There are times when you just want to let yourself fall apart, and others when you want to be strong. But how to know which is which? I for one have had tough times when there is nothing that I can do but take long hot showers, long enough until my tears are dry, and I feel warm enough to brave the cold. There are other times when I think that falling apart could be perfectly acceptable, but I somehow “pull it together” and march forward. Is one right, one wrong? One better, one worse? If we don’t let ourselves feel grief, pain, anger, and loss, can we truly move on and live authentically? But if we do fall apart, what if we can never put ourselves back together again?
I’ve been contemplating a lot lately what my life is going to look like. What my “purpose” is. If I am not who I thought I was going to be, then who am I? Am I still valuable? Worthwhile? Can I sustain happiness? The good news, from my point of view, is that nobody knows what their life is ever going to look like. Nobody knows what my life is going to look like, and nobody really knows what your life is going to look like, either. One second you could have a cup of fresh lemonade, and the next, be parched. One second you could be thirsty, and the next, opportunity to drink is at your doorstep. But what I’m slowly learning through the haze of cancer is that if we tell the universe that because something bad has happened, more bad things will happen or that we’re “cursed”, we are closing ourselves off to the positive energy that awaits. I truly believe that. Yes, I’m struggling with a life-changing experience, but I want to believe that other good things are in store for me. I do believe that. That the positive energy that I put out into the world will come back to me. I once years ago burned a picture and asked the universe to help me find the person that I was meant to share my life with, explaining and feeling with all of my heart that I was really ready for that. I had to let go of the past in order to take control of my future. About a month or so later I met my husband.
I always thought that I had a vision for my life, and it didn’t seem so out of reach. It seemed to be what most people (at least in my world) have: a significant other, children, a house, a job, friends, hobbies. When I was little I knew that I wanted to be a wife and mother, just like my Mom. I knew that I wanted to take care of others, and as I grew older, I felt the love inside of me grow as well. I just knew that I had so much love that I wanted to share with a family.
Things feel really differently now than they did when I was a little girl playing with my easy-bake-oven, sticker book, and Barbie’s. I am a wife, and I have a house, a job, friends, and hobbies. I don’t have my own children that I can give my love to, but I cherish my nephew and the other children in my life, like my best friend’s three little ones (who also call me Auntie Sam, and it melts my heart each and every time. And I plan on my now 4 year-old nephew thinking that I’m his “Cool Auntie Sam” as he gets older). And yet I wonder: Will things be out of my reach, now that I have cancer? Or will the center of my vision reveal itself in a different but still beautiful way? One that I never could have even imagined?
Nobody knows what will happen, and I take comfort in that, because I choose to see that as an opportunity for incredibly magnificent things to happen, that we could never predict. I can’t prepare or control certain things. Life will unfold, and I will hopefully not “handle it,” but I will be excited by it, curious by it, learn from it, and bounce back from the negative, if need be. If you think of yourself as a “thriver” rather than as a “victim,” things feel a lot more wonderfully positive and powerful. Can you feel that way all the time? Nope. Do I feel that way today? Not particularly. But I find comfort in knowing that I could always feel differently about it tomorrow.
But that still doesn’t erase the pain, at least not for now. The real question is: What do I want for my life? Not what do other people want for me, what do I think things have to look like with cancer, but what do I really and truly want? Am I the person that I want to be? (For the most part, yes). If I won the lottery and/or didn’t need health insurance, would I be working so hard? Maybe not. But on the other hand, could I fill up my time wisely juicing, cooking, and doing yoga? It sounds amazing– for a couple of weeks, but eventually, I think I would miss helping people. Being challenged intellectually. Brainstorming and gossiping with my-coworkers. (Is there a way to do these things from the comfort of my own home, in my pj’s, while still having the time to blog and cook and exercise? That would be the jackpot-of-a-job! Oh, and traveling too!).
I also wonder: Can I do things without wondering what other people are thinking of me? Can I be happy if my life unfolds in a way that I never expected? And then I realize: I already am. This isn’t the life that I had planned. There is pain, yes. Grief. Loss. Anger. Uncertainty. But there is also love. Understanding. Freedom. Fun. Adventures. I am a very different person than I was a year ago; though my heart and soul are still the same Sam, my outlook on life (most of the time), and my self-care have grown leaps and bounds (and still have a long way to go, but I’m not trying to get it perfectly). My heart is telling me that I need to let myself fall apart and that unlike Humpty-Dumpty, I will be able to be put back together again (probably not by myself, but with the help of others). If I can live an authentic life and truly be myself, then maybe I have a real shot at this adventurous and love-filled life that is now taking center stage. It may be a different life than the one I had envisioned as a little girl, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be wondrous.