Time is an abstract thing. It slips and slides, makes an appearance in a moment, and can disappear from consciousness even as the clock keeps ticking. Weeks of illness turn into months. And breath for breath the shores of one’s perimeters press closer. Just the immediate is in view. Getting out and about becomes a thing of the past. Like being in a hospital room, tied to the drug lines and dependent on others, the walls confine. Even the curtains get pulled against others in the room for those moments when we are most vulnerable. And the get-well cards and the loving wishes become a one-time thing, for it is what people and friends and family do, but the belaboured breathing exacerbates. It cares not for who you are. It is a viral and pugilistic thing, battering you about from within. The hull of me scrapes raw on rocks, despite a sea of drugs.
'Take nothing personally' is the third agreement of The Sacred Four. No matter what, this is not about you. All compliments, all dismissives, all hurts and broken promises and betrayals and even a kiss on the cheek is not about you; it’s about ‘them’. They want to compliment you; they fear talking openly to you; they arrive at an action with their own agenda. Yet I wonder, which part of the ‘they’ is not me too? Still, it helps to know that disease is not personal. It is not as if God or Karma has singled you out, specifically, to make you pay for the codswallop of iniquities you perpetrated in some past life. If it is, then some deeply atavistic guilt sentence is plucking at the health of my DNA, for I had surgery to my first bone pains just before my 13th birthday, and far from letting up, they have grown incremental decade by decade. So now, as I type this pitch to reason and reality (instead of professing mysticism on the pathway to more enlightenment) I declare my illness simply a matter of chemistry, of genetics, of in many ways my own irresponsibility. As I grew up, knowing my bones were diseased, I kept on pushing the parameters of pain and endurance. I wanted to live! And that meant there were mountains to climb, rugby games to play, and even jumps to jump. Yes, we incur results as a natural consequence of our actions, and they are physiological as well as psychological. We may benefit, or we may find ourselves ill. But none of that is to be taken personally. Such are the pragmatics. So please, do eat your vegetables!
To assume nothing; to do your best with whatever you have at the time; those are the other two agreements. One makes them with oneself. The objective is to be more conscious in the moment, so that-that which one does becomes demonstrative pronouns, coupled with action. (My wife has just smelled her phone. I found a picture of lilacs and sent it to her by email, knowing how much she likes flowers. Now she sits beside me, smiling.) Such braggadocio is not for all of us; some serve others behind the scenes and would have no one know what it is that we’ve given. So forgive me if my example is self-serving. I have to assume that you’ll understand. Ha! What trip ups there are at every turn! It all is a test. But to assume that God is specifically laying down these kajillion tests just for little old me is paradoxical arrogance. Or do I assume too much?
This is all about you. It is to you, from me. It absolves you from having to worry or fear that you have not done enough, written, or come to see me. It is nothing personal. We love from afar sometimes stronger than we do in proximity. And we all lead lives that are invigorated by the immediate needs of our very existence. I almost abhor phone calls. They jangle out of sync with my sense of time and they capture me when I may not have breathing at my advantage; I do not choose to have people see or hear me at my worst. Yet even so, please take nothing personally; there are some phone callers whose voices I deeply treasure. And they've phoned already.
'Let me be clear.' It's a marvellous phrase. It sets up for the fourth agreement. Impeccability of word choice is a difficult thing. It requires accuracy, integrity, and courage. It helps also to have choice of vocabulary, eh? So let me be clear. Clots in the blood can migrate such that one can discover oneself dead, ha! The paradox is that Time, between life and death, is just a discovery too! Now, ain't that an abstraction enough, eh? Ha!