Want the Key to Happiness?
In December, I rushed from Australia to Germany because my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He wasn’t expected to make it past Christmas.
Sitting in dad’s lounge, I was confronted with his diagnosis. He had already overcome stomach and liver cancer, and now he had lung cancer and brain tumors. He was in a bad state.
The pressure on his brain was immense. He couldn’t speak, walk or think. He lost control of his bodily functions. I found it horrible to witness and wanted to run out the door, back home to safety and comfort.
Despite the doctor’s telling him that he would never recover, Dad decided to get radiation treatment for the brain tumors and chemotherapy for the lung cancer. This, they said, could extend his life.
He had completed the radiation and because he was suffering so much, his partner, my cousin and I decided that we would not put him through the chemo. My cousin had the right of attorney and could call off his treatments.
I was relieved. Honestly, I wanted a quick death for him.
The day came when he went with his partner to the specialist to discuss his chemo treatment. I was confident that it would be called off as agreed.
I just wanted it to be over.
Well imagine my fury when Dad’s partner told me that they’re still going ahead with the chemo. She said she wanted to respect his final wishes.
‘What?! Are you blind!? He’s in no state to make decisions! He needs to die quickly! Why impose suffering on him!?’ I seethed like a wild dragon.
How dare she go back on her word and put him through suffering just because she didn’t want him to die?! It’s his life, not hers. How can she be so cowardly?!
After many hot, furious walks, mental combats and deep breathing, I came to the realization that it is his life and that we are all guests in his experience. I had to accept that we’re all here to experience life in our own way and if Dad chose to experience chemo, then that is his choice.
My choice was how I would respond to this experience, and what I chose to learn from it. The only thing I ever have control over is my choice of response.
It was not easy, and through gritted teeth, I chose to fully accept the situation. Eventually it gave me peace. I could now joyfully experience it all knowing that everything is as it needs to be.
I’ve heard spiritual teachers talk about acceptance being the key to happiness, and it was only in this crazy situation that I embodied that wisdom. It is true that frustration, stress and anger only comes when we don’t get our way.
What I found is that happiness is a choice to accept the moment that is, and taking full responsibility for what is. And as beautifully profound as these words sound, I find the practice like a high energy spin class where the sweat stings my eyes and my body screams at me to get the ‘f#@k out of there!’ But I stay because I feel fantastic after it.
So the next time you feel infuriated by other’s choices, consider situations unfair or unjust, or feel entitled to have your way - go for a walk, have the mental combat, win the arguments and take a deep breath.
Then choose to fully accept this moment, suspend all judgement and decide how to respond. These are my steps to acceptance and happiness. And they’ve really helped me be present with dad on this cancer journey.
Give them a go, they may work for you.
Live Your Red Hot truth. Your Time is Now.
PS: Dad’s health improved. Even though he has no short term memory, he is functioning again and we take him out for walks in the wheelchair. He has a check up this week to see how the treatment has worked. The cancer will explode again I’m told. For now, I just accept what is.