Minding My Guests
I’m almost two weeks in now. Each day has brought its ups and downs. The downs have left me fatigued, weary and sore. And as I begin the ascent to better days, my relief will be subtle and brief. On Wednesday I will start round two of chemotherapy. With my “Dose Dense” regime, I will start round two on day 15, rather than the usual 21 days between treatments. This will result in a seven day overlap in chemo. As round one symptoms decrease, round two symptoms will increase. I expect a few pretty tough days ahead, and as I look for healthy distractions from the thoughts of what may come, I turn again to poetry.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
— Jalaluddin Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks (The Essential Rumi)
Reading Rumi’s poem today, I was reminded to not resist the cancer nor chemotherapy that have already checked in to my guest house. To not resist the thoughts and emotions that accompany these guests through their stay. Rather, to meet them with courage, warmth, and respect. And yes, chemo will violently sweep my house empty of its furniture. And in doing so, it makes room for new experiences, new strength, and – most importantly – life. And, I’m reminded not to worry, being guests, they’ll eventually depart as well.
At its essence, this poem is about mindfulness. Mindfulness is about intentionally activating our natural human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. Mindfulness is a skill, and like any skill, it can be developed through practice and practical application. But it’s a choice we must make.
Today I choose to live with awareness in the present moment. To welcome every guest that arrives at my door. I choose to walk along my path one step at a time. To fight this battle one day at a time, one hour at a time, one moment at a time. For this too shall pass.
As always, thanks for joining me on this journey. More to come soon.