I recently hit the one year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis, an event that in true Covid time warp fashion, feels like another lifetime ago and just yesterday. I can conjure up the exact feelings of anxiety and fear leading up to the diagnosis but I also remember an unexpected clarity right after I found out I had cancer. The world narrowed in extreme focus to that moment. As we walked back to our car, I turned to my husband and said “I’ve spent my whole life worrying about dumb shit and then I was diagnosed with cancer on a Tuesday.”
I remember chatting with my therapist shortly after diagnosis about when things would return to normal and deciding to give myself a year. Adding a global pandemic in the midst certainly shook things up and while there is no “normal” these days, I feel better in my body than I have in a long time. Health is no longer something I take for granted and never will. Emotionally, I’m still processing what the last year has brought. I feel a distinct pull between living in the here and now and planning for the future I want to create. The answer, of course, lies in the elusive balance between the two. I do finally feel the courage to go after what I want in life, prioritizing my time as the most valuable asset I have. A quote from Haley Nahman's wonderful newsletter Maybe Baby recently struck me around finding this courage:
“For a long time I assumed that being aware of the consequences of an action is what made you careful and smart—and that, by extension, delusion was endemic to risky behavior. Obviously this is a deeply boring point of view and seems especially so when I spell it out, but I really do think that’s how I’ve thought a lot of the time. When I felt trapped in my mid-twenties by my own carefulness, I remember wishing I were just a little stupider. I see now that what I was actually yearning for was courage.”
This quote from Glennon Doyle's "Untamed" also resonated for me:
“Every time you’re given a choice between disappointing someone else and disappointing yourself, your duty is to disappoint that someone else. Your job, throughout your entire life, is to disappoint as many people as it takes to avoid disappointing yourself.”
I am certainly still working to find this courage, but as my husband recently pointed out, in the time since my treatment ended, I’ve moved to a house rental, started this blog, got a puppy, and started working on grad school applications. While I feel impatient to get out there and *LIVE* again (travel, restaurants, concerts, weddings, etc), I also feel immensely grateful for the small joys and want to carry that gratitude and focus with me going forward.
A few things I’ve felt grateful for lately:
1. When the wavy curls at the top of Moa’s head stand up straight, giving her what we’ve affectionately named a “Moa-hawk”
3. Playing with my new hair (!) making it fully stand on end causing Kevin to ask me if I've been shocked (lol) and me to make a Doc Brown Back to the Future reference
4. Sitting in a river hot springs with friends, feeling the rush of warm water and being fully present (As another friend recently said “After so many months of screens, this view is so beautiful it hurts my eyes to look at”)
5. Each night before I go to bed, a specific contentment and anticipation thinking about the next morning's puppy greeting, smoothie, oatmeal, NYT morning digest, and Nate Silver's Twitter feed
I'll end by saying our floppy little mutt Moa has brought so much joy and personality to our family and I read (and cried) through Mary Oliver's Dog Songs in a single sitting. I'll leave you with this from her:
“But I want to extol not the sweetness nor the placidity of the dog, but the wilderness out of which he cannot step entirely, and from which we benefit. For wilderness is our first home too, and in our wild ride into modernity with all its concerns and problems we need also all the good attachments to that origin that we can keep or restore. Dog is one of the messengers of that rich and still magical first world. The dog would remind us of the pleasures of the body with its graceful physicality, and the acuity and rapture of the senses, and the beauty of forest and ocean and rain and our own breath. There is not a dog that romps and runs but we learn from him."