Sunday, October 2, 2011

One day at a time

"In the present we have only one day at a time, each offering a minute at a time. But all the days of the past will come to your call: you can detain and inspect them at your will—something which the preoccupied have no time to do. It is the mind which is tranquil and free from care which can roam through all the stages of its life: the minds of the preoccupied, as if harnessed in a yoke, cannot turn round and look behind them. So their lives vanish into an abyss, and just as it is no use pouring any amount of liquid into a container without a bottom to catch and hold it, so it does not matter how much time we are given if there is nowhere for it to settle; it escapes through the cracks and holes of the mind," - Seneca.

Poor Seneca....wasn't he the Roman philosopher who was commanded by Nero to commit suicide? 
People have asked me, over brown bag lunches in the staff lounge at school, "How do you do it?  One day at time, I suppose?"  Meaning, how do I function with Mark's cancer looming over everything?  Well, I guess it is one day at time in a way.  I think they are hoping that I'll smilingly say, "Yes, because shouldn't we all be living one day at time, because after all, you know neither the time nor the place...." Nobody wants to hear sob stories or for Gods's sake, see me start to cry.  They would rather see me as this nobly stoic woman that I am not.

It's hard to live "one day at time".    For me, the tough thing is to be avoid constant preoccupation.  Not as Seneca said, with the day at hand, but with the future.  Living in the future for me is to give in to terrible visuals: Mark wasted, dying, unconscious, a funeral, left alone after all the condolences and friends have left, glad it wasn't their loved one, or even themselves.  The sounds: hissing oxygen, bleeping machines, nurses being terribly kind and gentle.  The silence of early grief and being a new widow.   I force myself to return to that one day, maybe even this one,  that is a better day than the one preceding: He looks a little better, ate a little more, was able to go somewhere without obviously being in discomfort.

And what if we never left this "one day at time" to call back the good (and bad) days of our past and sift through them with the pleasurable mistiness of memory?  That would allow cancer to define the whole of our lives.  And that would be the abyss into which we would vanish.

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