To do…or not to do 12

It’s hard to beat a Northwest sunset, especially when most of eastern Washington and good portions of Oregon and Idaho are ablaze. The particulate matter in the atmosphere from the smoke of a raging forest fire scatters light in a way that can be spectacular… sensuous… seductive.

We had some stunning sunsets throughout the opening months of 2009. The troposphere was contaminated with fallout from the ongoing detonation of the global economy and the dust kicked up by a marital dissolution nearby that continued to unfold with the slow-motion violence of a Peckinpah western. The little bubble of total focus that Diana and I had wrapped ourselves in for half a year was buffeted by storms and squalls of angst and anxiety.

In an effort to protect the air quality within the bubble, I started to spend more time outside of it. The challenge for me in addressing these external issues was how to engage without becoming entangled, how to remain detached from any particular outcome and not just disinterested in the process because, frankly, it would’ve been easier to not care.

I had learned enough about how energy flows around and through me to know to pay attention to the effects of that exchange rather than the emotional pull of who-did-what-to-whom or why the world was going to collapse in financial ruin. I had also learned something about perspective: since I’d already had the world collapse once, a second time is really not that big of a deal. What I hadn’t learned about was time. Every equation of production, progress, or profitability is dependent upon some limiting resource. Money. Material. Manpower. Or Time—a commodity, the sand in the hourglass. Every minute outside the bubble was one less minute inside with Diana.

By April the tiny seed of a blot that had appeared on Diana’s scan the summer before and had remained unchanged throughout Autumn and Winter had apparently germinated and was on its way to full bloom. Why? That’s a reasonable question for which any stab at an answer is only slightly more useless. The most worthless of those impossible answers—and the one I’ll admit to entertaining briefly—had to do with my time outside the bubble and how I spent it.

Time isn’t really a discrete entity. According to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity time is inextricably wrapped up with the notion of space. Big deal. For that to matter to me, I’d have to be traveling at near-light speed. But the perception of time is surprisingly flexible even at the pace of normal life. It flies when I’m doing something I shouldn’t and it comes to a dead stop if Trigonometry is the period right after lunch. I can also make time, take time, and give time as if it were really up to me. So why isn’t it? If I treat time as a limiting quantity it’s not because it is, but because I let it be.

My Uncle Harmon had somewhere around a quarter of a million great-grandchildren. When Diana asked him how it was even remotely possible to have enough love to spread around to so many, he just smiled and replied: “They each bring their own love into the world.” If that’s how it works with love, then I suspect there’s a way for each promise and problem and every delight and dilemma to also appear on the scene with its own measure of time. That’s hard to imagine if I just see the sand slipping through the funnel of a 3-minute timer. But when I think of the endless sun-baked beaches and wind-blown dunes on seven continents and the suspended grains circulating the seven seas, the idea of a limited quantity of time becomes absurd.

Time only matters in the context of trying to accomplish something within (usually) self-imposed constraints. I can do one thing in a given amount of time, or I can do another thing, or maybe I can do several things concurrently or in sequence but I will eventually run up against a limit—not of time, but of doing. That’s because time constricts with doing. That’s the bad news. The good news is time unfolds with being—and that’s when it becomes an available resource, not a limiting one.

Diana’s tumor started to grow again in 2009 because…because it did. We weren’t particularly surprised by this development, and we weren’t in a rush to do anything about it. First we had to sit with it. To be with it. To just be.

12 thoughts on “To do…or not to do

  • Reply
    Larry Land

    This in no way compares to what you and Diana are experiencing. But 5 years ago I had my own cancer scare. Because of my doctor’s concern over a higher-than-normal PSA level in my blood stream, I was ordered to the urologist who followed up with the painful, humiliating biopsy. Fortunately for me, results turned up negative and life went on. But something about the experience affected me. Here’s what it was, and still is: as I was trying to remove any thought from my mind of soon becoming a cancer patient, I watched my wife spend seemingly endless sessions at the computer researching the disease for which I was being tested. After 30 years of marriage, and as familiar with my faults as she had become through three decades, that crazy woman still wanted me around and worried that maybe before too long I might not be. In the years that followed, I felt a need to earn the love for me that she demonstrated at that time. So I hope, since then, I have made myself the better husband she has deserved.

  • Reply

    Was sorry to see this post end…again…and so good to “see” you back–been too long since your last post!

    Ahhhh, time. And fate. And chance.

    Keep writing, friend.

    • Reply
      Kelly Lindsay Post author

      Actually, it’s only been a week. Just found out there has apparently been a glitch in the auto-notification of a new post since early March. If you want to catch up, just hit “Previous” on the right above each post.

  • Reply

    Kelly, understanding that time and space are one is not easy to come to grips with. Your explanation and object lesson certainly bring it home. Those who have studied eastern philosophy do seem to grasp this concept. Your readers are not only learning how to be a care giver; they learn to be a giver and care for themselves also. Thank you for always passing along such golden nuggets.

  • Reply
    Christine Nyburg Epstein

    Dearest Kelly and Diana – I am deeply grateful for your wonderfully eloquent post(s). You beautifully describe the helplessness, haplessness, and potentially the wisdom, which accompanies such news. As my step-father said to me, “We’re all going to die. I just have a better idea than most of when that will happen…”

    And of course, it is my personal intense hope and prayer that Diana can defer that fate once again. She (and you) have been such a positive for so many of us… in your clearly loving relationship and in your willingness to share who you are with the rest of us. I feel bouyed in so many ways- in remembering to put energy into fun time, in marking special moments, in staying open and focused in my most special relationships, and in remembering community.

    I have remade my Diana bracelet 3 times – and now with a different color of beads- and I wear it every day. It makes me think of Diana and it is my anchor for “Be Here Now”

    Thank you both for being and sharing your being.

    Big Love

    • Reply
      Kelly Lindsay Post author

      Thanks, Christine. It’s not so much that Diana is deferring that fate “once again” as it is she’s “still” deferring that fate. This post refers to events 4 years ago.

  • Reply
    laura taylor

    I totally hate the medical answers to ‘why’? There should always be a reason, even when there isn’t one. When my brother was battling liver cancer, he used to say “it’s all about ME”. When you are going through a battle such as cancer, then it always has to be all about YOU. You would be the one with the biggest fish to fry…so they say…who ever they are.

    • Reply

      Which will be your next diving trip? I got my PADI OW some months ago but since then I didn´t have chance to dive again, but I really miss it. Hope I can do something about it soon.Glad you didn´t become coral-woman :D

  • Reply
    Jack Pelletier

    Kelly, thank you for sharing this with me. If we think deeply about life, we eventually must think about time. It is the stream we dip our fingers in.


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