I’m OK in This Moment
The Mantra that Sees Me Through Life’s Difficulties
by John Francis Leonard

I found a trick. No, I didn’t meet a hot guy on Scruff; I found a life lesson that I can apply when life becomes—through matters large and small—a little overwhelming. It’s a mantra, a small saying that when repeated, calms me down and centers me.

First, a small example of when it came in handy. I have a slight tremor due to the neuropathy caused by HIV and compounded by the medications I take. It usually doesn’t bother me too much; sometimes other people notice it, but I rarely do. It becomes much more pronounced when I’m upset or angry, providing an inconvenient tell. When I’m dealing with an unpleasant customer at work it flares up and it drives me crazy that they might be able to tell that they’re getting to me.

A few weeks ago, I had an angry man who started shouting because I asked him to step behind the Plexiglas partition that separates my register from contact with a customer, an arrangement that benefits us both. I found myself angry and upset and no supervisor seemed to be coming to my aid. The trembling was very pronounced as I tried to finish ringing his items and, to calm myself, I remembered my mantra, “I’m OK in this moment.” It calmed me and, still no supervisor at hand, I politely informed him that, if he was going to continue to shout and carry on, I wouldn’t finish the transaction. He didn’t like it, but it calmed him down. I became calm and diffused the situation.

I’ve used this mantra since, to great effect. I’ve begun to think of the more serious situations I could have used it in in my life. It would have been wonderful when I had been first diagnosed and I encourage anyone facing that situation to apply this, or another mantra that works for them. It’s important to remember when you’re diagnosed, that life is not over. There will be some profound changes to it, but you will go on. You will cope. What choice is there? How well you cope is up to you.

Photo by iStock

Life is a journey, and part of that journey is loss. Sooner, or later, we will experience the loss of someone we love, particularly a parent. My mother recently has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. On top of that, she has lung cancer. Clouding the issue is the fact that she’s very secretive about how serious things are. She doesn’t want to upset me and is very unwilling to provide details of the doctors’ prognoses. She’s also having brain scans and I’m left to piece together a complete picture. I can’t control any of this and I’ve begun to repeat to myself, “I’m OK in this moment.” In addition to prayer, it’s been a balm for my troubled mind. It helps me to manage the fact that at only seventy-one, I will lose my mother sooner rather than later.

I find myself repeating this mantra a lot lately. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’ll be single for the foreseeable future. When the right guy comes along, I want to be ready. But, in the interim, I’m OK. How can I be lonely with the incredible support of my network of friends? There’s always someone a text or a phone call away when I need counsel or support. So “I’m OK in this moment” takes on a broader meaning, if I choose to see it. I have a lot to be thankful for in any moment of reflection.

I practiced Buddhism for a year or two when I was much younger and mantras were an important part of that spiritual practice. They never caught on with me the way this particular one has. Those mantras weren’t in English and I was never quite convinced in the power of the words themselves, at least not for me. Now my faith is richer and deeper; I see it as a tangible thing in the manifestation in which I choose to express it. I may consider myself a Christian, but I’m a Christian who understands that there are many paths to God. This mantra takes a bit from another great faith and lets me apply it into my own life and it’s made a difference. Positive thinking can make a difference for anyone, in any area where they need to center themselves and find strength. It’s so important to keep a positive attitude when you’re poz, whether you’re newly diagnosed, a few years in, or a long term survivor. It’s just another piece of living the longest and healthiest life possible.

John Francis Leonard is an advocate and writer, as well as a voracious reader of literature, which helps to feed his love of the English language. He has been living with HIV for fifteen years. His fiction has been published in the ImageOutWrite literary journal and he is a literary critic for Lambda Literary. Follow him on Twitter @JohnFrancisleo2.