Leaning Into Tomorrow
I stopped work when I was diagnosed so I could concentrate all my energies on stabilising my cancer and extending my life. Most else became instantly extraneous, dissolving into yesterday like a mist on a fading road. Things I had poured myself into for twenty years, like my consulting business, were put on the shelf to gather dust while I scrambled for dry land in the wake of my diagnostic tsunami. I could only see a few feet in front of me. Even the sky drew its curtains and blew out the light.
It was weird. I have worked all my adult life, sometimes tirelessly and at the expense of family and friends, in pursuit of making a difference. Most of us want our lives to matter. We want to stand for something, count for something, mark the world with something, somehow make it significant that we were here at all.
So it was extremely sobering to be halted in my tracks when, to my eyes, I had made dents where I wanted to make craters and breezes where I wanted to blow storms.
How could I be done already when there was so much more to do? For all I had achieved in my life, which I don’t discount, it still fell short of what I believed was possible, of who I believed I was born to become.
In my mind I started collecting my unwritten books, unspoken speeches, unfinished projects, unpublished poems, unaccomplished transformations and unfulfilled dreams so I could place them tenderly in a golden casket and push them out to sea where the waves might carry them to someone whose whole life lay ahead, beckoning them to be glorious if they only knew what they really wanted and were truly able to give.
It seemed symbolic that my eyesight went so wonky in those first few weeks. I literally couldn’t see ahead anymore. Everything got blurry, precarious, vague. My ability to envision the future, which I have always found easy, tripped on my tumours and fell to its knees. At which point time just fell into itself and spread out like sand.
Creating this blog was a turning point for me insofar as it gave me a creative outlet, something to do beyond surviving. It gave me a sense of purpose again, a way to express and contribute and discover. It serves me well because it’s a here-and-now outlet for a here-and-now journey. It doesn’t need a beginning, middle and end.
But something else turned this week, a series of events that converged on a single day and tipped my head up to the sky so I could watch it pull back its curtains. I started to see tomorrow again.
Firstly, an extremely talented young woman, who I was mentoring before I fell ill, took it upon herself to reach out to the creative Lazarus inside me and pull him to his feet. When I met her I wanted to raise her up, as my own mentor Brad Brown (more soon about him) had raised me up when I was about her age. I realised he had seen in me what I was seeing in her, someone who had fostered acute self-criticism to mask her gifts and was bending her life into an apology instead of walking tall in the margins where the rare ones live.
Now she is raising me up in turn. She’s dragging me into the 21st century by showing me what my phone can actually do, teaching me about social media (which I have entirely avoided until now) and helping me create a website as a platform for things I never got round to doing – of which this blog will become a part.
She has convinced me that my cancer is an opportunity to step forwards, not backwards, to reignite my dreams rather than send them drifting out to sea.
“If not now, when?” she asked. “This is it, Sophie. Last chance saloon!”
I tell myself I’m playing with fire, testing the gods, tempting fate, but she got through to the part of me that still wants to mark the world and is now partnering me to create an internet platform for at least some of those unfinished, unpublished, unaccomplished aspirations I am carrying in the backpack of my soul. (Sshh. Watch this space…)
Last Thursday she showed me an initial ‘mood board’ for the site and it gave me goosebumps. She found me a graphic designer who seemed to capture my spirit after only one conversation and gave me a glimpse of what might be possible – not just for my website, but for my life. It brought tears to my eyes.