ruminations on positive things

I had two fairly positive thoughts today that I thought might help to balance the mostly negative thoughts that have appeared on my blog thus far. At least that’s what my mom thinks; she said I should write a post that says, “I had such an amazing day today.” And I said that would require me having an amazing day to write about my amazing day. Not that I have terrible days generally, today was a pretty good day, but it was nothing to write a blog about. And negative feelings tend to be more salient and thought-provoking, so I think blogs, also, tend to unfortunately be places to air negative thoughts. Anyway. Onto my positive thoughts.

This morning while I was doing my morning meditation I had a thought, which may or may not be the purpose of mindfulness meditation. In fact it’s not. But, mindfulness is forgiving, and thoughts are inevitable, so I made a note to come back to it later. Which i’m doing now. (If you are interested in reading more about what mindfulness is since I keep talking about it, I will refer you to Wikipedia and the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA.) There’s a part of the guided meditation that asks you to notice any sensations in your body at that particular moment and draw your attention to them without thinking too much about what might be causing them. It’s a way to focus on what’s happening in the present moment. For example, in the present moment, there’s a spot on my head that’s itching. If I were meditating right now, I wouldn’t scratch it, I would just draw my attention to it. But since i’m not, I can happily scratch it. (Pause) I usually have a hard time with this part of meditating because usually I don’t have any bodily sensations associated with cancer and I find it hard to believe that there are these terrible things happening inside of me and I can’t feel them happening. Occasionally i’ll have pain in the general area of my liver, or my scar will feel itchy or uncomfortable, or i’ll feel nauseated, but usually my head will be itching or my stomach grumbling or something inane like that.

So this morning, like most days, I didn’t notice any sensations associated with cancer, and this morning, like most days, I was uncomfortable with that. But then I thought about it a little more and came to the conclusion that if i’m not feeling it at that particular moment, then I don’t really have to be thinking about it–it’s not part of my experience of that moment. Just because I know it’s there doesn’t mean it has to be in my thoughts constantly because most of the time, I don’t feel it. I recall coming to a similar conclusion when I first started studying mindfulness right before my surgery in December. I was very nervous about the surgery and thinking about it constantly and that was stressful. So I was trying to mentally prepare myself with mindfulness, and I realized that I didn’t have to think about the surgery all the time because it was happening in the future, not at that moment. All thoughts about it were essentially hypothetical. There were things I could do to prepare, which I did, but it didn’t have to consume my life/my thoughts/all of my time. It’s easier in theory than it is in practice, but now that i’m aware, when I find my thoughts returning to the cancer, I can just call them “cancer” and turn my mind back to whatever is happening at that moment. Or, to borrow some wisdom from Harry Potter, I can just say “Riddikulus!” and move on. This doesn’t mean I have to deny any feelings that pop up or not compose blog entries in my head constantly, it just maybe helps put it in perspective more.

See? Positive thoughts? Giving myself permission to not let this consume me?

Also this morning I read a very heartfelt email from a friend thanking me for telling her about my blog and opening up about a lot of thoughts she’s had recently about me and my affliction. I have received a lot of these emails and I will say it again: I am very very lucky to have such wonderful friends and family. I have met fellow patients whose friends and family check out the second something goes wrong, and that just seems to make everything a lot harder. So, because I have a wonderful support network, everyone always tells me that if there’s anything they can do for me, I should just ask, and usually I don’t ask for anything because I don’t need anything. But I’ve been thinking a lot about my aversion to calling good news “good” since I wrote about it and I have come up with something that I need from my friends and family. I need them to be positive and think good thoughts. I need them to be the silver lining on my more “realistic” and not always positive view on things. I can’t make myself be positive all the time, but I can surround myself with positive people who have positive thoughts who remind me every now and then that everything’s OK.

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