My aunt Molly would always complain about different ailments, some she had, some she didn’t. Illness consumed her and it didn’t appear necessary to actually be diagnosed for Aunt Molly to complain. She did, however, enjoy reading and she knit for everyone she knew. Her heart was big and open, loving and caring about everyone.
I think of her now because here I am in remission for almost 2 years, and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do next. Cancer took up the last 3 years of my life and everything I was doing before cancer ended, so I am faced with the task of moving forward, but to what is the million-dollar question. It’s hard to look for fulfillment when annoying periodic side effects is a constant companion, so I find myself being consumed with illness like my dear Aunt Molly. Yes, things happened after treatment ended to keep my attention on my body and I still have the worry about a compromised immune system and that cancer will return, but what I am noticing is that illness fills the void. If I didn’t have that worry hanging over my head, what else would I have? It fills my days with doctor appointments or well needed rest, and I don’t have time to think about anything else. It takes up a lot of attention and it gives me purpose. It fills the void, but it also keeps me in this familiar stagnant spot.
It occurs to me that maybe I am only seeing the void as a place of permanent emptiness, and I don’t always trust in my ability to fill the void with a new life purpose. I also find myself looking at paradoxes, which helps me see things in a broader perspective. When I think about the rest of my life, I become anxious and fearful so asked Siri “What is the opposite of fearful?” And the answer was, “Boldness.” I loved hearing that because when I reflect on my life, I see I both. I didn’t do bold things like sky diving, though that does sound like fun, but my life has been filled with boldness in finding my unique life path which is far from the traditional one I grew up with. I am bold but I am also fearful. Additionally, I don’t always have faith in myself and my ability to fill the void with meaning, so I again asked Siri who said that the opposite of faith is doubt, another paradox. Both sides of the paradox have merit as I often lean toward the negative. I recently responded to an invitation to my niece’s baby shower with, “I’ll be there if the other shoe doesn’t drop.” I am definitely a “glass half empty person” which weighs me down, but perhaps I can also see it as a challenge.
Maybe the void can also be looked at in terms of opportunity. Perhaps we were born with an empty shopping bag and our mission in life is to fill it with adventure, knowledge, love and all its’ opposites and our task is to find balance in all the challenges we face. Maybe fear is not a failure or a shortcoming but instead a reminder that I am only looking at half of the picture. Instead of being paralyzed by fear I can remember that there is another side to everything and that my task is to have faith so I can access the boldness that exists within.
Paradoxes are a matter of perspective. I am reminded of the parable about five blind men and an elephant, each feeling a different part of the elephant and sharing their discoveries. “An elephant is like snake.” “No, it’s like a tree trunk.” “A rope.” They see their partial discoveries as the whole truth. We all fall into this trap with our opinions and viewpoints. Perhaps my Aunt Molly’s view of life was limited because she wasn’t able to fully appreciate a broader view of her life’s gifts. The moral of this parable serves as a reminder that if we expand our thought process and see a wider view of “what is” our satisfaction with life will be greater.