A Sleeping Bear
It will be three weeks from the date of writing this that I’ve finished my chemotherapy. As the side effects slowly disappear, I find myself wondering about how bears feel when they come out of hibernation, so I’ve watched a couple of videos on YouTube. For one bear in the trunk of a tree, waking up was a long, slow process. It began with his head resting on the opening in the tree trunk. He turned and only his legs could be seen stretching out through the opening, then eventually his arms and back to his head. He was yawning a lot and then he slowly climbed out of the tree. According to the narrator, he was unsteady on his feet for a few days. The first thing the bear looked for was food. It wasn’t a ravenous search, like I would have thought; it was slow. He started off with tree barks. It seemed to take a while for him to regain his strength and stamina. In my current state, I feel like that bear coming out of hibernation. Rebounding from the diminishing side effects of chemotherapy is a slow process, and each day I find myself a bit more alert, a little more physically able, and in better spirits. I didn’t realize while I was going through it just how awful chemotherapy was!
I think I was rather impatient with the process in the first week, because my arms and legs still hurt but I was expecting (or wanting) the discomfort to go away quickly. I wanted to be more mentally alert than I was and so I felt a bit sad that I was still tired and uninspired, and without medical appointments I didn’t know what to do with myself. As I think about this now, I realize that I have learned a lot about myself during chemotherapy. I see myself in a more positive light: I am getting through this ordeal and I am proud of my strength. I am more accepting and less judgmental about my “shortcomings.” I try not to see them as “shortcomings” because that word is punitive. I still have a tendency to think in that way, but I catch myself more quickly. I am kinder to myself and I try to accept all of who I am in a more loving manner. What I still see, however, is that I am often quite impatient and then I become unsure of myself. Many years ago someone gave me a little cartoon that is framed, and it sits on my bookshelf. It is from The Humble Philosopher, who says, “I don’t know what I want, but I want it now!” That describes me very well. I tend to prefer immediate gratification whenever possible, but I also understand that it is not always the best practice. So I try to rationalize that if a sleeping bear who comes out of hibernation starts off slowly, which seems logical, then why do I put pressure on myself to resume “normal activity” immediately?
I like wise sayings from newspapers, cartoons, cards, and Chinese fortune cookies. I save them for moments of inspiration. A card once given to me from a good friend said, “Life can be a sleeping bear. Gather your berries while you can.” I saved that because I have a tendency to demand that I accomplish something, but I am also a great procrastinator; the combination can be a bit of a dilemma. I saw this saying as a reminder not to procrastinate, but more recently I started to explore the possible positive attributes of procrastination. Perhaps procrastination is too harsh. I think that sometimes I’m just not ready and I put undue pressure on myself because, as my father once told me, “If I don’t do it now, I never will.” This statement used to bother me, because I never liked being told what to do, and even if I didn’t always understand why at the time, I always knew I would do whatever I needed to do when I was ready. I now understand that when I was delaying a task, it was because I was unsure of myself, so I let myself be influenced by the opinion of others.
When I was studying for my bachelor’s degree, which was a part-time endeavor, I took a year off to establish new career goals. I was originally planning on teaching, but then decided I needed something different. It was during that time that my father made that comment. His statement had nothing to do with me and my path. I took my time, researched various careers in the profession of helping, and decided that social work was the best fit for me. I trusted my determination and intention to find the right path, but even for the most determined of people, the path is not always so clear. Other factors, such as fear of failing, insecurities, letting someone else’s agenda get in the way, illness, and pandemics can also become obstacles that interfere with our goals.
The challenge for us is to clear a path so we can attain our goals in spite of these obstacles that might seem like detours. It may take a bit longer but the road leads to the same place. It requires trust and clear intentions. On the way, we can learn more about our strength, and pick up more tools to help us along our path. For me, a great tool is to remember to trust myself and my intentions, while acknowledging that everything is a process and that instant gratification is not always the best route. Understanding this basic fact is sometimes easier said than done, and it requires learning more about patience. It would seem that when we have expectations, such as an imposed time it takes to recuperate or a schedule of events that doesn’t agree with our own agenda, impatience sets in, underlying insecurities get reignited, and if we can’t accept the idea that limitations or delays exist, it interferes with our ability to trust the process. It has often taken me a long time to reach a goal (eight years to earn my bachelor’s degree), but when I kept my eye on the prize and believed it would eventually be possible, I was less discouraged. It would be easier for me now to trust the process and know that in due time the side effects of chemotherapy will eventually wear off. I do see that there are times when I can be more patient with myself. Going to college part-time was one example, and now with writing, it is another.
Sometimes when I allow the creative process to happen naturally, I stop writing because I don’t know what else to say, even though I know I am not finished. When I take a break, it is without pressure because I know I will finish eventually. Then, unexpectedly, a thought pops into my head about what I need to say, and I return to my computer with a burst of creative energy. One of my nephews was composing a piece of music once but put it away for what ended up being a number of years. When he eventually returned to it, he had wonderful ideas about how to finish it. Instead of looking at this as a delay or disappointment, he understood that music is a part of his life and when the right idea presents itself, he finds the inspiration to finish. I admire how he trusted himself and respect that creativity is a process.
Some people work well with schedules, but for others, the pressure to finish in a timely manner can hinder the creative process because it comes from a sense of discipline and conditioning from our past, like not being able to watch TV until homework is done. Discipline is essential, and we have all accomplished so much because of it, but I don’t think it always works with creativity, as creativity comes from our imagination, our need to play with ideas in order to make new discoveries. The process seems to be free from thought; it comes from an intuitive place within ourselves and it appears when we allow ourselves to be receptive and open to unknown possibilities. It takes trust and patience, and time. Sometimes, like a bear in hibernation, we just need to sleep on it.