happen will protect me from it.  Not so much, pretty much just shoots a flood of cortisol through my body which results in insomnia, fatigue, weight gain and inflammation. (Not good Lenten self-care!)           That all said, there is a fine line between being serious, responsible, stupid and silly.  Here’s a story on healing and transcendence through self-care and reflection: (Note I say healing, not curing, healing.)

         Two people I was close with died of the same cancer about a year apart.  One had a terribly difficult prognosis with no shortage of pain, and suffering thrown her way.  She fought hard, and also spent a lot of time laughing, needlepointing, entertaining and showing tremendous compassion to others.  And she meditated, finding peace and comfort and a presence of mind and Spirit that in her words; “She loved- every day.”

         In her last months she worked diligently on getting letters written to special people, thanking them for their gifts and talents and for their presence in her life.  She took “her notes” seriously and poured her heart and soul into them, knowing her time frame for doing so was finite.   She died young, leaving a beloved family and friends, a budding floral business and a lot of joy and creativity left unfinished. And yet, in her last weeks she was busy being thankful. 

         The other older cancer patient, did not have a difficult prognosis or much pain or suffering, and yet she lived with tremendous mental anguish and fear.  These self-imposed afflictions caused an unparalleled amount of pain and suffering, disproportionate to her physical discomfort.  I observed; this is not the way to go.

         The younger of the two patients, Molly, had stories, like none other, that she practically died laughing as she told them ;   The piped in music in the radiation booth playing Johnny Cash’es Ring of Fire and “Burn Burn. Burn”……… Trying to fit her winter layers and long winter coat in the post box size locker at the hospital….. Her sister bringing her hairbrush to the hospital for her, forgetting she had no hair…… Or a nurse, asking her if she was an observing Muslim because of the dark blue scarf she wore on her freckled Irish Catholic head.

         And yet, she was self conscious to share them, respecting these were her obsurdities to laugh at, and she didn’t want to make others with cancer feel badly or to discount the suffering they were enduring.  She experienced and emulated tremendous joy amidst suffering in a strangely beautiful last summer of life.  Her choice.  I am glad she is not around for the Corona virus though, although she would have gotten a kick and a half about the name.

         And so, in the spirit of honoring Molly’s way of life and all that she embodied, I am preparing and laughing and taking care of myself for the likelihood of exposure to at least some offshoot of this latest viral crisis.  I am knowing myself, and caring for my body, and I am trying to find honest, healthy balance, between preparedness and paranoia, responsibility and recklessness, fear and faith.  And to share this balanced approach with my kids.

May your family share laughter

Your songs always play

May your wishes come true

Even those left unprayed

 –  “May your glass be filled,” by Widespread Panic

A few things I am doing :

  • Staying hydrated, taking vitamin c and staying rested.
  • Practicing my mind with daily Meditation, and observing when I start to go down the rabbit hole of fear.  Being compassionate with myself when I ‘go there,’ and not being afraid to laugh about it.
  • Using a neti pot for cleansing my sinuses and daily nasya oil for nourishing and protecting them (https://www.banyanbotanicals.com/nasya-oil-7/)
  • Taking out trip insurance and spending the extra $ on refundable airline tickets.
  • Maintaining humor, and remembering my 8 year old son was quarantined with Chicago’s first case of the Swine flu after returning from Mexico.

And remembering the mantra, “All Will Be Well.”   And to laugh…