An Unwelcome Blast From the Past
A few years ago I wrote a post that I am going to share again today. Reading it again, I realized that while it is kind of depressing, it is hopeful. It is about two colleagues being diagnosed with aggressive forms of cancer and how that can change your perspective in a heartbeat.
A few weeks ago, a friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. Suddenly, the focus was no longer on working multiple jobs to pay the bills, on going out for some wine, on going through the day-to-day. The focus turns to the fight ahead and surviving the unwelcome interruption.
I am happy to report that both of the people I wrote about in 2012 have finished treatment and are back to their day-to-day lives. I know in my heart my friend is strong enough to win this new battle as well. Still, it knocks the wind out of your sails.
You got this. Now go kick cancer’s ass!
The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow, or Will It?
Have you ever noticed that life has a way of pulling the rug out from under you when you least expect it?
There you are going through the day-to-day, working all day and arriving home with barely enough energy to cobble together an evening meal and flop down in front of the TV. You wish you had more time for fun things – learning to cook, taking tango lessons, playing with the camera you got last year, painting a mural on your living room wall, learning to speak gaelic, playing the tuba, writing a book – but your brain is too mushy after all the responsibilities are met. So, you tell yourself “some day.” When suddenly, WHAM! You get cancer; there’s a freak accident; you are abducted by aliens; your town is taken over by genetically engineered squirrels who can suddenly wield weapons despite not having opposable thumbs. (Hey, it could happen!) In short, life throws you a giant curve ball and suddenly your “some day” dreams are moved from the back burner to the curb because survival becomes your sole focus.
This has been an eye-opening year for me. The universe, it seems, has gone out of its way to make sure I realize there are no guarantees in life.
Two people whom I know through work were diagnosed with aggressive forms of cancer. They are at different stages of their lives – one mere months away from a retirement spent spoiling her new grandkids, and the other in the middle of a successful career with kids still in school. Overnight, though, their mind-sets became virtually identical, shifting from thriving and dreaming of “some day” to trying to survive. Their busy lives suddenly had to take on a pinpoint focus to learn everything there is to know about treatment options, holistic advances, and survival statistics. Their dreams of “some day”- when one retires, or the other’s kids are out of the nest – have become looming question marks on the horizon. And it sucks.
I think we get complacent as we go through our daily lives. It is so easy to get caught up in everything we have to get done, and we forget to stop and look around once in a while. We forget to slow down and just breathe deep and feel grateful that we are alive. We put off the things we truly want to try or learn or do with the thought that “some day” when life is not so crazy, we will have time to do them.
I am not saying these things to depress anyone.
No, I say it to remind you to slow down and don’t take time for granted. Don’t waste it in anger or jealousy. Don’t fill it with small, petty thoughts when you can fill it with gratitude and big ideas.
Don’t spend your time wishing for something, go out and do it. Even if you can’t leave your life and join the circus, or quit your job and write a rock space opera, or ignore your kids so you can focus on becoming the first 60-year-old to travel to Mars, you can take a small step every day toward a dream you have left languishing on the top shelf of your closet for far too long.
Love as many people as you can as much as you can for as long as you can. Forgive people. Don’t blame others for everything that has gone wrong for you along the way. Go out on a limb and open up to others. You will live a richer life because of it. And don’t whine – there are others who would love to have your problems if only to gain more time.
The saddest words we can say when we reach the end of this life are “I could have” or “I wish I’d.” Don’t let your life become one long regret. I know there are days that it seems your life is not your own. You have obligations and responsibilities; the cat has the flu; earning a living takes all your energy; the Yankees made the playoffs; a new season of your favorite show just started. Your time is spoken for. But you are the one who ultimately determines how you spend it. If you are not feeling fulfilled or passionate about your day-to-day tasks, rethink what you are choosing to do. Live life in a way that you spend every minute well so you will never have those regrets. Follow your dreams and your passions and don’t ever be embarrassed by them.
Find something that is yours alone and do it just because it brings you joy. Pick something that really kicks up your skirt! Because if you wait for some day to actually follow those “some day” dreams, you may never get a chance to try.
And if your time is cut short – through illness, an accident, alien abduction or nuclear bomb – be secure in the knowledge that you lived well and went out doing what you were passionate about.