Living with a cancer afflicted parent — A Series — Part 41

Spending time with yourself

Image credit — Google Images

It was a sunny morning. As I walked through the house searching for Dad, I found him seated at one bright corner in our garden. Phone in his lap, the newspaper in his hands, deeply engrossed in some part of the national headline, he barely looked at me as I approached him. “Morning! How was last night?,” I asked. “It was okay,” he replied absent-mindedly, still peering deep into the paper. I decided to stretch by his side, trying to get rid of the stiffness from my body. He, on the other hand, after finishing the morning read, logged onto youtube and started playing his favourite songs. I tried having some small talk with him, he nicely ignored.

I went inside to prepare breakfast. On returning I saw Dad taking photos of the flowers, getting decent angles of each plant in the sun, taking selfies and sharing them with his relatives on WhatsApp.As he finished his meal, he noticed some new blooms and moved on to take pictures of them. The songs continued to play in the background, as the garden sprinklers started and Dad tiptoed out of the puddles.

This session lasted for nearly 40 minutes, before Dad retreated towards other chores of the day. It had been a delightful morning. Complete with a warm quiet breakfast in the lap of his nurtured garden. Was I trying to steal that time from him by buttressing my way through? Yes. In the much needed time that he had reserved for himself, I was not required. He was residing in sweet harmony with his gadget and his garden. Freezing the prime of spring through his camera, he was admiring the beauty of nature, and living in that moment. In his tranquility, I was acting like an irritating fly. One that buzzed and was flapped away.

Psychologist Tara Brach in her book, Radical Acceptance, writes about the importance of pausing and recognising the present moment. She wants her reader to stop while reading the passage and notice the exact surroundings. Do you hear the wind, or is the quiet deafening? Are you tapping your feet, letting anxiety about the future steal away the present from you? She writes, “In a pause we simply discontinue whatever we are doing — thinking, talking, walking, writing, planning, worrying, eating — and become wholeheartedly present, attentive and, often, physically still.” And I thought, that’s exactly what Dad was doing.

He was pausing by spending time with himself.

Those minutes of independence from his affiliation with his disease, his work, his responsibilities, was soothing to him. They enabled him to uplift his mood, free him from negative thoughts, energise him for errands and help him have a better start to the day.

Sickness often makes one lose the sense and value of being alone. And the reasons are external and internal. Externally, the care givers feel worried for leaving the person with himself/herself in need of any requirement. You keep checking on the patient, often incessantly, leading to annoyance. Internally, the patient, when alone, often gets surrounded by the thoughts of the sickness, blanketing the mind. This further leads to isolation and incapacity to feel better.

However, being alone does not always constitute aspects of negativity. Finding time with oneself can enable rejuvenation of the mind and body. Especially, when doing things that you like. Dad is fond of photography and music. So naturally, his peaceful habitat involves both these too. He doesn’t necessarily follow it everyday, but when he does, he is very peaceful and composed.

Having built the strength to fight the disease, he is also building time for himself. Nurturing his inner peace. And I find quiet remarkable.


Hi, I’m Mariyam, thank you for reading my post. This is part of my series on finding positivity and decoding the ‘be positive’ attitude as my father fights through aggressive oral cancer.

If you liked it, you can read other posts on http://mariyamrazahaider.com.

You can also follow me on twitter @MariyamRaza for more. Much love 🙂

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