“A man that flies from his fear may find that he has only taken a shortcut to meet it.” J.R.R. Tolkien
As an Empath, I’m used to getting the occasional flash of emotions that seem incompatible with my own personal life. Typically, I can quickly acknowledge them, recognize that they aren’t mine, and let them float away. It’s not so easy to do these days, because on January 20th, we ushered in a new political era. I did not see it coming and it is bringing back some memories that I honestly thought that I had dealt with.
You see, right around this time frame in 2003, I was getting the last of 8 chemo treatments for breast cancer. I vividly remember how brutal that particular round was, and how during the recovery process, I had my first out of body experience. Watching myself lying in my bed as I floated above next to the ceiling, I had a glimpse of just how much we don’t understand, and how much we fixate on tiny details. True, the details are where the magic happens, but as perspective shifts, so does the importance of those details.
I have been having flashbacks to very similar emotions that I had in 2002. I mean, I had many debates (It’s just a small lump, but hey, it goes away each month, so it can’t be bad), lots of tests (biopsies aren’t terribly dissimilar to the fears of "alternative facts", right?), and finally the day of reckoning (the test results produced many feelings of dread and tears, much like the election outcome).
I have watched as many in our country have lost their ever-loving minds over this election, including myself for a time. Here’s the way that I have reframed it. Just as I had to come to grips with the fact that my life would never again include a scar-free breast or the "survivor" title, our nation will never again get to live without a President Trump and the many choices he has made that, in his mind, are designed to protect us. The cancer cells in my body were present for a minimum of 3 years, according to my doctors. The pain and dissatisfaction that brought Trump to the White House have been there much longer, and yet we didn't notice until the proverbial "ice pick" outcome. Will this be the death of our nation? Nah. We are stronger than that. But it will change us.
And that is why I feel so many are losing it. Because change can be scary. Change means that we have to reevaluate what we stand for, why we prioritize some things over others, and ask if we are still willing to settle for a life that is being lived for others.
From the initial “Holy crap, that just felt like an ice pick stabbed my boob!” to “Ok, that was your last radiation treatment! Have fun with your new normal!”, it took about a year. Will we as a nation need that long to shake off the startling realization that we are now being asked to live in a “new normal”, knowing all too well that nothing will ever be normal again? Most of the people that I know who have had the wake-up call of a health crisis don’t take their second chance for granted. We as a nation received a huge (Yuge?) wake-up call. We ignored our nagging feelings that something was off. Now we have the result, and it’s time to figure out the treatment plan. For many, it's marching in various protests. For others, it's calling our employees, the people who we elected to represent us. And for still others, it's explaining why they agree with the directives being handed down. Just as I received a crash course in cell biology and oncology options, we are all receiving a new education in how our government operates.
Cancer treatment is typically greeted with war-like metaphors. I chose to love those cells in remission. I lovingly surrounded them with the medications designed to neutralize and retrain them. I imagined sending them marching out of my body, since they weren’t able to play nice. I blasted them with all of the best that modern medicine has to offer and fiercely loved the medical team that assisted me with the unholy trio of chemo, surgery, and radiation. And then I healed my body with a variety of holistic methods afterwards. Sometimes you need a feather duster, but other times you need a sledgehammer. Know your tools. Use them wisely.
We will survive these next 4 years. Use this time to connect with those around you, love on those that you don’t understand, and know that there will be those who will never play by the rules that you wish to enforce. Love them anyway. Because, hey, it’s not cancer. And even if it is, there are options. Now go out and create some beautiful memories. We only get one chance on this planet in this current body. Don’t waste it on hate.