This country has seen a particularly horrid series of events unfold as of late, which is deeply saddening and disheartening, to say the least. I have struggled with finding the right words amidst the chaos, and have withdrawn my voice a bit from the somewhat volatile environment the internet has become. Instead, I have attempted to inject as much love and joy as possible into my own small circle of life. In lieu of directly delving into the political and cultural issues of the moment, I want this space to remain a platform for hope, happiness, and for celebrating the beauty of life. We all have a unique perspective and circumstance, and I can only speak from my own.
In two weeks I will undergo my next quarterly scan. Yes, it is already time to once again return to the tube and await my fate. You look at life a bit differently when your reality hangs in the balance, vulnerable to the very real possibility of having it all snatched away every three months. In the past I allowed myself to be debilitated by fear and uncertainty, but now choose to do things quite differently. I live with optimism, an overwhelming desire to create, feel, laugh, love, and to carve out a bit of magic in each day. Perhaps some view it as an unrealistic or fantastical way to live, but I feel more alive and happy than I ever have. The trauma-related anxiety and despair still come in tiny bursts, yes, but that is a vast improvement from the tidal waves of past depressions. No one is immune to pain, sadness, and hardships, but it is all about perspective and attitude. I am the only one in charge of how my vessel will endure the storms, and my confidence behind the wheel is growing.
It is the heart of summer and I am on the upswing of the rollercoaster of life. I find myself relishing each fleeting moment and trying hard to keep the momentum going. Days spent barefoot in the grass, playful in the water, and delighted in the gardens. Evenings spent soaking up the long, lazy sunsets which spill a rainbow of warmth across the sky. In the darkness I watch fireflies and bats whirl around, candles flicker, and fireworks explode. I am revisiting hobbies I had long forgotten. Life is simple, and beautiful. Why did I ever make it harder than this? The greatest pleasures lately cost no money at all.
My body feels strong and capable as I dance and tumble around, not always gracefully, but with joy. I try not to take for granted the high times of health I am in, as I know all too intimately what it is like to be in the throes of pain and weakness. I am deaf to the noise of any outside force trying to snuff my shine. It is the heart of summer, and I feel an awakening. I am as old as I have ever been, but my spirit feels young and alive. I wish I could bottle up these feelings, dole them out, and save them for the bad days. I am holding on tight, not knowing when the ride could take a downward turn. I am ready for whatever my upcoming scan reveals.
I realize the seemingly superfluousness or silliness of my tone, but my life lacks the permanence that I once structured myself around. I no longer have a future that includes a traditional career path, family planning, or the naive certainty of health. In 2014 I lost the entire summer to surgeries and pain, and 2015 was spent floundering as I attempted to find my footing back in the land of the living amidst depression. In 2016, my relationship with time has evolved into one of harmony rather than conflict. Today is uncharted territory, tomorrow even more so (for all of us), and I now find that a liberating sentiment. In the past I sought to control each aspect of my life, or allowed others to do it for me. I made plans around the hope of certain things falling into place, or one day looking a certain way, attaining a certain job, relationship, superficial object, or unreal notion. I often took the hard road and stumbled through figuring it all out, when the answers were there all along – I cannot control anyone but myself, the best things in life are not things, and the only guaranteed moment is now. It all seems very simple, doesn’t it? But simple does not equal easy.
Pain and strife touches all of our lives in different ways – whether from a disease, another person, an event, or even from within ourselves. I have dished out my fair share of it, and I have been on the receiving end many times. The things I am discussing are not particularly unique, and are paralleled through most everyone’s individual experiences. But pain, hate, and negativity are vicious cycles which only fuel each other, should we choose to let them. By breaking the cycle within ourselves first, and choosing positivity, we can open ourselves up to spreading that light to others. As humankind, we are all one, and must not lose sight of that. I only hope that my zeal for life, and the lessons I have learned along the way, will be infectious. If you love and accept yourself first, flaws and all, that sentiment will spill out of you and into the lives of others. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
So, life lately. I suppose I am trying to implement my own personal manifesto for the moment. Every morning I try to set the tone for my day by writing out some goals, words, and thoughts. It usually goes something like this:
Play the music, loud. Sing at the top of your lungs. Dance with wild abandon. Walk in the woods. Roll open the windows. Set your phone down. Turn off the computer. Turn off the TV. Write. Read. Paint. Create. Learn. Be fascinated. Get dirty. Be messy. Try new things. Take up space. Celebrate. Cultivate. Seize your creative curiosity. Honor your inner child. Do what makes you happy, for no one but yourself. Surround yourself with laughter. Forgive others. Forgive yourself. Embrace and feel your emotions, all of them. Be honest. Live with integrity. Reach out. Evolve. Improve. Let go. Slow down. Smell the flowers. Respect your body. Nourish your body. Challenge your body. Listen to your body. Keep it simple. Do better. Cherish those you love, and that love you. Be grateful. Love, love, love. This moment is your life.
We all have a voice, a story, and a perspective that are equally valid and deserving of respect. We also have the personal responsibility to grow and improve as individuals, which is an unending and challenging pursuit. It is easy to submit, stay, and accept stagnation. Only very recently have I felt that my voice and perspective have reached the point of becoming polished, articulate, strong, and clear. Only very recently have I felt the motivation to evolve in ways I did not know were possible. For too long I let outside influences or a disease dictate my fate, attitude and actions. I now work to improve myself from within, and nurture my relationship with that person. I know I can do better, because I have done better. I have removed negativity from my life, and from that void I have blossomed.
Cancer has become my wakeup call, tipping point, and the catalyst I needed for so much curing and healing. I am living proof that something as monumentally damaging as a diagnosis can become the spark that lights the fires of happiness, inspiration, fulfillment, and love. It feels as if our world is reaching a tipping point, and I hope that collectively we can do better. I hope that if there are aspects of your life that you find challenging, you are able to infuse some love and positivity into those dark places, despite how difficult that may seem. Shift away from the things that drag you down, dampen your spirit, or dim your light. Focus on what you can control: yourself, your voice, your attitude, and your spirit.
I am sending nothing but good vibes and love to all this summer. We need it.