Let go.

The difference between me today and me ten, twenty, thirty years ago, is only my capacity to let go.

And my life is so much better for it.

It took years to learn to do it. I’m still learning. But I’m better than I was. Holding on was responsible for some horrible turns of events in my life. Learning how little control I truly had saved my sanity, my family and probably my life.

Learning to surrender helped me with everything from having cancer treatment to letting my marriage disintegrate. It helped me when I lost my way in my parenting. Giving over helped me leave the tribes I needed to leave, abandon my beliefs and break my identity down into pieces. It all sounds shocking, but the alternatives were far worse, although I’d never have believed that at the time. Letting go was very, very good for me.

Accepting loss – even death – as part of life is against everything we’ve been taught. But holding tightly, even to our life, is a waste of energy. We kid ourselves about the control we have. We don’t have control – not of others, of our future, our past, what others think of us, over our being born or over our passing. All we can do is choose, right here, and just now. That’s all.

If I could go back to my teenage self and give her two words, I would say, “Let go.” It’s all I needed to know.

At the core of me is a fire burning, a light leading me toward my truth, a thread leading me like breadcrumbs through those dark, confusing years when I thought I was wise and autonomous. I wasn’t. I was driven by fear. Losing everything I was holding to taught me all I really need is in me, and can’t be stolen, lost or burned up. All that falls away was never mine. All that stays is who, and what, I really am.

Let go. Look for the small, steady flame inside you, that’s your guide. Release the people around you. Loosen your hold on the things you think you need to survive. Step back from all you think you need to prove. Let go of it all, honey. It’s nothing, and you are everything. Trust yourself. And in God. He doesn’t have control, and one day, believe me, that thought will give you no end of comfort.

For you, today.

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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