The Farmer’s Luck
This is an ancient Taoist story I’ve been reflecting on a lot lately.
It is one of my all-time favorite parables, about how people are often too hasty in labeling things lucky or unlucky, when in fact we don’t know how things will turn out.
A farmer in a small village was considered wealthy, because he owned a horse which he could use for ploughing and transportation. One day his horse ran away.
All his neighbours exclaimed how terrible this was, and would say, “What bad luck.”
The farmer simply replied, “maybe”.
A few days later the horse returned, bringing two wild horses with it.
The neighbours all rejoiced at his good fortune and said, “What great luck!”
Again, the farmer’s reply was, “maybe.”
The next day, the farmer’s only son tried to ride one of the wild horses.
The horse threw him and the son broke his leg.
The neighbours all offered their sympathy for his misfortune and would again say, “Such terrible luck!”
The farmer continued to reply with, “maybe.”
The next week, a war-mongering general sent conscription officers to the village to enlist all able-bodied young men into the army. They rejected the farmer’s son because of his broken leg.
The neighbours said, “Wow, you are the luckiest man in the village!”
The farmer still replied with “maybe.”
Lately, I feel like the farmer. I think people are assuming my diagnosis is very unlucky. But, though I really wish I could avoid worrying my loved ones, I don’t *feel* unlucky. Quite the opposite. Every day since my surgery, I’ve been waking up with my heart absolutely full of gratitude and overwhelming appreciation for being alive and for all the love in my life. It is an amazing, fantastic feeling that I wish everyone could experience, to be so conscious of each breath and each moment. It’s a gift, really. I feel more alive than I ever have before, and it is awesome. It’s been a very surprising silver lining, to say the least.
I spent several different periods of my life living with unhappiness caused by aspects of my life being out of harmony or balance. I can’t imagine letting that happen again now.
One of the characteristics of this kind of cancer is that (unlike, say, breast cancer) it won’t ever reach a point where the doctors will say “Ok, now that you’ve gone X months or years without any recurrence, it won’t come back”. I will always be in this fight. At first that seems unlucky. But part of me is glad about it, because it means I won’t get complacent. I will stay in this conscious, mindful, grateful state, and that is exactly how I want to live.
Don’t get me wrong; if there were a simple cure, of course I would take it. But given I don’t have any control over my diagnosis or prognosis, I am embracing everything I can about my condition and my new normal, and it turns out there is just a huge amount to be glad about.
Thank you for all your love and support. Shawna and I are so lucky to have all you awesome people in our corner.
Note: Originally posted on Caringbridge.org – Dec 12, 2012 6:55am