“How are you feeling, Barb?” was the question with which I began my Saturday morning walk with Barb.
“More informed.” I think was her reply. “I am much richer because of my experience. Running for council was one of the best things I have done. I may not have won, but I now realize how many people actually support me and have encouraged me to run again.” Barb continued. “I didn’t realize that the woman who won actually ran in the last election and so she already had her signs and knew how her campaign would play out.”
How many people would respond this way to a loss? Barb’s answer and positive attitude was something that brought me great relief. She had no idea that her response was a gift to me – it made me feel at ease and comfortable to continue to talk about her experience. I knew she was likely grieving as she had put her heart and soul and time into this election, but at this stage of the game it was like she had it figured out already.
As we walked, we continued to chat about this and that. We have been walking early Saturday mornings now for nearly five years – with very few cancellations. As we walk, we seem to figure things out – friend to friend. We talk about religion, politics, and business. We talk about education, health, and aging parents. We are often crying one minute and then laughing the next. We begin our walk with the banal and end with the profound. Each time – we remember that we should bring along a tape recorder or something because we are always stunned by our collective insight by the end. Of course, the insights are lost the moment I walk through my own front door and complete the “to do” list in my head of chores for that day.
Today was not any different than any other walk. Barb began her forensic of the week and then I began mine. What was different about today, though, was something that Barb said that resonated with me enough that I pondered it well beyond the front door. I had been explaining to her all about my dreams for the future in terms of work. I am NOT in any position to really be thinking beyond day to day – but it is so damned difficult not to. So, I told her about the potential curriculum projects I could volunteer to do – and the mental health team that I was determined to be on… and so on. I had been doing a lot of thinking this week as I had more energy. I also wanted to take some university courses that may stimulate my thinking and give my brain something to focus on other than cancer and treatment. Barb looked at me when I was done my rant-of-things-I-dream-of-doing. She said, “Stacey, it’s like the universe has been saying to you – if you won’t listen, then I am going to force you to slow down and listen. I am going to give you something that will stop you in your tracks – not to kill you – but serious enough that you have to get off the track long enough to “see” what I have been wanting you to see. Don’t you get it , Stacey? These are all the things you have wanted to do for so long – but didn’t get around to doing them. They will all happen in due time and don’t rush them! ”
Wow. Since I have been off work, I have been able to be more “there” for David who is dealing with the drama and stress of elementary school. I have been able to be more “there” for Katya as she navigates her way from young adolescent into young adult. I have been more “there” for Ben as he faces the challenges of university. I am more “there” for my husband as he ventures into his new sport of scuba diving. Finally, I am more “there” for my mother-in-law as she struggles to find a solution for her eyes.
I am writing – something I have wanted to do for a very long time. I am cooking – something I love to do. I am finding time for little projects from which I can learn and grow.
I would never have had time for all of these “little” things before that should have been “big” things – but were tucked aside in the rush to go to work, teach, make dinner, get groceries, do the dishes… you know the drill. I am forced to slow down.
I continue to need to remind myself to slow down, though, as my mind races towards the future. I make arrangements to do fitness so that I can be ready for surgery – before I even know that it is a possibility. I plan to return to work – before I even know that is a possibility. I think about how I can fly to visit Ben – before I know I am clear from chemo-therapy. SLOW DOWN, Stacey, the universe tells me still…. and seems to use my body as the rate limiting factor as my brain doesn’t seem to listen. I get busy walking and then realize how tired I get so easily. I invite people for visits and then realize I need a snooze. I bake bread and realize how exhausting it is. I need to synchronize body and mind more carefully.
This synchronicity was the epiphany I had this morning on my walk with Barb.
“Have a great week, Barb.” I say to her at the end of our walk. “I won’t be able to walk next Saturday as it will be too soon after chemo.”
“I didn’t think we would be walking next Saturday, Stacey. I really don’t think I could carry you home. Remember, don’t rush things.”
We both chuckled. I imagined us dragging each other along the road- laughing through our labours – and passers-by throwing us confused looking glances.
And with that – we parted ways. Sure enough, I walked into the house and collapsed into my chair. What is my body telling me? “Slow down! Don’t do too much! Rest!” My body continued, “I am not going to cooperate with you if you push me through that fitness class you planned for today, Stacey. If you go – I am going to be sure to stop you.” As much as I wanted to shut my body up – I actually listened. I took a moment to listen “deeply” to my body and cancelled all my plans for the day… again. It is one of the most difficult things to do – to not push forward come Hell or high water… but I know it is one of the best gifts I can give to my body.
How am I feeling? Much richer because of my experience.