I remember as a kid I never wanted to go to sleep. If my parents had company, I did not want to go to bed, I wanted to be with whoever was visiting. But on ordinary nights when there was no company, I still did not want to go to bed. I would get bad dreams sometimes, or I would be anxious about school because I was an awful student, maybe there was a test the next day which sent me spinning with anxiety. I remember going downstairs crying to my parents saying I could not sleep. I do not remember how I finally got to sleep, but as I remember that now, I am filled with empathy for the anxious child that I was.
I remember that now because I struggled to survive. School was terrible, family life was hard, and it was difficult to make friends probably because I was so unhappy, yet I carried on relentlessly because my job was to get through a day.
Well, my job is still to get through a day, and as I think back on my years I see that my way of handling life was to just push ahead, like walking through a dense forest that doesn’t have a path. I guess you can say I was in uncharted territory, but isn’t that the way for all of us? How did other people get through life? Yet, I kept going, pushing aside the sadness, the inadequate feelings about myself, and the unsettled feeling that comes as a result of ignoring upsetting negativity.
There are several ways to look at this way of coping. On one hand I see the persistence in me because despite the feelings that were unsuccessfully shoved down the rabbit hole, I still carried them with me. I struggled through school, moved out of my family home at an early age supported myself and eventually got a masters degree (the first one in my family) all with a feeling of self-effacement and underlying sadness. Quite an accomplishment! But there were times when I wondered why I am making life so hard for myself? Why am I always struggling? Isn’t it easier just to be happy? But I could not let go of these heavy-hearted feelings, no more than I can stop breathing. Self-hate was my companion.
Now I am a retired social worker, I have cancer and am being treated with chemotherapy which is knocking me out. I wake up and have energy, so I decide to go for a walk, or clean the apartment, and suddenly my energy is depleted and all I can do is sit down and rest my body. When I sprawl across the sofa letting my body rest, I do not have the resistance I had as a child. I am not fighting sleep, nor am I trying to fight through all sorts of emotional issues to accomplish things. I just give in to my body, my muscles relax, and it is a feeling of relief. In a few seconds, I am in a sound sleep and when I wake up, I am more alert and relaxed.
One of the things I am learning from this experience with cancer is about how I spent a lifetime of resistance and not enough surrender. The resistance comes with lots of struggle and self judgement, but the surrender is a breath of fresh air. It is free from self judgement and criticism and as refreshing as waking up from a nap when everything seems clearer. It is giving into what is. I am not fighting sleep as I did as a child. I am not fighting with anything. I am giving into the moment.
So, if I can do this with my body, I can do the same with negative feelings about myself and others. As I am sprawled across my sofa with the blissful feeling of giving in to my exhaustion, of surrendering, the thought occurs to me that I can let go of negativity because they are feelings based on events from the past that do not exist in the present. Why did I think I am not good enough anyway? I cannot even come up with an answer. Aren’t we all a work in progress? Yes, there are things I wanted to accomplish that I probably will not get to, things I have accomplished, and there are other things I will accomplish, like letting go of sad heavy-hearted feelings. Instead I can see myself with curiosity and love instead of shame and doubt. I can let go of judgment. In truth, I accomplished a lot. Letting the self-effacing feelings melt away from my heart makes my heart warmer. The reality of surrender is about letting life happen and experiencing the moment with a fresh pair of eyes. There is vibrancy in just seeing things as they are. It is like mornings before events of the day happen that tire us out. Or after a rain when everything is fresh and new.
This type of surrender is making having cancer easier to bear because I am getting to know my new body and all the side effects of chemotherapy without feeling bad for myself. It is a physical and emotional roller coaster. There are physical struggles and fears, but there are also revelations about me that make this experience interesting. Sometimes I feel brave because without the resistance, there is a feeling of being able to manage this ordeal. I am eager to see how it all plays out because when I can see each day without judgement, or self-criticism, I have more energy to experience each moment without an agenda.
The way to surrender is to be mindful of the resistance and to ask yourself questions. What am I resisting and why? Where is this coming from? Is it originating from somewhere in the past? Does it have anything to do with present issues or is it old baggage? Becoming aware of resistance and its origins, then being compassionate with yourself is the first and biggest step in self growth. We all deserve a reward for getting through childhood and we should not be blaming ourselves, because whatever the issue we all did our best to survive and thrive and now we are able adults who can move forward. So, take a deep breath, and let life happen.