Cancer is a scary word. Although skin cancer can be less scary, the word melanoma isn’t something anyone wants to hear. Melanoma is the most life threatening of the skin cancers, spreading to lymph nodes and internal organs in as fast as a few weeks.
Yesterday, I found out that I have melanoma….on my neck. The spot biopsied has been present for maybe seven months. I also found out that I have a basal cell carcinoma on my left arm and precancer on my right, but those aren’t really the ones of concern. The melanoma is the one that gives pause and makes me contemplate my own mortality.
It’s not the first time I’ve faced it, however…..my own mortality. I had a breast abscess after my daughter was born in late 1997. I suffered for months with it, because my husband didn’t want me going to the doctor. Calls to nurses at the hospital resulted in little concern on their end, as well. It was just a clogged milk duct, they said, because I wasn’t running a fever.
What they didn’t realize was that I don’t tend to run a fever like other people and my daughter had a birth injury that had made breast feeding on one side extremely difficult and painful. So, I had been using a breast pump…..a really cheap and mostly ineffective breast pump.
Needless to say, by the time I went to the doctor, it was an emergency situation. I felt fine, other than at the site of the huge painful lump on my chest. But really, it was the deep and gaping open wound after surgery that scared me. Being that it had to heal from the inside out and couldn’t be stitched closed, I had to face it every day when I showered. I had to wash out a hole in my chest every day and inspect it for issues before bandaging it back up until the next day.
So yeah, this melanoma….it’s just another life experience. I’ve been through a few of them now. I’ve lost close friends and family to disease. I’ve watched my husband and father of my children die in front of me. I’ve faced dire situations with my son who suffers from severe Crohn’s disease.
I’ve also challenged myself to grow and live without fear. I’ve practiced letting go and giving up control. As the years have passed and I’ve gotten older, I’ve also come to terms with it….with death. I’ve come to terms with my own lack of importance. I’ve accepted that I am not special in this world. I’m just another person who has lived….and who will die at some point.
We all want to think we’re special. We all want to continue in some way. Well, maybe not all of us, but this is true for many. We want to leave something of ourselves in this world. We don’t want to be forgotten. We want to leave our mark or leave a legacy. We want to impact the world in some fashion that indicates that our individual lives actually matter. Even just being loved by another person….it means something.
With few health issues, overall, I’ve always expected to live into my 90s or even beyond 100 years. This is, to say, that I don’t die in a fiery car crash because I drive like a maniac. I’ve just never had many health problems. Except now. I suppose I forgot about my skin cancer risk. For all of the advantages of being a redhead, it’s one very big weakness.
However, I’m guessing surgery will take care of this and I still have a shot of at a very long life. I’m just aware, again, that I’m not actually special….as much as I maybe wanted to be as a young child. I’m probably not going to change or save the world. I may never be loved except by my parents and children. I could, just as easily as anyone else, die…..soon. Honestly, regardless of when I die, the world will go on without me like it does when anyone passes away.
That’s the cycle. We all pass away and make room for those to come. Only my acceptance of this is interesting to me, now. Does my acceptance of death make it more likely to happen sooner, rather than later? Or does it matter? If I fought against it or feared it, would this allow me to live longer?
So yes, it’s interesting…..this acceptance I have now that I never had before. Before, I wanted to write my so-called masterpiece. I wanted to see the world. Of course, I still want the chance to do these things….but I’ve already been doing them in some capacity for the past two years. I started this blog. I have three chapters of a book completed. I’ve been traveling. I’ve been loving the life I’ve created, free of unnecessary material belongings like a house and all of the bills and “junk” that come with it. I’ve loved being on the road, moving around from place to place, visiting friends in other states and making new ones.
It’s true, by the way….the things people say about doing what you love. The goals don’t matter. Just the doing….that’s what matters. As soon as you begin to do…to work on your goals and live your life doing all of the things you love, but never seem to have time for…..that’s what makes the difference.
You want to be an artist and see your work on display in a gallery? Start painting or working in whatever medium you’re so inclined. That’s it. That’s all you have to do. Fulfillment comes in the doing, not the result or outcome. Mind you, I’m not saying anything new here, but the point is that it’s true. Stop placing your goals and dreams in some far-off land of make-believe. Stop thinking that you went to school for the wrong career and now you can’t change it….that it will take too long to start over in something else.
Doing matters. Living in the moment is where it’s at….what we really want in life. It’s not in some far-away future. It’s not in what others think of us or what we accomplish and leave to the world. The ego is the only part of us that cares about that. Whatever feeds the soul is the real objective and we can do that at any point we choose. We can do it right now, in fact. It’s attainable in this very moment. Yes, it may take some sacrifice, but what does anyone sacrifice in not doing? Years of a much limited life?
The reality is that no one is going to care more about your life than you. You are the only one you have to make happy. No one else. Not even your ego…..which isn’t you at all. The ego is a false you…..keeping the real you in a cage. It tells you that you’re great, special, and awesome. It tells you that your value is placed on all of the great and wonderful things you do. You accomplish some huge feat or exhibit highly moral behavior and it tells you that you deserve to be recognized, praised, and liked by your fellow human beings. It even asks, therefore, that you accept its feel-good falsehoods as a substitute for that which your soul craves and lacks. And when you do accept what it tells you and find that you are still unfulfilled in your life, it keeps you imprisoned in the illusion by telling you that you need to accomplish more.
Yet, the soul never requires more than just living and being in the moment…..in our natural state. That’s where the beauty is. We don’t ask or expect a squirrel to do anything more than what it naturally does. We just watch it jump from limb to limb, collecting and storing nuts, dodging predators. We just watch and enjoy the inherent beauty of its movements and the contentedness with which it does everything.
That’s what it’s like when we do the soul’s work. It frees us. It allows us to just be. This doesn’t mean that we won’t accomplish anything. Contrarily, we might actually accomplish more. However, that won’t be the reason for our contentment. We won’t need it or have any attachment to it….to the outcome of our endeavors. It won’t change or affect how we feel about ourselves or our work and how we feel can’t be altered or affected by how others perceive it, either. The squirrel doesn’t care whether we watch it from a window in our house.
Why am I comparing humans to squirrels? You may be wondering. Perhaps you think our human lives are more important than the lives of fellow earthly inhabitants. After all, we are more capable and advanced life forms….so we think. We aren’t just animals. At least, this is what our egos tell us. That’s right…..our egos again. I’m comparing humans to squirrels because we are all a part of nature. We all have a nature. Maybe our nature is to build super strong steel structures high in the sky or rockets that take us into space. I’m not limiting our capabilities at all. I’m simply suggesting that we don’t allow the ego to limit them either, based on its own valuation system. That valuation system, after all, is rooted in fear. It’s rooted in the fear of unimportance. It’s rooted in the fear of death and impermanence. It’s rooted in the fear of being ourselves.
It’s rooted in this even though being ourselves is the most beautiful gift we have to offer this world. If this gift is any kind of accomplishment, well then that’s the only one to concern ourselves with at all. It’s the only one that expresses and shares the love and passion we have inside of us. It’s the only one that offers contentment and acceptance….the only one that allows us to live fully and, therefore, prepares us for the inevitable. I believe it was Nietzsche who said that to be ready for love also is to be ready for death. Or perhaps it was to be ready for life also is to be ready for death. Either way, what I’m trying to say is that a full life doesn’t come without surrender to the other two, no matter what our egos try to tell us.