My Worst Fear

What Would You Do If You Had Ten Days Left with Your Loved One?

I am sure that everyone who is reading this post has been asked at least once in their lifetime, “What would you do if you had ___ days to live?” or “What would you do if you won a million dollars?” or “What would you do if you were alone on a deserted island?”

I am guessing that just like me, you probably pondered those questions with minor curiosity, slightly increased levels of adrenaline and unshakable knowing of the improbable nature of such scenarios.

When I found out that I had exactly ten days left with one of the people whom I love the most on this planet, I realized that such scenarios are not that unlikely…

There was no point in arguing, reasoning, convincing, begging or trying to change the situation in any other way. I knew it was final and he did, too.

It wasn’t even our decision. Both of us had been shown clearly and consistently that under the current circumstances it was impossible for us to be together. The only say that we had was to either accept it or not. Actually, no – the only thing that was for us to decide was WHEN to accept it.

We realized this some time ago, but at the time we weren’t ready to say “good-bye.” We both kept hoping for a miracle. None happened…

I had always thought that between the two of us, I was the spiritual one. We both believe in the cosmic order to things, but he’d never expressed his beliefs in any conventional way, such as going to church or using the word, “Father.”

Now sitting in the dark apartment with few dimmed lights, listening to him speak and looking into his blue eyes, I was struck by the amount and depth of his trust in the loving, wise and kind design of the Universe, his complete and total trust in what I call God…

I’d never known his faith was that strong… I’d heard him mention it indirectly, but this was the first time I came to witness it firsthand and I was astonished and overwhelmed by my discovery…

Despite my firm belief in God, “surrender” has never come easy to me. Having been brought up very fearful of people and life in general in the Soviet Union, it’s been “a work in progress” for me to become aware of and to free myself of all the useless, false and negative conditioning.

Marianne Williamson’s books and lectures have taught me a lot about surrender, but just like many people that she quotes, I had no trouble surrendering to God what mattered less to me: “OK, God, you can have my finances, my health…., but I’ll handle my personal relationships myself; thank you very much,” I thought. Then I read this:

“The truth is, of course, that the more important it is to us, the more important it is to surrender. That which is surrendered is taken care of best. To place something in the hands of God is to give it over, mentally, to the protection and care of the beneficence of the universe. To keep it ourselves means to constantly grab and clutch and manipulate. We keep opening the oven to see if the bread is baking, which only ensures that it never gets a chance to.” (Marianne Williamson in A Return to Love)

“Oooookay, Marianne….. You can be a real pain in one place sometimes….” I reluctantly agreed that she made sense, and I decided to stop being needy, stop clinging to my relationship and stop trying to keep a grip on it. I decided to let go of my desire to control it, to have some particular outcome, to have things go my way…

I thought I’d done all that. Until that night, when I was listening to him speak, looking into his tearful eyes and seeing what True Surrender looked like for the first time in my life.

I saw that True Surrender meant “free falling” – absolutely no attachment to how things happen on the outside; it meant complete and total trust in Life and in the fact that it does love us and that things are going to work out in the end. Even if right now we cannot see how and even if right now it really hurts… True Faith and Surrender mean knowing that the Universe will do what is best for everyone involved, and consciously choosing to stop fighting life and allow it to unfold the way it wants to, regardless of what that means or looks like…

True Surrender is not “giving up;” it is “giving in” – giving in to the flow of Life that is carrying us; it always has and always will. It is beginning to see our circumstances not as “obstacles,” but as loving and precious gifts, and welcoming them with gratitude. In our case, True Surrender meant being completely OK with whatever followed, whether it was being put back together again under friendlier circumstances; being temporarily reunited some time in the future; or never having a chance to see each other again in this lifetime…

My soul watched him in slow motion unfold his hands, stretch them towards the sky and jump off the cliff… I hesitated for a moment, marveling at the courage and beauty of the man I loved with all my heart, closed my eyes and jumped after him… I did not know if and how we would land, but he believed that we would be OK, and it was good enough for me…

Before we met, I had wished for a relationship that would help me grow and become a better person. I remember very clearly the moment when I had that thought. I should have added some details to that wish then, for example, “help me grow IN A PAIN-FREE WAY” or “NO LONG-DISTANCE RELATIONSHIPS, PLEASE” or… – ANY kind of clarification would have helped, frankly, because I got EXACTLY what I’d wished for – lots and lots of growth…

During our time together I discovered and got rid of many of my “buttons” – I learned which life situations usually upset me and made me act in unloving ways, and learned to choose differently. It felt like this relationship had helped me get rid of all of my fears. “I don’t even know if there are any other fears left for me to face,” I was joking just a month ago.

Then I began seeing messages about confronting one’s BIGGEST fear… Everywhere I went online, there would be messages like this: “Sometimes what you are most afraid of doing is the very thing that will set you free” ( or “The best thing that can ever happen to us is our worst fears coming true, because when we know that we can endure our worst fear, chances are we can endure anything” (Rebecca Campbell)…

There WAS one more fear that I hadn’t yet been asked to face in this relationship. My biggest fear was to lose him…

The decision had been made – we had only ten more days together.

I peeked inside myself, curious to see what I would find there. To my greatest surprise and amusement, I found nothing. There was complete peace, calm and silence. My thoughts were very practical, about the logistics of the separation: who, what, when, how…

Knowing my very sensitive nature, I was really amazed not to discover any feelings or emotions inside me in response to the news. “Really? Nothing?” I thought in disbelief. “Yeap. Nothing,” was the confirmation. My mind even managed to come up with some jokes about the situation…

It was late at night, we were tired, and it was time to sleep.

The next morning, I woke up to one of the biggest emotional “storms” of my life. I saw myself on a tiny boat that was being thrown left and right so severely that I didn’t know if it would last long. I was soaked to my bones from the pouring rain and the high waves that kept lashing my fragile body and going over my head, trying to push me off the boat and drown me. The roar of this storm was deafening.

I began to desperately look for some kind of an anchor to grab onto. I went straight to the best ones I knew: Byron Katie and Eckhart Tolle. I’d read enough of their books and watched enough of their videos to be able to hear their voices in my head right now.

“OK, Sweetheart. You are separating, but are you OK?” Byron Katie asked me. “You can only feel pain when you are arguing with the present moment,” contributed Tolle.

“OK,” I thought. “Am I OK? I guess I am. Yes, physically I am OK. And it is sunny outside. I am safe and it is quiet around me. I’ve got food and clothes. I am OK.”

“The present moment. Am I rejecting it? I guess I am. I don’t want to be breaking up. OK, breathe. The present moment is already here. And it is what it is. No reason in arguing with it. Allow it to be what it already is. Accept…”

The pain seemed to subside for an instant, just in time for another wave to knock me off my feet and cover me completely, leaving me breathless: “But I won’t be able to see him again…. And he’ll never cook for me again…. And we’ll never again have another road trip to California…”

Tears burst out of my eyes with such force as if the pressure inside had built to the maximum point, and if not for this outlet, my head would explode…

I tried calling Katie and Tolle back, but their voices were being drowned by the rain, wind and the waves crashing against my little boat and the shore…

“OK, this is not working. What can help?? What can I grab onto right now??” I thought in pure panic.

“Be in the present moment.” Tolle’s voice reached to me from somewhere way down… “What is making you unhappy is not the present, but the future, which does not exist.” “This is true,” I agreed. “Right now everything is OK. Right now we are still together. We still have each other. I don’t need to think about any ‘last this’ or ‘last that.’ I do not need to think about ‘the whole picture.’ I can just be here, now, with him. Because I am!”

I was suddenly on the shore, resting, totally exhausted, but safe. I didn’t need to fight for my life anymore and could finally relax. The sea was now calm and peaceful, with light and gentle waves rolling on and off the sandy beach. The sun was bright and the sky was clear with just a few fluffy clouds passing by.

I turned onto my back and stretched my arms and legs, enjoying the firmness of the ground under me… A big sigh… And another one…. The “thank you” that I whispered into the sky was sincere and heartfelt…

Suddenly the day continued with ease, as if someone took their finger off the “pause” button. The painful thoughts were gone and all seemed to be absolutely normal.

I wondered if this was called denial. I looked inside again. Not only was I feeling a relief from pain, but joy and happiness returned as well! “We are still together! All is well right now!”

We spent the rest of the day and the rest of our time together on the celebration of life and love. When upsetting thoughts came, I tried to refocus on the “now” and to stop thinking about future.

During this time, I remembered reading all the stories about the people diagnosed with terminal diseases. One of the latest articles was about a woman with brain cancer who had chosen and announced the date when she would take a lethal pill. I was wondering how she and her family dealt with the count-down towards that day…

The few people with whom I had discussed the topic of someone or something (like a relationship) dying did say that they would just carry on as usual and not even think about it. “But how can you?” I gasped in disbelief.

What I have learned recently is that you can. And you should. At least I should – this is my way of dealing with it and staying sane.

I wonder what you did/would do in a situation with a “count-down…” What was/would be your way to cope with an upcoming loss?


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