December 21st, 2008: Over a month ago, I mentioned that having cancer brings up the question: “Why live?” Or, perhaps better said: “What’s to live for?” At the time, I didn’t offer any conclusions that were surfacing for me, but today, I’m going to start with my wish list of why I’d like more time and more life. In many ways, this question and its answers are the soul of this blog. More to the point, they are the soul of me. So I’ll start with the goal that has emerged with the greatest clarity and fervor in the past months: Love. Specifically, love with another person.
A quote from Rilke about love: “For one human being to love another that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the work for which all other work is but preparation.”
In my first blog entry I told about visiting with my friend Lorenzo in Seattle this past May, and realizing how much I cared for him. Our connection has grown steadily and happily as we stay in touch by phone. It’s been our voices that have linked us for the past seven months. Now, as we start to plan when we can visit in person, the hope to build a loving relationship increases. It looks like we’ll get together during a pause between chemo treatments. These pauses, from the perspective of today are as much normalcy as I can imagine at this time. Today, between my second and third treatments I have a good appetite, I am not facing fatigue (although I do like an afternoon nap) and I walk better than any other time in the past two years. This is a solid foundation, I think, for a visit.
The other foundation that probably would not have happened without this illness is that I have dropped some layers of defense from the rest of the world. I started this entry saying that my emerging goal was create love with another person. That goal is built on a foundation of deepening my love of myself. I don’t mean this in a narcissistic way. Rather, over the past three months, I have been hearing from many people that they love me. Increasingly, I’m able to hear this with a fullness that just wasn’t available to me before this illness.
My friend Ellen was visiting earlier this week and she ventured to describe my adult life as being much in the pattern of a secular monk. She saw me in the world and able to care for many people because of my interest in them and also because I was not linked to a family, a primary relationship or a religious dogma. This pattern needn’t preclude falling in love and building a partnership with a person who I admire and am attracted to. However, to date my friends were my primary relationships. By sharing an aesthetic connection with many of my intimates and operating primarily on the feeling level, I’ve been able to connect with many people.
That love is certainly coming back to me now. Many friends have been very specific about how much they care for me. Maybe it’s the repetition or a shift in me due to having cancer, but I am aware of how much more I let in the love of others. It’s huge. Earlier, I had confessed to being gushy with others. Now, there's more reciprocity, more energetic bounce.