In the hospital, panic had subtly provoked my awareness into another dimension, wherein I was observing both inside and outside in a detached manner and not hooking into the usual emotions. The experience tested my ability to “witness” my experience in a stressful situation — after nearly four decades of practice — and to a large extent, I succeeded. Yet, after five hours, while dressing to return home, any inner stability and ease suddenly fractured, flooding me with anguish. Then, while driving home, the mood switched a second time, and just as strongly — to excitement, even joy, as my perspective expanded.
Just after I hung up the phone with the E.R. doc at home I underwent a third internal transformation. Now it was not my mood that changed, but my entire ontological state.
It was as if that phone call had overloaded my psyche; I “couldn’t take it any more,” and needed to be soothed and protected. For that’s exactly what happened. My entire being seemed to immerse in a warm, viscous fluid that calmed the ricocheting emotions. Just as in the E.R. waiting room, once again I left this world and shot into another dimension, this one suffused with the numinosity, intensity and intimacy evoked by only the most extraordinary of transformations.
I could feel myself slowly sinking to the bottom of an inner ocean, the light streaks through the surface gradually fading. (Is this the first stage of “fainting”? If so, then I apparently caught myself before losing consciousness.) Though aware of surface conditions, it was as if they were operating in another universe, still accessible, but not nearly as real. I longed to descend to the bottom, to rest there and let the world go. But I couldn’t. I had to surface. Had to choreograph the logistics for the end of my life.
But wait, this might be a cosmic joke! The E.R. doc might have mixed up the records. The CT scan might have given false positives. The radiologist might have been preoccupied, or drunk, or exhausted. Who knows what might have happened. This whole thing might not be true! A waste of time and energy — not to mention mental and emotional suffering.
(And, given our litigious culture, if the diagnosis was erroneous, and caused unnecessary suffering, then it might be “actionable,” and I should “sue the bastards”! Several people, upon later hearing of my ordeal, suggested this. While I appreciate their concern, I recognize it as a conditioned reaction, the kind that I am attempting to become aware of in myself — and hopefully, to overcome.)
Though I understood that this initiation into my own dying process might blink out as suddenly as it had winked on, I did not dwell on this possibility. I didn’t want to wait to find out; didn’t want to waste time in limbo if the diagnosis was correct and I was dying.
More to the point — and here’s where things get really strange, where I veered into a decidedly metaphysical, transcendent orientation that from then on, never wavered — somehow this entire experience felt right, appropriate, exactly the journey I was meant to undergo now. Even if it turned into a cosmic joke, what mattered was that I grab hold of this unprecedented opportunity, chew it thoroughly, integrate its substance into my being, and surrender to its evolutionary thrust.
My single-minded intensity and focus stemmed partly from the apparent gravity of the situation, and partly from the timing — in case I had only two weeks, I needed to get going, make a plan.
This was Sunday morning. I couldn’t make appointments until Monday. Hopefully I would get in to see both doctors that day. And if not Monday, then Tuesday. I jotted down notes reminding me to call them in the morning.
Meanwhile, the greater part of me was still engaged in an unswerving descent from the harshly lit realm of personality into the mysterious netherworld of soul. From that vantage point I was sensing Death as a long-awaited living presence. Dying felt like home. I was going home.
Really? Do I really mean that? In the midst of what seemed to be an entirely natural drift into what I can only describe now as a kind of euphoria, I suddenly woke up to the fact that this weirdly romantic swoon with death was my internal condition, incompatible with day to day life on earth — not to mention with saving my life!
But, strangely enough — and I tell this exactly as it happened, or (in the interests of accuracy) exactly as I remember it — instantly this thought appeared: I don’t want to “save my life.”