Lessons from the Present

In my darkest hours collapsing under the weight of my own perceived adversity, I wonder how to find the energy to bring happiness to myself and others while in this life. One relatively recent shift that’s come via studying the practice of presence and living in the “now.” I search for strength from within myself, hoping to find an ore of clarity in a vast cave of stone and archeological discovery. To focus on the present seems implausible on a dry infertile landscape littered with anxiety about my past actions or insidious worry about events or emotional fallout that may never transpire in any of the potential future scenarios that lay stretched out before me.

Whew. Yet all these realizations happen despite the complexity of my given task at hand. An unexpected benefit of my focus in the now: I’m defocussing away from the heaviness, the sadness, the darkness of life with metastatic cancer, throwing away and cross shredding my membership card to Club Cancer. I learn to find clarity here where the present moment provides me with strength cooking at the stove or sitting behind the wheel of my car. Instead of the usual sigh at a routine task, I smile and do what I used to perceive as mundane chores with flawless efficiency and with joy.

The results become a happier self and a much better outcome. Even a moment of silence can bring about deeper meaning in these everyday tasks. The boring becomes the beautiful, the Wonderbread(TM) becomes the wedding cake. Finding beauty in everything I take into my senses for example while stopped at a traffic light on a peaceful Sunday evening. A routine drive becomes magical, sparkling with blue, red, green, purple, pink, gold, and white lights and holiday decorations on houses and buildings. Or while preparing soup from scratch, an activity that certainly brings the past into the present through kitchen skills learned over a lifetime to create a fresh bowl of soul-warming bisque.

The increased value of the ingredient of my presence requires relatively zero investment. It’s really a divestiture of an investment of negativity, rumination, hostility, or even aesthetic snobbery. Instead of focusing on getting to the destination, the journey instead uplifts my heart with more joy than I expect; I float above the paved roads just for a while with the ease of an untethered spirit. Similarly, if I become present in a moment with my pet I find happiness and peace through a relationship to the natural world and with this animal. He consciously plays with me, which sets a good example for me to follow.

Strength, too, I realized comes from human courage exhibited through people’s stories. Our personal narratives bring us to the present with our past experiences. Everyone’s present self must therefore contain and be informed by our past and none are more important or less fortunate than any others – it’s simply a matter of scale and influence: from a great leader of human kind to a single person overcoming a physical handicap.

Ridiculously, compared to how much work I produced in the 11-hour days of my career, I find it difficult some days to write and post a blog piece. My comparably easy tasks sometimes require more strength than I can illicit from my tired and chemically-thrashed body. If I live in my past or concern myself with the future of what might happen I’d never write a word. In other words if I don’t exist in the present, I only focus on the perceived value of the words I write. How insane to think I know the worth to any reader of my discourse? If my expenditure of energy brings any return on investment it must only be for the present situation of this moment for me and in that same line of reasoning, for you in reading my words.

Perhaps my essays or poetry bring you a smile. Maybe they give you a bit more strength in knowing you’re not crazy or you’re not the only one who feels the way you do. I believe then in this moment, in the here and now where our individual thinking intersects, we become friends. Whether you’re a new friend or a friend come to read a while for a visit, I’m so glad you came to share your presence with me – I treasure your gift.

Some might arrive as a short respite from of a world severed from it’s once well mapped out future, now thrust into the cancer culture where we’ve a lot to share with each other. Here, either a love giver to one with a disease or a cancer survivor, we can walk hand and hand. We step to a rhythm of head nods of recognition as we see of ourselves in one another like mirrors. Our circle contains everyone who continues to prove that we can live on as a reluctant card carrying member of Club Cancer. Including those who love us.

And to those who pop in for a visit without your identification card – newsflash – you don’t need a card. We welcome your visits and love and time, so stop by often. Please, just don’t remark when you hear one if us has cancer, “well you could get hit by a bus.” We throw people out for saying ignorant, insulting crap or regaling us with some vaguely fictional cancer story about your aunt’s neighbor’s ex boyfriends third cousin’s adopted brother. Stories couched in empathy but only meant to alleviate your own guilt and the inability to not make another’s pain about yourself.

I welcome anyone who cares enough to visit: now is always the best time.

4 thoughts on “Lessons from the Present

  1. It is amazing when we are suddenly ‘hit’ with a life issue, almost all that went before takes a back seat as we finally realise what really does have meaning, and those many things that do not.
    But a guide it is to that inner world, whether already begun or a new arrival.
    My own journey, in hindsight, has shown me a very beautiful experience, for what grew within my heart as each step is taken, as we face the pain and disease of this world.
    I hope above all that the discovery you find is the love you’ve always looked for, for it is an acceptance of self when all else seems lost <3
    May that love embrace you as you drive your own bus to whatever destination you choose <3

    1. At times, don’t we all seem crammed into life’s short bus, driverless, and full of whispering omniscient crockpots? Sitting with neighbors, life’s omnibus guides, who spout unidirectional cliches such as, “you’ll be fine, you’re strong, you’ll beat this,” as the dead trout of realization smacks us across the cheek and we awaken from the dreamy state of unconscious time. Opening our eyes nearly drowning in drool pool hunched over a plastic bench seat to find that the chrome door handle had been in our reach all along allowing one to jump bus, as it were. I’d like to believe that the present time alleviates all the tension that once compressed my spirit into a lump of cold coal. I think in some sense I expected a diamond to emerge. But what’s true for me anyway I found more valuable: how brilliantly I awaken, now stripped bare of my tenuous future and groggy past, to find nothing matters but love and love only. The greatest minds in scientific discovery, Feynman, Einstein, Newton, just a few examples, found at the end of their lives it was love that made life worthwhile, their here and now a passing blip on the zenith TV set showing the great gig in the sky.
      Thank you Mark, for your extraordinary gift of sharing your philosophical experience with me. It’s meaning isn’t lost here in the ether nor is your sentiment falling on blind eyes or deaf ears. If only there were more spirits willing to share we might even get enough Jungian positivity to rid our negatively polluted humanity to clean up before we all must go on our way into the greatness of the one energy from whence our spirit must return again.
      Peace, peace.
      🙏🏻🎗ilene

    1. With a fan such as you I can only feel humbled by such high praise. I hope you’re well my dear and back home safe and sound. Love you ❤️

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