Space and Time
Last updated: February 2023
You may have noticed a pattern if you have read some of my articles. I write about the mental health side of cancer and survival. I focus on well-being far more than actual health. That is no coincidence or oversight. It is absolutely by design.
Aside from some basic input, I do not believe I have a tremendous impact on my physical well-being. I can do everything right and still get sick. I can follow all, and I mean all, of the medical best practices and still end up with cancer.
Occupational and environmental hazards
I did not follow any of the best practices. I did not take precautions. I smoked and exposed myself to chemicals while painting cars and bikes. I was reckless and foolish, but I might still have gotten sick even if I had done everything I should have.
That is why I focus my energy on what I can control. My mind and my focus. I cannot control any externals, but I can choose how I respond and how I react.
A new tattoo, a constant reminder
I got a new tattoo this weekend. It is on my right thumb. It is simple, "S ( ) R" or stimulus -time- response.
The "S" represents a stimulus. In our lives, there is near constant stimulus of one sort or another. The "parenthesis" represents time. They represent the time I take between the stimulation and responding to said stimulation. The "R" denotes response. So the tattoo reminds me that I control the time between stimulus and response. That is important.
I cannot control my cancer, the stimulus. I can hold space to process the reality of my illness, and in doing so, I can meter my response. In other words, I cannot control the stimulus, but I can control my response.
My study of Stoicism
This is where my study of Stoicism and Zen meditation practices collide.
I am practicing lengthening the time between the parenthesis. Slowing down and not rushing to respond. Around the globe, we are moving faster and faster. We are encouraged to multitask and increase our production. Always faster, always more. Cancer at any stage takes thought and, conscience, well-informed decision-making.
Cancer requires focus. Regardless if we are in treatment or testing or even post-treatment, we need to allow ourselves the grace to slow down and take a deep breath. We need to allow ourselves to lengthen the space between the stimulus and the response.
Raising your consciousness
Wherever this article finds you, whatever you are doing, I want to challenge you. Please stop for just a moment or two, maybe even five. Find a quiet place or create such space as best as possible.
For reference, I spend my days driving a tractor-trailer rig. Over 60 feet in length and 80 thousand pounds fully loaded. I will pull over whenever I am safely able and do this practice.
Take a second to settle yourself fully. There you are. Close your eyes if that is comfortable for you. If not, allow yourself to lower your gaze. Through the nose, inhale for a steady four count. Hold that breath for a four count. Exhale through the mouth for a four count and then hold the exhale for the same four counts.
Repeat this as many times as you like and feel yourself relaxing. Focus and feel your body's response. You may feel rather silly the first few times you do this. That's good! Have a smile or a giggle. But give this a fair go. Try it for a bit before dismissing it or discounting the benefit.
Finding ways to create space for ourselves is vital for our overall well-being. We are allowing ourselves time for just us and taking action for our best life here and now.
This isn't cancer care. This is human care, and I encourage you to prioritize that care daily.
How do you prioritize your human care on a regular basis? Tell us in the comments below, or share your story with the community.
Has cancer impacted your mood during the holidays?