By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

August 18th, 2016 • Travel Dance HealPrint Print

So I’m on this big bold healing journey. I’m running around with cancer and a hypersensitive body. People don’t “see” or understand hypersensitivity, and we’re living in a big, bad world where a whole heap of people are not particularly dialed in to other people’s needs and space. Going through life can feel like navigating a battle field.

Then there’s the fact that there’s this nonstop soundtrack going on in the background, and sometimes foreground – cancer, cancer, cancer, cancer – and I’m not getting the support I need from “family” members who have the means to support me (and, by extension, my mom), but not the mindset, and who nonetheless expect to be in relationship with me, while I am overwhelmed by the financial demands of healing from cancer, never mind the psycho-spiritual demands.

And I want to be in relationship with them. I want complete healing, wholeness, and harmony. Among other things, it feels essential to my healing. How much better off would I be, if my relationships with all my family members were positive and supportive and filled with light, love, and goodness? I’ve been working nonstop for 30 years now, in various capacities, to achieve that state with them. And I got close, very close. But the latest round with my father and sister made it clear that it’s just not going to happen.

How can I possibly be investing in a relationship with someone who knows what I’m dealing with but who either patently refuses to help out (sister) or helps out 2% of how he could help out (father), especially when they are my immediate blood? In my sister’s case, she’s the consummate victim, no matter what, and she has all these stories about me in her head, like I’m some big bad monster out to crush her. Meanwhile she’s oblivious to her actions and inactions and the impact they have had, and she’s behaving out of her victim state, which is just dragging everything and everyone down.

I cannot have them in my psyche right now. It is a complete drain – especially in the case of my father, who somehow, even when I’m actively healing from cancer, can manage to make it all about him. My family literally could kill me – in particular, because trying to communicate with them, to convey what I’m going through, requires that I get into a poor-me, victim-y narrative – speaking the language of illness and using the currency of suffering. It’s all they know and respond to. Even then, they might not step to the plate, and they might still make it all about them and paint themselves as the victim.

Case in point: When I was 18 and in great danger of suicide, I somehow mustered the strength to ask my parents for help. When I asked my dad, he put down his newspaper, said, “Oh, so now you’re going to make me feel like a bad father?” and put his newspaper back up, cutting me from his view. That I survived that period is remarkable.

Then there are the casualties – namely, my relationship with my aunt, who keeps talking about my dad despite my repeatedly asking her not to, and my uncle, who has never brought up my dad, but whom I am not calling for a host of reasons (my aunt would be deeply hurt if I was calling him but not her, which would lead to more drama; my uncle’s wife likes to take the phone away from my uncle and talk about my dad, and nobody gets “boundaries” in this family, making it difficult to ask her to stop talking about my dad and/or put my uncle back on the phone; and my uncle is painfully awkward on the phone – until recently, bolting off it as soon as possible and passing me off to his wife – leaving me feeling tense and/or uncared for).

I feel guilty. I feel like a failure. I am still in the mindset of fixing, repairing things with the family. If only…if only…if only. I know, in my head, that I have to let them go. It just feels devastating to me, so entirely unnecessary. And my parents, aunt, and uncle are all in their mid- to late-80s. If I go on retreat and withdraw, for weeks or months or years, they may no longer be around when I’m strong enough to re-embrace them. Which leaves me feeling grief-stricken. Not exactly ideal for healing from cancer.

To do this, to heal myself, I need complete focus, like an Olympic athlete. As an Olympic diver recently said, I have to “tune out the noise and focus on what I’m doing.” And as a neighbor said recently – amazing story for another time – “a pinprick of focus can open a world of magical possibilities.”

I have these moments of total clarity, of vision, of complete alignment, of hardcore power. I feel the healing happening. I know with certainty that I can do it. And then I feel scared, frazzled, contracting. I have discovered that it’s a matter of things pulling at me – energies of other people, situations, circumstances – and distracting my focus.

For example, I am now recovering from a setback, which was set off by yet another unleashed dog running up to me and wreaking havoc in my body. So I went from having a vision of jogging, to starting to jog again (which is a major accomplishment, given that I wasn’t able to walk for three years), to being laid up in bed for 12 hours and having to overcome pain that makes it difficult to walk from the bedroom to the bathroom, never mind run around on a beach.

The setback in turn triggers anxiety – how long will this last? Days, months, years? It also causes anger, not only about the never-ending assault of dogs off-leash, and the infuriating lack of care by their owners, and the impact on my body and life, but about the interference in my healing from cancer. As in, great. Now I have to divert my mental and physical energies to healing from pain, instead of having total focus on healing from cancer.

Add to the mix that I have to work to support myself, and that I don’t have the safety net of a loving family, and the pressure is on. Sometimes I feel like I’m going to break.

I was contemplating how I am able to be in such different headspaces at different times, and I realized this: It’s all about focus. And refocus. I am an Olympic athlete, but the playing field is not the same as tennis or swimming or gymnastics. It is my life. To defy the cautions and naysaying of doctors and conventional thinking; to listen to my soul and heart; to activate my healing powers; to be able to make any of this happen, I must be 100% focused. And recognize that there are a million and three thing that will be attempting to pull me off course, all the time. And to dial them out – not try to fix them, not try to change them, not even to engage them – but to completely block them out. And come back to me, to my vision, music, dance, soul, heart, to what I can do.

To this end, I think that writing is critical. It enables me to “dump” the energies that are not serving me. To face them, process them, not to ignore them and therefore allow them to fester, but also not to take them on and allow them to take over my time and mental focus. Every morning, every day, I need to refocus and recommit myself to me, to my process, to my path, to my healing.

Here is what I need to focus on:

  • Create music on piano, with my drum, and with my voice
  • Be physically active – kayak, walk on the beach, swim in the ocean
  • Write on my blog, to release that which does not serve me
  • Dance, pray, and meditate – ideally on the beach or somewhere else in nature
  • Visualize internally killing the cancer cells

In addition, I need to pray from my heart, for all of my family, whenever the grief strikes. Transform that energy into something positive and healing and wholesome. I just cannot engage directly with them anymore, although perhaps I can send postcards, to keep some kind of connection but not put myself in emotional, and therefore, potentially physical danger.

Every morning, every evening, when I wake and when I go to sleep, I need to remind myself what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, and what I’m focusing on today. Especially in this world, where the ideas and forces and pressures are off-key and off-center and otherwise off my path. The world’s energies are like the Sirens singing, calling to me, beckoning me to crash.

I must sing my own song. Just as I discovered back in 2010, when I had a severe and debilitating auditory injury, that when I hum, my vibrations block out the vibrations that hurt me (leave blowers, lawn mowers, etc). When I vibrate myself, my soul, my heart, my body, my vision, that becomes my entire reality.

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