Chickenpox, cancer and change


Real healing can only begin when we finally learn to be present in the places where we have been absent

What a cruel and crazy year 2013 was. If someone had told me at the start of it what we would all go through this year, I might have just curled up in bed, snuggled deep into the comfort of warmth and darkness and sameness, and asked them to wake me up when it was over.

When I look at my last post almost the same time last year, I have to smile to myself. What did I possibly know about holding steady on shifting grounds then? Hindsight is a marvellous and terrible thing. You only know you had it good when loss and change gives you some perspective. But then again, these yogic practices of centring and staying present have been my only salvation through the darkest of days. So it seems that this toolkit of wisdom that I started collecting at the beginning of such a year was well-timed.

2013 was the year my son got the most dreadful chickenpox, and I spent a week soaking him in oatmeal baths and watching The Jungle Book. It was the year of more change: a new job for me, a new job for D, a new school for C, a new home for the 3 of us.

And far and above all, 2013 was the year I lost my little brother to cancer.

It’s still very raw.

Even as I write those words I feel the prickle of tears welling up and my heart swelling with the weight of this loss.

On 29th August 2013 my 26 year old brother died after a 5 year-long on and off battle with Ewings sarcoma. The last time I sat down to write it seemed to all of us who knew him that he had won that battle, and yet here I am a year later navigating the waters of grief.

It’s a rough ride and some days I hold steadier than others. This grief is circular and all-consuming. It’s dark and deep and sometimes you think you might not surface. The thing about grief is that despite this, there are blessings in it. For me it has created a sense of urgency. It’s an urgency to connect more in real ways with the people I care about (ways that don’t include Facebook), an urgency to live in the moment (because if I’m truly living here and now my grief is bearable) and an urgency to live my life in the light of my own death. I say light because there’s nothing like the death of someone so young and so alive and so close to you to turn on the light in your head – the light that’s off whenever you are half-awake to the miracle of your own existence and how fragile it really is.

Better to be awake and in pain, than to bury your head under the covers. After all, the pain means that I have loved. The pain means that I am alive. So bring it on life.

My eyes are open. I am present.



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