To Cancer, Chicago, Clot and Colic

The letter ‘c’ has made a bold statement in my life as of late and declared war on many women I hold near and dear. As I say to Arwen on the regular, “no thank you”.

Let’s be clear here – this is not a pity post. Nuh uh. Nor is this a post that will go into the details of my friends trials and tribulations because hey, it’s their story to tell. But my story, as of late, seems to be scattered with ‘c’ words (get your mind out of the gutter) and I need to write about it…there must be something to be learned.

It seems as we age, our lives become ever more complex. Filled with stresses and concerns we never could have imagined as kids or teenagers – finances, marriage, job loss, disease, and death. I definitely had some serious anxiety going on as a teenager and young adult, but it pales in comparison to the sadnesses that seem to plague the everyday life of many I love (and sometimes myself).

Why are we so frail and fallible? Why do we continue to think we aren’t? I’m not saying that any of the ‘c’ words in my story are due to the errors and omissions of the people they plague, but simply that we often operate under the assumption that it won’t happen to us, that we will make it out OK, that we are indestructible. And we aren’t.

So the clot – my friend had a stroke. She’s OK, but she wasn’t earlier this week. She’s not much older than I am, just had her second kid, and is quite an incredible human being. I’m rattled. How are serious episodes and diseases starting to enter my life already? Isn’t this only for the incredibly old and aging? How am I at this stage? I’m not ready to lose friends. I guess this begs the question, are we ever?

Change, another ‘c’ word, is perhaps the most inevitable aspect of our lives. This isn’t a profound statement, but somehow we continue be surprised by it. It’s a constant and yet we work so hard to prevent it from taking hold. Yes, there are many positive changes in our lives, which we cling to. But we work hard, so very hard, to prevent or push away the change that hurts. I get it – I do it too.

The cancer, Chicago, and colic have claimed their stake in my life (and in the lives of those directly impacted) over the past few months. These challenges and changes have evoked tears, encouraged walks and talks, and elicited much baking, coffee and wine drinking. They have deepened friendships. Most importantly they have forced reflection.

Don’t get me wrong, there have also been many positive ‘c’ words as of late: ceremony, conception and cake. Many of my friends are celebrating marriage, the announcement of a baby and most recently, a good friend dropped off delicious, dairy-free cake at my doorstep.

So what’s the point of it all? On a macro scale, I’m referring to life; on a more micro level, I’m referring to this post.

The point: this is an inevitable and an unfortunate part of living. More importantly, however, is that we have a choice to how we live. We have a choice about how we respond and move through adversity. Not one of the women directly impacted by these events is wallowing. Not one has asked for pity. In fact, they abhor it. They want care and concern, and the odd loaf of banana bread, but they are strong. They refuse to let their diagnosis or destination determine their outlook.

There is much to learn from them. There is much to learn from those who experience dire hardship and come out the other side. There is much to consider about how we approach and move through adversity. 

As Jon Kabat Zinn, the father of western mindfulness, states, “our emotions are not to be denied”. So don’t take this post to encourage the denial and repression of emotion, that we must soldier on through adversity without any proclamation of sadness. Come on, you should know me well enough by now. No, expressing sadness is an absolute necessity, but sinking into it and staying there is not. This isn’t to bemoan those who experience depression; this is simply a reminder that we do have a choice and our choices do, in fact, alter the way our brain wires and fires together. We can play a role in the neurotransmitters that bathe our brain and determine our fate. The incredible women in my life, going through hardship, are living testaments to this.

This is the lesson to be learned. This is why I needed to write. To flush out the emotion (I just sat on the couch and cried) and move through it all. To not get mired in the muck. To remember that human beings are incredibly resilient and thank goodness for that.

To the clot, cancer, Chicago and colic, you will not win out over the ceremony, conception and cake. You are simply an important and undeniable part of the journey. You teach us and build us. You challenge us, but you don’t have to break us. 






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