A midnight ramble on the A and B theory of metaphysics, infinite moments and Culture Club

It’s not surprising that the older I get, the more I think about time. I suppose our perception of time is generally commensurate with the time we expect to have left, right? And what if you’re 48 years old facing the possibility of impending mortality? Thinking about time becomes a lot like having a Smith’s song stuck in your head. Dark, man…

The good news is that while I did obsess over it for a period of time, I developed a new and improved relationship with time. Although, admittedly, I haven’t really formally organized my description of this relationship yet so you may be in for some serious word vomit.  For this I apologize and understand if you excuse yourself from what may sound nonsensical if not just somewhat disjointed or unclear. Maybe frequent paragraph breaks will help keep things in order. Thanks for giving it a shot either way. Here goes…

Metaphysics can be a nice place to look for answers to big questions when you’re trying to make sense of things. Plus, just the word metaphysics is inherently impressive, communicating both mystique and intellect. It, metaphysics, has quite a few interesting things to say about time, essentially broken into two primary theories, A and B (clever, yeah?). The B-theory would be a nice one to adopt, but I can’t really wrap my brain around it. Wish I could. Can’t. It basically states that time is not dynamic and is not broken into past, present and future but rather kind of one big lump. Consequently, we are never really experiencing the present distinct from the past or future. It’s a more scientifically-based theory because it compares time to space, more specifically, one of the four dimensions of spacetime. uhhhh, yeah, I said spacetime… umm, okay, as I used to say to my kids when asked a question that rendered me clueless, “it’s hard to explain – google it.” Anyway, it’s kind of a nice, little theory, B, for those wanting to live in the moment. ‘Cuz it’s all one big moment, y’know?

The A-theory believes that the past, present and future are all distinct of each other. The present is the most real, and events of the past lose realness as they are further away from the present. Some subscribers to this theory – they’re called presentists- google it, kids, it’s hard to explain – state that only the present is real and that past events only existed as they were happening, just as future events won’t exist until they happen, and will cease to exist when they are past.. Duuuuuude…..! I don’t really know much more about this but my nominal understanding leads me to believe that I align more with the A-theory subscribership. At least for today.

For a time, I was terrified thinking that I may only live for months, or a few years. I had always measured my remainder of life, of time, by my expectation that I would live to be around 95 years old. This seemed reasonable, given the longevity in my family. So there were always X years left, around 40ish at last assessment. I remember being acutely aware when I got to the half-way point that I was there and from then on the glass of time was half full and emptying. It never even occurred to me that I may have to recalibrate my time meter.

During the testing and waiting of not knowing where I stood with cancer, I reflected on the question of quality vs. quantity when it comes to time. I asked my friends who didn’t have cancer (the majority, thankfully) what their choice would be between 10 amazing years of pure bliss or 40 years of a mediocre life. I got all kinds of answers and several negotiations.

I determined that I’d rather, as hard as it is to say, have the amazing 10 years. There. I said it.

I am slowly changing the way I look at time, developing my own theory. Maybe I should name it. Never mind. Not feeling it. Regardless, my theory debunks the idea of a time lump and recognizes a distinct past, present and future. I have also expanded its view to include the value I place on each. The value directly relates to the “realness” of a moment in my theory, which can be totally different for everyone. The goal of time, in my theory (I totally should have given it a name; it would have flowed so much better than me having to say “in my theory” over and over) is to be 100% present in the moment. A moment, in my theory (now I’m just entertaining myself), can encompass any or all past, present and future thoughts, actions or events but the primary perspective should encapsulate the present moment.

I measure the value of my past in terms of the wisdom or insight I have taken away from it and for these reasons, my past is a tremendously valuable and very real part of my life. Having said this, although it may be part of my collective experience, I don’t want it to be my focus. I don’t want to spend my time agonizing over mistakes or mourning the passing of good times. In that way, I suppose there is some benefit to the idea that the reality of a moment diminishes as the moment moves further into the past. Who has room for multiple realities? Wait. Don’t answer that.

The future is another story. It is so natural to think ahead of our present moment that it takes some serious practice and repetition to resist the urge. It’s one thing to look forward to, say, a winter trip to Cabo (can’t wait) or graduation from business school (it’s taking FOREVER) but when you constantly look forward and place real value on things that haven’t even happened yet, that don’t actually exist yet, you run a serious risk of missing out on living. Those who operate like this may likely end up in Cabo having breakfast on their balcony overlooking the beach talking about what they should have done yesterday and what they probably won’t have time to do later, totally oblivious to the sun that has rising over the ocean for the past hour. You don’t want to do that.

So, and I think it’s obvious at this point, the award for greatest value proposition in the spectrum of time…goes to…LIFE IN REAL TIME! Congratulations, present.

There are many well-known attributes to this practice: purity of experience, authenticity, the super cool tingly feeling that happens when you are able to almost literally breathe in a moment? The sense of satisfaction felt when you are able to slow the f@*l down and experience the beauty and energy and wonder surrounding you? Who wouldn’t want that good stuff?

I also, as an afterthought, had another realization which I’ll add on to this theory which, I’ve just decided, I am no longer calling a theory but a concept. Another, and less cliche, benefit of living in the present moment is that moments seem much more enjoyable then calendar metrics. Ten years, 120 months, 3,650 days, or millions of moments? For me, it’s moments. I like thinking that I have millions of moments. I like the idea that a moment can’t be quantified so that there will be an infinite amount of them  in whatever remaining time i have. I like the idea that I’m not going to be a passive observer of my surroundings or  have passive relationships with people that I love and that I haven’t exhausted my time dwelling on the past or stressing about the future.

Most of all, I like the challenge on me to put up some really outstanding moments, to make them count without holding back or lunging forward, and to recognize the extra special moments as rare gifts, deserving of my full attention.

It’s just a theory, a concept. I realize that  it’s a little loose and I anticipate that it will evolve over time, though I’m not going to give it that much thought, because it doesn’t really matter. I’ll be here, doing my best to stay present and to share life with my favorite people, not counting years but rather content in the knowledge that I exist within an endless sea of moments, each its own opportunity to experience life as it is happening, in real time.

And now, as a surprise bonus for reaching the end of this post, even after I practically begged you to abandon ship, I will post a few lyrics from one of my very favorite songs. It is pretty much apropo of nothing here, although it does mention time quite a bit. Sing it, Boy.

In time we could’ve been so much more
But time is precious I know
In time we could’ve been so much more
The time has nothing to show because
Time won’t give me time
And time makes lovers feel
Like they’ve got something real
But you and me we know
We got nothing but time


No, I don’t love cancer.

It occurs to me as I’m writing these posts that the word cancer can be substituted for just about any other malady that has festered its way into one’s world. It could be a disability, like the loss of vision, hearing or mobility or something more complex, like depression, anxiety or other mental illness. Cancer is something crappy that happens and, when it does, your world is seriously rocked. You are forever changed and will learn to approach life differently, readjusting to the new norm as you would if you had lost a limb or the ability to see.

Cancer, whether defined by the invasive cells that were threatening to kill me or, from my current perspective, the word for that thing I “used to have,” will always be a part of me. Through my experience with this thing that was, is, and may or may not be again, I have come to realize that as our relationship becomes more ambiguous, I need to find cancer a home because, frankly,  it’s starting to seem a little like a house guest without a departure date.

Maybe it’s the increasing distance between my life now and my pre-cancer life that leaves me anxious to strike some sort of balance. I’m at a point where I can’t imagine being able to just think without cancer dominating my thoughts or, at best, chiming in on nearly everything like an annoying know-it-all. On one hand, it seems almost inevitable that this life changing event has gained some level of permanence in my psyche, although it would be nice to take a breather now and then.

I read the stupidest article ever a few weeks after I was diagnosed. It was so stupid I don’t even want to reference it but I can’t help myself. It was so stupid that I don’t even want you to read it. Don’t google it. It would be like me saying “smell this, it’s so gross” or “eat this, it’s rotten meat.” Take my word for it. The premise of the article was that you should LOVE your cancer. No kidding. It was clearly written by someone who hadn’t had cancer because if she ever had I believe it would be more along the lines of “why it’s okay to use explicit language to describe your cancer as in, my f@*#ing cancer, f@*# this cancer, or I canimages-1‘t f@*#ing believe I f@*#ing have cancer.” Love your cancer? People are so whacked out.

There’s a reason that the word cancer is used to describe other unpleasantness, such as, “oh my god, I’m so glad they broke up, he was like a cancer…” Let’s face it,  we have probably all lived with a metaphorical cancer at one point or another. And let’s face it again, it was probably a bad relationship. Let’s say, for example, you have a husband or boyfriend or even just a close friend who is bad for you, like, really bad. They attack and weaken you, try to eradicate every ounce of your positive energy, all the while compromising your physical and mental health, relentless in their pursuit to bring you to your knees. For instance.

Btw: If you happen to have the misfortune of being diagnosed with the real kind of cancer, and you find yourself with cancer on top of cancer, take action. For me, this situation resolved itself. If it hasn’t for you, you need to make it happen. One cancer is plenty. 

Back to it…so then…Joy of all joys, the cancerous relationship is severed! Divorce, break-up, job change or otherwise, you are liberated. You slowly rebuild your health, your self-esteem and at long last, your strength is restored. Your spirit is renewed. You are one of the more fortunate souls who has undergone this cancerous experience because you are able to learn from it and evolve out of your negative patterns, growing healthier and happier by the minute. Or maybe you were just scared straight. Whatever the reason, you are moving on in the right direction and know that the thing that threatened to break you is gone and will stay gone.

Maybe you fall in love again, or marry again, or make a new best friend. Life is positive and wonderful and you want to think about rainbows and unicorns and sparkly things instead of CANCER. How does that work? Where does your past experience fit into your future? For me to make sense of this, I had to divide cancer into two parts. The first is the disease itself – the tests, tumors, surgeries and rehab. Or, speaking metaphorically – the toxicity, stress, conflict and exhaustion. The second part of cancer is the experience itself – lessons, relationships, heightened awareness and understanding (and yes, you can continue to apply the metaphor where appropriate). Of course, to benefit from the experience piece you need to be willing to extrapolate a few positives from the former. Seriously though, if you can manage that, the experience part is waaaaaaaaay better than the disease part. Go figure.

For me, it’s settled. Experience reigns supreme and will be the part of cancer that I allow to live within me. Going forward, though, I don’t always want it be about cancer. Hopefully it evolves to a point where it becomes less and less about the disease and more about living the best possible life imaginable, right? Maybe in doing so, my happiness affects others in a positive way and the world is a bit better off?  That’d be kind of awesome.

Back to the “I heart cancer” ridiculousness. I’m not even sure why I mentioned it other than to emphasize the point that while I am working to find a “place” in my world for cancer, it sure as heck isn’t because I’m in love with it. It’s not like some kind of a Stockholm Syndrome situation, although I’m sure some other nutjob has written about that, too. I have no idea where cancer will ultimately take up residence in my world but I know one thing is certain – it won’t be in my heart.

I don’t love cancer. I love the answers it helped to reveal and the healing effect it’s had on my soul. Above all, I love the peace, the love and the gratitude I have found as a result of cancer. But cancer itself? She is such a total bitch. We are so not friends.

Love Peace Gratitude 4Life©


People and things…

I feel things so much more deeply these days. I was told this would happen…

One of the first “whoa” moments (yes, it’s a modification of the great O’s “aha” but I can’t just be re-using coined phrases, can I?), came a few days after my diagnosis. Gotta stop here to say that if this is the first of my posts you’ve ever read, that weird little parenthesized aside up there came in much earlier than normal. Not usually first paragraph stuff so I apologize, although you may want to just settle in and get used to it. It’s my voice. What can I say?

Back to business – I want to spend a few posts talking about extraordinary people and things that have made me say “whoa” or “oh my god” or “HO. LEE. SHIT. WOW. OKAY THEN” or even rendered me speechless (rare). All of these things, call them whatever cute little catch phrase you like, are synonymous with my amazement in having the universe just flat out drop things in my lap when I have most needed them. The “things” came in various form: answers, understanding, patience, calm, forgiveness, hope, composure, strength, vulnerability, and love like you wouldn’t believe! These things I’ve been given were made possible by the most amazing gift from a relative stranger that, without question, changed the course of my life.

If I was a director setting the scene, as it was, when this life-changer occurred, it would look something like:

Woman, 47, has just been diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and has been basically existing in a state of shock and panic for several days. She hasn’t yet shared the news with family, including her children, but randomly told a trusted colleague and friend, perhaps an effort to practice breaking the news although it is unclear. She is sure she is going to be dead in a year and can barely look her daughter in the eye because it’s too painful to imagine not watching her grow up. It’s pretty bad.

The colleague/friend has shared the woman’s news with his other friend, who is also a highly esteemed oncologist currently on sabbatical. The doctor, not knowing a thing about the woman other than her diagnosis, offers to call her. The friend asks the woman how she feels about that? The woman replies “sure, that’s fine” with little expression. It plays out like this:

And so I was driving, kind of lost. Lost in my thoughts and lost in the confusion of the cancer but also literally lost, as in, I hate my GPS and I’m late and I have no idea how to get back to I-5, lost. I was thinking about being lost, too. About how what I really need now was to navigate through this mess, figuratively, literally, the works. As I am pondering away, my phone rings. It is the doctor, friend of my friend. I had completely spaced the conversation, but found a place to pull over to talk. Honestly, I was thinking it would be about a 5 minute conversation. I doubt he really wanted to be spending his time off (turns out he is also on vacation) talking to cancer patients. I was wrong. Turns out that this man, who has never been my actual doctor, was  about to initiate my healing, over the phone, from Palm Springs.

The first thing he said was that he wasn’t calling to give medical advice, and that because he wasn’t currently practicing, he couldn’t do so anyway. He wanted, rather, to talk about the process I was about to go through. He didn’t use the word journey, which I thoroughly appreciated. He asked me to describe my diagnosis, my family situation, my job, and my life in general. He listened to me go on and on, interjecting only briefly for clarification, until I had, for the first time, shared my story in its entirety. He then spoke to me and, even months later, I can still remember the sensation of my numbness being replaced by something new – hope, maybe? It was electrifying.

He told me that cancer was systemic and that my approach needed to reflect that. Although I would feel overwhelmed by the many doctors and tests and would likely be inclined to look ahead and what is next, I needed to remain in step with whatever tests or treatments were currently being done. All I had been able to think about was whether or not the cancer had spread and to where and how much. He told me that it would be revealed in time and that it was important to stay in the moment. He also told me, as did the radiologist when he unofficially diagnosed the tumor he found, that “cancer is not a death sentence.” A good one to remember.

He also told me that for all the questions and uncertainty that I would encounter in coming weeks and months, there were a couple things I could be certain of.  These “couple of things” ended up being everything – the driving force through which I have been able to manage this crazy ride for the past five months and I am beyond grateful to have them as my guide. Here they are. Seriously, you’re going to want to cut and paste this shit, whether you have cancer or not.

He said (and of course I’m paraphrasing – it’s not like I was writing it down),

“Tracy, there are a couple of things you can be sure will happen.

You are going to experience a lot of twists and turns as you go through this process. You will receive both good news and then you’ll get bad news, repeatedly. It’s just the way it goes. You’ll never know what’s coming next and you shouldn’t waste your energy guessing or worrying. You just need to accept that. The important thing is that you take care of yourself and of your family, and do what you can to facilitate the healing process.”

That was some good stuff, but it got better. The next thing he said is more fundamental to my existence and my relationship to the universe  than I can begin to describe. I have used it to reign myself in when I feel scared by a lump or a cough or a headache. I have drawn on its power when I feel frustrated or impatient or stressed out or when I think I’m too busy writing these posts to sit down with my daughter and talk about middle school girl drama. Most importantly, I use it when I feel like a victim of cancer, or anything else for that matter, and instead, it helps me to feel joy and gratitude for the moments I’ve been given. Again, I paraphrase,

“Lastly, I will tell you this and it is the best news by far. You may not know what the future holds, but know that in the end, you will be better. You will be a better mother, daughter, sister, and friend. And you will be a better person for having experienced cancer. You will be more compassionate, empathetic and grateful and you will help others become better as well. And you know what else? You will love more strongly than ever, and you will hold on tighter to the people who you love in ways that people who haven’t gone through cancer can’t even fathom. I’m sure it’s not the ideal way to achieve this, but it’s going to feel really good.”

This conversation with the doctor – it brought me no closer to knowing whether I would live or not live through cancer. There was no new insight provided that suggested what stage or phase my cancer was in, or whether it was hormone receptor positive or genetic. Months of tests would answer those questions. It was, our conversation, my GPS (one that actually worked) and my salvation. It wasn’t about do I live it was, from then on, about how I would live. It hasn’t all been smooth, and there will always be twists and turns, but it’s good, this living. It’s really, really good.

Note:  I’ve re-gifted this many times, adding my own small pieces here and there. I hope you will, too. 🙂

Love Peace Gratitude 4Life©