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Lighten the Load

While I have had my moments of communing with nature, I am not much of an adventurer when it comes to the great outdoors. You won’t find me scaling a mountain or paddling the wild rapids of a river. I’ve never been a hiker, either, but my middle son is, having spent weeks at a time exploring several sections of the Appalachian Trail. We have brought him to the trail head a few times as he began his journey and watched as he disappeared from sight, leaning heaving on his walking stick, his shoulders slightly bent from bearing the heavy weight of his backpack. It is said that about a mile into the trek, a hiker will begin to think about what he can discard to lighten the load.

It is a great metaphor for many things, isn’t it?

Life comes with great joys, but since the law of opposites is always in play, it brings moments of sorrow as well. Often, it feels as though those challenges keep coming: family crises, medical emergencies, financial woes. And each time we are asked to endure the weight of worry and sadness. Somehow, we are expected to drag the ball and chain of anxiety with us as we travel the road of life. But like the experienced hiker, sometimes, we have to think about what we can toss aside if we are going to get anywhere.

My husband and I both have cancer. That’s hard to write. It seems like a rather cruel irony, and quite frankly, it has taken me a few weeks to adjust to the implications of that. The logistics of coordinating appointments and procedures takes the finesse of a seasoned military strategist. And yes, I could use an assistant. I am back in treatment, hoping to keep these malignant cells in check. The last scan wasn’t encouraging. My medical team and I have stopped using terms like “remission,” instead hoping for “stable.” Funny how expectations change. He was immediately scheduled for surgery that would remove half of his diseased lung, but wasn’t able to pass the precertification physical because his uncontrolled diabetes. We are working on that. Since I am the resident dietician, I spend much of my day looking at food labels and counting sugar grams. He has become a human pin cushion, having quadrupled the prescribed insulin. We record each glucose test on a makeshift graph, hoping for a downward trend with those numbers. It reminds me of when my boys were little, and we kept a reward chart for good behavior on the refrigerator. Numbers become a way to make something objective, removing the emotional factor. But the weightiness of it all has me looking for things I can cast aside, to find ways to make it all manageable.

I’m trying.

We are taught that if we only think positively, tap into our powerful brain machine, we can control our destiny. We are encouraged to visualize, meditate, concentrate as though doing so conjures up some magical spell that wards off the bad while visualizing the good. We want to feel optimistic as we latch onto a glimmer of hope.

I just watched the first episode of this season’s Project Runway. It presents itself as a show about fashion designers, but it is also a fascinating sociological experiment as the cast must live and work together. The gal who touted imagining herself into the winner’s circle, who insisted on setting aside time for meditation prior to the first challenge was also the first to be eliminated. Were the cameras a distraction? Was it a coincidence? Maybe. But it does make you wonder. Sometimes, all the positive thinking and deep breathing in the world won’t change the outcome of things, although perhaps it makes disappointments easier to bear.

We must all figure out how to navigate the difficulties of life, to figure out what will make it easier for us to adapt to that which we cannot change. And each of us is unique in what we choose to discard to lighten when load gets too heavy. As for me, I am giving up dusting and mopping. I am not pulling weeds in my garden. I refuse to scrub the shower. And yes, that was a joke, but thinking about it makes me feel better. Namaste, y’all.


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