Living with Lightness

Disclaimer: this post gets straight to the point and discusses life and death.

“Take me through your past year”, my therapist asked. I replied with something like this…

This time last year, I was eight months pregnant, writing my research paper in completion of my Master’s degree. Then, I tied up loose ends at work in preparation to switch gears from career to at-home mom life. My newly-wedded husband and I celebrated our 1st anniversary. Then, our beautiful baby was born. Fast-forward four months through our hazy life-with-a-newborn stage and we were told that my mother had 3-6 months to live. The doctors had given this prognosis before (three different times) but, for some reason, we started to believe them this time. So, we booked a family trip out west while my mum was still feeling somewhat up to travelling.

She needed a change of scenery and wanted to see the mountains. Her health changed rapidly after that, and so did my decision-making time. Sometime in between BC and her quick decline, my husband and I decided to sell our house and move in with her to help take care.

A little over four months ago, we lost my mom to her seven year long battle with cancer.

Two days after my mother died, we learned of the fatal airplane accident that claimed the lives of our dear friends and their daughter. Two weeks after their funeral, I heard the news that a friend from university died in a car crash.

And, everything that has happened to date has prepared me for my life as it is now: Co-existing each day with uncertainty and humility yet resilience, peace even, amid the constant change; Reverence for the fragility of life and each moment; Gratitude and joy for today and for time as well as deep sorrow for the ones I’ve lost.

I’m aware that yesterday, someone may have suffered a debilitating accident while another person won a lottery. He got a new job and she got laid off. Tomorrow, an entire industry becomes obsolete just as a political system crumbles. Change is constant and no one of us is immune to it.

We could all be stuck in a heavy existential crisis. What’s the meaning of all this? Why me? What’s the point? Instead, though, we make it through by living with lightness.

Rob Bell, author, speaker, former pastor and one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World, proposed the concept of “light, heavy, light”. Taking life lightly (naively, ignorantly) is one thing – being able to life with lightness after the heaviest, darkest of times is another.

We live in a culture that doesn’t know what to do with the heaviness of life and death. The truth is that we’re just here for a few years yet we deny it and pretend like we are on earth forever – waiting, wishing, wasting, wavering. We get caught up and forget how fragile it really is. We get Plastic surgery (to defy aging), media (to take our minds away from our own truths), and we have shopping and stuff and materialism (to distract us).

The way out? Go deep into our fears. It’s true that the whole thing could go belly up – that business venture might fail… one’s child might develop a drug problem… people may not like or understand the decision. But, eventually we must push through and realize that we are here, right now. And we do get to try it. Start that business, enjoy the kids, lead positive change. You have today. Give it a shot.

That’s lightness.

Living with fear tempts us into trying to get a guarantee. And that’s heavy. We are addicted to certainty, To control. It robs us of the joy of the moment, the process.

I became a mother and lost my mother in the span of 8 months. If I succumbed to all my fears and anxieties around both of these events, I’d be lost. Or, worse, unchanged. I could be so resentful and resistant. Instead, though, I choose to let those feelings come and go and lean into the possibility of today anyway. I’m moving through and with the changes.

Change (and being able to adapt to change) is difficult. It’s necessary and difficult and beautiful. It’s life.

And, adapting with lightness and love for the journey, is the key to truly living.

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