I’ve been here before. I remember it well. I had my business for 20 years and within three months it was gone. Wretched from my hands. I needed to breakdown the bookshelves myself, pack up every paper, and figure out how to keep going. I remember waking up one morning, thinking, “This was just a nightmare.” But it wasn’t. It was my life broken into pieces. Wondering how to move forward, how to support my young children, my 15-year-old son, Alx, spoke the words of wisdom that pulled me through, “You have failed,” he declared one day. “But you are no failure.”
I can use that now. ”I have cancer. But I am not cancer. And I am no victim.”
What Alx saw in me, what he knew about me was absolutely accurate. I have been given, blessed by, a resiliency that surpasses my own expectations. And part of that is that I do believe in a context for suffering.
Kinda weird really. We suffer. Life is suffering. As a Buddhist, I can try to have a detached sense of moving beyond the suffering, watching it from a distance. As a Hindu, I can see that suffering makes me more insightful for who I will be in the next life. And, as a Jew, I need to dig down deeply into the suffering and find the lessons of life which can be taught only by my particular brand of suffering.
For the ripping, gnarling, tearing of my business, it became obvious fast. I was losing something to make way for something out. I would never have left my business. It was something I had created, born, grown. But it was time. I was not meant to do that for the rest of my life. And losing it, going to work for someone else, gave me the time to pursue a spiritual path, get a Masters in Judaism, do things I would never have found possible if I had continued at that time to be a full-time owner.
The funny thing is that even while I was suffering through that personal and professional debilitation, I always knew there was something “bigger” operating.
Now, I’m searching for that context, looking for the lessons, the openings, to present themselves. I am suffering. I am shocked by my diagnosis of cancer. I am trying to get my sealegs, get some footing around the thought of it and really just the plain living with the consequences day-to-day, rising and falling energy level, waves of nausea.
There’s a big difference this time around to. Last time, I was literally alone. A single mother, with very few friends, and three children. I didn’t have the lifeline and support of loving friends who are so willing to reach out even when I can’t seem to grab that lifeline. Gratitude is such a tiny word to express for that safety net of spotters who are holding onto my life with me.
And I’m still trying to allow the seeds of my personal context to bear fruit on their own. When the forest is razed, the growing grass can immediately be seen creating a hairlike nubble upon the ground. I’m looking for those nubs and I’m trying to not just plow a load of compost on that I’ve decided would be helpful. That’s the easy way. To determine what I need from my mind, rather than hear what my heart and spirit are actually saying to me. What is next? What is my life being spared for at this moment? What good can I do walking lightly on the world?
And I am walking lighter. My walk has actually changed. It’s not a shuffle. It’s a bit more lyrical. A little more swipe to its ankle movement as though I don’t want the earth to feel the full burden, the full impact of each foot. As though I’m not yet ready to make my next mark.
But I will be. I am listening deeply. Deeper than I ever have. One breath at a time.