Imagine you’re an obsessive compulsive person. Dedicated, disciplined, somewhat rigid, disturbingly perfectionist, with a huge aversion to uncertainty. Of all kinds. You hate uncertainty in your personal life, in your work life, everywhere, under all conditions. Life has always been particularly difficult for you since life is, well, full of uncertainties! Worse, you are aware of this. I mean, you know you cannot control external circumstances, yet you still strive for certainty. As much as possible that is.
Then a monster finds your loved one. The monster is called cancer and the monster is unpredictable. Even his name or true nature eludes the doctors. For almost two weeks. When they discover who the monster is, they look into what it can do. But before that, they call you to a meeting, the very first meeting after diagnosis, and tell you a sentence which is supposed to become your mantra for God knows how long: “One day at a time”.
One day at a time? To a control freak parent? To someone who has spent half of his life trying to make things as predictable as possible? And not on some random subject – the most important thing in your life so far.
When will you start the treatment? What will you do? What if a, b, c happens? The doctors, all so patient, reply: “One day at a time!”. You want to scream at the top of your lungs, “But one day, each day, is an eternity! How do you want us to cope with eternity?” They know your suffering. They see through your eyes. You don’t need to scream when you are with them. Because they’ve already seen so much suffering. They’ve dedicated their whole lives to end or at least lessen the suffering. In the case of this monster, not so successfully.
Then the monster is beaten. So you think. No more one day at a time. Days become normal; the future loses its heavy meaning. The present becomes the present, not pregnant with questions, fears and expectations. You start living again.
But the monster comes back. It throws a smile at you and says “I’ve been here all the time. You think you can beat me?” It brings one day at a time with itself. With a vengeance, as relapse means uncharted territory. There are options, but not enough information. No one knows which is best. You have more questions this time and yet they have fewer answers. Sometimes not even one day at a time is enough of a reply.
Finally, you learn. Navigating in uncharted territory teaches you the meaning of “one day at a time” because most of the times, this is all you have! No future, no past. Even the present is squeezed into hours, minutes… You have to do your utmost with what you have. If it is a day, then it is a day. If less, then less.
You learn of course. But you never get used to it. A gigantic caterpillar in your stomach. The void…