Copyright © Louis Schmier
Date: Mon 8/21/2006 4:53 AM
The pre-dawn Valdosta streets were dark. The air was wet and hot. The tarred street seemed a bit tacky. My feet were sloshing in my walkers. Plop. Plop. Plop. Water was pouring off my body like I was one the fourth waterfall in my Koi fish pond. The summery Dogs of August are howling so loud they make the baying of the Hounds of the Baskervilles seem like whimpers. In the stillness I was thinking about honey-do-lists.
No, I’m not talking about Susan’s honey-do-list. I’ve got my own “honey do” list that I put on my computer here at the house and on the wall of my office that I intensely read each time as I meditate before I go on campus and before I enter class. I looked at it more intently this morning before I went for my walk. I had read two students journal entries last week and I can’t get them out of my mind. One was from a student whose father had died of cancer last year. “No one can tell me why he had to die. You had it. Maybe you can.” The other was from a student whose mother is currently battling breast cancer. I’ll just say they are struggling. Cancer is preying on their minds and soul. “I wish it would just go away,” one of the students woefully lamented. Their words reveal they are consumed with distracting and depleting sadness, confusion, guilt, fear, helplessness, and anger. Sometimes those weighty feelings show themselves; sometimes they lay hidden. Try as the students may to push them out of sight, they’re always there doing their corrosive and debilitating work, and often create wrong impressions to others.
I understood. Now, almost two years after being told I had cancer, having lived what I felt at the time was an epic struggle of life and death, having bowed my head and heart, and still experiencing the consequent side-effects from that radical operation nineteen months ago, I shared with them of the four lessons I learned in having cancer. First, I told them that don’t have the answers. I don’t have the answers to their “Why?” any more than I have answers to mine. I don’t think anyone really does. Second, I warned them that I almost instantly found that it was paralyzing to believe that to find a comfortable place all I had to do was push my feelings our of my mind rather than face the challenges of everyday life. Retreating to a “quiet place,” finding a “safe haven,” struggling to avoid consciously frequenting the cancer, would not make the cancer go away or eradicate the influence it would continue to have on me and those around me. As Jeremiah said, you have to experience the dark in order to celebrate the light. I would add that maybe you have to feel that your tomorrows have run out in order to appreciate today. You have to have all that you are mortally threatened in order to appreciate what you are capable of being. Maybe you have to have all that you possess threatened in order to place in priority what you have. That’s the third lesson. This day, today, is the only day I have, that my life can be snuffed out at any moment without notice, and it would be tragic not to have a passion for living today, to be truly and intensely awake and alive this day, to be drained by depleting moans and groans. And fourth, Harold Kushner is right. As I don’t take anything or anyone for granted this day, including myself, I find the sacred in each person and thing, as well as in myself. And, as I can see holiness in things and people, as I discover the good in every situation, as I clearly see beauty all around me, as I empower myself with love, I find my life filled not only with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for having this day, but with an almost uncontrollable sense of mission, fueled by a compassion for today, to awaken through the example of my attitudes and actions that awareness in others as well. It is a joy that nurtures my soul, fires my passion, energizes my body, and sharpens my vision.
So, here is my own honey-do-list. I started to put it together soon after my epiphany fifteen years ago. Added to it over the years. Slowly capitalized each word. Then, one by one, wrote each in upper case. Put each into bold type when I discovered I had cancer. I am powered by this list. I am directed by this list. I am guided by this list. I am sustained by this list. For me, this an activating list, an uplifting list, a comforting list, a joyful list, a sustaining list. I am transformed by this list every time I can live each word to the fullest. It is a list that let’s me give life to my vision of helping each student help her/himself become the person she or he is capable of becoming. And, trust me, they each are a chore:
Make it a good day. --Louis-- Louis Schmier firstname.lastname@example.org Department of History www.therandomthoughts.com Valdosta State University www.halcyon.com/arborhts/louis.html Valdosta, GA 31698 /~\ /\ /\ 912-333-5947 /^\ / \ / /~\ \ /~\__/\ / \__/ \/ / /\ /~\/ \ /\/\-/ /^\_____\____________/__/_______/^\ -_~ / "If you want to climb mountains, \ /^\ _ _ / don't practice on mole hills" - \____