As readers will know, Laura is a contributor to the Blog, who has written for us several times, and who has been missing for a time. But, she is back! In her moving and important letter she explains her short absence and offers some wise suggestions for us all.
You don’t know what you have until is gone. That is the idea I want to explore here. How is that possible? And what is to know that I have something? And why does it matter? I think I’ll start with the last one. I’ve had a tough year of cancer treatment. Before I was diagnosed I was riding my bicycle, eating fairly well, although eating too much sugar perhaps. Those bikes rides in the backcountry were so energizing, so pleasurable, so refreshing. I miss them. I miss being fully mobile and strong. I keep thinking that the day I am able to ride again I am going to savor the journey even more. But I will savor it more only because I’ll have the memory of being impaired and how terrible the feeling of being sick is. As with other things, I think that a person can live not appreciating enough what she enjoys moment by moment. But I appreciated my rides before. It is only that I miss them because I love riding free. It is like a wine lover having a glass of nice wine after a long period of abstinence. His pleasure level will be higher than before. Now think of something much simpler. Every day I wake up, get up and walk. But I can’t say I enjoy these actions as I enjoy riding a bike, so it is a different feeling, a deeper one. What happens when I am sick in bed, with a bad backache or healing after surgery? That day I miss my capacity to get up and walk and it just dawns on me the complexity, perfection and wonder of moving to stand up position and how the body holds itself and stands there with no pain or difficulty and then starts to move legs and arms automatically with such a beautiful synchronicity and grace, without pain or difficulty. Every basic function my body has is terribly missed when for some reason it can’t perform. I miss them so dearly simply because I understand all these things are part of being human and being able to move and explore. And as I gain this appreciation, then I care more and I feel more in tune with my body. Not so much before and even less when I was a teenager. Does it matter that I really comprehend what nature has given me and what I have now? Yes. It is important to have this connection just so I live more deeply my moments on this planet and I take better care of myself and others. By saying that it is important to really comprehend what nature has given me and what I have now means that that understanding is not so straightforward. You can ask a healthy 6 year old whether he can hear and he would obviously answer he can. So he evidently knows what capacities he has; same with me. So it is not just awareness. To know you have these amazing abilities is something beyond the mere realization one can perform some action. The thing is, you gain something to add to this simple awareness when the capacity is taking away. You marvel and realize how miraculous (not in the religious way) is. And in that moment of enlightenment you say, wow! I have it!. But it is this going to the nothingness what makes knowledge complete and perfect. I wonder, though, whether this fleeting moment can leave a permanent print. Or will I go back to take things for granted? I want to keep feeling the glory of what my body does and how it lets me move and experience. Routine, I guess, is what could take me back to the old not knowing what I have. The job is to do anything possible to not lose that knowledge. I wake up feeling so happy that I can stand up. It is real happiness. Living the moment is what matters now. I want to be always thinking deeply about the want of simple abilities and the joy of having them. Because I want to know well what I have before it is gone.