I saw my psychologist last week for the first time in a couple of months. As I had cancelled last time I had a lot of explaining to do with regards my situation; the stop in treatment, my choice to wait, and my thoughts on not having more treatment. She listened as I explained my thoughts and then asked
"I'm just checking but none of this is a mask is it?"
The question took me by surprise and I had to stop and think. Is all my bravado a mask? Is it so good a mask that I have convinced myself that I am fine with my situation?
I once talked about the the stages of greif and how I was definitely experiencing the denial and anger. Have I some how skipped through to the final stage of acceptance? Maybe some part of me has made peace with my illness but I didn't think that my type of personality could truly accept dying young. Part of my sense of acceptance probably has a lot to do with feeling so much better. Right now I'm not ill; I don't feel ill and I'm living life just as I want to. As long as I don't think too far ahead in the future what is there to be unhappy about?
My psychologist would call this Mindfulness; a concept of bringing your conscious perception to the here and now. Generally as humans we spend most of our time thinking about either the past or the future and in both of these our thoughts are dominated by negatives. In terms of the past we focus on our mistakes, regrets, things that went wrong, our bad days. In terms of the future; we worry, allowing our anxieties to rule. If we make a conscious effort to focus solely on the current moment, and when I say focus I mean every aspect - the sights, sounds, smells, touch; to utilise every sense we have - we create a more 'real' and balanced reality. This is firstly because not everything we experience in a given moment will be negative and therefore we can choose to acknowledge and prioritise the positives with more ease because they are happening to us. But secondly and perhaps more importantly the present is tangible, changeable in a way that the past will never be and the future cannot be when we do not have entire control over it.
By this logic; if I am now not happy because of the present I can change something I am doing. For example if the traffic is slow and I will be late I can choose not to allow myself to become agitated, turn on some soothing music and ring ahead. Although for me a more apt example of my current lifestyle is to acknowledge the small things. The sun is shining, the land is beautiful, I am riding out with no one around, just me and the glorious countryside. I am not tired or sick or in any kind of hurry and can simply bask in the heavenliness of the moment. This is the kind of thing I focus on whenever my mind wanders in darker directions and it it something I remind myself of and cocoon myself in whenever someone else's negativity threatens to encroach upon me. For when you become aware, my God, do people spend a lot of time complaining - it's like the national sport!
So after a great deal of reflection over the past day or so, the answer is no, my state of mind is not a mask. It is, for the time being, perfectly genuine. I am content and happy with my life. I know it won't last, in fact a favourite saying of mine comes from the Editors song "All sparks burn out." I will at some point have to face more trials either of cancer or cancer treatment, or shock horror ( but more than perfectly possible) some other calamity but and it is a really important but; not yet, not today, not now. therefore I would be a fool of the biggest kind to focus on the future with so fine a present.
Masks may come later but right now this is me.