By Amrita Madhusudan | Tiny Buddha
“Surrender to what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be.” ~Sonia Ricotti
The scent of sanitizer once again pervades my home. And as much as I am grateful for it, every time I use it, that astringent, alcoholic smell takes me straight back to the out-patient chemo ward at the hospital.
It’s been nearly seven years since I was a fortnightly visitor there, but the sanitizer and masks make me feel like I’m in a weird flashback.
It’s surreal to see the whole world now facing what was one of the hardest parts of my treatment regimen.
I was in quarantine for almost ten months.
Risk of infection, and hence, delay in treatment, is one of the biggest fears faced by anyone who has ever had any kind of chemotherapy. I only left the house to go to the hospital, and when I did, I wore a mask.
We discouraged visitors, and the few people who did come over also wore masks and sat a good six feet away from me. For an inveterate hugger, this was incredibly isolating.
And now, this is the new normal for everyone.
I find myself thinking a lot about that time in my life, and I realize that I had hit upon a coping strategy that worked excellently then, and is still something I lean on.
In a word, that strategy was surrender.
Surrender is an odd word to hear from someone who had to “fight cancer.” But when I say surrender, I mean to accept what is. To be fully aware of what is. To stop wasting your precious resources on things you cannot change.
Here are three practical steps that can help you translate this nebulous concept into reality.
Step 1: Make a list of every single thing you cannot change about the situation.
The moment I got home after getting my diagnosis, I went to my room, sat facing my window, and went through all the things I knew had to happen. I had to have chemo. That meant I might have pain. I would have to stay at home. I would likely lose my hair. And so on.
What does being in lockdown or quarantine or self-isolation mean for you? What are the everyday aspects of it that you’re going to bump up against? What are the little pin pricks of annoyance that could balloon into giant stabs with a blunt sword? Think of every possible thing and write it down, no matter how small.
Step 2: Go through your list, one by one, and vent about each point.
When I was undergoing my treatment, I wrote nearly every day. I wrote about what it felt like to lose my eyebrows, to spend New Year’s Day at the hospital, to only be able to keep down boiled mashed potatoes.
Everything on your list is real, and worth your attention. Take the time to journal, to vent and really work through how you feel about all of it. Let yourself express all the little things that you may think are silly, or overreactions, and especially the ones you feel ashamed of, or guilty for, having on your list in the first place.
If you have trusted friends, this is a great time to set up a support call system, where you take turns venting. The other person’s only job is to say, “Thank you. What else?” You can set a pre-determined amount of time to go one way, and then switch. At the end of both (or all) participants’ venting, you could include a judgement-free discussion.
Yes, this is a time to be grateful for our blessings, but that doesn’t mean we hide from our truths. Leaving feelings unacknowledged means leaving them to fester. You deserve better.