Five tips for dealing with your Mystery Illness, which probably isn’t cancer.

About that mystery illness of yours – I have good news….and bad news. The bad news is that nine years ago,  I too had a mystery illness, which turned out to be cancer. Now for the good news. Ever since, I have had at least twenty-two mystery illnesses which have turned out to be absolutely nothing of consequence at all. So whilst I’ve certainly had the worst case scenario when it comes to mystery illnesses which, happily, I survived, I’ve also had numerous best case scenarios ever since. Many more best case than worst case. Touch wood.

I’ve actually just gotten home from the doctor myself, because I’ve been sick for the last 36 hours. You’re right – It’s probably nothing. But you’ll have to forgive me…old Dr. Do-Nothing told me that for seven months in 2003 before I was finally diagnosed with late stage lymphoma, the bastard. I should have sued.  No thanks for the anxiety disorder, jerk.

Anyway, being as I am the expert when it comes to dealing with mystery illnesses, here are my top 5 tips:

#1 – Never,  Ever Google your symptoms.

Even though I do this myself every single time, I strenuously advocate against it. I’ve found that when it comes to the internet, when it comes to horrible diseases matching your symptoms, you’ll inevitably find precisely what you’re looking for. In the last twelve months, I’ve diagnosed myself with nasal cancer, labyrithitis, vocal cord nodules, multiple sclerosis and migratory arthritis. I’m fairly certain I could also diagnose myself within the next fifteen minutes with mid-life crisis, a panic disorder or three and most certainly leukaemia. Don’t try this at home. Just take yourself off to a doctor and tell him everything.

#2 – Make a record of the illness.

Write down exactly what’s happening to you in a diary, and include the date and other details such as your temperature, whether you vomited, had diarrhoea and any other relevant information. This will help if the illness is recurring and you can’t remember what exactly happened before, and help you remember how long it’s been going on. It may transpire that your illness has something to do with environmental or seasonal factors, or even with other cycles going on in your body, and a diary or journal will help you to recognise this. It can also help when you need to check exactly how many times before this exact same set of problems turned out to be nothing. But don’t show anyone your illness journal unless they are your very good friend, or they may think you are plotting munchausens-by-proxy. Google that.

Hint #3 – See your doctor soon. And see the same doctor as you’ve been seeing.

Your doctor has a record of things you’ve been to see him about in the past, and when you saw him about them. Many illnesses take time to develop into something nasty, and if you stay away from your doctor, or go to see another one because you didn’t get any action last time, you’re interupting the continuity of your medical record. True, I went to see a doctor for many months with serious symptoms, and he didn’t diagnose me with the cancer I had, but the cockles of my heart are warmed no end knowing he has on file a record of my determination to find out what was wrong with me, a record which is available to my current doctor, should he need proof I am not an insane hypochondriac. And I like to think that file keeps my old Dr. Dumb-Dumb awake at night wondering what he might have done differently.

Hint #4 – Be honest

Don’t exaggerate or your doctor will think you are actually an insane hypochondriac.

Hint #5 – Take Paracetamol and wait 24 hours

Don’t bother presenting yourself to the emergency department after you’ve just been feeling a bit off colour for three hours. You have to be expelling a lung out of your mouth and bleeding from every other orifice for them to even show an interest in you in the first place. I went to the hospital once with a couple of broken ribs, and it wasn’t until I had been hyperventilating in the waiting room for three hours and actually passed out on the floor they even noticed I was there. And it wasn’t the staffs fault. They had a waiting room full of everything from the sniffles to fractured ankles to deal with in order of urgency. I’d have been better off unconcious in the comfort of my own living room, except that fainting in the waiting room conveniently got me some morphine.

NOTE  – Traumatic and accidental injuries, anything which causes loss of conciousness, slurring of speech, bleeding and/or chest pain must be seen as a matter of urgency. In the event you experience these symptoms, call 000 (Australia) or 911 (USA), and present to your nearest hospital as soon as possible.

Most other problems can wait until you can get to a doctor, and may even pass within twenty four hours. So don’t panic. In fact, not panicking is actually number 6 on this list, and should perhaps be number 1.

Today, my doctor – I changed doctors after my cancer diagnosis, by the way – ordered some blood tests, which he very well knows is one way to make me feel much better already. I’m blessed to have a GP who is understanding of both my real and very colourful medical history, and my penchant for illness-related anxiety.  He’s patient, and very firm with me. I’ll get my blood tests, but he’s told me more than once to get on my bike when I’ve asked for CT’s, biopsies and a radioactive iodine scan, or two. Besides, if I have one more scan, I’ll probably be responsible for my own leukaemia.

Good luck 🙂

 

Creativity – It’s Not About Quality, It’s About Permission

“All children are born artists, the trick is to remain one as you grow up.” – Pablo Picasso

My most memorable creative moment happened when I was a small child of about five or six. It was a significant point in my life as an artist, but unfortunately, it’s all been pretty much downhill from there.

I was the kind of precocious youngster that liked to make sure everyone knew I was around. I liked to sing and dance and make up plays where I would parade around in my mother’s nightdresses, pretending to be Indian royalty. You get the picture. I didn’t realise that a significant thing was happening in the actual moment; it’s only now when I think back I really wish I’d held on to that flash of genius. If I had by now I’d probably have created a vast body of artistic work, but as it stands, I have wasted about twenty of the last forty two years not making the art I love so much. And why? Well, mostly because I was afraid it would not be any good.

I was singing, you see, just before it happened. I was singing my head right off, and by God, I was good, just about as good as a five or six year old can be. I was thinking how amazing it was to be able to produce such a wondrous noise just by opening one’s mouth and sending the voice out as big and wide as possible. Now, this was not just self expression or exuberance – this was technical. My big ‘ole voice could go up and down, and up and down again, and oh, what a wonderful feeling! I was quite lost in this place of pure joy, just being a small child singing its heart out, when someone who should have known better interrupted me. “Oh!” they exclaimed, actually putting their hands up over their ears, “What a terrible noise!”

That, by the way, was not the significant moment. It came immediately afterwards.

I looked up at the person who should have known better, and I thought, you know what? You’re wrong. You are just wrong, because that was not a terrible noise. That, right there,was some mighty fine singing. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

And there it was. I’ve struggled to get back there ever since.

Oh, if only I’d been able to bring that six year old back into the room every time I put down my guitar because the inner person who should have known better said “Oh, what a terrible noise!” I wish I’d asked that little girl what she thought all those times I laid down the paintbrush, or pushed my chair away from the keyboard, or dropped out of the dance class. I wish I’d remembered my significant moment when I burned the romantic poems of my adolescence because I thought they were stupid, and when I refused to play my songs in public. I wish I’d listened to her every time my inner perfectionist refused to let me waste time making bad art, and made me get a job I was good at instead. Imagine what a musician, what a dancer, what a poet, what a painter, what a writer I’d be by now, if only, if only I’d never stopped every time I heard a voice say “Ah! That’s awful! For the love of God, stop it!” I wish that I’d remembered to say “Are you out of your mind? Of course it’s bad! Who are you – the friggin’ art police?”….and then just got on with it anyway.

I know now that it takes a long time to get as good as you’d like to be when you first begin. You learn to do something by doing it, says John Holt, there is no other way. A very wise friend of mine says you need about ten thousand hours to become proficient at something, be it throwing a pot, writing a sonnet, or probably even raising a child. Nobody can make something incredible right away. When it comes to creating art, it’s not about quality, it’s about permission. And permission to make your art, good, bad and ugly, is a gift only you can give yourself.

Creativity is subversive. It needs room to move. It needs to be allowed to rebel, to think, to explore, to explode, to sleep, to feed and to question. It will eat everything you feed it and eliminate its waste as its requirements dictate. Your creativity will boldly announce itself as having arrived, and then may sit by and do nothing. It may take over, it may undermine. It may sleep all day, and work all night. But in the end, creativity will be the essence of wonderful, because it is greater than all conventions. If you want to excel in convention, do just what has been done before and merely seek to improve upon it. But if you wish to be an artist, break faith with convention; starve it in the dark, smash it and crush it and put it outside while you fly around the room with paintbrushes and flugelhorns. Chase your convention screaming from the room and throw its pretentious crown out after it into the street. Take your creativity and kiss it with passion right on the mouth, then let it kiss you back. Give yourself permission to love that part of you that scares others to death; your muse, your thinker, your child, your dreamer, your explorer, your artist, your heart, your ideas, your creations. They are yours, they are you, and that alone makes them great and worthy.

Write the book you cannot find, the one that tells your story. Sing the song that haunts you in your dreams. Bring your wild vision forth and fill the hungry canvas.  Get that art out of you, as if you could push your own heart right out of your mouth. Don’t worry about it being wrong; don’t worry about it being good enough. There is no art police but your own inner judge, your critic, your resistance to wrongness and imperfection and mistakes. It’s not an awful noise I promise you; it’s wonderful. Your creativity is not just what you do….it’s who you are. And I…I am the Queen of India. :0)

*****

It’s Coming

It’s coming. I know it doesn’t feel like it right now, but it is. You could act now, spring into action, if you wanted to, trying to make things happen a little quicker, but you know you’ve tried that before. Remember how, because you were bored with waiting, you set into play a set of circumstances that made you so busy and so occupied that when the thing you were waiting for finally came, and it did you’ll remember, you were too busy to do it anyway, and it seemed to have lost it’s appeal – remember that? So it passed you by again. And then, the thing you made yourself busy with petered out, because you had no passion for it, only energy, and energy can only take you so far. And the passion was gone for a while, but then, some time after you had burned out your energy doing the thing you weren’t really interested in, your passion woke up again. You remembered what it was you wanted and wished for so much, back then, but forgot about through being busy and productive. And now, here you are again.

Your passion has never died: it’s still with you, it’s still alive. It’s still your calling, and it’s still your dream. It’s still what you were born to do, and it’s still what you will be glad you did without compromise, whatever the cost. It’s not dead, and it’s not overdue. It’s coming.

So….you could choose to get busy, and set about making it happen in your time, or you can let it take its own time and find you here, ready and waiting and primed to go. You get to choose. Just wait. It’s coming.

Time Life – The Creative Life Has Time For Dreams

Blaine Hogan has written this great blog about the attitude we as artists, and as humans, have to time, and its relationship to the creative process.

Blain Hogan – It Takes Time

I know what he means, and so do many of you, if the responses I have recieved via my Facebook link to Blaine’s post. It seems the idea that we could possibly leave time in our busy, structured lives for any meaningful kind of unintentional reflection, introspection or creative process is pretty much anathema to us.

Since I stopped doing paid work a few months ago, I have struggled to define myself in my interactions with other people. “And what are you doing with yourself?” is the standard salutation when you meet a friend or are introduced to a new aquaintance. What do you say when what you do has nothing to do with the attainment of money or a degree of some kind? What do you tell people when for the most part what you do, besides the minimum amount of housework possible to maintain good health, is sit down and write stuff no one reads and no one pays you for? This is the first time in my adult life I have been able not to work, other than when I was heavily pregnant or just had a baby, and it’s only because my husband has released me to not feel I have to. I wanted time to just…..breathe.

I have always been a super-busy person. I have always has at least ten things on the go at once. I have worked and volunteered and had babies and homeschooled and run my own businesses, and in between that I’ve had health problems including cancer, my marriage broke down and my husband had a breakdown and went away to rehab for six months. It’s been a busy twenty four or so years since I joined the world in it’s obsessive mania of accumulation, consumption and production. And what have I to show for it all?

We don’t own our own house any more. We had a house once, but we were so incredibly stressed trying to earn the monet it cost to pay the bank for it and actually keep it properly that we sold it. Even if we had held on to it, we’d have lost it at least twice since. Not having a mortgage probably saved us from bankrupcy a couple of times. We have a car, some furniture and some cash for emergencies. I don’t know what we’ll do when we can’t work any more. Probably buy a tent and live in one of our kids backyards. There already fighting over who gets the crazy old lady…none of them would mind having their dad. He’s the quiet one.

I have tried to be the good little capitalist my country and my community would like me to be, but I’m not good at it. Someone wise once said to me that you may win the rat race, but you are still just another rat. It’s taken nearly dying for me to realise I need time to live. I need time to create, and write, and think, and read, and talk to my kids, because that is living, that is life. I have no idea how long I have left, and I mean that most sincerely. I am living on borrowed time now… I have been on my second chance since 2004 when i went tino remission…and I am not going to waste any of it racing on a wheel of someone elses making.

Art takes time. Thought takes time. Beauty takes time. Inspiration takes time. Love takes time. You can’t make time, or even take time. It just has to be there. You have to leave it. You have to wait, and not fill the waiting with anything else. You have to resist the urge to stay busy so others will think you’re productive, prolific, useful, worthy. You have to just have big swathes of emptiness and nothingness and peace for life to come and fill you up. Life is what we were made for, not to make a living. This is the abundant life Christ speaks of – a life where we are relieved from the pressure of being full and needing to be filled, a life where we are prepared to be empty to allow something to come and fill us. We are so busy stuffing ourselves with information and experiences, we have lost the ability to imagine and to dream for ourselves. Art comes in the void…..in the beginning was the void, and God made from the void….and He saw that it was good.

The rest is not just for the time after the work. Sometimes, the rest is the work. When people ask me what i am doing, I don’t know what to say, so now I am just telling them “Nothing!” Unfortunately, there’s nowhere to go from there, but it is the truth. I don’t know if I will be able to create my magnum opus in this time I have, and I have no idea when it will come to an end. Perhaps it won’t. I can only hope.

Leave time, leave space in your life for your own thoughts and imaginings. I know it feels like fears of being poor or bereft or stupid will come in and overwhelm you, and you will need to get up and start producing again, but I promise you, the fears pass. You come to a place of seeing yourself as more than merely what you can produce. Hebrews were only of value to the Egyptians because they made bricks the Egyptians needed to build their monuments. The abundant life we are promised by our Maker is release from the indentity this Egypt has fashioned for us; fit only for producing consumables. But you, you, are an artist, you are a work of art. You were made to create, not just to make. You were created from an idea, not from a brick-mould. You are more than what you produce. Leave time. Time is where your dreams lie waiting to be realised.

No, It Isn’t Breast Cancer – Raising Awareness of the Issues Caused By Raising Awareness

I want to share with you just one part of a particular conversation I seem to have quite regularly. It usually begins when someone says to me, “Did you hear, such-and-such has cancer. Isn’t it terrible?” and I might say something like,”I heard. Did you know I had cancer?” “Oh really? When was that?” “In July 2003.” “Oh my God. Are you all right now?” “Yes, thanks, I am.” “Did you have treatment?” “Chemotherapy and radiotherapy.” “Wow, and you have how many children?” “Four.” “Oh, that’s awful. I can’t believe it.” And then, the inevitable. “And which breast was it in? Did you have to have a mastectomy? Do you have a prosthesis?” “Well, no, actually, it wasn’t breast cancer.” Blank expression. “Oh…….really?” Because everyone knows; the only cancer women get is breast cancer, right?

Donate to the NSW Cancer Councils Pink Ribbon Day to help raise money for breast cancer research.

Now before I go any further, I will at this moment bestow well-deserved kudos of heroic proportions to the millions of men and women who have campaigned and still campaign to increase awareness of breast cancer worldwide. God knows, it needs to happen. Breast cancer is an insidious, sometimes disfiguring, always frightening cancer that can rob families of their mothers, partners, wives and daughters. Breast cancer is a horrific disease that, thankfully, we are learning more and more about every day, due to the billions of dollars raised by communities all over this planet, and thanks to ever-improving early screening and detection programs. The lives of breast cancer patients are not just being saved but also salvaged, thanks to greater understanding of the psycho-social effects of breast cancer on women, their carers and their communities, lives, livelihoods and relationships.

Having said that, I will return to the point, because everything I have just mentioned isn’t actually my point. Increasing public awareness of breast cancer, it could be said, has been a resounding triumph overall. It could also be said that breast cancer and all the various products and services related to it now have such a high media profile that breast cancer has become almost commodified in itself. Associating your event or brand with breast cancer in some way is likely to increase your profits and positive consumer sentiment toward your product like few other actions could. Unlike a lot of very disgruntled prostate cancer advocates, I stop short of calling breast cancer the ‘sexy cancer’, but you have to admit it has all the hallmarks. When I worked in advertising, I learned that either fear or sex will sell just about anything. Somehow combine the two and you have an advertisers dream. The female breast holds a veritable hemisphere of marketing power in our society. However, unlike ads which are aimed at increasing awareness of the link between lung cancer and smoking, we never see a single image of an actual diseased breast. We save boobies for the beer ads. It’s all about brand association, and the brand for breast cancer is the colour pink.

Long associated with all things pertaining to youthful, sweet, feminine innocence, pink has been universally substituted for any actual physical images pertaining to the disease of breast cancer. Pink ribbons, pink t-shirts, pink logos and cricket stumps and bandannas. Now, as I see it, two obvious problems associated with identifying everything to do with breast cancer with the colour pink are: 1) Not all women who get breast cancer can identify with the colour pink and what it represents – submissive, baby-like femininity. And 2) Not all people who get breast cancer are actually female. Some of them, more than you probably think, are men.

Here’s another conversation I’d like to relay to you. My friend Gary has something resembling the following interchange every other day of his life. “Did you hear? Frank just got told he has cancer.””I heard. Did you know, I had cancer?” “No way, really?” “Yes, actually, I’ve just finished treatment.” “That’s terrible, mate, I’m sorry to hear that. What kind of cancer was it? Prostate? Bowel?” “Actually, I had breast cancer.” Incredulous stare, awkward silence. Do men really get breast cancer? Where do you go with a conversation after that? Well, yes, men most certainly do get breast cancer. And Gary has really nowhere to go with it, in just about every real sense. Nowhere in conversation, nowhere in the community, and certainly nowhere for the most part in terms of supportive care and services for his type of cancer.

Many hospitals in this country now have, thanks to the militant findraising efforts of outfits like the McGrath Foundation, breast cancer or breast care nurses on staff. Female nurses; attuned primarily to the issues female breast cancer patients have with their disease, Gary feels. Issues such as body image, as concerning women in a society where breasts are worshipped and commodified. But male breasts have no such commodifiaction attached, except perhaps for the negative social connotations of man-boobiness, which can be made even worse when telling someone you have what is primarily considered a womens disease.

Gary has been lobbying the local breast cancer support group to allow men to join in their meetings. The groups management were initially resistant, and Gary believes only changed their minds when they realised the legal implications of excluding him and other men like him. He came back to the general cancer support I facilitate to report to us that they had, in the end decided to allow men to attend their previously exclusively female meetings, and had even changed the wording on their brochure. But Gary decided he felt more comfortable in our group, because we are not cancer or gender specific or exclusive. Yes, there is such a thing as cancer snobbery, believe me.

Increased awareness around breast cancer is a double edged sword; it seems the very changes in perception and awareness concerning breast cancer that continue to save lives have also created a set of assumptions which are perhaps as dangerous as the initial ignorance ever was. Many women seem to assume breast cancer is the only kind of cancer women are in danger of dying from. However, cancers previously mainly associated with men such as lung cancer are killing increasingly more women, as young women continue to take up smoking in greater numbers. It is interesting to nore that while breast cancer is a disease which threatens to physically disfigure, many others cancer, such as bowel and lung cancer, are perhaps percieved to have invisible and perhaps less disfiguring consequences. Women don’t seem to believe lung cancer or bowel cancer would affect them the way breast cancer might. They fear having a breast taken more than they fear having a section of bowel or part of a lung removed.

Research shows that many women actually continue to smoke because they believe it will keep them thin and attractive. I can tell you, I lived with a woman who had mouth cancer during the last few months of her life, and while she certainly kept her trim figure, it was mainly because she could no longer eat solid food through the rotting crevasse that was her mouth. I find it to be a peculiar conundrum that despite the graphic pictures on cigarette packets, women are more afraid of losing their breasts than having lung, head or neck cancers. The sad fact is that most breast cancer, caught early enough, can be treated and even cured, but by the time most lung cancers are detected, it is usually too late.

Women these days are very well-trained to check their breasts, but I wonder if this has given women generally a false sense of confidence regarding the early self-detection of cancer. While we are busy feeling ourselves up in the shower, are we ignoring that weird mole, or pretending we didn’t see the blood in our bowel motions? I think women are being programmed to believe that breast cancer is the only cancer they need to worry about, particularly if they are young and otherwise healthy. I was diagnosed with stage 3B (there are only four stages, and B means it had begun metastasizing) Non-HodgkinsLymphoma in my mid-thirties, and even my doctor was unable to be convinced there was anything wrong with me…until I presented to the emergency department of my local hospital on the verge of collapse. I had a perfectly healthy pair of d-cups – pity about the tumour the size of a saucer lying 3cm deeper under my sternum. But no one thought to check in there.

I have a friend who, like me, was diagnosed a few years ago with cancer in an advanced state. However, unlike me, she can’t talk about her diagnosis in general conversation, because no one wants to talk about vulval cancer. She didn’t even know there was such a thing. However, gynacological and blood cancers are not considered to be statistically rare in women. Not rare….just unheard of – literally..

So, this month being breast cancer awareness month, I would like to advocate another kind of awareness. While we are pinning on pink ribbons and passing around sentimental chain emails, I would like everyone to remember that not all the cancers women are diagnosed with are breast cancers. Check your boobies by all means, but check your moles and your motions too. Check your rashes, your rude bits, your lumps and your bumps, where ever they may be. Take that funny cough off to the doctor too, and for crying out loud, stop smoking. Also, please be aware that not everyone diagnosed with breast cancer is female. Many breast cancer patients are men and will never be acknowledged, serviced, celebrated or lauded the way many female breast cancer patients and survivors are. They are more likely to be isolated from support services and treatments, marginalised by stigma, and sometimes even ridiculed because of their disease. They face many of the same issues that women breast cancer patients do, but in reality have access to fewer resources and less information which is gender specific to their disease.

Personally, I will be thinking of the many friends I have lost to breast cancer, the amazing and heroic people I am blessed to count as friends who have survived, and those I know who are currently having treatment. I will also be remembering the hundreds of people I know who have journeyed through many different kinds of cancers, some of which you may never have even heard of; people who are not pop stars, or wives of cricket players or even particularly special or brave. Their cancers will be just as unfair and tragic and disfiguring and painful as the ones you’ll see on TV this month. I actually wish there were a month for every kind of cancer, but there aren’t even enough days in a year for that.

I ask of you all just two things: 1) That you may remember not every person diagnosed with breast cancer is female, and 2) That not every woman diagnosed with cancer has breast cancer. I actually hope to increase awareness that increasing awareness of cancer is only one side of the story. The other side is the responsibility we all have to become aware of the scope and effect all kinds of cancer have on a diagnosed person’s family and friends, on the community and on our society as a whole. Now that’s what I call cancer awareness.

Head, Hand and Heart – Creativity Weekend, November 2010

My mate Paul Macklin from Amazing People has been dreaming of an arts and creativity adventure convention for ages, and finally, we are making it happen!

Head hand and HEART is a weekend adventure exploring your creative potential and expanding your creative self expression. Facilitated by artisans and creative people from all over Australia, HHH will be an amazing opportunity to release the creative potential lying within you for art, for expression and for life.

Bring colour, joy, intuition, imagination, intimacy
and creative confidence into your world and…
make a contribution. Proceeds to the Tabitha foundation, building homes in Cambodian communities….yes, ALL proceeds!

Not just for artists…for thinkers, for feelers and for doers; for people who need creative solutions, who dream of making their world great, and who seek innovative ways to educate and empower others.

Head Hand and HEART… You’ll discover…

■The mechanisms of the mind – how creativity is a natrual capability that we have in abundance at birth and how to overcome the voice of judgement that blocks creative flow as we get older.
■Rediscovering innocence – how creators use the childlike state in which every day is an amazing, playful adventure to fuel their creative exploration.
■Awakening the senses – how to expand awareness and perception as a starting point for your creative expression.
■Discovering your expressive voice – exploring a range of media and methods to unearth your amazing expressive voice.
■Your unique point of view – the importance of seeking out and speaking out your unique world view.
■Dare to dream – expanding the impact that your creative contribution can make in the world.
■Mastering the way – the perspectives and habits of creative masters and how to integrate them into your life.

Check out the website http://headhandandheart.com/

Why It’s So Hard To Love Others

I used to think alcoholics lay around on park benches in trench coats with brown paper bags clutched to their wheezing chests. Or that they teetered on bar stools until closing time while their wives, vacantly clutching a cigarette and staring at an empty dining chair, explained to the children daddy is working late again. I saw all this on TV, so it must be true. Alcoholics were not us; they were others. That was until my husband became an alcoholic.

My husband didn’t frequent bars or park benches. My husband did not even think he could have been an alcoholic before he went to an AA meeting. There he met people who were not park bench dwellers or bar stool teeterers. They were secretaries, real estate agents and builders with careers, families and home loans. They were not others. They were just like him.

We would all like to think we are not one of those “others”. But we are all others to someone. We all are good and bad, strangers and friends, aliens and natives. And because we all are others, when we judge others, we judge ourselves.

Jesus told us to love other people in the same way we love ourselves. When we do this, they stop being others, and start being one anothers. This phrase “one another” appears 43 times in the New Testament. One anothers are not the same thing as others. The very word “other” denotes difference. “One another” means simply another one of what ourselves are. If we can see everyone else as we ourselves are, in fact, as God sees us all, then it becomes much harder to judge who is worthy of our preference and regard and who is not.

The problem is not that we don’t know how to love people. It’s that we have this others mentality in the first place. Others has come not to mean other people, it has come to mean other sexual preferences, other religions, other genders, other ways of seeing and being which are different from our own. We look around us and see not one hundred people who need love and regard, but one hundred reasons not to love or regard people.

Why wait until people change to be more like you to love and regard them? Why wait until they put more on or take more away? Why wait until they walk your way or talk your way?

Jesus didn’t say “love others as I loved you”. He said “love one another as I have loved you”. In Jesus eyes, there were no others, only people, just like himself – one anothers.

Who are the others? In fact, we see people as we are, not as they are. When there is a mote in the eye, it makes the seer think the problem is a beam floating out there in space. No wonder the world looks like such a mess.