The Only Answer

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Dear Seamus,

There is a crispness in the air not common of a typical February morning. It is my birthday and you and I are up early. At your request, the movie ‘The Croods’ is playing on the television. Our whole household could very well recite most of the lines from the film, such is the number of times it has been re-played.
I tucked your legs underneath a blanket on the lounge.

“Are you cosy”? I asked
“I not cosy”; You replied, “I SEAMUS”!

I am perched on the other couch, notebook in hand and filled with inspiration. I have not written a letter to you in some months. Not for lack of trying I might add, but it just didn’t seem to flow out of me in the usual way. If I try to write when I feel like that it feels forced, so I leave it be.

There have been beautiful things to write to you about which has made the experience more frustrating. Last December I finally fulfilled a dream to travel to Uluru. An experience every bit as powerful as I had imagined and then some! A week after we returned, your Daddy and I were married. An incredible day of celebration, love and intimacy.

As is the dualistic nature of this world we live in, I also endured some painful experiences. They came in such quick succession it felt like the Universe was throwing flaming meteorites at me. After the joys of December, the challenges of January seemed almost impossible to bear. These events triggered a whirlwind of questioning and I quickly became a prisoner of my own mind.

It all reached a desperate crescendo with the ultimate question:
“What is the meaning of all of this”?!

One of my greatest fears is to have lived a meaningless life. That all of the experiences to which I had attached such strong emotions were actually just pointless. These thoughts were going against the very grain, the very essence of who I thought I was. It was painful and I felt like I was being torn apart.

I have always wanted to know. I have always questioned, enquired and investigated. I was the child who asked ‘why’? I was the teenager who didn’t do what I was told because I questioned authority. I was the employee who needed to understand the purpose of what I was required to do.

I am the friend who openly listens when others are troubled and I ask them why they think they feel that way. I am the wife that wants to dig deep in her husband’s life, that I may know the roots of the trees that grow in his garden. I am the Mother who has an understanding of herself and how she was shaped, so that I may help you find your own shape, in your own time, in your own way.

My search for the ultimate meaning became even more poignant when the Oncologist rang me a few weeks ago to discuss my latest scan results. He explained to me that the disease has rapidly progressed and didn’t appear to be responding to the current treatment protocol. His suggestion was to stop my medications and begin chemotherapy, sooner rather than later. The aim now being to control symptoms of the disease and to prolong life a few months more. That is a known trajectory in medical oncology.
End stage cancer – chemotherapy – small extension of life – death.

To receive that news, in the frame of mind I was in, felt like fear had swallowed me whole. I was groping in the dark for the compass to get my bearings. I was backed into the corner. I felt like my only life line was to know the reason why all this was happening. So many questions. Can I choose my own life experience? Is it already written? Who do I believe? Have I switched one set of illusions that made me feel bad, for another set of illusions that made me feel better? Have I bought into the idea of manifestation when the truth is it’s all mapped out anyway? Do I really have any choices?

Through incredible synchronicity, I then began to remember. A yearning to re-read a book… a long conversation with a family member… a prayer to my Father that I may know in my heart what to do…

I remembered that the questioning mind will always churn out more questions. When the questioning mind finds answers, it will then question the answers. It is the nature of the beast.

Your Dad and I had a meeting with the community nurse, who has become a dear friend. With an open mind I listened as we went through the details of chemotherapy treatment. I leafed through the glossy pamphlet, the cover emblazoned with a flower and middle aged woman smiling off into the distance. On the pages within I relived my experience with chemotherapy six years prior. Every cell in my body resisted the very idea of it and I knew, in my deepest being, the answer. The only answer I needed to know in that moment.

With all the courage I could muster and your Father at my side, I said no to chemotherapy. I said no the known. I said yes to the uncharted path.

At the heart of it, the only peace is in not knowing. So I found that place. The compass is within me. As are the answers. Fear was keeping me from them. So I released the fear.

When I said no to chemotherapy, one door closed and I felt one hundred doors of possibility open in every direction. It was remarkable and it was powerful as I stepped into the unknown.

Darling boy I am telling you, when your current situation is telling you that there is no hope, that is exactly where hope lives. At these times your only responsibility is to dream the biggest dreams you can dream! I dreamed you into my life and you are the biggest reminder to me every day, that dreams do come true.
One step at a time, one answer at a time, one dream at a time. The rest is up to God.

“We have more answers ready within us, if only we choose to listen”Conversations with God book 1

Note: I remain under the close medical supervision of my Oncologist and GP. I have said no to chemotherapy but continue with my current treatment protocol. All my treatment decisions have been informed choices with open discussions and the support of my medical team.

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The Shining Son

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Dear Seamus,

I had the great pleasure of celebrating another birthday on the weekend. I have always enjoyed having a birthday but never so much as I do now. Its meaning has deepened and as I awoke on the morn of my forty-first birthday, life reverberated with a powerful richness.

In the past my birthday celebrations had been a chance to get my friends together. A dinner or some drinks, it didn’t really matter provided I could enjoy their company. I didn’t really care for the obligation of gift giving but lovingly welcomed many beautiful things over the years. The festivities always had an element of the care-free to them and the aging aspect never bothered me. A birthday would present me with an opportunity to dream big for the coming twelve months. To imagine one of my creative endeavours taking off or to be united with a soul mate. Perhaps a trip overseas or one of my writing projects being completed. There were so many things to yearn for.

Now I feel that the aging is the most important thing. You see, my dream is to get old. In fact I am often drawn to people older than myself as I felt they could offer me something more. I loved to hear the stories of someone who had been born at a different time to me. There was always much to learn about life.

I have pictures of old women on a vision board on my bedroom wall. There is one smiling woman that I am drawn to every time. Grey hair frames her weathered face. Eyes that twinkle with decades of memories and experiences. A smile that is innocent and knowing all at once. She has been the observer of a long life. Her appearance just reflects all the changes she has seen and her participation in a lifetime journey. For me that can only be beautiful. I do not see ugliness in aging.

That’s what I want. As I become long in the tooth, I will delight in being ‘no spring chicken’. Seamus I want you to look upon me in my antiquated form, knowing that we had time together. I want my golden years to begin right now and go on for many more to come because the currency between us is priceless. The currency is love.

It is my desire to watch you grow up and to participate in your life. To see you evolve into a little boy and a teenager and then into a man. To cherish those small moments of ordinariness that are the gems of our every day. To wonder who on earth taught you that swear word and ponder whether it may have been me. To dab a Dettol soaked cotton wool ball on a grazed knee. To ask you to get that jar from the top shelf that I cannot reach. To warmly greet that someone special that you have brought home to meet us.

I want to get to know who you are. To listen to your dreams and aspirations. To tell you my stories. To make memories with you.

Last year I had the idea of all of us making a painting with our handprints. Your brothers and your Daddy painted theirs while I helped you with yours. I then set about creating my own canvas. I was very pleased with my effort and as I stood admiring my work I did not notice you dipping your hand in some yellow paint. You thought you would make a mark on my creation and before I could grab you, you had hold of the top corner. Afterwards when I looked at your little hand print, I realised it looked like a sun. It was so incredibly perfect and I could not have planned anything better.

As the sun returned to the same place it was on the day I was born, I recognised that you are the shining heavenly body giving light to my life.

You are my Shining Son and I want to bask in your glow for many more years to come.

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage”Lao Tzu

The Demonstration of Fearlessness

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Dear Seamus,

I take great delight in singing you a song by Paul Kelly because I love the story behind it. I hold you and we dance around the lounge room while you smile with recognition as it plays on my iPod. In the 1960’s an indigenous Australian man called Vincent Lingiari worked on a cattle station in the Northern Territory. He led a walk-off over poor work and living conditions. This protest then led to seeking the return of traditional lands and with others, Vincent petitioned the Governor General. It became a federal issue and finally in 1975, then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam poured a handful of sand into Vincent’s hand in poignant symbolism of the returning of land to the Gurindji People.

I love Vincent’s strength. I love that he showed personal integrity. I love that he was determined to have a voice. Often in life you will observe situations where others do not act with consideration. They forget their very humanness and create suffering, pain and stress for others. I urge you to treat others with compassion. To always act from a place of integrity. Most of all, I urge you to speak out against behaviour that causes harm to others. Don’t be afraid to highlight something that goes against the grain in you. I want the world you grow up in to reflect our best human qualities and not the worst, in which case you will need to be those qualities yourself.

Night after night we can sit in our lounge rooms watching the news and complaining about the state of the world, and then go straight back out into that world the next day having done nothing to change it. If you want the world to be more compassionate, YOU must be compassionate. If you want the world to be less judgemental, YOU must be less judgemental. If you want people to highlight injustices, use YOUR voice. There is no point in seeing something that you know can be done differently and doing nothing about it. It begins and ends with you.

The other aspect of the Vincent Lingiari story that I love, is his patience. He had incredible resolve to stick to his guns because he believed in what he was asking for. He wanted to create a better experience of life not only for himself but for others as well.

He stood in front of a seemingly insurmountable monolith of red tape and racism. Yet he stayed true to his heart’s desire to see change. He saw his dream through to its fruition even though it took many years. He may have had dark moments but he never gave up hope and that takes courage.

Seamus, when you believe in something with all your heart, do not lose focus. When others are discouraging you, do not listen. When you want to cry with the frustration that things are not happening in the way you want them to happen, keep the faith. When you think the situation is bigger and better than you, do not give up. If your heart is telling you its truth you must listen and you must trust it.

Where I see greed I aim to be more generous. When I hear narrow minded judgements I open my mind to acceptance. When I see self-hatred in others my resolve is to love myself even more. It’s not always an easy task but I endeavour to practise it until it becomes a natural response.

I look to examples of behaviour that I can admire in my everyday life. When I look at the people I have surrounded myself with I see kindness, generosity, love and forgiveness. I see those with a genuine desire not to enforce a change, but to be the change itself.

Then I look to the likes of Vincent Lingiari. There wasn’t a path so he made his own. He wasn’t just brave, he was the very demonstration of fearlessness. Be fearless Seamus, be fearless.

“Be the change you want to see in the world”Gandhi