Jan 16 2011
Good news – what I thought was a possible tumor (and spreading cancer) turned out to be just a large pimple after all! It served as a reminder that I am living on borrowed time, and also reminded me that my situation is not grave…it’s gravy! Faced with possible imminent death, I am fully appreciating and tasting each moment and experiencing that time has magically slowed and expanded. As I’m immersed in the present, savoring it, I’m finding that this present is the gift that keeps on giving.
After the chemo and radiation treatment failed to completely eliminate my tumor nearly 6 months ago, I thought I was a goner, I thought my days were numbered and not a big number at that. I had a dental cleaning around that time and didn’t know if I’d be around for the next cleaning in 6 months. I wasn’t sure if I should even make an appointment. But next month it’s time for the cleaning and I am still here, feeling healthy and enjoying this groovy gravy grateful time.
My husband Tom told me that his father lived with that grateful attitude each and every day, ever since an incident that happened when he was a young man serving in World War II. One day during the war, he generously gave up his foxhole to another man and sought shelter elsewhere. The man in the foxhole was killed by an artillery shell. After that Tom’s father believed that there was nothing to worry about because from then on life was a gift, it was all gravy.
I’m feeling that too. Even though it is so strange not knowing what is happening in my body with the cancer, (Is it stable? On the move? Completely gone?!) I feel alert, awake, happy to be alive, wanting to learn all that I can while I’m still here on schoolhouse Earth, and feeling inspired to share what I’m learning. I also feel a great lessening of the fear that had gripped me before. I have accepted death and the possible pain involved, and have come to a place of peace with it all, a ‘bring it!” place. I know that I can do this. I can face whatever happens. I can feel whatever feelings come up. I don’t want to die, but I’ve accepted that I’m doing everything I can and if my number is up then it’s up. When the time comes, I can see myself going peacefully, knowing that it is my time to go, and believing that where I go from here is the next great adventure. In the meantime, I am making the most of this borrowed time.
The late great John Lennon wrote a song called “Borrowed Time” (included on his last album) which was inspired by a sailing adventure he was on in the spring of 1980. He had been in a creative dry spell for five years and was feeling depressed and decided to shake up his life by sailing with a crew on a 42-foot sailboat from Newport, Rhode Island to Bermuda. Not long into the journey a severe, life-threatening storm with 20-foot waves and 65 mile an hour winds rendered everyone on board seasick, except John. He was an inexperienced sailor and felt terrified, but he was the only one who was well enough to sail the boat.
He recounted in a Playboy interview a few months after the incident: “So, I was there driving the boat for six hours, keeping it on course. I was buried under water. I was smashed in the face by waves for six solid hours. A couple of the waves had me on my knees. I was just hanging on with my hands on the wheel – it’s very powerful weather – and I was having the time of my life.”
He went on to say, “Once I accepted the reality of the situation, something greater than me took over and all of a sudden I lost my fear. I actually began to enjoy the experience and I started to shout out old sea shanties in the face of the storm, screaming at the thundering sky.”
When he got to Bermuda he said, “I was so centered after the experience at sea that I was tuned in, or whatever, to the cosmos. And all these songs came!” He had stepped up to the challenge, faced his fear, faced death, and came through it invigorated, enlivened and inspired to write the beautiful songs for his Double Fantasy album, which eventually won the Grammy for album of the year.
After that incident John realized that he was living on borrowed time and said, “come to think of it, that’s what we all are doing, even though most of us don’t like to face it.” He was killed just 6 months after that great awakening and brilliant outpouring of creativity, but I imagine that those 6 months were richly imbued with vivid aliveness and appreciation for the fragility and preciousness of life. I know that’s what I’m feeling about my life.
I believe that when someone as world renowned as John Lennon dies at such an early age, it is a great waker-upper for people, it’s a lovely parting gift, reminding us that this earth life is finite and let’s go for it, let’s prioritize, let’s live fully while we are alive.
As John said, we are ALL living on borrowed time. It’s all gravy. Are you fully tasting and savoring the gravy? Are you creating seeming catastrophes that are actually blessings in disguise, enhancing the flavor of your life, making it more delicious, exciting and purposeful? Here’s to a life fully lived and savored!