We hear a lot about this these days, right? Be present. Live in the now. Don’t stress over past regrets or future worries. Well, let me tell you, that’s a challenge when you’re wondering if you’re going to need chemotherapy next month. I mean, let’s be honest, we need to be able to plan some things. And as a friend (you know who you are) recently told me, unless you become a Buddhist monk, the lack of control and unknown future is frightening for any mortal. That made me think about planning to become a Buddhist monk, but then I was worried about whether I could do it. (that’s a joke, get it?)
I have a friend who wears a watch that doesn’t work, to remind himself when he looks at it that the time is now. True story.
I undergo MRI brain scans every six months to monitor my tumour for growth or changes. I met with my oncologist yesterday to receive my most recent results. I’ve written before about this strange feeling, where you have to get used to the idea that no news really is good news. That was the case again yesterday, no change in my little oligoastrocyto pal. Marla. (Palahniuk fans?)
So, that’s a good thing. Now it makes me think about how, although it may be a cliché, things really are so often about moderation. I think it’s trite to say that one can focus only on today and never think about the future, but I get that worrying overmuch about tomorrow ruins today. I often remind myself not to borrow worry and to just focus on one day at a time. During the wait for results, or as four months since the last scan turns to five months, then to six, I don’t consciously think I’m limiting my planning or figuratively snapping my imaginary rubber band on my metaphorical wrist to stop bad thoughts. But I must be. Tricky and slippery thing, the mind, isn’t it? I conclude that I must be, based on the slowly creeping relief I feel when I receive the result that there is again no change in the tumour.
It really does feel like I might think now about booking a vacation. I don’t mean that metaphorically, either. I booked flights last night. In these days of travel insurance issues, you can’t be too careful about making sure you’ve not had a change in condition or medication within three months of travel, you know! And it feels like I’ll celebrate a little, we started with a dinner out at a favourite restaurant last night. I start to think about the things that will happen before my next scan could change anything. I’ll have a birthday and enter a new decade of my life. That will be good; nothing makes you appreciate aging like the skulking thought that you might not get the chance. Winter will be over – I could book more than one vacation before that happens. I’ll put a bow on a few projects at work. We’ll think some more about whether or not to get another dog.
On the slim chance that you’ve somehow missed the craze around being mindful, being present, and living in “the now”, open your search engine and look up Eckhart Tolle. Even before Oprah got hold of him and put him on her book list and he became Oprahfied, his books were good on this topic. I am poking fun a bit, but the ideas are valuable, without doubt. I think being able to set aside the negative thought cycles of past and future is a skill that comes naturally to some people, and that can definitely be developed by anyone. Something in this vein is, in my opinion, required reading for anyone facing health or mental health challenges, or anyone that loves someone who is. So, for most of us!
I’ve decided that living in the now might mean focusing on today, and making some modest plans, for like, the next six months. It turns out this healthcare schedule really forces what is probably a healthy focus on today, and on the near future. It makes you diligent about maintaining that, because if you don’t, well, that way madness lies.