Idly scrolling through Facebook. We are both flat and tired today. Then I clicked on the most delightful video of five-year-old Rilee Thorber dancing to raise awareness of dwarfism. She is so joyful, I smile along with her and realize her courage – from a totally different viewpoint. Not that of the compassionate outsider, but deep within I recognize I have been invited into an exclusive circle of those who cope long term and she is one of the members.
The shock has left me very weary, so am left resting with my thoughts. They ring a mantra in my head: I have cancer, over and over – as if trying it on for size. Perhaps a necessary part of acceptance, but I would rather stop. Also, it seems very important that this doesn't become my identity. So, of course, I put great effort into squashing it, diverting myself, reassurance – all the things that don't work.
Serendipity, my old friend, takes over. Picking up my kindle, the top book is Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts by Sally Winston. Aha!
It gibes with my own experience: arguing with an unwanted thought doesn't work, instead it validates it as worth attention. Nor does asking for reassurance from a friend; the thought is now worthy of debate. It grows sticky and now it is impossible not to think of the white elephant in my head.
Yet, telling myself to ignore my thoughts, or explaining why they aren't true (which this one unfortunately is) feels virtuous. So does calling on God. Wow! The thought is now huge, blocking everything else and taking all my energy in the virtuous fight.
Don't give it the dignity of attention, says Sally. Accept the feeling of alarm and urgency; it is my amygdala dutifully warning me of possible danger or misstep. My amygdala has a pathetically low IQ, but is extremely diligent. Let the feeling pass. As in meditation, just observe.
“Float above,” says Sally. Of course, this is what I have been doing for pain. I know how to. For the first time, I realize how pain has prepared me for this. Odd gratitude.
Move above and beyond my pathetic self, like one of those videos where the camera zooms away into space, so you become a dot on the ground. And it is so small, when I don't look out of my eyes. When I am not the centre of my universe, but one stitch in a tapestry. With the honour of joining so many who are walking the same path – and those who have gone before.
Thank you, Sally.
Five-year-old girl with dwarfism dancing to shake it off – link
Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts by Sally Winston