The Uncertainty of Living

Saturday afternoon Robin and I returned from a weeks vacation in the Outer Banks, NC. We hadn’t been home for 15 minutes before a dark cloud of funk had settled over me. Robin questioned what she’d done to set me off and my truthful answer was nothing. Anyone in the house at the time would have equally been the recipient of senor grouchi. After 17 years of putting up with my “out of the blue” dark moods Robin will no longer stand for my normal response of “nothing”. Truthfully I didn’t know why I was acting like such a complete jerk, but there was a weight to being back home that I had not felt when we were on vacation. My response to Robin was, “It’s being back here and everything that goes with it.” There was more to what I said but that was the basic gist. However I wasn’t satisfied with any of my answers.

What was it that was really bothering me? Yes, something about being back home was acting as a catalyst for my mood but it didn’t fully explain it. As I sat thinking I started to recognize an undercurrent of fear running through all my thoughts. Fear of not feeling able to plan for tomorrow and tomorrows tomorrow. All my life I have envisioned where I saw myself being months and years down the road. Whether I actually achieved them didn’t matter as much as being able to dream about them and plan for them. But they were my tomorrows when thoughts of death were still farther down the road than warranted contemplation. Of course with cancer and the statistical promise of deaths soon arrival my far range planning came to an abrupt end.

But God in His infinite mercy and planning has deigned for me to outlive ‘the’ statistics. It is this new lease on life that has me both ecstatic and at the same time disquiets my sleep, because I want to fall back into my old ways. I want to plan for my future. I want to cast far flung dreams even if they are but ‘what-if’s’. But I find I pull my casting short for fear that I’m reaching out past my time. I now fear what before I was steadfastly resolved to boldly meet head on. Death lies around a future corner but I no longer have an idea of where that is and that scares me. The prospect of the cancer returning scares me and I am in many ways paralyzed by that fear.

Now I could stop typing out the inner turmoil I’ve been unknowingly brooding over and change over to spelling out the reformed position on my state of being, Heck, I found myself doing just that even as I typed the last paragraph. I even find that a lot of what I’m telling myself are the same things we (motorcyclists) would tell each other when someone would point out the danger of riding: “You never know when your time is up”, “Live for today you don’t know what tomorrow will bring”, “Only God knows the number of our days”, or my personal favorite, “No one get’s out alive!”. Of course after my motorcycle accident in 2011 I thought of all this in a new light by thinking, “I can up my statistical longevity by not getting on another donorcycle.”

Yeah, but where do I find myself right now this morning? The American Cancer Society has an article called  The Fear of Cancer Recurrence and while it’s a fine article there is nothing said that I don’t already know. The knowing isn’t the problem, the problem I’m having is a problem of the heart. It’s a lack of faith. The faith that I felt was giving me such boldness in the face of death is the thing I find myself most lacking as I face life. Where I so easily put my ‘death’ in God’s hands I find that I want to be in control now that I’m ‘living’ again.

[blockquote variation=”mossgreen”]I want once more to take the wheel of the ship but I’m not sure how close we are to the shoals. So why do I find myself so reticent to allow my Captain to continue at the helm? [/blockquote]Sallman-Christ_Pilot

It’s been a few hours since I wrote that last line. Coming back to it now I realize all the things I would say to anyone who shared with me these anxieties and yet I find my own counsel to be weak and lacking teeth. Obviously we don’t know what tomorrow will bring but I still long to plan as if I do. I struggle more now with understanding God’s will than I did last year and yet it’s the thing that I desire most to know. How ironic that I’m supposed to assist teaching a class entitled “The Mystery of God’s Will”. For those of you planning on attending the class I will once more be using my life as a “cautionary tale”.

Yes I leave this blog post as unsettled as my current thoughts.

Psalm 90:12

2016-10-31T07:39:00-04:00 October 28th, 2014|Categories: Living While Dying|4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Kristine Farrell October 28, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    As the caregiver in a situation very, very, very similar to yours, you just spoke to all of my fears. We are still in the chemo phase, but we made it through the surgery and the radiation. The chemo phase is 6 months, but we were told that the MRI looks very good, which is actually unusual coming out of radiation.

    I asked why it looked good and they told us that we were “lucky”. I know we weren’t lucky, that a whole lot of people were praying for Kevin to pull through this. I know this was an answer to prayer. But now, now what do we do with this life? We’re slowly ebbing back to our unhealthy habits of working too much and letting life run us with all of its busyness.

    I struggle with this, because I want to live each day to the fullest, because isn’t that one of the lessons we were supposed to pull out of all of this? But how can you know that you’re squeezing every last drop out of every day? And yes, what do you do with that big ball of fear that lodges in your throat every time you think of a recurrence?

    I wish I had more answers for these questions. Or maybe I don’t? I too just wish that I didn’t have to be so unsettled every day… I’ll continue to pray for you and that God walks with you and gives you comfort like no one else can.

  2. Bobbie October 28, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    Hey Mike, as one survivor to another, live and plan like everyone should, plan like you’ll live forever, live like there’s no tomorrow. We only have this moment!!!!! Make the most of it!!!! Love you and Robin!!!

  3. Rheba Kelley October 28, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    This spoke to me on many levels, but I am having a hard time verbalizing what I heard (what I hear is very good and very relevant, though!). Somewhere in Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, she says something to the effect of “Now is the only place I can love Him.” I struggle with staying in this moment, relinquishing my illusion of control over anything, and Accepting Things As They Are.

    Your paragraph about re-taking the helm is beautifully spoken, and brought to mind one of my very favorite images of Jesus, “Christ Our Pilot,” by Walter Sallman–I wish I could paste it here but it will only let me do the web address.
    http://rogallery.com/Sallman_Warner/sallman-christ_pilot.html
    As a child, I was struck by how very strong the sailor’s arms, chest and hands were, while Jesus was bigger and stronger still.

    Thanks for your openness. I’m looking forward to hearing how God brings you through these fears and unexpected curves, one day at a time, moment by moment.

  4. Rose October 29, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    Mike, what I wanted to say is that what you feel is certainly normal for the situation. I am a breast cancer survivor of 30+ years and I do understand the fears that hang over you. I think it is something you will not just be able to push out of mind but will in time come to find ways to deal with uncertainty. One thing you know Mike, is that we all care about you and love you. You are not alone in this. I’m glad you can talk so freely about the things that impinge on your peace of mind. My prayer is that God will help you find your peace.

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