Tuesday, 3 April 2012


I’ve always been skeptical about the so-called “Law of Attraction,”
I don’t dismiss it, but I see it in my own way.

One side of it:

It seems to me that it comes out of poverty mentality: If I just acquired this, then I’d be happy. The Big Empty Hole Starting Place. There are various methods for “attracting”….paste-up story boards with pictures of desired things, mantras, visualizations etc. 

In my opinion, all of these are futile if what underlies them is a gaping sense of emptiness. The conscious mind may decide on “wants” the subconscious is in direct opposition to…or doesn’t feel are deserved. The result of effort extended under those conditions is a bit like trying to light a fire while pouring water on it. Wishing just doesn't make it so.

But I've had experiences, pre-cancer, with “The Law.” One of them was this:

Back during my working life, I launched Wild Wicked Beads. The plan was a part-time business designed to grow in my retirement. Financially, I didn’t need the business then. I didn’t need the recognition for ego, although it’s satisfying when people like my work. I just wanted to do work I really love & bring in extra cash when the day-job ceased to gobble the better part of each week’s energy.

The goal was full-time craft and the plan was simple. I determined I'd make designs that I liked – my best work, not geared to competing with current trends. I studied business practices and learned about marketing. Along the way, I planned to begin teaching, show in a gallery and publish designs – this, simply for my labor-intensive work to be credible in a high-end market. I set my will, I did the work and I let go of the end result, staying with whatever task was at hand. No mantras, no storyboards, no “wish I was there by now” – just seeing what happened if I kept my head down and stuck to the plan.

My teaching opportunity came through an excellent craft gallery and they invited me to take part in a wearable art exhibition. I designed and wrote a pattern that was purchased by Bead & Button and ended up in their Best-Of annual book. I set up an online shop and began to sell through local galleries. I networked with dozens of talented bead artists who constantly inspired me.

I worked hard, and opportunities seemed to stream steadily towards me. I had the feeling that conscious, subconscious and the mysterious universe were on the same page.

The other side of it - the one that makes me question...

Does a soldier attract his death? Does a child attract the loss of parents? Do thousands of refugees attract poverty and homelessness? Did the Japanese attract a tsunami or the Russians, Chernobyl? Is it just self-centered and sad to work on “attracting” a new car, when thousands don’t even eat? Is it right to think these unfortunate souls just didn’t have themselves aligned with universe and attracted tragedies to themselves? Do we attract cancer or other catastrophes? There’s a really wormy, sort of grasping element in the theory that bothers me.

In my case (and I stress that I can only speak for myself) – I suspect that on some deep level  of soul & spirit, I needed to become seriously ill. Hold on – I don’t mean as a punishment. I’m sorting this out and I’ll try to explain.

After the first holiday blush of retirement, like many people, I began to feel rudderless and alone. So much more of my sense of self was wrapped up with my job at the Art College than I would ever have believed – coworkers I loved, the students, the wonderful stimulating conversations and energy of the place.

I started to self-isolate and was often depressed, cynical and lonely. Was the best part of life over? I didn’t want to die – but if there’d been a pause button, I’d have pushing it pretty often. Just get me out of here for a while.

And then the fatigue set in for months. Two days of part-time work at Hilltribe would leave me utterly exhausted for the next three. Depression & exhaustion deepened as the tumor on my cerebellum started to slink towards my brain stem. Symptoms were vague enough that diagnosis seemed near-impossible, right up until I began to lose motor skills.

Finally, I am admitted to the hospital and a day later undergo eight hours of neurosurgery. I learn that I have terminal cancer of a particularly ambitious strain and my prognosis is, statistically, eight months. To review: I lose my beloved cat. I lose my job. I lose my hair, my future and 90% of the control over my life. I’m broke, sick and seriously under funded – and then there’s the rest to deal with: terror, fear, anger, loss, grief, seeing my friends’ hearts break. In the hospital, hours of sobbing at 4:00 a.m. Followed by chemo sickness ugly enough to want to switch the imagined “pause” button to an “off” button.

One day in January, the day after the chemo sickness is the worst, Wendy asks her question: “Say you only have three weeks? Do you want to spend it like this or enjoying doing things and being with your friends?”
Simple question – but it went down the well of my mind and hit water with a resounding splash.

I begin to think of the unimaginable kindness and care that’s come into my life in a steady stream. Lovingly cooked food, housework elves when I couldn’t lift a broom, groceries, hard cold cash raised by a friend – to pay for legal bills and the daily things my job on longer covered. Services – transportation, help with house repair, books, flowers, a kindle & computer notebook, company to the “big” appointments with doctors and to tests, daily calls to check on me, visits from people who live a thousand miles away, deeply sensitive and thoughtful conversations. The knowledge that I was not alone. I needed the help but it wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. Still, everything, anything seemed to show up at the door.

As I’ve told you, at one point, emotional baggage just broke loose and floated away. I have been happy and at peace for months now. I don’t want anything but what is right in front of me. A piece of Heather’s chocolate cake, any particular sky I’m looking at, letters from friends and strangers, writing. Whatever I’m doing now is enough.

The stream flows on. A new dish drainer and board arrive, a replacement toaster and clock for my shabby old ones, a pretty shower curtain and bath mat. Heather moves in – seamlessly – and it's like she's always been here.

Yesterday, come the tires for Heather’s car. “You don’t need to blog about this,” my friend says. Oh yeah. Won't mention your name but - Do So. I call to ask for tire or mechanic recommendations. Five hours later Dear Mr. Don’t-Blog-About-It visits, unannounced, like a fairy godfather, with four brand new tires in his trunk. It blows Heather & me right out of the water – not just the tires, but the generous spirit of friendship.

People, here’s where I crap out at polemic, if you aren’t asleep or cross-eyed by now.

I don’t quite know what to think of it all. I know that I do NOT think anyone is to blame for their illness. Please be very sure to take note of that. But maybe there are reasons for the tragedies in our lives - more all-encompassing than we imagine.

In my case – and not knowing my when my “best before” date comes – cancer paints a larger picture than physical illness. And it isn’t just about me. It’s a cat’s cradle and so many people have strings attached to their fingers. We are going through this process together. And I have never felt less alienated or disconnected in my life. For me, daily life shines so bright that I can barely detect the shadows now. I think of death, when it finally will come, as a natural conclusion. And now? My life is full of grace.

I don't use this word unless I fully mean it. To all of you who are part of that bright shining light, which is all of you.



Pat Barber said...

Yes ... just, yes.

Anonymous said...

After reading your words I really want to say what a blessed woman you are. You have an insight that only a blessed few get. I wish I had better words for you at this time in your life. I want to thank you for sharing your thoughts publicly, for your gift of writing and to tell you that you are a courageous woman Linda and that I admire you immensely. You are teaching the rest of us how to live life fully by your honest words.
(Linda, no need to publish this, I just wanted you to know how I felt.)

Cath Thomas said...

Namaste, Linda...

Cynthia Newcomer Daniel said...

A good friend of mine who deals with death on a regular basis says that people face death the same way they face life. Your grace shines, now and always.

aljamie said...

lots of hugs and kisses

Cate said...

I wish I could leave an upbeat "Boy Howdy!" but, alas, I cannot. I am going to borrow early Christian thought and assert that the rain falls on the wicked and the just. Nature (cancer, the rain, my cats, bedbugs, and so on.) does not have a lesson plan for us.

Ironically, tragedy (the real stuff like strokes and tornadoes - not the imagined or stupidity-based kind) and grace are both unearned. We don't need to be good/bad enough to qualify for them... it just happens.

Another early Christian idea is that "the kingdom of heaven is always spread across this earth and men do not see it." Your life is full of grace because you opened your eyes. By seeing what is always there, you paradoxically earned what you always had.

It is funny, I always though (well, since we met) that you peeked out the corner of your wisdom eye. Clean the sand out of it, it has lots of observation ahead!

Love you!


Marcia DeCoster said...

I read every blog to soak up your wisdom even while feeling my tears for the beauty of how you write. Thank you.

Stacey said...

I used the word, "grace" to describe you very recently. This leaves me speechless.

Howpublic said...

You know,I can't believe the incredible comments. So thoughtful and considered.
And Cate - uh-huh. I do believe you are profoundly right about that.
Love you all.