I am committed to being alive. I never used to be. I just drifted along dealing with whatever came up, thinking life would begin properly once this particular crisis had passed, or I was feeling better, or I had a job, or I had a different job. I was a disinterested party in my own life with no reason to be alive, not even for idle amusement. It wasn’t fun, it wasn’t meaningful, I could take it or leave it.
Then I got my ticket out of here. ‘You’re going to fight this,’ my friend assured me when I told him I had cancer. ‘Yeah, yeah I know I’m going to fight this,’ I parroted, just to make him feel better. At that stage I hadn’t decided if I was going to fight it or not. If I did fight, I wanted to be sure about it, as I didn’t want anyone to waste time or resources on me if I wasn’t wholeheartedly trying to get better.
Naturally I was scared by the diagnosis. It’s one thing lying in bed wanting to die and another thing having that possibility actually presented to me. Did I really have the energy and will to turn this situation around, or should I roll into a ball and accept my fate?
Cancer treatment is tough, even when a person is motivated to live. I imagine it would be unbearable if I didn’t believe in the cause for which I was enduring it. That cause being my life – was it really worth fighting for? I couldn’t move forward until I answered that question. If I was fighting only because that was what was expected of me, then I would fail anyway.
So I seriously thought about it. I uncovered my fear that saying ‘yes’ to life means also saying ‘yes’ to a future that may be just like my past – a joyless, lonely slog. I had to challenge my assumption that the future has to replicate the past. If my future could be better, then saying yes to it wouldn’t be so bad. Of course I would have to completely change my life trajectory in order for my future to be different, but maybe it would be worth a shot.
I figured I could make a wholehearted effort to improve my life and my future and if it didn’t work out it didn’t matter because eventually I’ll die anyway from something else. That’s one good thing about life on this planet. No mistakes you make are permanent because NOTHING is permanent! Certainly not your puny body or blip-in-eternity existence. So have a go, shake things up, do something different. Anything you do is essentially rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, so you may as well have fun doing it. (Hey, it was my nihilistic tendencies that go me into this mess, I may as well use them to get me out again!)
I wrote out a contract committing to staying in my body as long as possible and continuing with my life path. I took it all very seriously, lit a candle, read my contract out aloud to whatever Divine Presence there may be and signed it. There were times during the next few months when I almost wished I hadn’t, when I felt overwhelmed and went into self-destruct mode and then to my annoyance had to remind myself that I had made a solemn vow to stay alive and look after my body. Dammit!
Now on the other side of treatment I can see that making that contract was possibly the most important step in my recovery, and continues to drive me forward now.