There’s a certain feeling. I know I’m not alone in experiencing it. Sometimes I see it in the eyes or the shoulders, sometimes the gait. Undeniably, not just feasibly, the entire world and our existence, are not a given. It’s a feeling of fragility, so vulnerable, your own breath could shatter it. It’s the feeling that comes over gradually. It can creep up unexpectedly and usually at night, in that magical transition from awake to slumbering, and in the precious last minutes of lucid dreaming, before our soul returns to its sleeping shell. This thick emotion can flicker and evaporate or it can settle and sink in. It’s dangerous. It’s presence can engulf and shadow or it can create sparks of creativity and inspiration. It can evolve into fear and doom and cripple me to my core, or I can bridle it and ride it to the boundaries of glory.
I credit Cancer because it’s the only realistic conclusion, but I don’t think I needed to wait for Cancer to experience this renaissance. Ironically, this imprisoning illness opened a gate in my soul with clarity that I wish I’d gained earlier and I want to share it with those around me. I will never let this disease encompass my persona. I am not Cancer Girl. Cancer didn’t “make” me a better person or a happier person or an inspiration. Cancer was the admonition that sharpened my senses and heightened my awareness to love and faith. I believe that this freedom is attainable without the hardship, pain, and suffering of a life-threatening disease. It’s a beauty that transcends the mortal body. I know where it comes from now and that’s the gift in Cancer. Thank you, Cancer, for overhauling That Feeling for me. Forever.
On first diagnosis, the wind was knocked out of me and I went into survival mode and then euphoria mode. When the cancer came back, less than a year later, I stared Death in the face. The cancer was aggressive, growing quickly, unexpectedly, and we didn’t know if the treatment would work. It was time to make a choice: surrender or fly forward with full force blocking out the dire possibilities. Don’t just pray for them; expect miracles! The experience has opened my eyes to a truth I didn’t know existed. It sharpened my ability to live for this day. That’s not the common vision one would imagine of a mother of five school-aged children running a household. She needs the full iCloud, the synched calendar, alerts, and reminders…. or does she? I credit myself for remembering the important things and getting each child to and from where they need to be. However the urgency is gone. Everything used to be so very important; times and dates, opinions and curricula, city plans and social functions. Now the oxygen has been sucked out of all the important things that used to occupy my thoughts. I saw the light and it shines only on the souls I encounter in a day. On the individuals in those cars on the roads, on souls in the voices beyond the phone, in my path and off of it. The only things that matter are intangible. Faith. Love. Laughter. Tears. What makes me sweat and what makes me shiver.
I first experienced the power of That Feeling as a Freshman at university. Being accepted into the Physical Therapy program at Ben Gurion University of the Negev was my proof that anything was possible. My IDF days were barely behind me and I was an Israeli immigrant of four years. My Hebrew language skills were gaining momentum yet I failed my first exam (Biology). The panic in the realization of the immensity of the task I’d taken on engulfed me. We made Aliya (immigrated to Israel) as a family, when I was 15, and I, the only daughter preceding 5 sons, was the untouchable. I made it through my final two years of high school, beginning with Hebrew skills below level zero, and worked my way up to the happy jerrycan that I was in the Givati Brigades of the IDF. I trekked through the long selection process of the Psychometric exam, Israel’s merciless version of the SAT’s and the interviews at BGU, only to fail miserably on my first exam? That Feeling is the one that crushes the air from you in one well-aimed punch to the gut. It’s like that dream where you try to run but your feet are glued to the ground and you try to scream but your throat is clamped tight. It took a lot of blind faith to break free of that gripping panic. Thankfully, I was able to scrape my insides together and learned how to thrive, leaving BGU with my dream degree in Physical Therapy.
That Feeling, has come back a few times over the years, sometimes only for a morning or an evening. Other times, That Feeling, put down roots and claws and took hold. Brought on in the postnatal aftermath, by a school crisis, an accident, or a real estate deal gone bad, it’s a paralyzing eruption that can bring out the worst or the best from deep within. Over the years, I fine-tuned my coping skills. There’s deep breathing for the acute moments and 5K and 10K runs for maintenance, friends and family for the vulnerable moments, and sometimes a sleepless night bringing down such a rare moment of clarity, so powerful, That Feeling gets conquered and sent back to oblivion.
There are spiritual antidotes to the crippling effects of panic, dread, or just plain monotony. Faith and unconditional love are the cures. It helps me to have faith in G-d but even if you don’t, the belief in a Higher Being, energy, or force will do. Faith settles the unbalance. That belief in a higher order eliminates a need for control or power. Faith relieves you of the weight of the world. My unconditional love affair with G-d means that He will always love me and I will always love Him; through crisis and calm and in sickness and in health. I extend that love to my husband, my parents, my children, and my siblings. The next in line are my friends and neighbors, and even strangers. That unconditional love requires more faith and humility and letting go of pride and ego. I’m never perfect. What a release! I will always be my best and I will never fail at being the best me. A person who errs on the side of kindness and love will rarely have a sleepless night. When I stopped rushing, I felt like my resting pulse leveled out. I caught my breath. It’s no cliche that life is short. The Human race lives in constant denial of our mortality. Experiencing cancer forced me to discover something that cannot be unseen and gave me purpose to share my revelation. Nobody has answers about my future but I hope to be here a while. I hope This Feeling is real. This moment is the only one I can be promised and it never lasts… it’s only now. Knowing that and absorbing it will mean that no second is wasted ever again.