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September 15, 2011 / Mir Plemmons

L’chaim!

As an NDN (“Native American”), I thought I had a pretty good handle on the essential defiance inherent in simple endurance. Outlast the you-know-whats. There’s a culture based on outlasting the ** in Robert Jordan’s fantasy series, The Wheel of Time – their goal is to be able “To spit in Sightblinder’s eye on the last day” of the world. Sightblinder is their name for The Enemy, Shaitan by any name… This is endurance, strengthened by the desire to outlive, outlast, to build your “cussedness”, as we call it in the South. The fire of defiance.

Yesterday, I found myself reflecting deeply on the Jewish toast “L’Chaim!” To Life! This is not simple endurance. This isn’t putting on your martyr robes and trudging through your trauma. This isn’t looking at your feet for a mis-step, jumping when the phone rings, dreading the next bad thing.

L’Chaim! is a toast used by a people whose entire history is strife and struggle, even before the ignominy of the last two thousand years. Yes, thousand. A culture that has drunk deep of adversity, and one to whom the Dalai Lama turned, for help in shaping Tibetan culture to face exile and subjugation. The Jews would know! We NDNs have only been at this for a fraction of that time.

“And if our good fortune never comes, here’s to whatever comes – drink, L’Chaim, to life!” (Fiddler on the Roof, Lechaim http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vvr8AjT0aD0)

This is the way to be – sucking each day’s joys dry, celebrating and sharing each one, focusing on them. Don’t endure, LIVE! Let the fire be joy, gratitude, delight. Let it warm you and uplift you. Live fully all that fully blesses you – and look for, immerse yourself in them! It’s actually deliciously seditious – moving beyond dull endurance and angry defiance to refuse to be crushed by your circumstances at all!

We had a series of discussions at the beginning of the whole chemo path (the turning point between “ok, a surgery” and “long term, recurrence, your life won’t be the same, the treatment will probably harm you and won’t be a guarantee”), there was a lot of concern about how far or hard I was pushing to get out and savor life, see friends, be outdoors, etc. At one point, I found myself, with a raised voice, saying “Why am I fighting to live, if I’m not *living*??”

That’s the core of the matter. To truly live. To find and make things to revel in. To count, collect, treasure, and talk about your blessings – but split up your pains to tackle individually, whenever possible. Don’t let the future possible worries cloud a bright moment,  happy day, or wondrous event. Live them, and store them up like solar power for the darker times.

The best advice I know, from these 3+ months, is this:

L’Chaim!

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