The Cancer Chronicles

Part 122: Some people are passionate about gardening. Some about painting. I used to be passionate about making line drawings. They were funny and pretty fabulous (says she ever so modestly). See below. It is a drawing of my 8x10 Big Sur cabin. Water, the bathroom (er, outhouse) and the refrigerator were all outside.

But I digress. What I wanted to say was that I am passionate about one thing (if you don’t count being with Matt and playing with Izzy and my morning matcha latte — and cherry hazelnut dark chocolate).

And that one thing is catching myself each time, and on some days it’s a hundred times, I go wandering off into a story. Which is usually a horror story. Something happens. Someone doesn’t call me back. Matt is late. And off I go into “I knew it, I knew it. It always turns out this way. Matt is lying dead on the side of the road.” And because each of these stories is so familiar and I’ve told them to myself thousands of times, I think they are true. The adrenaline starts. The doom. The fear. Those stories were how I knew I was alive.

When I talked to my mother yesterday, she couldn’t quite remember where she was. Told me about her pocketbooks. Her necklaces. Her underwear — and that she wanted to go home. I told her she was already home. Oh yes, she said, I see that. And then it would start again. Her pocketbooks, her necklaces, her underwear. The need to pack them. How did I get so many, she asked? We stayed on the phone until my brother and his wife arrived.

Today when I talked to her she told me how frightening it was. I asked her which part was scary. Couldn’t have been your pocketbooks, I teased. You love those. Then she said “it was scary today that I was wacky yesterday”— and that, I realize, is how we scare the living daylights out of ourselves.

Something, an event, a situation, is simply and only and ever what it is. Being in three head-on collisions was not frightening at the moment. Losing our money to Madoff was not frightening at the moment. Being diagnosed with cancer was not frightening at the moment. Then the gap started between the actual situation and my story of what it meant for the future. The concussion will never heal. We’ll have to live on the streets and eat cat food. The cancer will spread. This is how I turned against myself. How we turn against ourselves. We frighten ourselves with lies, and because we’ve told them so many times, we believe they are true.

We scare ourselves in retrospect.

When I stop telling myself stories, I am free, light, open, happy. Sounds like it’s time to replace fear and doom with free and happy. What do you say?

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