I set up a speaking engagement yesterday and the conversation around that booking has me up and deep in thought. The venue is a place where people who are battling cancer (personally or with a loved one) can hang out. Most people have a very high regard for Hospice so I was surprised to be informed that many of this particular crowd are NOT Hospice fans. They feel the message from Hospice is to “Give up and die” and they are fighting hard to beat their disease. We have probably all read miraculous stories of people who have overcome cancer, many by simply refusing to give in to the disease. True? True!
So here is what is formulating in my mind. Picture the ageless analogy of the glass of water – half-empty, half-full. The glass is half-empty. True. The glass if half-full. True. I would say that most people tend to see the glass in one way or the other. Usually people tend to see life in the same way- either pessimistically or optimistically. Do you follow me so far?
Here is the theory I have been working on over the years in my practice. Both “sides” are true. How can one be right and one be wrong? It’s more a matter of perspective. In order to be balanced in life, those who see the glass is half-empty, have to concede the glass is ALSO half-full. If I am Miss Susy Sunshine, I have to recognize that there are also hurts and disappointments in the world or else I will probably ignore the genuine pain of people around me, including my own. If I am Miss Negative Nelly, then I run the risk of being stuck and missing out on the solutions and blessings that are in front of me and others. We are probably all naturally bent to one side or the other, but we can choose to consciously be aware of the other side as well.
Bitter and sweet. Another face of the glass of water.
But because of this experience with Tim, I feel like there is another chapter to this that tugs at me. Perhaps it is not new necessarily, but it is another way to articulate similar thoughts, adding another layer of sorts. For me, the great spiritual challenge is this- to hold both truths at the same time. It seems impossible and I don’t think in our culture we are encouraged to do so. But I want to keep trying. I want to keep changing my language from “BUT” to “AND”. Instead of saying “The glass is half-full, but it’s also half-empty”, I would rather say “The glass is half-full AND it’s also half-empty”. Perhaps it is too subtle of a difference to matter, but somehow I think it’s actually a monumental difference.
So I hope when I speak to that group next month, I will be able to be sensitive to their position, to their feelings. And maybe I will also be able to at least open them up to the idea that curative care and palliative care are not necessarily in such opposition to each other that there isn’t room for dialogue- that there is room to learn from each other. I’m not sure how successful I was, but I tried to talk about that several times in my book- that Tim and I were constantly trying to juggle fighting for his life with accepting possible prognosis with grace and dignity. We all will die someday. TRUE. AND… We all have much more power and direction than we ever give ourselves credit for. TRUE.
Thanks for bearing with me. This is a very different kind of blog for me. I usually write about my feelings and experiences and it generally flows more easily. The content here is still formulating for me so thanks for your patience… and I welcome your thoughts!