Over the years you seen, heard or read about me (George) observing a cancer-versary – remembering my experience healing from cancer and the many life lessons I learned along that path. This year has been a little different. Just this past Friday it sort of snuck up on me. Over the past week, I’ve been short tempered and tired, easily distracted and moody. Until last night I thought it was a funk, a mood, something random and maybe chemical. With all of the conversations we’ve been having about mental health and depression these past few years, I wasn’t making it wrong or judging it, I was more frustrated that it wasn’t getting better. And I know by now that the opportunity is simply to BE with it.
Now, understanding the connection between my moodiness and the cancer-versary, things are not only making more sense to me, they are actually feeling like they’re getting a bit better.
It’s been an interesting day here. A lot of emotion and reflection for me. I’m in a very clear space right now and I thought I’d express with you some reflections that have come to me today. It’s timely too, because a few weeks ago, a dear friend of ours – a lovely human – was contemplating out loud that she wondered if she’s “special” or just “an asshole who thinks she might be special”. It started a fascinating conversation among our friends and Tracey and I thought I’d invite you into it, too.
“I am an asshole. But I know I’m an asshole.” – Wener Erhardt
18 years ago today I was sent to the hospital because I was having heart palpitations, my immune system was gone (completely) and I was functioning (driving around, going to court, skiing, producing and promoting a charity rock concert, producing a record, managing our home with myself and two kids, all with 20% of the functional blood a living person should have. A few months prior I was in a motorcycle wreck, too, and I was fine. So, I had reason to be hopeful. I didn’t know what was going on, but I wasn’t scared. I honestly thought I just needed an infusion of new blood and I’d be fine. That day was also a Thursday.
I wouldn’t know for another 3 days (Sunday) that I had cancer. I wouldn’t know until Monday that a rare form of cancer had completely replaced all of my bone marrow. And I wouldn’t start my treatment for another week while my team nursed me back to strength with 10 infusions of whole blood.
During that time, I had many waking hours of asking myself very similar questions to the one our friend raised last week. On this 18th anniversary, I thought I’d share some of the answers that came to me (for me) in hours upon hours of deep meditation in hospital on that day and in the 28 days in hospital that followed (and many meditation sessions since then, as well, of course). I’ll share six of them here. These are true for me. You’ll decide for yourselves because you’re sovereign and free but it dawned upon me that perhaps I never shared them with you in so many words.
1) People die every day and both their significance and their insignificance isn’t known to them. It’s a cold and indifferent paradox. I use this understanding to keep me on purpose, but also to not ever take myself too seriously. I worked with a very successful teacher once who started to believe his own myth. I watched it happen in slow motion, and he ended up in prison for manslaughter. So, I try to always remember that while I am following what I believe to be a divine calling and I follow it with passion and zeal, and I believe with all of my heart that the work I do is tremendously helpful and life affirming, at the end of each day I am an asshole of no significance, and 10,000 years from now if man is still a species, it will not matter one speck whether I tell an inspirational or healing meditation, helped that lady across the street, protected that child from predation, provided comfort to that cat, or even followed the speed limit. Except – and it’s a major exception – it MIGHT have been significant to that lady, that child, that cat, or the person who I didn’t frighten or put in harms way by speeding past them. And so I do those things. The Universe always puts me exactly where I need to be to give me the chance to do the right thing. From this consciousness, whether I’m special or not special matters less to me. If I can fall asleep prepared to welcome death, I know I have left behind a day wherein I did what I could do to raise consciousness and make the world a more hospitable place.
2) Wonder is a more interesting state of being than knowing. Being in wonder and gasping in awe at the birth of Peter and Tessa shaped my consciousness forever. Days after their birth, I held them up to the Sun and admonished them as Alex Haley’s great grandfather had admonished his grandfather “Behold, the only thing greater than yourself!” I am constantly fascinated by the natural world and its mysteries. In the quiet moments, it’s quite astounding to think that somehow you and I are integral (albeit infinitesimally small) instruments in this cosmic symphony.
3) Gratitude is the key to happiness. No matter what. No matter what accomplishments I attain, none of them will bring me joy without a corresponding gratitude occupying space in my heart.
4) Love is the only thing that matters. Do you know that in those moments when I was certain of my death, all I could do was feel the terror and yes, even a little regret, and comfort myself knowing that I would leave only love behind.
5) Forgiveness is a healing elixir. Start with yourself. Work yourself up to others. It can be hard, but it’s possible. And yes, it’s totally worth it. What’s on the other side of all that work? Freedom! Imagine an epic character, a heroine of old mythology. A figure destined to carry around a heavy load for lifetime after lifetime. The weight of judgment and resentment is not benign. Imagine our heroine bent at the waist by the burden. The weight doesn’t just waste energy. It pollutes. It pollutes cells, and families, and everything in its field. Now imagine our epic heroine being granted a reprieve, finally able to wrest her burden from her shoulders and walk upright. That’s what forgiveness makes possible.
6) Everything you say out loud or in your head, your body hears. Choose those words carefully. You don’t have to think about this too much. You know right away that it’s true. Start listening to your language, your friends’ language, the media. Notice the impact it has on your body. Start discerning what you let into your ear holes.
This is some of what I learned. Of course, I’m grateful for everything I’ve been through. I’m grateful to have found a partner in Tracey, with whom I can invest the rest of my life with and serve our purpose together.
That combination is very precious to me.
I’m grateful to have seen my children married. I’m grateful to be able to know our grandchildren and will be excited at the prospect of more of them. I’m grateful for having been able to support you in whatever ways I may have.
And, while I KNOW the truth of these observations, I am also in constant wonder what I might KNOW next? It might turn out that I’m not as much of an asshole as I think I am.
Wow, I wonder. Thank you. I hope you’ve found this helpful. When you look at your life with wonder and gratitude, what do you notice that you may have missed before?
With love and in service to your amazing purpose and brilliant expression,
George and Tracey