On Thursday night, at 9:16 pm, I issued and accepted a challenge to myself. I was thinking about all the crap going on in the world lately, and LORD that is a long list of crap. I was thinking about a popular blogger who I will not name (because I don’t want to give him any more publicity), and about how his writing has the effect of dividing people as far as possible from eachother. How his writing makes people’s blood boil, either in disagreeing with him or in agreeing with him. Either way, it serves the purpose of upsetting people. Of rallying people against eachother. Making people afraid, angry, and believing that they are fundamentally different than the people on the other side of the issue.
I was thinking of all of this and I was also thinking of a quote I often am reminded of. It has been said a million times by different people, but the one I was thinking of specifically was said by Oprah. She said,
“I believe that every single event in life happens in an opportunity to choose love over fear.”
And I thought, you know what the world needs more of? Love. And what it could certainly do with less of? Fear. And look, I am the last person who is an expert on choosing love over fear. I am afraid all the time. Sometimes I am also really brave, but a lot of the time it is fear that rules my mind. So I gave myself the challenge that for 24 hours, I would choose love over fear. Every time I was faced with a choice on how to react in a certain situation, I would choose love. I was going to pick a week, and then I thought it may be best to start small, you know, ease myself into it.
I didn’t tell a soul about my challenge. This one was just for me.
At 1:40 pm the next day, I pulled into the parking lot for my annual exam. As I was driving up, I felt my heart beating a little faster, my body recognizing we were getting closer to a place I didn’t love going. I walked up the stairs I had walked a million times when I was pregnant with Gia. Those stairs that reminded me I was one step closer to meeting my baby girl. Those steps that used to terrify me.
At 2:20 pm, my doctor paused during my breast exam. She kept going over the same spot over and over and then decided we needed to do an ultrasound. Just to make sure. And actually there was another spot. Best to check them both out. Just to be safe.
At 2:35 pm, I walked out of my appointment with a piece of paper in my hand with the word “Cancer Center” on it. That same paper had my name and the time I was supposed to show up. At the Cancer Center. Just to be safe.
I walked down those stairs, and I looked at the people I walked past. I wondered if they got good news at their appointments or if they too were carrying a slip of paper that was made of fear. I watched a girl close to my age with the same long blonde hair walk in front of me. I watched an old man being gingerly escorted by his wife through the hallways.
And there I found myself, in the space before knowing.
I felt tears springing to my eyes as I walked to my car. I didn’t know why. It was no big deal. It was just to be safe. Before I even googled it, I knew the odds were definitely in my favor. I knew that it really probably was no big deal.
So I told myself that I Wouldn’t Decide How To Feel until after I had the results. In that way I wouldn’t make it a big deal in case it really wasn’t. But it turns out, sometimes you can’t really put off *feeling* for a week.
Because still I remain in the space before knowing. Before knowing if I fall in the lucky majority who will find out there is nothing wrong. Before knowing if my life as I’ve known it is about to change.
At 4:11 pm, I sat to write this post. Still well within my 24 hour challenge. I told myself I would pick love over fear. I thought this may mean I would pick love over fear when reading angry Facebook posts. Or that I would pick love over fear when wondering how I would get my to-do list done.
It’s probably nothing, but it could be Something. It’s probably nothing, but my life could change forever because of what happened at 2:20 pm today. It’s probably nothing. The truth is, we are always just bopping along in life before Something big hits us. That Something could come today, it could come tomorrow, or it could come in forty years from now.
I checked in with my body. I asked it: Body, are you sick? Did I miss something? And I am pretty sure it told me it was fine. That I didn’t miss anything and everything was well. Then I checked in with my brain: Brain, are you ok? And Brain was not ok. Brain was confused as to how there was a physical presence of *something* in my body that was potentially dangerous that I had no clue existed. Brain was confused as to how I could go in to an appointment knowing everything was ok and walk out with a big fat question mark where my certainty once lived. Brain was not ok, because Brain has spent my whole life preparing for how to deal with how I would survive if bad things happened to those I love, but never stopped to think that bad things might happen to me first.
Here I sit, in the space before knowing. Powerless to make that space move more quickly, powerless to know The Answer before it is presented to me. In the space where I am trying to choose love over fear, but finding that fear still exists.
Now it is Sunday, and yesterday I ran into the same Pema Chodron quote twice. In two completely different contexts. Serendipity. And this is what it said:
“In life we think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem. The real truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together for a time, then they fall back apart. They come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that.
Personal discovery and growth come from letting there be room for all this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.
Suffering comes from wishing things were different. Misery is self-inflicted, when we are expecting the “ideal” to overcome the “actual” or needing things (or people, or places) to be different for us so we can then be happy.
Let the hard things in life break you. Let them effect you. Let them change you. Let these hard moments inform you. Let this pain be your teacher. The experiences of your life are trying to tell you something about yourself. Don’t cop out on that. Don’t run away and hide under your covers. Lean into it.
What is the lesson in this wind? What is this storm trying to tell you? What will you learn if you face it with courage? With full honesty and – lean into it.”
In the space before knowing, some will find peace and some will find fear. I have found a little of both. In this space I have come to the realization that really, every day is the space before knowing. I spend my time waiting for the time when I Know The Answer. But really, once that answer is revealed there is sure to be another Question and another long line of space before knowing the next answer.
I am a little scared. A little ashamed that I am scared when I don’t Know if I *should* be. I am holding some space for my fear, but I am making the choice that fear will not control my actions. It is there. I can feel it and I can let myself be ok that it is there, reminding me that I am human.
Every time I write a post, I ask myself what I want people to take away from it. I guess this time I want you guys who are in the space before knowing to maybe find a little peace. To maybe be okay with the fear. To know I am here with you in it right now, whatever Question you are waiting on an Answer for. And just because Fear is there doesn’t mean it wins.