Whenever I walk in a London street,
I'm ever so careful to watch my feet;
And I keep in the squares,
And the masses of bears,
Who wait at the corners all ready to eat
The sillies who tread on the lines of the street
Go back to their lairs,
And I say to them, “Bears,
Just look how I'm walking in all the squares!”
When I read The Healing Path by Marc Ian Barasch, what jumps out is “the cancer personality”. Blame the patient, I think defensively. And then I read on and I fit right in.
Psychologist Lawrence Le Shan observed that cancer patients often have, rooted in childhood, “a sense that their lives are governed by an uncaring implacable fate.” Bull's-eye!
I learned very early on that bad things happen and they happen to my family. My brother at fifteen months retreated from lively, questioning childhood into an autistic, barren no man's land. At 7 he was institutionalized, his fate decided by God-like figures. No wonder my greatest fear was “is God cruel?”
Growing up was lines and squares: I spent my life avoiding the lines in case … Lines? The rules of a society that I didn't understand. A society that locked up a small child, that dictated that girls were not educated, that being imaginative or “different” was dangerous.
Back then, I learned that grownups are never wrong. “Children need certainty,” proclaimed the text books. But what if parents aren't really certain and what they tell you is wrong?
I had a longing for God, in spite of my fear he was cruel. This was discouraged with tales of aunts with religious mania.
I wrote incessantly, turning out novel after novel. “Creativity is next to madness,” said my mother.
I wanted to go to university. “No point,” said my father. “Educate you to be dissatisfied.” Unspoken were the words “you'll be a housewife.” “You'll be a secretary,” said my mother, “And marry your boss.”
No wonder I felt as if I had been entered in an obstacle race – that no one had asked me if I wanted to run.
But I was strong. I coped – I thought successfully. As a military wife, I handled house moves single-handed, even with a 10 day-old baby. When my digestion broke down with undiagnosed celiac, I cooked family meals from memory, meals I couldn't eat. When my mother died, I was back and forth across the Atlantic like a ping pong ball. So why now?
Just before my diagnosis, I decided I had had it with pain clinics, therapy and medical marijuana. I have pain – so be it. I won't put my body on the rack anymore in the hope of relief. In the hope that WE, not I, have a better life. Oddly enough, my back and digestion responded gratefully. I felt better than in years.
So why now? According to the books, that is textbook. Get on an even keel and the body finally screams its message. What is it telling me?
I download The Journey, written by a cancer survivor who developed a method of reaching into her depths and listening to her soul. Down through the depths of feelings to an abyss – a hole one has circled all one's life.
The process is familiar, though more profound. Very like Focusing, which I have used for years. What came through as the deepest cry? Authenticity. From my reading, an almost universal need today. What of ourselves have we given up to survive, be accepted? Or be loved?
Energy pours through me, waves of emotions previously too dangerous to feel. Down into the void – through into peace. A journey to the soul. I feel my spirit flex and stretch. Feel vast and still, part of a larger consciousness. A greater peace. In my imagination my blood feels no longer the heavy sludge of lymphoma, but dances through my veins.
So, where are the lines? What are the squares? And who are the bears?
Note: I wrote this three weeks ago and put it aside till I got my bone marrow biopsy results. Just curiosity: would there be a change in my blood work after this release? My biopsy came back clear. My hematologist says he has only seen this once before in his entire career. The diagnosis stands because I still have abnormal blood proteins, but because the bone narrow isn't involved, the need for treatment has been pushed down the road.
Now affirming: “my cells are healthy.” Woa! Don't want the abnormal ones to flourish. You can never be sure where prayer leads. Larry Dossey reports an experiment on tomato seedlings that were prayed to grow tall. They outgrew their strength and dropped dead. So “my cells are healthy and in balance.”
The Healing Path: a Soul Approach to Illness by Marc Ian Barasch
Focusing by Eugene T Gendlin Ph.D
The Journey: a Road Map to the Soul by Brandon Bays