Soul Letters For The Cancer Sojourner – #3 You Can Change One Thing Today

When cancer comes, it can have us feeling disempowered and helpless. Where before we felt we had some control over our life even if just to a degree, cancer can have us thinking we have no control at all, and as if any control we thought we had was a lie. But cancer is the liar. Even when something like cancer interrupts and intervenes, we always have choices available to us.

As someone with cancer, we may find ourselves in a position where we need to give power over our body to someone else, but we can still choose to nourish and to nurture ourselves – body, mind and soul. We can choose what or whom we allow to come close to us right now, and what or whom we’d like to keep at a distance. We can choose not to accept the premise cancer is stronger or greater than we are, and we can choose to let some things go and hold other things closer. Whilst some choices may be taken away from us in the wake of a cancer diagnosis, changing our focus can help us recognise those areas where we still have control, and are able to keep ourselves in the drivers seat.

image credit: iStockphoto
image credit: iStockphoto

Our frustrations and strong emotions often signal areas we’re feeling a challenge to our power and sense of control.

Whilst we might feel submitting to the inner work cancer seems to require of us to be a kind of “giving in”, it could well be the issues we’re facing would’ve come up anyway, even if we never had cancer. Illness is often a catalyst for change in areas which are already problematic, but which we’ve been able to avoid until now.

Part of surviving is about learning how to keep yourself behind the wheel of your life as you journey through cancer, whilst still accepting the help and support you’ll need from others. This can be challenging, particularly if you’ve been largely independent, or are someone accustomed to leading or caring for others.

Accepting help, change and rest isn’t “giving in to cancer”. It’s part of helping keep yourself strong. Despite how afraid you may feel at the moment, especially if you have more time on your hands than you’re used to, don’t be afraid to look inwards – cancer won’t be found in those deep, inner places. Remember, your body is just one part of you, and there are places – parts of your mind, spirit and soul – cancer cannot touch. In fact, those places may just be about to justify their existence. Don’t fear the work. You are stronger, braver and kinder than you probably have been led to believe.

The changes cancer brings can seem overwhelming and catastrophic, particularly at first. Experiencing cancer may seem to take more than we believe we have to throw at it. But you can do this. Just take one step at a time. You can, if you will, change one thing today – one thing which could make all the difference to you, and to others. One small decision could turn this thing right on its head. Exchange one choice you know compromises you for another one which brings you closer to where you want to be. Taking the best care of yourself possible is not selfishness. You need you to take care of you more than ever before.

Don’t look out there for the difference here – look to yourself. It’s not them, or that, or those, or there. It’s you. It’s in your head, in your heart, in your hands – that’s where your future healing and wholeness is, whatever the outcome of the cancer.

Look to your creativity and to your imagination, and not to your past or your history, for the answer to the question “What one change can I make today which will create a difference in this situation for me?”

Today, decide you’ll spend a moment to recognize you are the small difference needed in this situation. Don’t wait for circumstances or for others to change. Cancer is not in control. You are. Cancer only knows how to do one thing – but you are capable of way, way more.

You can’t change the world right now. But you can change one thing today.


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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… 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.