Change happens. Sometimes it comes in an undeniable wave and sometimes with such soft subtleness we aren’t even aware of the transformation. Most often perhaps, it is a combination. Change trickles into our lives and our bodies until the accumulative effect is great enough to catch our attention.
A few weeks ago I was sitting in a public place visiting one of my brothers. Someone passed by the open door of the room where we were sitting and gave me a dirty look. Unfortunately it was not the seductive, “come hither” kind, but the, “how dare you” kind.
What was the horribly offensive behavior we were engaging in? We were laughing—not chuckling or giggling, but with our heads thrown back, arms and feet flopping, gasping for air, laughing.
Why was our laughter so offensive? We weren’t in just any public place. We were sitting in my brother’s hospital room where he was undergoing chemo therapy to help arrest a highly aggressive cancer that is already in stage 4 of 4. There are many who would say it is not a place to laugh, but is instead a place to cry.
I have cried and am sure I will again. But in that moment when someone else via a look asked me how I could dare to laugh when my brother might die from complications related to the treatment or the cancer in a much shorter time than desired or expected, an equally alarming question popped into my head, “if not now, when?”
I can grieve when he is gone, but I can only create more memories and moments with him now. My brother agreed, and we went right back to telling stories and laughing.
In that moment, change had reached critical mass and we experienced it full force. To an outsider it might have been unnoticeable or it could have appeared that we ignored someone’s obvious dislike of our behavior. But for us, it was a mutual decision to stay in the moment. Every ‘now’ had new importance.
Upon telling another friend about it, he suggested it was very Zen of us to feel that way. I fired back that I need to make some t-shirts that read, “Every Now and Zen” to wear on the days when what might be threatens to rob opportunity from what is.
The past matters—the way we treated each other, the things we said and did, the experiences we shared or enabled the other to have all add up to the bond between us. The past guides and influences every decision we make and every action we take.
The future matters. We have talked about what he wants when all is said and done. We have also taken action to help ensure that what he wants is possible.
But the present is where the living occurs. It isn’t a bridge between the past and future, but is instead an intersection with nearly unlimited potential. What we do at the intersection determines the direction our future takes. So every ‘now’ carries with it the potential to live more fully.
This last week my brother was to go through another round of chemo, one that was supposed to be especially nasty. I like to be there for the ones with more severe side-effects, just in case the staff is extra busy and misses that he is reacting. But at the end of the week a friend was getting married and, before my brother’s diagnosis was even made, we had made plans to attend.
The “what if’s” played a game of duck, duck, goose in my head for days. On Tuesday I was sitting with my brother watching a comedian on the TV. My stomach ached and tears rolled down my cheeks as the guy told joke after joke. There was a point when my brother and I were laughing at how hard the other one was laughing! But later that afternoon he took a nap, and the what if’s began their game again.
I sat there and watched him sleep. The what if’s gave way to memories, some old and some new, and I realized that even if he died in that moment, neither of us would question the importance of the other in our life. Every Now and Zen had in a very short time caused us to say all of the really important stuff.
So I went to the wedding and had a wonderful time. I called and checked in with my brother daily, but I also practiced being fully present with each person I interacted with at the wedding. As a result, mixed in with all of the laughter, teasing, and conversation, I learned things…some of them important enough to share.
I spoke with a couple lawyers, a couple editors, a couple publishers, a writer, some fitness experts, a CPA, a fish guy who is also biking across Canada, a literature teacher, someone who works at a bank, some writers, some martial artists, and a few other people. You will want to read what these folks taught me because they shared life-changing secrets. For the sake of all of us, I’ll be posting more frequently to make sure I get the ideas down in full writing instead of just notes scribbled on a piece of paper in the early morning hours.
Meanwhile, may the choices you make and actions you take today create a healthier “you” tomorrow!