Facing Your Fears and Appreciating Your Life

 

As I quietly meditated yesterday morning, I was suddenly overwhelmed by a giant wave of anxiety. I knew precisely what it was about, and I wanted nothing to do with it.

In a couple of weeks, I will begin chemotherapy, and I had been so brave and centered about the whole thing. And then my fears suddenly showed up and the last thing I wanted to do was face them. I have much to be thankful for, and up until that moment I was leading my usual life. I anticipate experiencing much joy in the next couple of weeks, especially celebrating Passover with the @iwe family. So fear was completely unacceptable.

And then I remembered an ancient and wise teaching. Many people believe that when fear and anxiety show up in our lives, we need to stuff them away, defeat them and move on. I used to believe that was the best strategy; I could ignore the fear and make believe it just didn’t exist. It’s just that deep anxiety has a mind of its own, and is determined to be acknowledged, no matter how hard we try to ignore it; it will continue to rear its ugly head until we face it. So as I sat quietly, I allowed myself to be swamped by that anxiety. I felt its intensity, its demands for my attention, its power. I didn’t indulge it with devastating ideas or conjure up negative outcomes. I simply sat with it. And within moments, it began to dissipate. Anxiety had been acknowledged, which is all it asks for; it really has no interest in wounding my heart or maintaining its strength. In another few moments, I could once again feel the solace and sweetness of my meditation. And time moved on.

*     *     *     *    *

Living in distressful times seems to demand our constant attention. It is difficult to deal with the fear of our friends and the destructive efforts of our utopian and naïve citizens. Some people have chosen to cut themselves off from following the news; every day it seems like another catastrophic law or foolish mandate has been passed.

But I like to be engaged. Some people might say I’m addicted to the news. I’d rather think of myself simply choosing to remain aware of and present to life as it unfolds. And at those moments when it all seems like too much, when the anxiety engulfs me, I notice it, breathe into it and move on.

And life, with all its chaos, irrationality, and traumas, as well as its beauty, joy, and delights, goes on.

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  1. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    Susan Quinn: I simply sat with it. And within moments, it began to dissipate.

    Sometimes the only way out is through.

    • #1
  2. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Remember to laugh.

    • #2
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Percival (View Comment):

    Remember to laugh.

    Well, I’m counting on you to crack me up regularly, @percival!

    • #3
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Rodin (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: I simply sat with it. And within moments, it began to dissipate.

    Sometimes the only way out is through.

    Only some fear that they will never find the other end of the tunnel, @rodin.

    • #4
  5. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Life has never given me lemons. Age-related disabilities, anger issues, a fondness for alcoholic beverages, and a contempt for stupid people who never miss an opportunity to share,  but no lemons.

    • #5
  6. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Rodin (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: I simply sat with it. And within moments, it began to dissipate.

    Sometimes the only way out is through.

    Only some fear that they will never find the other end of the tunnel, @ rodin.

    “Light of the oncoming train,” and all that.

    Brilliant post, Susan.  Prayers.

    • #6
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Percival (View Comment):

    Life has never given me lemons. Age-related disabilities, anger issues, a fondness for alcoholic beverages, and a contempt for stupid people who never miss an opportunity to share, but no lemons.

    I actually feel the same way! In spite of my latest challenges, I still feel so blessed. Except I don’t think I can develop much of a fondness for alcoholic beverages; I’m a cheap drunk!

    • #7
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    She (View Comment):

    “Light of the oncoming train,” and all that.

    Brilliant post, Susan.  Prayers.

    Good example, @she. Only there is likely no train.

    It’s funny because I was thinking of the series of communication mishaps with my oncologist’s staff. As usual, near the end when I figured I’d have to lay down the law (whatever that means), because I always assume there will be a bad ending, I suddenly switched gears. I thought, what if the end is resolved just the way I would like, that relationships are intact, communication is clarified and all is well. And guess what. That’s just what happened! The next time I assume the worst, I hope I’ll catch myself and ask, what if it all turns out fine? It was such a shocking and delightful outcome!

    • #8
  9. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    I wish you the best on your treatments and you are in my prayers. You handle things in a very healthy way – letting God steady you. It’s easy to say don’t be afraid when you aren’t going through something yourself. Just remember that it’s all part of treatment, meant to get you well. We’ve had so many series of shocks to our psyche this past year, that it makes our brains overwhelmed. Pick and choose how you spend your time, and if something else causes you anxiety, put it aside, like the news. 

    • #9
  10. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    I wish you the best on your treatments and you are in my prayers. You handle things in a very healthy way – letting God steady you. It’s easy to say don’t be afraid when you aren’t going through something yourself. Just remember that it’s all part of treatment, meant to get you well. We’ve had so many series of shocks to our psyche this past year, that it makes our brains overwhelmed. Pick and choose how you spend your time, and if something else causes you anxiety, put it aside, like the news.

    Good advice, FSC. And thanks for the kind words.

    • #10
  11. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    When I was dealing with prostate cancer and the aftermath of surgery, I learned that I wasn’t quite in as much control of my emotions as I thought I was.  So I learned to roll with it, at least a little. 

    • #11
  12. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Susan Quinn: But I like to be engaged. Some people might say I’m addicted to the news. I’d rather think of myself simply choosing to remain aware of and present to life as it unfolds.

    Well said. 

    Courage is not absence of fear but rather focus on a love greater than your fear. Perhaps then every fear is a challenge to consider what loves are worth enduring such pains. And in focus on those points of light there is respite.

    • #12
  13. WI Con Member
    WI Con
    @WICon

    You are a wise person @susanquinn, a delight and one of the best things about Ricochet. I’ve learned a good deal from you. Know that you are in my thoughts & prayers along with your other friends here.

     

    • #13
  14. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    Ah Susan. We know you will face your challenges just fine. Of course you’ll feel like crap but it will pass. Ha, ha.

    Feel free to complain and be a whiny baby when you want to. It’s OK.

    • #14
  15. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    Courage is not absence of fear but rather focus on a love greater than your fear. Perhaps then every fear is a challenge to consider what loves are worth enduring such pains. And in focus on those points of light there is respite.

    This is beautiful, @aaronmiller. And with G-d’s love and the love of friends and family, this one is well worth enduring. Thanks.

    • #15
  16. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    JustmeinAZ (View Comment):
    Feel free to complain and be a whiny baby when you want to. It’s OK.

    I just may take you up on that, Just! You may be sorry you ever offered! ;-)

    • #16
  17. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    WI Con (View Comment):

    You are a wise person @ susanquinn, a delight and one of the best things about Ricochet. I’ve learned a good deal from you. Know that you are in my thoughts & prayers along with your other friends here.

     

    You all have taught me so much, too, @wicon! Thanks.

    • #17
  18. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    It’s important to stress that we can experience difficult emotions at any time. We rarely can sit with them once and be done with them. So I expect that anxiety will again show up, and I will do my best to let it flow through me, rather than indulge it. It is so much less debilitating this way than to be victimized by it.

    • #18
  19. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    It’s important to stress that we can experience difficult emotions at any time. We rarely can sit with them once and be done with them. So I expect that anxiety will again show up, and I will do my best to let it flow through me, rather than indulge it. It is so much less debilitating this way than to be victimized by it.

    Yes, that is what happens when you are experiencing an extended event with uncertain outcomes. You must persistently make peace with the fact that you can’t control everything, including the ultimate outcome, and focus on the small and immediate things you can control. 

    • #19
  20. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    Anxiety and fear are Human.  They bind all humans.  You have so much good in your life, it will smother all that anxiety, when you pay attention to the good stuff.  Just think of all the prayers and good wishes coming your way from everyone at Ricochet.

    • #20
  21. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Incidentally, my 9-year-old niece was in tears the other night because of a bad rub-burn on her back. It made me wonder how old I was when I finally accepted that some pains cannot be escaped and must be willfully endured. 

    No matter how many times I have experienced various physical pains, I’d be lying if I said it gets any easier. “This too shall pass.” Sure, Lord, but why can’t it pass now?!

    • #21
  22. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    Incidentally, my 9-year-old niece was in tears the other night because of a bad rub-burn on her back. It made me wonder how old I was when I finally accepted that some pains cannot be escaped and must be willfully endured.

    No matter how many times I have experienced various physical pains, I’d be lying if I said it gets any easier. “This too shall pass.” Sure, Lord, but why can’t it pass now?!

    Yeah, why not?! I used to be the most impatient person you can imagine. Over time, I realized my impatience got me nothing other than more impatience. I’m much more patient now, but I have a lot yet to learn. I hope your niece is feeling better. Those things hurt!

    • #22
  23. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I shall keep you in my prayers.

    The staff in the cancer care centers are usually a very special group of people. They are wonderfully supportive to the patients. They will help you get through this.

    • #23
  24. Online Park Member
    Online Park
    @OnlinePark

    I completed chemotherapy a little over three years ago for a very rare and aggressive breast cancer.  I am doing a few things to discourage recurrence that are working so far but the thing that amazes me now is that the actual miserable time of chemotherapy was not that long in the grand scheme of things.  Mine was about 4 months, during which time I slept an enormous amount so don’t really remember that much. I didn’t expect to live this long but as you say, life goes on. 

    I wish you well through the process. 

    • #24
  25. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Online Park (View Comment):
    Mine was about 4 months, during which time I slept an enormous amount so don’t really remember that much. I didn’t expect to live this long but as you say, life goes on. 

    Your treatment must have been grueling, @onlinepark, given the nature of your cancer. Mine will last over 4 months, too, with two chemicals. I hope to have more good days than sleepy ones, but it will be what it will be. Thanks for your good wishes.

    • #25
  26. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Online Park (View Comment):
    Mine was about 4 months, during which time I slept an enormous amount so don’t really remember that much. I didn’t expect to live this long but as you say, life goes on.

    Your treatment must have been grueling, @ onlinepark, given the nature of your cancer. Mine will last over 4 months, too, with two chemicals. I hope to have more good days than sleepy ones, but it will be what it will be. Thanks for your good wishes.

    Susan, what chemicals are they using for your chemo? Mine were doxorubicin and taxol. I expected to feel sick but the worst part for me was losing my hair. Ack! Just shows how vain and shallow I am. I never let anyone, including my husband, see me bald.

    • #26
  27. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I’ll be getting taxotere/docetaxel and cytoxan/cyclophosphamide. I have no idea what those mean, and however other people react, I expect mine will be specific to my case. Fortunately I will have 4-6 treatments every three weeks (depending on how well I tolerate the chemicals) and am pretty sure I will lose my hair. If it starts to come off, I’ve already given my hairdresser a heads-up to be prepared to give me a buzz cut. Early on I’ll wear scarves or a beret.

    You’re not vain and shallow. I don’t expect I’ll go out with no hair, but when some starts to show, I will. I think.

    • #27
  28. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    Early on I’ll wear scarves or a beret.

    Lots of scarves on Amazon.

    • #28
  29. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I don’t shop at Amazon anymore. But I found a site created by a woman who has had breast cancer. I think it’s called Headcovers.com and found a couple of scarves and a lightweight beret at Etsy. I’m assuming that number will do if I even need them. Thanks.

    • #29
  30. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    You could embrace your inner Ayanna Pressley. She suffers from alopecia totalis and now is totally bald. 

    • #30