Today my heart writes in celebration of Dahlia and Charles, two of my dearests, who both go goo-goo over pickleball and have come face to face with cancer.
One of them greeted cancer a few years ago and moved through it with chemotherapy. He’s glowing on the other side, as alive and well as ever. And tomorrow is his birthday. The other was recently diagnosed with thyroid cancer and goes in for surgery tomorrow.
Big day ahead. My pen brought me here because I wish for all humans to be loved the way I feel loved by these two.
Cue the 1993 country song, I wanna be loved like that by Shenandoah. I wailed that thing a thousand times in my college dorm room.
My life is inexplicably enhanced by the love of Charles. I wish everyone on Earth felt enough self worth to have a coach like him. I have written about this many times. He knows I am endlessly grateful.
Dahlia's been a close friend for almost half of my life, and two weeks ago she called to tell me she had thyroid cancer. Brave and humbled, she asked for my support since I am thriving on the other side of a massive brain tumor. There was no time between her ask and my “yes” —
Showing up for people with life threatening illness is a huge passion for me. Why?
Because with what I’ve been through, the empathy in me is twelve oceans deep. And because cancer wants to be loved, not demonized. What we fight, persists. What we love, heals. Healing occurs when we greet our body’s impeccable communication with Love — not hatred. We can only express hate for others, including “dis-ease”, in moments when we don’t love ourselves.
And I wholeheartedly love me. That’s the job I was given! If you are radically loved by many people, it is because you are radically loved by yourself. And the more you allow yourself to be loved, the greater your capacity is to love others.
Showing up for Dahlia has been a head-shakingly gorgeous experience. She receives me. She respects me. She listens to me. She responds to the thoughts that resonate with her, with effusive thanks.
That is Love.
That is me being well used.
That feels like Home -- a place where I want to invest my attention, breath and soul.
Loving each other is medicine. Plus it’s a mighty delight to watch her eyeballs zoink back and forth as she Marco Polos me courtside three days before surgery, watching her boyfriend play pickleball.
Cancer? Brain tumors? Buddha laughs for a reason. When we are afraid, we are being invited to widen our wings of trust. God’s got you, Dahlia. Love’s got you. You will be held through the night, held in the hospital waiting room, held on that surgical table.
It’s medicine. It’s who we are. It’s always available and it’s always free.
What I didn’t know when I wailed Love songs as a college student, was that the deepest part of me was always singing Love songs to God. That lesson struck during superfierce times in 2021, when I sang to recover from brain surgery followed by 92 days of horrific sciatic nerve pain including a severe muscle spasm that resisted heavy opiates and lasted nine hours.
The human experience. Joy and pain. By the way, who came up with a word as fantastic as pickleball?
Singing with the divine in mind is one of the greatest forms of medicine, too. Added bonus? It’s been scientifically shown to slow down the aging process by regenerating telomeres. If you’re greeting cancer or another form of severe dis-ease, I highly recommend it.
Here are a few tracks to sing ‘medicinally’ to the divine, however you see and name it. You can also imagine it’s God singing Love songs to you. Bonus points for being human hotsauce and singing Love songs while you play pickleball. I just might start callin' you Hot Picklesauce.
Just the Way You Are, Billy Joel
Baby, Come to Me, Patti Austin and James Ingram
Longer, Dan Fogelberg
Last week I heard the downtown bike shop I adore is closing. Rent shot way up and the owner just can’t make it work.
For a moment, I felt the pinch of upset, disappointed to live in a society that doesn’t adequately support locally owned, independent business. Doesn’t it matter to us that those are the businesses that direct our tax dollars to improve schools, parks, roads and public safety?
About 30 seconds after hearing the news, I asked myself the question, How is this perfect?, the most powerful question I’m aware of these days. Another way to ask the question, which makes it easier to answer for some people, is What is the gift here?
The answer was clear. I immediately felt peace.
I thought of the shop owner, Ron, an upbeat man who is generous with his time and honest with his approach. He’s not a robot trained by a corporate industry based thousands of miles away; he is a father, an avid cyclist, a member of our community who promotes healthy transportation by bike.
I wondered what he would do next for work and planned to go into the shop to express my condolences and offer support for his next endeavor.
Suddenly I saw a cycle (no pun intended), a pattern unfolding.
I realized that I could empathize with him as a small business owner, deepening a connection with a treasured community member as he was moving through a difficult experience. Then I imagined that I could tell him about my services as a memoirist. Simply having one more kind, vibrant person aware of my memoir offerings made me feel more alive.
I imagined all of Ron’s other adoring customers extending their compassion and support. This initially bad news actually ended up strengthening our community, as we leaned in to support each other.
Everything is contagious; it’s all energy. Goodness feeds goodness.
By simply asking myself the question, How is this perfect?, I invited myself to see the cycle of life and its perfect order, unpredictable, beyond the realms of rationale and control, silver-lined with beauty…
We can all see this when we choose to see through Love’s eyes.
Life’s perfection appeared. As I hiked up the hill, my consciousness was able to see it.
We need each other.
We need each other because we are each other.
Within minutes, my initial disappointment transformed into an expression of deep inner peace, as I accepted that this moment of upset was actually an invitation, an opportunity. Fear is an invitation to feel more Love — inviting humans to surrender to the fact that we need each other.
Your moments of upset can lead you to peace, too.
In our society, we are resistant to ask for help. This only hurts us. I’ve learned this through mothering and also “the hard way” — a massive brain tumor. May those who seek to learn big things without having to go through horrendous, life-threatening pain, embrace the fact that we need each other.
Humble down before extreme pain needs to walk through your front door to teach you. Ask for help; let your relationships bloom through this simple gesture of interbeing. Intimacy isn’t easy but it is one of life’s delicacies, inexplicably worthwhile.
For a system to heal, its parts must connect with each other. Nations, oceans, human beings. For humans, disappointment and upset are invitations to reach out, connect, and grow closer to others.
Essentially, we are not separate from each other or God. We need each other because we are each other.
And guess what? A week after I posted this, I went into Ron's shop and he told me the landlord set the rent raise more reasonably, and he's staying. What a win!
Jessica Rios, Founder of Leaning into Light, was born with a divine pen in her pelvis. Her heart writes for her; Love is her 'religion'. A lifelong letter writer and a thought leader in Love, her blog is devoted to her greatest passion: illuminating the beauty of the human spirit so we all move closer to remembering that Love is Who We Are.