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  • Writer's pictureMark Pajak

Get Busy



I could be wrong here (and that would not be very notable) but I believe there is a line in the movie The Shawshank Redemption where the Andy character utters this bit of reflection as he and Red are talking about their situation while in prison: “you have to make a decision as to whether or not you are going to get busy living or get busy dying.” Hmmph.

Having Multiple Myeloma/cancer really brings home the importance of getting busy with both living and dying. But just exactly what does that means.

I believe that living with cancer requires me to recognize and act on both sides of that same coin most of the time. It is my duty to be mindful of both letting go and taking on.

Getting busy dying was and still is a critical component of my mind-set as I move forward on the cancer journey. I chuckle as to my naivety when I was first diagnosed. While recognizing the severity of cancer at that time, I had no idea as to the changes that I would have to accept in my new life if I was to forge ahead. But, as time passed, I became aware. There were (and still are) various components of my old, before cancer life that I needed to let go of both physically and emotionally if I was to survive. In a very authentic way, I had to get busy dying.

I had to let go of the idea that a valued life was tied to reaching a particular age. I had to let go of the idea that I could live in a reality of unlimited opportunities for travel and exotic experiences all at my beck and call. I had to let go of the idea that I was in control and had/have the ability to master all important issues, problems and decisions by myself. I had to bury the idea that I was mostly immune to nasty circumstances - after all I made it to fifty-eight without too many problems. I had to let go of much.

I had to try and create a new picture of what “life” would mean for me if I were to survive and move forward. It meant that that the old Mark had to “die.” I perceived that the sooner that could take place, the easier the transition. The old “self” was no longer available. The old self was gone. This I had to accept.

Having released a good portion of my old life (dying) brought with it a remarkable opportunity to create a new life. It gave me and it gives all of us an opportunity to move on to the “get busy living” portion of Andy’s statement.

Getting busy living was/is a conscious decision based upon a new reality. The numerous adjustments that laid ahead had to be accepted and a new “getting busy living” had to be adopted.

At times today getting busy living could be as simple as getting off the couch when I really do not want to get off the couch. It could be as simple as pushing myself enough to put on some warm clothes for a short morning walk when the weather is less than ideal. The “get busy living” thought prompted me to write a good portion of this post after a chemo infusion earlier in the day. Yes, I am fatigued, headachy and nauseous with an extraordinarily strong desire to just lay in bed and moan. However here I sit in front of the computer typing these words today because with somewhat of a “chemo brain” I may not remember them tomorrow. Getting busy living for me often means doing something “now” as opposed to letting it slide because I certainly live with a more potent understanding of now being NOW.

I am for the most part, still the same person I was before I got MM/cancer. Physically I am still left-handed, still have white hair and still do not like tuna casserole. However, how I get busy making decisions and living my life is different than before.

In reviewing the past, much has changed, much has died. The changes that have taken place, well most were made from necessity, made to facilitate a new definition of “living.” Nothing ever stays the same.

I will be “dying” for the rest of my life. And with that understanding and acceptance there can be sadness in the journey. I will also be “busy living” at the same time. And that can bring a newness not previously considered, a newness that brings joy and goodness in my life.

Living with Multiple Myeloma/cancer has brought to my life the realization that I live with “dying” and “living” at the same time. And both can keep me very busy.

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