I just got back from the doctor. I had noticed swelling under my right arm, and because I had lymphoma in 2007, I take these things very seriously. The earliest appointment I could get was for this morning.
All weekend my thoughts jumped from “It’s going to be fine” to “what if?” I found myself choosing activities based on how much joy it would bring me, because, well, “what if?” I gave my children hugs, relaxed with my husband, and took (almost) the whole day off on Memorial Day.
Other thoughts crept in: about how long I’ve talked about writing a book, but haven’t actually done it yet, and “if” something was really wrong, I might never get the chance to write it; about taking better care of myself by giving up sugar and exercising more consistently; about how I’d give it all up and take that dream trip across the country.
I had all these thoughts in 2007 too.
Back then, did learning that lymphoma could be caused by ingesting pesticides have me buy organic? Nope. Did knowing that stress contributes to illness inspire me to meditate daily? Nope. Did I wholeheartedly cherish myself, mind, body and spirit, and get a whole new lease on life?
So why didn’t this life-altering experience change me? Partly because I was already striving to eat well, exercise, take time for relaxation, and tell my family how much I loved them.
But I still I have certain behaviors that aren’t healthy for me that I want to change. And from my experience, even faced with our mortality (or failure), we still grapple with procrastination, helplessness, and just plain inertia. Case in point – I didn’t start writing my book over the weekend.
Why do we do this?
- We are remarkably tolerant. We are tolerant, day in and day out, of the most annoying, difficult, unpleasant, and uncomfortable situations in our lives. We are so tolerant that often the situation becomes completely unbearable before we do anything about it.
- We are stuck in “as soon as” conversations. We think that “as soon as” the economy improves, our kid starts school or we get enough money, things will change. We really believe this, and nothing could be further from the truth.
- We are committed to being right about our stories. By stories, I mean the circumstances you describe when you talk about why things aren’t going as well as you’d like. There’s no doubt that I could convince you of how “busy” I am to be the reason that I haven’t finished that book yet.
Fortunately, my tests this morning came back clean and my doctor told me there’s nothing to worry about. While that was obviously a relief, it leaves me in a different quandary. Without the imposed urgency of an illness to get me into action, what will?
The answer is simple: choice. What a productive world we would live in if all that it took for us to get something done would be to CHOOSE to do it and then do it, without any change in circumstance, inspiration, or external force. There’d be no time wasted agonizing over tough decisions, telling the same old stories, and regretting that we didn’t act differently back when we had the chance.
But although it is simple, it is not easy. We may not know how to do what we want, or we may be stopped by fear.
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