I had an appointment with my “terminal illness” psychologist the day after my last post. I emailed him the post the night before. It seemed only appropriate since I could hardly imagine he’d support my new goal. Pretending could wind up being a significant part of it and that’s awfully close to, if not outright, denial. I didn’t care if it was “healthy” or not. I made up my mind I was going to try it. I expected he’d try to convince to take a more sane path and that we’d decide to part company, at least for a time.
The next day I was sitting in his office, we had just exchanged pleasantries, and I sat there wordlessly waiting for him to start the real conversation. It was a short wait. He broke into a big smile and congratulated me on my progress. WTF? He was clearly happy with this recent turn of events. I didn’t know what to say. I went from wordless to speechless.
He explained that I had chosen to live “in the moment.” The sadness I experienced was grounded in unpleasant futures. Allowing that sadness to fill the void left by removing fears was living in the future. Deciding to be happy, even if it’s pretend, was a decision to live in the present. All this totally resonated with how I felt and it further increased my commitment. Can’t say it helped me believe I could predict the future, but that’s OK.
(Looking over the comments in the last post it’s clear we have some pretty good shrinks in the blogosphere. They saw my decision for what it was – to live in the now. Props y’all!)
It’s interesting that early on in the session when I’d say my goal was to “be happy,” he’d try to recast that into “be in the moment.” I was having none of it. I told him I didn’t know how to “live in the moment.” I understood the words and, as a goal, it seemed very desirable. But that phrase was an endpoint to me, I had no idea what steps to take to get there. I did have ideas for how to “be happy.” He eventually relented and accepted my phraseology. (His way of thinking about it was more direct, but it has no value to me if it doesn’t suggest how to behave differently.)
So far I am “happy.” Most of the time it’s genuine. Occasionally, I have to pretend, but I feel better than I would if I allowed the sadness and depression to take over.
I’m now convinced that being able to live in the moment is another key part of accepting cancer. There are too many bleak paths in the future to live there – unless you’re the kind of person that can simply believe that your future is bright.
I have no idea if living in the moment can be done before overcoming the fears associated with cancer. I’m sure I had to resolve the fears first. It wasn’t a wasted effort. If one’s normal lifestyle is to live in the moment and then they get cancer, perhaps it helps dissipate any fears that much faster.
Some of you may be wondering if “living in the moment” is the gorilla I alluded to in my earlier post about accepting cancer. It is not. I was all set to write about the gorilla within a day or so after its mention, but something was wrong. I absolutely did not expect sadness and depression to fill the void left by resolving my fears. It rattled me and I decided it was best to hold off. I’m glad I did. I didn’t appreciate the importance of living in the moment. I’m very lucky that I came to a possible resolution so quickly by deciding to be happy. I have no such resolution for the gorilla yet. I’m pretty sure that being happy will significantly affect how I deal with the gorilla. I’ll even go so far as to say I suspect that being happy, or living in the moment, is necessary to resolve the gorilla, at least for me. The bottom line is I don’t feel comfortable anymore writing a post about the gorilla. A lot has happened in a very short period. I need time to integrate and understand the implications of my decision to be happy.
In the near term I plan to concentrate on being happy. I expect to continue posting about topics other than the gorilla. More key elements (key in my experience that is) in accepting cancer may surface. I certainly didn’t expect living in the moment to surface. I am absolutely certain, though, no one can truly accept cancer and rise above it without addressing the gorilla. I want to be sure to get the gorilla post right.