TAKING THE RISK TO LIVE
August 30, 2010
“If you don’t risk anything, you risk more.” Erica Jong
When I shrink from living, I risk wasting my life. Everyday that the sun gets up and I am still breathing is a gift. This sounds cliché; Hallmark cardish. Sappy Mom stuff as my kids might say. But it is never-the-less, true.
My good friend’s sister died a year and a half ago after several years of struggling to survive what began as breast cancer. During that time she recorded a song that has stuck with me. The refrain: Simple pleasures take on new meaning for me when I think that I might cease to be. Making a piece of toast in the morning and a perfect cup of tea and having breakfast on the couch…buying a tomato from the Farmer’s Market down the street…going outside in the pale moonlight…dancing in the kitchen, these were some of Pam’s simple pleasures.
I have opportunities every day to connect with my family, with my friends, with strangers. I have opportunities every day to meditate and enjoy my healthy body and walk through my beautiful neighborhood here in the Northland. I have opportunities every day to care for my little house and to cook healthy and tasty food. I have opportunities every day to write. Ceasing to be is not staring me in the face as it was Pam, but it will come eventually.
Yet, even knowing this, I struggle not with cancer of my body tissues, but with a more insidious kind of cancer, a cancer of my mind—one that robs me of my desire to embrace the opportunities in my life. What I must risk is living. I used to wrinkle up my forehead at the overused phrase: living life to the fullest. What does that really mean, I would wonder? I think now for me it means to appreciate every opportunity I have to live with awareness of the present moment beginning with being able to get out of my bed and stretch and wonder what the day might hold for me. What blessings, what lessons, what pleasures, what opportunities to give to others, to love people and animals and the earth—what will I be able to experience of life today? And then to live the day fully by embracing whatever comes, whatever I am privileged to experience, to learn and to do.
It sounds simple on paper. But my mind can create illusions of hardship and fatigue so real that I crumble and allow another day to slip away, barely lived, barely noticed, unappreciated. Sometimes I really do not do those things that I might have and that might have brought me much pleasure and joy or growth. Sometimes I lose sight of what I have done or experienced because I am focused on what didn’t happen, or a mistake I made, or something in the world that angers me. I rush along not noticing.
When I don’t risk embracing my life, I risk losing it.
When I don’t risk writing, I risk taking my gifts to the grave, unshared.
When I don’t show up in my own life, there is a vacancy.