The Easy Place

The Quest for Self Awareness One Moment at a Time

How Are You Right Now?

Katherine Russell Rich Katherine Russell Rich was told 22 years ago that she had two years to live. Still very much alive today, Katherine recently published her second book called Dreaming in Hindi

Diagnosed with Stage IV cancer over two decades ago, Katherine isn’t cancer free, nor did she go into remission, she’s simply living an amazing life, cancer and all.

I’m in awe of Katherine.   I became unhinged when I couldn’t get rid of the rodent in my house – I can’t imagine what it must be like to live with what is essentially a death sentence hanging over my head every moment of every day, year after year.

While I’m lucky enough to have no real concept of what she’s going through, as I read her words, I do see similarities to the experience of aging, that creeping sense of my own mortality.  The awareness that there are fewer days ahead of me than are behind me.   The realization that if the next ten years pass as quickly as the last ten years, I’ll suddenly find myself (me! not my father!) approaching 70.  The reality that the shock of becoming “middle aged” is turning into the shock of becoming “old”.

But something Katherine wrote stuck with me:

How are you now?  I learned to ask myself whenever I feel an ominous buzz in a bone, whenever uncertainty threatens to swamp me.  How are you right now?  And each time, the answer is, Fine.  Stay right there, in this day, stay right here in your mind.”

That question “How are you right now?” resonated with me and over the next few days I found it popping into my consciousness.  While attending a graduation at my old college campus, I looked at the dorm where I’d lived so many years ago, and I was struck with a wave of emotion; it was so long ago that this was my home.  Back then my future was full of baby boomer dreams – who will I marry?  How many children will I have?  But now, someone else was living in that dorm, and my future had taken on a threatening tinge – visions of walkers and mysterious pains had taken over dreams of romance and babies.  But as I paused, Katherine’s question, “How are you right now?” wrapped around me like a hug. How was I?  I was fine, feeling blessed to celebrate my friend’s graduation on this sunny spring day.

Katherine Russell Rich’s journey provides us with a unique perspective – not many people live 20 years on the other side of a death sentence.   She’s become expert in living in the moment, in living with, but not being conquered by, the awareness that life is not forever.  

And her question “How are you right now?” is a powerful antidote to anything that takes us out of the present moment.  It eases fears of the future and haunting memories from the past, it restricts our hard times to when they occur, letting us enjoy as much of the rest of our life as possible. 

It helps us stay centered in what we do have, not what we are afraid to lose. 

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4 responses to “How Are You Right Now?

  1. Helen August 18, 2010 at 9:22 am

    Hi Melinda Thank you for writing a beautiful and thought-provoking blog. Katherine’s story is a powerful one.

    While hiking in Yosemite’s high country last week, I noticed several times during the week — especially when the hiking was challenging — that I was filling my head with ‘trash talk.’ Thoughts like: would I make it to the camp site before dark; would I make it up the steep mountainside; would I sprain an ankle on rocks & cobblestones; etc.

    What helped me ‘lower the volume’ on my negative head talk was to replace it with this thought: “I am not injured. I am not scared. I am only tired, and this goes away as soon as I pause to rest for a moment.” A similar thought to the question you pose in your blog, “How am I right now?”

    Thanks for your insights and writing!

  2. Tasha Harmon November 10, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    What a gift this question is. I will carry it with me and practice!

    • Melinda November 10, 2010 at 5:38 pm

      Thanks, Tasha! This has become a very powerful question for me too, whether I’m looking at my old-lady cat or my aging self. It helps me deal with all that vulnerability to realize that right now all is well.

      Melinda

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