The Cure for Fear

Okay, I should be asleep. I need to be. I want to get up early. Things to do. May actually be getting something, (When am I not?) But I have this great opportunity, which I am going to lose tomorrow. I am uncertain and afraid. Tomorrow I will call my oncologist. If my appointment is moved forward to next week instead of the week after, I know the lump that we’ve detected needs further study.

Blake and I were sitting in Starbucks in the lobby of Toronto General, gazing back at the Art Deco facade of Princess Margaret Hospital from which we had just jaywalked.

“Even if I do get an immediate call-back it could still be A or B. That would have to be determined,” I say.

“Or it could be C,” Blake quips.

“Oh, it could very well be C,” and I have to laugh.

Yes, well,  we have just spent two hours waiting to hear Blake’s test results with regard to C. They weren’t bad, but then they weren’t good either. It’s the usual seesaw game of prostrate cancer. Knock down the PSA score and the testosterone with hormones. Ease off. Watch the PSA rise again. Today, it was decided that it was time to go back to the heavy ammunition. Not easy news for the manly Blake, but excellent news in that the drugs have improved since last time and he is line to get this extremely expensive medication for free.

Not many men in the clinic bring along their ex-wives probably, but Blake’s young second wife was carried off by cancer two years ago. So he and I are embarked on this mutual study of mortality.

Much else has been happening this week. My brother Rob underwent knee replacement in Brussels. My daughter and her husband declared bankruptcy and their home is about to be foreclosed on. True this “disaster” has opened up their lives and led them to a prospective mountain home. My grandson, Leo, who has to get his driver’s license or lose his job, has his own test redo to deal with. I had enough fear to go round.

So I kept up my mantra, “I love you and I trust you.” Initially, I just mouthed the words, but gradually I realized what they meant. Driving down to the hospital today, I found it had morphed into, “I love you. I know you are pure love. I trust love.”

Blake and I, out of nothing but pure love, created a home, two children and careers that supported us. An excellent foundation for this present project.

At home, afterward, I read Rumi’s poetry (Rumi: The Book of Love, trans. Coleman Barks). One section is called “Tavern Madness” and the poems in it are about the ‘drunkenness’ of the overwhelming contact with the divine. Dinners in our home were full of such non-alcoholic ‘drunken’ conversations, full of revelation and confidence in our vision of life.

Rumi says: I didn’t come here of my own accord
                  And I can’t leave that way.
                  Whoever brought me here will have to take me home.

I love the way, poetry lets you work things out for yourself. And I love the idea of surrender to the steady shoulder that is capable of supporting my staggering self.

In another poem, Rumi says, I am the clear consciousness core of your being,                                              The same in ecstasy
                                             As in self-hating fatigue.

And so, I came around to an open heart and fear dissolved.

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How To Be in Response to Terrorism

It’s tempting this morning, the day after the bombing of the Boston Marathon, to sink into despair, to tighten up in fear. Just what the terrorists had in mind.

So what is my responsibility at this moment?

Of all the images that have burned into my mind, I need to chose the image of people “running toward the fire”, the people tearing down the barriers to get to the wounded. There were many more helpers there than destroyers – bystanders, marathon workers, police, soldiers, security staff, medics, nurses, doctors, hospital staff. There were those who documented events and brought what they witnessed to us.

And yet, the overwhelming pity we feel for the victims’ pain and loss threatens to outweigh the good. They are in the thick of it, but most of us are not. I am not. I have distance. My job is not to add to the thought-form of terror and despair. What I need to do today is not just to “keep calm and carry on”, but to focus on goodness and light, not in some airy-fairy new age way but at a very concrete level. I, personally, can do that by remembering how parents and uncles and aunts and teachers and all the others who “run toward the fire”, outnumber and more than balance the deluded bombers. I cannot and never could afford to give in to terrorism.

What works for me isn’t necessarily going to work for someone else. You may use some other method of restoring your positive outlook. It might be compassion or faith in God or something else. Feel free to share it.