I first heard that phrase when I was a newcomer, and it hit me with the force of a blow. What an astonishing feeling that was, to realise that the fellow member of Al-Anon had just given me a way to anchor myself in the present. Where are my hands? In the evening of January 9, 2015. I have the choice as to whether my mind is in the same time period, rather than wandering the dusty hallways of the past, or racing wildly along the path to my future.
My adopted grandmother had several sayings she repeated endlessly, and one was:
"Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."
I take that to mean that each day contains enough to keep me occupied, so I need not be trying to peer around the edges of today, trying to imagine all the possibilities of my future.
Living with cancer is a hard teacher of that philosophy. Find a new lump, and one's mind can jump to various horrors and losses - when I'd just found the latest lump, before seeing the doctor, I said to Robert, "I can't face another operation!" He put loving arms around me, held me close, and said softly, "Don't fear the worst. It may never come to that."
I've just returned from seeing the doctor at Cancer Care again, the ultrasound report is in, and it appears that I have an abscess, and cellulitis, (the skin and the tissues beneath it are infected.) This may sound somewhat gruesome, but compared to cancer, it's manageable and tolerable. I remember the oncology nurses warning us months ago, that I'd be susceptible to infections that a normal immune system can shake off. It's a small price to pay for continued life.
Staying in the present moment means that I do not allow myself to imagine what might happen "if" this or that were to occur.
I don't go excavating in the past for hidden meaning anymore, or to feel self-pity about my childhood. It was what it was, and there were bad times and good; I choose to focus upon the positive, rather than reliving the pain, terror, and loneliness. I wallowed in my past for many years before Al-Anon, polishing my resentments, feeling furious anger about the abuse I'd gone through, wishing with all of my heart that my childhood had been "normal" and that I had a family in which I was loved. I didn't, I wasn't, and now that I'm 57, so what?
I cannot change the past no matter how hard I try. It's done and gone, and I've made my peace with it. Today is all that I am given - I have only this day in which to live, and if I spend my inner life in the past or the future, I am not really living, I'm existing.
I'm learning that having cancer doesn't mean I can't feel joy and gratitude. I feel as much happiness as I allow myself.
Today, I found myself thinking that I wished I still had my old industrial straight stitch sewing machine, with which to sew the coat I'm making. It had great power, and would sew through a dozen layers of leather with no hesitation. In the past, that thought would have had a life of several hours. Nowadays, it's a passing thought. I don't have it anymore, so what can I do if this domestic machine balks? Get a heavier needle. Do some handsewing. It's all manageable, if I permit it to be so.