Thought Gardens – Part 1

I’m sure, my friends, it’s clear to you by now I definitely think too much. My mind garden is wild, and frankly a bit of a mess. I know this is both the product of both a busy mind and a neglected one. My own childish thoughts have been largely unattended and unheeded, and a child’s thoughts probably need to be regarded with care, much like a little flower patch. Not interfered with but seen and tended to, cultivated and left to fallow in season, weeded and seeded, certainly appreciated often. A child’s mind if neglected can become impossible to tame if it’s spent a few seasons forgotten, or worse, if the stewardship is passed to another, and insufficient attention is provided to the caretaking in the meantime. Little gardens are fragile things.

Messy is okay. It’s not the neatness that counts; it’s the amount of life that’s in there. Living things need to be found in a mind garden. And we have to get those suckers in there somehow. Writing, and reading of course, lots and lots of reading.

Looking at nature and at other people is good for thinking, but if you will, do it properly, if you please. Seeing their faces and eyes and listening to their words, all to be done deeply and with intention. Taking long walks and not talking, and taking long sittings with cups of tea in warm places and doing a lot of talking is also good.

Having things with you and around you made by someone you know, or love, or both; that makes for some good thinking I reckon. There’s something about having something in your hands, or over your lap or shoulders, or before you on your desk as you work, something someone made with their hands, that’s good for you in thinking your own thoughts. I think it’s because when you have to spend a lot of time making a thing with your hands you do a lot of thinking yourself. All that energy of the sitting and paying careful attention to your own thoughts as you make the thing gets transferred to others.

This is why the making of quilts and tea and toys and cakes are very important arts not to be lost. In light of this, I probably need to add here making a thing with your own hands is good for thinking, and healthy for cultivating wholesome, healthy thoughts that will hopefully seed well for a very long time, or as short a time as may be required.

On ducks and rows, and what you really need to be praying about.

Here’s something I was thinking about over cooking breakfast this morning.

Once, when Ben and I had good, steady paying jobs with a regular salary, when we could budget because we knew how how much we were going to get paid each week for the foreseeable future, when we had a mortgage on a house we would still own now and which would be worth three times what we paid for it if we hadn’t sold it, back then, I used to lie in bed and panic about money. I used to cry from the stress of it, and constantly worry about having enough and being broke, losing everything and having it all go to shit. I prayed all the time to get what I didn’t have, to get more, to have more, money, things etc. I was obsessed with it. I know now what I wanted was feelings of safety and security. But no matter how much I prayed to God to give me as much as I needed to feel like I had enough, like I was safe, like everything would be all right, He never did. I never got all the things I thought would stop me feeling stressed, anxious and like I needed more. And so I went on being anxious, afraid and manifesting intense lack and poverty in my life for quite some time.

Oh, I always knew I needed to be grateful for what I had. But I spent probably one eighth of my prayers saying thank you for what we had, and the other seven eighths praying for more of what we didn’t. More money. Better, bigger house in a better area. Better pay. Fatter back accounts. Lottery wins. Gifts from relatives. I begged God to gimme, gimme, gimme all the time. And whenever something did happen, like a tax return or a gift of money, I always thanked him. But I wasn’t grateful. But it was never enough. I always expected more, wanted more, needed more.

I’ll be grateful, God, I promise, I would pray. I’ll be the most grateful Christian ever. I’ll tell everyone just how awesome you are and testify to your generosity and provision. Just give me more. Please, give me more. I’ll do ANYTHING.

It’s not like that any more, in just about every respect. We have had our miracles, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t have anything like what I used to, in terms of material security and physical wealth. No house. No salary. No home, in fact. A few possession in a trailer, a couple of appliances in a storage unit. No investments, barely any superannuation. The idea of living like this, two decades ago, would’ve horrified me. This is the exact situation I begged God to help me avoid, at all costs. And whilst I’m mostly okay with it now (I still get a little worried at times) this was the sum of all my anxieties back then. Not only would I have felt like God abandoned me, but I would’ve felt deeply ashamed. How can I show others – my friends in church, the “world” outside the church walls – that God exists and takes care of believers, if I as a believer don’t have physical evidence He has “supplied all my needs according to His riches in glory”? When I don’t believe He has helped me, because I still FEEL this way?

I honestly thought I’d know when I had enough or what I wanted, because I believed I’d stop feeling anxious about having more of it. Silly me.

While we can say I was just young, immature and materialistic then, and I’ve grown up, there’s something else going on here. I didn’t really know what I was asking for, when I was praying for God to give me more stuff. I thought I NEEDED more money because I deserved it (I’m His child!) and could always use it, but what I really NEEDED was for to God to fix my negative feelings about poverty, to repair all my phobias about how having less is being less, to allay my concerns about how Gods love equals me being comfortable financially, to take away my terror at being unsafe and unprovided for, by giving me a big pile of money, without me having to do anything else about having more money but pray about my negative feelings, voice my terrors, express my concerns and tell God about my phobias.

In other words, I believed that expressing my abject fears to God would activate His giving to me the things I thought would take my fears away, in this case, more money and security.

How often are our prayers not really about getting help to attain things we need, but come from a place of not wanting to feel uncomfortable, afraid, insecure or anxious about the way things are for us?

I have come to believe that when we pray, we are often praying for God to fix circumstances for we won’t have to feel or think anything we don’t like, far more than we are praying about finding a real solution to a real problem. Sometimes, it ain’t actually broke, and doesn’t need fixing. What’s broken is our thoughts and emotions, not our circumstances. I prayed for more money, not because I needed it (we had more than all we needed at the time) but because I wanted relief from my feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, fear and insecurity.

It was ironically when things actually took a turn for the truly catastrophic that things – and when I say things, I mean I – began to change.

When I had cancer, it started to become clear to me I had no idea what I was doing when I prayed to God about stuff. Of course, I prayed for the cancer to go away, to be healed, especially at first. But after a while, I thought to myself, this is dumb. Either it will go away or it won’t. Either I am going to get better, or I’m not. My feelings about this change every day. And who knows which way it’s going to go? I had seen enough to know even if I prayed, I had no guarantee of the result I wanted. I worked out it would be better to pray that God would help me deal with my feelings about dying, and my feelings about living. That way, I’d be ready for whatever happened. Then, I began to feel less afraid of dying, because I felt like if it came, I would be able to deal with it. The less afraid I felt, the less I prayed about being healed.

Thank God, I didn’t die from the cancer. But here’s the next point I want to come to. How grateful am I to God for not dying, if I never prayed actually about not dying? Did I get an answer to prayer by not dying? I didn’t pray for that. I prayed that whatever happened, I’d be able to cope. And I got an answer to that prayer. And I’ve been praying it ever since.

Friends, sometimes I think when we pray, we forget to meditate on why we are praying for what we are praying for. Are we praying for God to fix a situation, simply because we cannot tolerate our own emotions and thoughts concerning that situation? Do we think God can be coerced into giving us what we want simply because our feelings of anxiety surrounding that thing are extreme or intolerable to us? Like a tantrum in a two year old? A wise parent takes a tantrumming child aside and helps them ride out the emotional crisis, and when sanity returns, counsels the child about the reality of the situation, reassuring them they are safe and secure, and helping them see what is actually going to be good for them. Given the opportunity, because God won’t force it on us, God will work with us to do the same.

I still pray for God to help us get by. But instead of praying for a huge pile of money in the bank because that’s going to help me sleep at night, I pray we will see opportunities to bless others, and not miss opportunities to provide well for ourselves. I still pray God will help me deal with whatever comes, and then I trust Him concerning whatever comes, instead of trying to get Him to give me what I want to come, because I think a particular thing will make me feel less afraid and anxious and insecure.

I believe God wants us to feel safe, but He does this by helping us confront and examine what makes us afraid, and by guiding us through an education into our own condition and thinking, not by taking away everything that frightens us. If you’re still praying for God to fix your life so you don’t ever have to feel scared, poor, judged, anxious, nervous, or like you’re going to die, may I gently exhort you to consider that maybe your life works just fine, and doesn’t need fixing, and it’s actually your emotions and thoughts that need healing. Instead of asking God to make all your ducks line up in a row so you never have to be out of your comfort zone, you’d be better to pray instead about whether ducks were created to stand in rows, and why they make you feel so bad when they run around the place, after all, they are ducks for crying out loud.

I believe faith is trusting that God wants us to be safe and happy. I also happen to think faith is the spiritual discipline of learning to feel safe and happy in Him, regardless of what circumstances come our way.

Selah.

Blessings, my friends,
Jo xxx

Ps – as always, your thoughts welcome.

Pps – Having said all this, if someone in your life is abusing you, physically, mentally or emotionally, don’t just pray about it, or ask God to help with your feelings about it, unless it’s to help you have the courage to get the hell away. Leave, now, and seek support and even legal advice.

Felt it needed a caveat, friends

I want to say you’re going to be okay.

Ben is in bed asleep, and I’m once again sitting in my car in the dark on Windy Hill, trying to imagine all the very hard things you’re all facing at the moment, pouring all my energy and love into making words in all the right order for you.

I think about you, and think back to a year ago, two years ago, three, four, even five, to a time when I can say my life was as hard as it’s ever been. When my husband didn’t want to be married to me any more, and had drunk himself into a deep, dark hole I refused to follow him down. A time when I still felt the dank, metallic shadow of cancer following me everywhere. A time when I had both divorce papers and a will kit on my desk. When I wondered which horrible thing in my life would overwhelm me, or outright kill me, first.

Oh God, I thought I’d never get through it all, really I didn’t.

But here I am, five years later, that same man who would’ve rather drank himself to death than stay married to me is the same man asleep in my bed down the hill in that little house. And the same heart that eleven years ago was being smothered by a lymphoma in my chest still beats, still burns, still blazes with life and love and lust for all of it – all that this mad, brilliant world can give me.

This is why I sit in the dark and write to you, tapping away on my iPhone with the car engine running. Because I want you to know you’re going to survive this. I want you to know others have, I have. I want you to know it won’t always be like this, and you can be okay, and will be, and life will be all right and more than tolerable – it can again be wonderful. I know this. And I want you to believe it, somehow, being hope, if you can, if you just can.

Don’t give up, sweetheart. Don’t, just don’t you dare. Do your nights, one after the other, and do what you need to do to get through. Eat good food. Don’t worry about being too fat right now. Sleep when you’re able. Stay away from the bottle and the wine glass, if you can. Read, read, read. Keep good friends close. Buy well-fitting jeans and a great swimming costume. Also, the best bed sheets you can afford. A book a month, at least. There’s your prescription, you’re welcome. Take two and call me in the morning.

I know it seems like there is no hope. Be angry if it helps, but not all the time. Be brave when you can, but you can’t always be brave, I know. It’s all right to be a pain in the ass, to cry, to tell people it’s unfair, you did your best, and be shitty and a bitch. Just not all the time. Remember how staggeringly heroic you are. Tell yourself your story so you remember what a saga this is going to turn out to be, imagine how it ends and tell yourself that story over and over. Fall in love with people and let yourself include them in a future of your imagining. Just remember it’s pretend. All this is training wheels on hope.

Oh, and forgiveness. Don’t worry about it. That can come much later. Just leave it for now.

That’s all I got for you honey, right now anyway. Just know I’m thinking of you, holding your phone there in your hand in the dark, looking for answers, begging the universe for a sign. This is it.

I know. Me too.

You’re going to be okay,

Love you.
Jo xxxx
…………

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Just possibly FLY.

It hurt. And it still hurts.

But I get to choose if I still want to keep doing this dance forever. I don’t. But it’s the dance I know, and learning new steps is tiring, and I might not be good at them. And these particular enemies are familiar, and I don’t want new ones. And these particular arguments are familiar, and I know my retorts by rote.

This hurt is familiar, and it’s safer to hold into the hurt I know, than to let it go and possibly get hurt in a fresh, unfamiliar way.

But I’m tethered, aren’t I? I’m tethered to them, the ones who hurt me, even after all this time. And they don’t even care, they don’t even care about me. I find their end of the rope dragging on the ground, and they’ve run off, but I chase them down and knot it to their ankle as they stride on, oblivious. Stay here and be my enemy, I beg silently, be my familiar evil. I don’t want a new hurt, a new failure. Stay here and help me be blocked, stuck, help me procrastinate by meditating on what you did, what I said, then what you said back, and how bad I felt then. Let’s ruminate and go over it all again, so I don’t have to do the clean, fresh work I would need to do to move forward, and possibly fail.

But possibly fly.

I’m so tired. Time to untie, and risk cascading into the new kinds of failures I don’t even know about yet.

Or possibly fly.

Just possibly fly.

……………..

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How to heal the world.

Everything you think you need from God to be whole and enough

Everything you cry out to have

Everything you beg to be fixed, repaired and saved

Everything you think you can’t do

Everything you were proud of that was snatched from you and dashed into a thousand pieces

Everything that bleeds and aches, and which you plead with Him to heal

All your wounds, shame, lack, pain, sin, failure, loss and want

Will be the very things you reach for to heal in others

What fills your “windscreen” now, what seems impossible to ignore, what pains you so much to acknowledge and admit, what you’re learning to forgive yourself for

Will be the view you seek to create perspective for
Will be the shame you seek to soothe
Will be the hurt you long to relieve
Will be the lesson you burn to teach

For all the rest of His loved ones

Who are being hurt now, or who are yet to be hurt, or who are hurting others

And who will be just where you are, right now

Or are already seeking a healer, a teacher, a mother, father or friend.

You’ve believed your joy will come when this is over

When you get everything you’ve been praying and longing for

But your joy will come when you understand how this has made you truly see others pain, and not just your own

And when you realise you can help, and heal and make whole because

You can say “I know, me too”

Because this is love. And this is everything.

Blessings,
JO xxx

You are more than good enough.

I don’t live in regrets, but I do look back at times and wonder how I could think what I was thinking for all those years. How did I come to be so afraid for so long, and what was I afraid of?

It wasn’t until I developed a massive cancer in 2003 that I really thought about whether the way I was living my life was doing me any good. I understand now, I was driven by trying to please others, taking on the roles they had for me, making myself up as the mirror image of who I thought was acceptable and successful and good. Nobody would’ve thought I was racked by fears and insecurities. I seemed confident and capable, and achieved a lot.

But I look back at photos of myself and see a woman desperately blending into the landscape around her. Everything about me designed to paint myself as a certain kind of person – responsible, intelligent, successful, productive, talented…..yes, “special”.

I didn’t feel special. I felt less-than. I felt I had to prove myself. So I created a persona from the outside in and hoped it would work.

Based on fear.

They don’t like me. They won’t help me. They think I’m stupid. They think I’m bad, dirty, flawed, sinful, broken. They don’t see how clever, talented and good I am. They will ignore me. They will reject me. I need to show them I am good, and good enough.

Then, one day, I realized I was sick, and getting sicker. It was clear that my body disagreed with the life I was living, and wanted out. I could keep living the pretending, prove-it-all, self-aggrandising, insecure, over-achieving life if I wanted, assuming everyone thought the worst of me and wouldn’t help me. Assuming I was so helpless and worthless I needed to prove I was worthy. I could keep living like that. But my body had decided it wasn’t coming with me.

I thank my body now for its wisdom, for “putting its foot down”. For not being willing to ride with me any longer on my fear-based marathon of trying to disprove my assumption everyone thought badly of me and I needed to prove them wrong.

Because that’s what I thought.

I am bad.

I need to show I am good.

I appreciate now why I was attracted to Christianity at such a young age. The heavily reinforced concept of being a helpless, rotten, dirty sinner who needs help and can’t do anything for themselves including be “good” exactly matched my internal view of myself.

Except, that’s not who God is. That’s not what Jesus is about. That’s not who I am.

I wonder… are you held in a “system” – a group, culture, family, tribe or way of being – because the beliefs they hold reinforce the negative way you think of and feel about yourself?

Is the picture you have of who you are really the truth? Is it what God truly thinks? And how long are you prepared to believe you’re helpless, dirty, broken, unworthy and wrong…until your body or mind or soul decides it doesn’t want to come too?

I look at all the disconnected, soulless people I know, and I think I see what happened.

Their soul had enough, and it got up and got out of there. They died a kind of death, and now they can’t see or feel it any more.

But you see it, you feel it, don’t you?

Look for the flame inside you. You already suspect you were born for more than this. You have heard a calling in your spirit, and you’ve allowed your fears to quell that voice, in your search to be safe and liked and belong. But it’s costing you. What are you prepared to pay, to stay as you are right now?

I’m grateful I listened to my body and broke out of my old beliefs. But things got much worse before they got better. I lost my business, and my marriage. My husband descended into mental illness and addiction, and my church family largely abandoned me. We imploded financially. I was left wondering why I survived cancer, to die in every other area of my life.

But as it turns out, everything I suspected in my heart about myself – but which had been undermined for years by fear – was true.

I really was strong and brave.

I really was faithful and intuitive.

I really was clever, resourceful and intelligent.

I really was capable of deep, healing love, forgiveness and trust.

I really was a capable, connected and loving mother.

I really was beautiful and worthy of the love of a good man.

What do you know? I was “good” after all.

My life is healed and healing, from the inside, right to the outside. Who you see today is who I really am. I’m not proving or striving any more. I don’t believe I’m a rotten, bad, unworthy sinner – I understand how we live in the age of Gods grace, and are fully restored to our glory in our creator. I am not afraid. I am me.

Be courageous, my friend. Freedom from fear can begin today. One step. Then another. Why not begin? Listen to that still, small voice inside you, and begin to trust it. It’s telling you the truth.

I’m for you – you’re worthy. And you’re good.

Love, Jo xxx

Soul Letters for the Cancer Sojourner #29 Big Far Away, Where Hope Waits For Me

My eyes have deteriorated a lot over the last few months, mainly because I‘m writing and using social media far more than I once was. I’m spending a lot of time looking at computer and phone displays really close up. A friend of mine who also used to spend hours a day looking at a computer screen reckons after a couple of years living on a farm with wide skies and long views, his  vision has improved amazingly. He says it’s because he gets to look at things which are a long way away all the time now. Tall trees. Horizons. The neighbours paddock. A child swimming across a dam. Gazing at faraway things has improved his phsyical sight, and I venture, his imagination too.

As I look around our own compact home with security grills on every window, itself surrounded closely by other houses all of them shut in on themselves rather than opened up to the outside, it’s no wonder my eyes are so tired. Everything in my world is right there, close-up, in my face. To see something far away, I need to get in my car and drive to somewhere else – somewhere where the land meets the ocean, or the land meets the sky, or things grow which touch both the land and the sky. I wonder if I can retrain my eyes by looking into the distance more often.

image credit: iStockphoto
image credit: iStockphoto

When you have cancer, it’s almost like the world closes in around you. You may even pull your walls in closer on purpose to give you something to hold you up, to make you feel safe. You may find it hard, even scary, to look too far into the future. Fear of not even having a future can force us to only look at what’s right in front of us – the here and the now.

We may call this “living in the moment” – it sounds far more romantic than “What’s the point of thinking about the future? I could be dead in a year.”

In the cloister of the cancer world, our days can be reduced to a pattern of eating, drinking, sleeping, and being available for whatever others want to do to us to get rid of the cancer. It often doesn’t feel much like “fighting cancer” – surely that would feel like doing something? We wait for results, we wait for appointments, we wait for the side-effects of treatment to kick in and then abate again. We look at the walls of the inside of the rooms of our house, the insides of waiting rooms and clinics, the insides of cars and buses and taxis. We become dully familiar with places we never even noticed before – that weird space behind the toilet, the dust on the medicine cabinet shelf, the wrinkles on the inside of an elbow.

There is no more wonder, serendipity or spontaneity. The air and the ground and the sea and the growing things must be kept away, and we from them, because they are wild with germs and dirt and chill and could make us even sicker. The walls grow higher. The colours grow duller. The sky moves further away. Our vision for far away things begins to grow cloudy, whilst at the same time our ability to perceive the tiniest change in our body or immediate environment is heightened. Someone moved the soap. I can feel a lump. As night approaches, the sun edges closer to the horizon and the clouds recline before it, aroused into amazing purples and blushing orange and peach and gold….whilst we potter about our living room in our dressing gown and slippers, closing the window against the chill and our myopic eyes against the painful, boring day.

A gift we must give ourselves when we have cancer is the opportunity to see things which are far away.

Things which are outside of us. Things which tower over us, and run beneath us. Things which rush up and lap at our feet. Things which drop away before us. We need to see the sky and the stars and the horizon. Things which are great, and which move very slowly. Things we can only see when the earth turns. The tallness and the depth and the proximity of things.

When you have cancer, take care to preserve your vision. Much like I need a break from this computer screen, and probably a break from this small house and neighbourhood too, you need a break from your small, closed-in world. Your vision – the way your mind, and your soul, sees the world – needs to spend some time out in open spaces, away from the cloister of a cancer experience. Your imagination feeds hope, remember, and bigness, far-awayness, over-theredness feeds your imagination with all the good, nourishing things it needs to stay alive.

Go outside. Go big far away. Look up at the stars. Count the sun-sparkles on the ocean. Run your hands through sand, dirt and stones. Find a place where there’s a wide sky, and lay yourself beneath it. Throw up the blinds, and watch the wind cause chaos. Grow something where you can see it. Throw something somewhere you can’t. Place space before you, and distance behind you. Hope is living as if you’re heading now for everything you want and desire, as if it’s just a matter if time – because one day you’ll get there. You’ll get there. Expand your long-distance vision further and further, and nurture your ability to see into your own future.

Your hope needs somewhere far away to wait for you .

*****

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Soul Letters for the Cancer Sojourner #27 What Really Matters

There’s a scene in the movie City Slickers, where Curly (acted by Jack Palance) asks Mitch (Billy Crystal) if he knows what the secret of life is. Answering his own question, Curly then holds up his pointer finger and says, “This one thing.” Mitch, puzzled, asks Curly “But what’s the one thing?” “That,” says Curly cryptically, “is what you have to find out.”

image credit: iStockphoto
image credit: iStockphoto

Late in 2003, I was told that I was dying of cancer. I’d always thought being told you had cancer would be the worst part, but it wasn’t like that for me. What worried me the most was the realisation I hadn’t worked out what it was, not by a long shot.

Now, almost ten years later, I’m still working on it. I like to believe I’m closer than I was. My current operating theory runs like this: in order to work out what’s really important – what it is –  it helps to know what isn’t really important.

Here are a few things I’ve worked out are not really important to me –

Having a dust free house.

Being right every time, and making sure everyone knows it.

Knowing for certain whether there is a God or not, and whose side He or She is on.

Creating art or writing other people think is good.

Singing songs that other people think are good.

Winning.

Losing.

Having perky l’il breasts.

Hair colour.

Skin colour.

Remembering who wronged me when, and why.

Forgetting to apologise to those you’ve wronged.

Scatter cushions.

Our parents mistakes.

Our children’s mistakes.

Our own mistakes.

Succeeding at making others happy by failing to ever start trying to do what you suspect you were created to do.

Thinking the price for others’ happiness is your own misery.

Thinking the price for your own happiness is others’ misery.

Perfection.

Worrying about looking young.

Worrying about growing old.

Worrying what others think of you.

Worrying.

Winning. (I know I already said that but it’s really not important. Unless there’s a gold medal at stake, and there usually isn’t.)

Adapting your efforts to the opinions of critics.

Ignoring the advice of true friends, and very wise people.

Getting even.

Getting what you want.

Getting what you think you have coming to you.

And there’s more.

Isn’t there, friend?

Could well be you’ll work out what it is, by clarifying what it is not. Time is short. We only have the rest of our lives to work it out, remember? 🙂

*****

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Soul Letters for the Cancer Sojourner #26 Buy A Ticket

Cancer is a notorious hope destroyer.

Big hope. Little hope. Far off hope. Right here hope.

Cancer can become a kind of road block between us and all the things we planned to do, hoped would happen and perhaps even took for granted.

What goes on here? Well, it’s the death thing. With cancer comes the very real possibility of our demise. This is often the first impact the cancer has – the realisation we may have just encountered what could turn out to be the cause of our death.

And when you think you might be going to die in the foreseeable future, it kind of puts a damper on things.

Big things. Little things. Far off things. Right here things.

But we’ve planned that trip for ten years.

But I thought I’d be here to see my daughter grow up.

But I just bought new shoes.

Take care of your body first. Find out what you need to do about the cancer, and begin. Then take care of your hope.

There’s more than one way for cancer to kill you. If cancer takes away your dreams, desires and your hopes for the future, it’s found a new way to do it. Don’t let it.

One way to not let cancer kill your hope is to buy a ticket.

image credit: iStockphoto
image credit: iStockphoto

Buy a ticket. Talk about your plans for how life will be when cancer is gone. You may not know when this part of your life will end, but you can still think about how things will look and the things you’ll do when it does.

Buy a ticket. A ticket to next week, next month or next year. Buy a ticket to your child’s wedding, to the birth of your grandchild. Buy a ticket to your 25th anniversary, to your 40th, 50th, 60th, 70th and 80th birthday. Buy a ticket to your graduation, or to your son or daughters graduation.

Buy a ticket. Make a dream poster on a large piece of cardboard pasted all over with magazine clippings of people, things and places which inspire you and excite you. Put it up where you can see it every day. Make your hope strong with daily exercise.

Buy a ticket. Literally. See the concert. Meet the author. Visit that place. See those sights. Definitely book the holiday.

Buy a ticket. For goodness sake, get the new shoes.

There is a difference between practicing hope however, and practicing denial. I once knew a woman diagnosed with late stage cancer who had all her energy focused on getting out of hospital and over to a clinic on the other side of the country which promised to cure her. That’s hope. However, she remained estranged from both her sons whom she refused to speak to, and also refused to hire a manager to run her business for her which was struggling since the day she left to go to the doctor on her lunch break, and never came back. She died leaving an argument between the sons over her will and a business which was forced to close down. That’s denial.

Buy a ticket. Create a stake in your future, in a currency which counts to you. Love travel? Plan the trip. All about family? See yourself with your grown children years from now. Imagine the outfit you’ll wear to your sons wedding. See the shoes you’ll wear. Write your speech.

I did. And stood up at my sons wedding and delivered it.

But what happens if that future never happens? What happens if cancer turns out to be the thing which ends your life?

The work we do on hope won’t be wasted. You’ll be all the time investing in people you care about and in your relationships, and just as importantly in yourself. You’ll leave a long, strong legacy of the evidence of who and what really mattered to you. And trust me, when you’re not here any more, this is all the people who love you will want to know.

Buy a ticket. A ticket to your future. You’re much, much more than what’s happening to you right now. Resist the fear. Invest yourself in ways real and unreal in a life far above and way beyond cancer.

*****

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