A woman is like a tea bag. You never know how strong she is until you put her into hot water. –Eleanor Roosevelt
In the last two weeks I have heard of three people who died—or are dying—of cancer. This news is always challenging for me, but it does offer me an opportunity to give thanks that I am in strong remission, that I really do feel like myself again, that my energy is back, and that my healing on spiritual, emotional, physical, energetic, and mental levels is ongoing.
So instead of rolling into a ball of terror—which I have done in the past—I am using this as an opportunity to think about what makes life worth living, and what practices, what actions nourish us, body and soul.
I don’t know how many years I will live. I have a hunch it will be for a long time and that I will likely see old age. My oncologist did tell me that he has seen women who go into remission from stage 4 cancer become cured and live full and long lives. I wish there was a “guide book” about what makes them different, beyond the Three Fates or blind chance. But I guess I have to be the one to write that guidebook. It’s interesting that the books I end up working on are books I have to write because they don’t exist out there. As I have traveled on what Joseph Campbell would call my own personal heroine’s journey, I’ve been to places where I’ve learned things that I feel need to be shared.
There’s been a lot of talk about The Secret over the last few years, but maybe the real secret is what Maya shaman Martín Prechtel calls, “doing the things that make life want to jump up and live.”
I’d rather live five years of a delicious, loving, creative life, squeezing out all the glorious juice of every day and creating outrageous beauty until I’ve given away all the riches in my heart than thirty years of huddling in fear, scared that suffering and death are lurking around the next corner. So, what makes me feel most alive? What makes my heart jump up and live?
First, I must say writing, which feels like the purest, truest act I can perform. It’s my love letter to the world. It embodies my desire that other people reading my words will not have to suffer as much as I have because I can make the journey easier for them. Writing is my way of sharing joy, of sharing whatever wisdom I have been graced with during a lifetime of experiences, both challenging and exquisitely beautiful.
Listening to music, singing (I hope I will be able to sing again someday), watching the hummingbirds who flash crazily and joyously in all directions and drink out of the feeders outside my windows, watching a monarch caterpillar turn into a butterfly, hiking on Los Rios Street or in my waterfall canyon out in the Ortegas, visiting the Tree of Life Nursery and buying native Californian plants, doing healing work with my beloved community of shamanic practitioners, showing love to my family, dressing in gorgeous clothing, wearing extravagantly colorful jewelry, and throwing a Mayan shawl over my shoulders—all bring me joy.
Also, talking to other people, sharing ideas with them, going places with them that I’ve never gone before in my thoughts. My meetings with the San Clemente Joseph Campbell Roundtable Discussion Group is one of the highlights of my month. I truly feel that grace comes down into that room and the inspiration and stories that flow are touched with sacredness because we are sharing what matters most to us, our own journeys through life to some kind of personal enlightenment, our own victories over tragedy, our hopes and our dreams for the future.
I guess my joys are small joys, yet they are great as well. Creating beauty, touching another person’s heart in love and being touched by them, feeling the peace and exhilaration that only nature and the wild places can bring, rejoicing in the small and gorgeous lives that flash through my garden.
Trying to find the right words to say what is true in my heart, my gift of love to you.
And most of all giving thanks, feeling gratitude every day for my life and the mysterious, surprising, and beloved world around me and the dear souls who share it with me, both human and nonhuman.