A couple of days before we left for vacation, Bethany’s Father went in to the doctor. He’d been experiencing some severe and often debilitating back pain for several months and he finally decided (or, more specifically, was goaded by his daughter, friends, and I) to go to the doctor to get it checked out. Once there, they detected some worrisome vital signs so they sent him to the ER. A scan there detected a mass in his lungs. They suspected cancer. So, they checked him into the hospital overnight to do a biopsy and get his vitals level. A couple of days later, he was released and immediately started radiation treatment.
We left, as scheduled months before, for Iceland.
A few days later, while still in Iceland, the results came back. Stage 4 lung cancer which had spread to the lymph nodes and bones. Not good.
It’s been a whirlwind since we returned. My wife and I getting him to his radiation treatments for a couple of weeks was followed by his breaking his arm and being in too much pain to move (he lives alone) even to get to the bathroom or his bed. We got him to the hospital a week ago and he’s been there since. Daily visits there for my wife and/or I. My wife has been deep in the administrivia of trying to navigate what the next few final months for him hold. I’ve been slowly cleaning his house (which, due to his condition he’s not been able to do for months).
It’s also what we call “Summer Show Season” at Circus Juventas where I’m the Lead Volunteer Rigger. That means, I’ve also been spending several hours (usually 6 to 8) at Circus for rehearsals since we got back and will be spending 20-30 hours a week for the next few weeks while the show is running. Yes, this is in addition to the above.
Of course, life goes on. Beatrix has day camps and music classes and other things to get to. Bethany remains over scheduled with a full work load. And, in true rains/pours serendipity, my client workload has also ticked up.
Then, a childhood friend of my wife’s took his own life a couple of days back. Fuck The Piggyback Guy.
And, yesterday, I came down with a nasty cold/virus/crud. Stuffed up, sneezing, mild fever, sore throat, and general blah. Not unusual this time of year when I’m over worked, under rested, and spending close proximity high-touch time around several dozen circus performers, riggers, and coaches. But, I feel like crap.
More than a few folks have compassionately checked in on me. They’ve asked how I’m doing. How I’m handling all of this.
There’s a phrase folks that know me will often here me say, “It is what it is”. As I wrote in my guide, Mindfulness for Mere Mortals:
“Things are what they are. Life goes the way it goes. People are the way they are. No amount of complaining about it, worrying about it, or being upset about it is going to change it. Even if we can change it in the next moment we must first identify and recognize it right now. All we can do is accept what it is — whatever it is.”
I really do believe this even if, as I preach it, I sometimes fail to practice it. Even when life seems to be an overwhelming torrent and hurricane of hurt, peace is always found by returning my focus to the center — to the “I”. Let me try to explain. Warning: This may break your brain a little (but in a good way).
Let’s start with the declarative phrase, “I am”. I am happy. I am sad. I am angry.
Who (or what) is? Who (or what) is “I”?
You see, “I” is separate from the action. I is not the action. I is not happy or sad or angry in and of itself. It exists before and apart from those emotions or actions. In order to be happy or angry or sad “I” must first exist.
I is pure awareness. Pure consciousness. And, that being the case, it means that I is none of those things. I is simply aware of those things. Therefore, when one says I am happy or I am sad or I am angry one is checking in with that awareness and making an assessment of and giving a label to the emotions they feel arising at that time. But, “I” is not those emotions. I is simply aware of them. And, if I is separate from them, then I is not them. I does not have to be them. I can be aware of other emotions that could also arise, I can choose a different path.
So, how am I in the midst of all that is going on in my world (not to mention the World) right now?
It is what it is.
I am OK.