No matter what, life is uncertain. But when you are curious, you are unafraid. You aren’t filling your body with stress hormones that, and we all know this by now, could for sure kill you. As a culture, we are driven by fear and obsessed with control. Today, I make a pitch to embrace uncertainty and cultivate a life of calm curiosity instead.
Also, interpersonally speaking, expressing curiosity about other people instead of thinking you know everything about their intentions allows you to really see them. It helps you live in reality instead of in your head which, for a lot of us, can be quite unpleasant. Lastly, curiosity gives you access to what your true self needs to live a happy life, simple as that.
How can I be so sure? Because an experience this week brought it all home to me in a way that was unmistakeable.
For about a month now, I’ve lived in the uncertainty of a health diagnosis so scary we speak its name only in whispers. Honestly, I am too superstitious to even write it. Since I still haven’t yet received any definitive news, I’m not even going to call it over here. Luckily, I’m not a doctor or I’d have to mime my patients’ test results. From the start of all this, I knew if I stayed curious instead of devolving into fear and self-pity, I’d pick up some gold nuggets as a souvenir to take with me.
I’d waited weeks for a diagnostic test I understood to be extremely painful and hours long. I’d heard your body goes into fight or flight and that you come out feeling like a bus hit you. My very kind doctor offered the good drugs to disconnect from the whole thing. Fully expecting something cool to happen, I wanted to be in command of my faculties, so I resisted the temptation.
If I had my head right, I could stay out of fight or flight, so I started prepping weeks ago. The energy work was key. If you aren’t into that, do yourself a favor and try it. It’s also widely understood that when you change your energy, you change your life. It’s easy. I walk out in the sun, visualize white light beaming down through the top of my head, shooting down my body and out through my feet, continuing to the earth’s core. Then back up the same path and out again. I do it until I feel sparkly. Then, I bring in the light, turn it pink for love and send it out to everyone who pops into my head. The giving is the receiving—this benefits me too. At the end, I keep some pink cotton candy light just for me.
The plan was to allow my right brain (the present, calm, connected side) to take the lead on this experience. That part of our brain is stimulated by emotionally stirring music, singing, poetry, dance, and laughter. Friends who’d asked what they could do to help have been sending jokes, which I am enjoying. I sang in the car everywhere I went. Some nights, I danced while I prepared dinner. If a piece of poetry showed up, I read it.
The morning of the test, I got up at 5:30 to meditate and exercise. I’d show up to The Miami Cancer Institute with the highest possible vibes. I stashed my journal in my One Story At A Time tote, Linda Carroll’s amazing charity. She gives me great mom vibes which I really needed. I wore my light blue Zia T-shirt to remind me of the beautiful skies over New Mexico and my white Birkenstocks that had caught a bit of the black paint my son used in the garage a while back. All dressed up like a vagabond hippie, I was ready to go.
Here in the exam room, I am present for whatever this is going to be. I lay face down on the MRI platform, arms awkwardly positioned overhead. Within moments, strain in my shoulders sets in. My breasts are compressed in a vice just one blip before they are crushed completely. There I remain for so long it feels like time gives up and leaves the room without me.
Instead of being with the pain, I visit my favorite Royal Poinciana in full bloom. The nurse holds my hand. “I am okay,” I tell her. “I am going to the ocean.”
“Standing here, I have been all over the world,” she says and I am sure she is an angel.
I relocate my beautiful tree to the seaside and give myself a comfortable chair—the MOST comfortable, soft, supple leather. And San Diego weather. No bugs. French pug puppies play in a pile next to me. My friend’s kitten Mei Mei and her cat friends frolic in the grass. A great book opens in one hand and a wonderfully tart, sweet lemonade shows up in the other. A gorgeous grand piano for my older son to play Chopin appears nearby. My baby son does tricks on his skateboard without getting hurt in front of me. My daughter flops down next to me to tell me all about her formal last weekend. Her descriptions are so funny the laughter gives me an abs workout. Mark brings Starbucks and sits down to enjoy the soft breeze and watch our kids together.
Pain radiates down my shoulders. The poinciana limbs reach down and pull me in, the flowers and branches somehow cushioned and comfy. I feel better. The seagulls line up at the shore and take off into the brilliant blue sky.
A woman’s voice, a doctor I have never met and can’t see, begins to speak. Expect a pinch, then burning. If anything feels sharp, I need to know right away. Match your inhales and exhales. Only through your nose. You’re doing great.
As I stare down at the polished white floor, she pierces my skin with three incisions and injects a billowing cloud of anesthesia. I can tell she is kind and trying to work quickly. We will go back into the machine and then I’ll start the biopsy.
A few loud, searing minutes in the tube and back out again. Three stabs and an internal vacuum. We are going back into the machine to make sure I got all the spots I intended, she says we like she’s coming with me and I believe her.
With noises blaring, my mind runs a memory of a bike ride through the streets of Paris, along the Seine. The morning sun dapples a sparking path across water as I slice through the cool morning air.
I am whisked out of the tube.
How are you doing, the doctor asks. “I’m good.” And I am.
I have been here too, she says. I think God gave me cancer so I could relate to my patients. No family history, nothing. I think it was all the worrying about my kids.
“That third one,” I say, in a muffled voice.
THE THIRD KID, I can’t believe you just said that. YES. Ok, one last time, back in.
The shoulder pain intensifies. And then a voice.
Forgive Everyone. They are all perfect exactly as they are. What they are doing isn’t meant to hurt you. They are just being themselves. It isn’t about you. Most importantly, forgive yourself.
Tears fall from my eyes and I try to confine the sob just to my head. I bring the healing light of the universe into my shoulders and through my body. I relax. As long as I can hold onto the light, the pain stays away. I try my best to retain it.
The machine pulls me out again and the team immediately flips me right side up. One nurse on each side compresses a breast to stop the bleeding. There is a lot of it.
I lay eyes on the doctor’s kind face for the first time.
“In the last few minutes when I couldn’t take the pain a voice spoke to me. I knew it was God.” I told her what I heard.
The doctor nodded and her smile reached her eyes above the blue mask.
“I let everything go now,” she said. “I had a conflict at Thanksgiving. My son’s girlfriend, not fiance, girlfriend, insisted he stay with her family instead of joining ours on a trip to South Carolina. Instead, they came up on Friday and spent the weekend. My son told me she was worried I would be pissed off with her the whole weekend. He assured her it was over. As a strong, Cuban mother, that’s not easy but it’s what I do now.”
Now that I am home in my soft leather chair writing this, I ask myself, was it God or the projection of what I believed God would say to me in that moment? Why can’t it be both? It’s the answer coming from within. Only we know what will serve us. We all carry God energy. It is the force for good in each of us.
This is my most important message, one that will save me from holding harmful negativity. I am super sensitive and sometimes assume people are doing things to me, not just living their lives. I take things personally. Apparently, it’s bad for your health. Message received.
Thanks for coming with me. Pretty cool, right?
Wishing you the best of health and to love yourself just as you are,
WRITING PROMPT: How can you stay in the calm, curious part of your brain today? What helps?
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