This month marks 5 years from my final chemo treatment for Leukemia, meaning this month also marks the 1st month when I can stop counting months! To explain, the general thinking around cancer survivorship is that if you last for 5 years after treatment without a recurrence, then you become as healthy as the next person (assuming that person is healthy). The Sword of Damacles that hangs above the survivor’s head begins to fade and vanish (assuming you let it).
But what strikes me today is the following question: What am I doing with the life that I fought so incredibly hard to keep living?
A brush with death (or a defensive line-backer’s full-frontal gory smash-up with death) will bring anyone to question what it is they want out of life. And so, when I am now listening to Oprah and Deepak’s new 21-day meditation challenge about “Hunger,” and they ask me what am I truly hungering for … well, I better have a good answer!
While I am extremely lucky enough to not have a (permanently) unbalanced relationship with overeating (or undereating), I do have an unhealthy relationship with my couch. It’s the lover I can’t leave, the fuzziest, comfiest and thread-bariest socks I still wear, it’s the oblivion I crave. I love my couch. I love the sunshine streaming over it in the afternoons after work, I love the smooshy feeling of cuddling beneath the blankets, and especially the rich middle of a book I like. (I like the middle best.)
But. I’ve fought the demons of Hell and my own blood cells to earn the right to lay on that couch — is this truly what I fought for? Well, no. Somewhat, but not entirely.
Oprah asks, What am I really hungry for? What is it that I’m trying to attain by saturating myself with words? What comfort or distraction?
Several years ago, near about the time I moved to San Francisco from New Jersey, I was laboring on some inner work that was raising extreme discomfort within me. I was renting a room in a house owned by a lady who worked for a hotel chain, and she would bring home any leftovers from the “continental breakfast” they served there. This included fruit, yogurt… and muffins. Hordes of muffins.
I would huddle in my room, writing for 20 minutes, then step out into the hallway, pad down to the fridge, and grab a muffin. Just one. I’d pad back to my room and keep writing. 20 minutes later, I’d open my bedroom door again. The fridge door again. And on, until all the muffins were gone. Just one more.
I was so uncomfortable. When I recounted this discomfiting activity to my therapist at the time, she wisely asked, “If you weren’t eating, what would you be doing?” I immediately replied, “Crying,” and thusly broke down into wracking sobs.
The writing piece ended soon enough, and so did the compulsive muffin-eating, but the question remains here: If I weren’t reading, what would I be doing?