don’t let the mohawk fool you. this is going to be a more reflective post. it’s just that kind of week. but i had to show off mike’s handiwork and my temporary ‘do.
i’ll spend time with you and my thoughts tonight. we started the week together and we’ll end it together. i’m listening to simon and garfunkel’s, bookends. it seems appropriate. time it was, and what a time it was.
grief is something that unfortunately both of mike’s and my family continue to experience. i know some of you are grieving right now. my only solace is that we are grieving together.
loss can be physical. it can also be metaphysical. i want to explore more of the metaphysical part, with excerpts from a writing by the psychologists kubler-ross and kessler i was given on the topic. i promise i won’t lose you on this one. you may even recognize yourself here.
“grief is also the shattering of many conscious and unconscious beliefs about what our lives are supposed to look like.” we’re taught, and our lives generally reinforce, the notion that if we are a good person, things will work out. if we behave well as a child, we’ll get rewarded. if we eat healthy, exercise, wear sunscreen, volunteer in the community, and surround ourselves with loved ones…you get the point. the rewards being things like going to college, meeting the love of your life, getting a career you’re passionate about, buying your dream home, getting the world’s cutest kitten, and so forth. “finally, when we are old and gray, we will invite the family over to look at old photo albums, tell each one how much we love them, and then, that very night, die peacefully in our sleep.”
that’s the way it is supposed to be.
but then, in a split second, whether it’s a cancer diagnosis, a car accident, or natural disaster, something changes. and it was never supposed to be this way. so when these things do happen, “we not only must grieve the loss, we also must grieve the loss of the belief that it shouldn’t have happened at all.”
my parents didn’t shield me from reality growing up, but the reality is, reality was pretty good. i mostly did as i was told. that is, except for 99% of my high school weekends. (side note: as those details continue to slip out, my parents become more horrified. the ol’ “time heals all wounds” doesn’t seem to be doing the trick this time. suggestions?). i was incredibly blessed that a combination of supportive parents and family, luck, and hard work brought me to here, or let’s say pre-diagnosis. while my family has had its share of lumps, especially in the past two years, my life was on a trajectory. i was supposed to have newlywed glow. i was supposed to go to iceland..and india and everywhere else. i was supposed to lead a meeting in vancouver. big and small, marvelous and mundane. now, my days are a schedule of pills, doctors, needles, and introspection (or bone pain, a bloody nose, no hair, canker sores, acne, dry skin, leg rashes, nail chips, and maybe a hemorrhoid thrown in for good measure).
now, my birthdays will be included in cancer statistics. now, having a child will become the most monitored event in history. now, every little pain or itch will become its own drama questioning metastisis.
you can say i’m lucky to even be able to think of a life with no sign of disease, or NSD in the cancer world. i am. i know this. but i’m still grieving the loss of what my life is supposed to be.
“in the grieving process, we also need to take time to mourn the life we were supposed to have….taking time to live with the question of ‘why me?’ for some the answer is ‘why not me? why should i be excluded from life’s losses?'”
i shouldn’t be excluded from life’s losses. none of us are excluded. post-diagnosis (i’ve come to learn there is always a demarcation of before and after diagnosis), my belief system needs to heal and regroup as much as my body and soul. i need to rebuild a belief system. this is what the gobs of material i have from every cancer support nonprofit keep referring to as the “new normal.” my new normal must have the realities of life, living with and through cancer, but still bring me hope for the future.
so, i’m setting off on that rebuilding project. it’s probably bigger and definitely more significant than any home renovation mike and i signed up for with our old house. we can’t learn it by watching HGTV. or reading it in a book. or even from talking with others who have gone through it. it’s our own, and ultimately my own project.
with this blog, i don’t want my grief to emanate out like a stone in a pond, hitting you hard with each ripple. because of this and because it’s not all bad, i’m going to start a regular installment soon about what in life is NOT cancer. things i notice in my day that are delightful, quietly stunning, or smirk-inducing. we all know there are a million things like this each day that our mind just cannot comprehend because we are moving so quickly. so maybe my life, being lived at a slower and orderly pace, can help us all notice these things.
i’ll likely never be able to repay you for your generosity to me, but this will be a start, i hope. because hope has a funny way of creeping back in.
so, here’s to a new normal. and the infinite things in life that are not cancer -xom