June 27, 2013

3 years--Spirit

(Welcome to the 3-year anniversary of my breast cancer diagnosis.  In honor of 3 years, I am writing 3 posts, having to do with what is often considered the 3 parts of the "whole" person--body, mind, and spirit.)

These past 3 years have been full of the stuff of living.  So that's a loaded statement ;).  But the thing I keep telling myself through the rougher portions is that something is trying to insure that I don't live a superficial life.  Sometimes that's a bitter pill to swallow, but there's something about it that is awesome, too.  I am of the school of thought that the value and worth of life comes from sharing it, from interacting with the people and world around you rather than being an observer.  I have never been one to understand how some people create beautiful, amazing things and decide not to share them with anyone.  Or how people never dive in to trying things and making connections with others.  I don't know what kind of spirit I'd truly have left if it wasn't for that.

Now, granted, there are some times I could benefit from stopping the "doing" and take the role observing and taking in what's around me.  And I do that and try to focus on moments in my day to just take it all in.  But then I want to get back to the meat of it, the interaction with others.  People are fascinating.  People are messy.  People want to do good.  That's the best part of this whole experience--the people.  I have gotten the opportunity to give and receive love from a whole host of family and friends.  Sometimes the receiving part of that is harder than the giving, but that is something I am trying to get better at every day.

And so much of this is about trying to learn what I can from life to pass that on to Olive.  Not that she won't have to learn many of the same lessons for herself no matter what I do.  But maybe, from time to time, she'll take a break from thinking I'm lame and don't get it and couldn't possibly understand her life to realize that, because I love her so much, I could face anything and fight for what I needed to keep going.  And hopefully she'll realize that with so much love coming to her from so many, she can face anything, too.  Even boys and mean girls and all that stuff.

I have to take a detour here, and it will be an uncomfortable one.  It would be disingenuous of me to talk about the big stuff of life and lessons learned and all that and not acknowledge that Ben & I got divorced this year.  Kind of a big deal.  I won't dissect the details here because that's not appropriate.  But I do need to talk about how I digested the situation and where I'm at now.  We celebrated our 10th anniversary in July, separated in Sept, and finalized the divorce in March.  This sharing is just about acknowledging, of course, how the cancer diagnosis and the cascade of everything following it played a role in the split (from my perspective--I won't speak for Ben).

For my 2-year cancerversary, I had written about Ben asking me if it was all worth it.  My answer, though a difficult one, was definitely yes.  I guess it would have been a good idea to ask him that question, too.  I think looking at me became looking at a lot of losses personified, the big one being the loss of any certainty for both of us.  I don't know if people truly get that going through a diagnosis like this is not just the big bomb dropping once and then starting the clean-up--the tiny bombs keep dropping just when you think they're done and you've earned some peace.  The whole decision-making process for treatment was a series of choose-your-poisons, sometimes literally, and there were so many moments of realizing how complicated it made everyday life and future planning and how some of those future options were being taken away.  We had always approached our life together with an appreciation for all we earned and worked hard for--we didn't have much just handed to us.  But as much as that leads you away from feeling a sense of entitlement in life overall, I think we felt entitled to the things we did work so hard for.  Then the cancer even took that sense away, and I think we both handled it differently.  And I think that's where distance, and giving each other the space to figure it out, got to be too much space.

So yeah, that was tough.  My heart was broken, and my idea of what I thought we had built together and what we were working towards turned out to be wrong.  But I also had to stop second-guessing myself--and him--and realize that we were both doing the best we could at the time.  There could have been myriad other ways to go about this journey, but we chose what made sense to us at the time--despite the outcome, I have no regrets.  And we are moving forward and moving on.  And we are, in my humble opinion, doing a really good job parenting Olive through all this.

So yes, there is "moving on".  And that's another thing that I won't dissect the details of, not to be coy.  But again, I have gotten reinforcement that I will do okay one way or another with my future when I least expected it.  And all of that is more goodness that I am just trying to accept and enjoy while not being at all worried about an outcome.  As Sinead wrote, (with a wink and a nod to my former appearance)

but Bettye kills here, I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got:



With spirit, I also have to acknowledge the difficulty and reality of facing cancer, knowing that it has taken far too many good people from my life.  In these 3 years, I have had friends and coworkers get diagnosed and die.  I have had encounters with many who carry around the knowledge that their risks of getting cancer are way too big because of our common genetic mutation.  We talk about what that means and how the hell you make these seemingly unreasonable choices, about when enough is enough, about when it's too much...

And again, I face my future.  I am afraid and I am not afraid.  I am preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.  I know what I hope my end of life looks like but am saving for retirement.  Because who knows?  I will move forward, learn lessons, enjoy, love, and deal with whatever.



(Don't read too much into the lyrics.  It's just a beautiful song that makes me feel what all this passage of time is like...)