Ever hear the saying “Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt”? When we are a tourist we go somewhere as an observer. We participate on the fringe. We look, often are told not to touch and at then end of the day we smile because we enjoyed ourselves. There is not attachment to the outcome because the only expectation is to have fun. Why do some people facing a life-altering diagnosis live their lives like tourists?
The easy answer is fear. If someone receives a life-altering illness and takes no action, without really giving it careful consideration it’s like being a witness to a horrible accident, only in this case they’re the victim. On the other hand, there are people who receive the diagnosis, go to the doctor, engage in treatment but are removed from the process. For them it’s like having an out of body experience (not sure how that happens when it’s their own body).
Those of us who walk this journey as pilgrims know that we have to get down in the trenches and sure enough we’re going to get dirty. There are times, like on the 500 mile pilgrimage in Spain, that you’re thinking the journey will never end and the suffering, pain and exhaustion are endless. In many cases, the challenge has defined margins but it’s hard to see the end when wind is blowing in your face (like all the media discussing longevity, research trials and the endless pharmaceutical commercials on television). What we need to remember is that having faith in our journey is the primary means of being a participant in your care.
The pilgrimage is long because you have to show commitment to your healing. The pilgrimage is long so you can have time to weed out of your life those things that don’t matter or get in the way of living a better, less burdened life. The pilgrimage is long because you need time to take back the control you lost when you received your diagnosis. It’s a time to regroup and re-attack.
We can’t afford to be tourists in life when facing a diagnosis. Remember, those who are well behaved rarely make history.