Peace, Love and Cancer

Sometimes when I sit down to write I’m not sure what I want to say. I am aware of the feeling: an unrest, a question, something uneasy and messy floating just beneath the surface and I can’t seem to pin it down. It’s like hunting for a shadow. I see it, I feel it, but I can’t hold it down long enough to name it. Slippery little things emotions are, aren’t they?

I know part of it is that I have been bouncing around a lot lately, constantly at the mercy of the cancer directive. First, we traveled to Northern Michigan to be home for a few days before Cleveland Clinic solidified a surgery date for the double mastectomy. After we confirmed the first date, we found out surgery was delayed 10 days because of the blood clot in my heart. Today, we learned it was delayed another 11 days. All of this is difficult because we are constantly building a house of cards of places to stay and people to manage things in Montana while we are gone. Trying to pin and re-pin this delicate strand is frustrating and time-consuming. It also doesn’t lend itself to much of a feeling or rest or respite.

And this is one way cancer gets you. Your life is yours, but not really. It is always at risk of some intervention, some upset because of the disease or some demand of the disease. It’s a new normal, and it’s frustrating to say the least.

I’m watching the same tension play out with all the cancer patients and friends I have. I see how cancer has invaded their lives on such a granular level, like sand in your shoe. Yes, you can walk on that. Yes, you’ll be aware of it with every step. No, most people will not be aware that your mind has been hijacked. No, it doesn’t ever really fully leave you, even after you take the shoe off and shake it out and do your best to scrub your mind of it.

But of course, there are moments where it is easier. Your child giggles or hugs you or is sleeping in the impossibly sweet way children do. You spend an evening laughing and reminiscing with friends. You see something awesome in nature or read something incredible. You have a few drinks and take an ambien…I don’t know, whatever works. 

But it’s hard because I’m also watching two other people fight for their lives and they have zero control over the situation. I’ve written about surrender before, but as someone who really really likes control and order, I think it’s safe to say that I’m tripping up here. Every other area of my life has taught me to prepare. Preparation and organization almost always equates to success. It’s part of that “work harder” mentality. “If I can dream up and prepare for every single scenario, I can be ready.” I’d say to myself. Nothing can catch me off guard and there is always a way through. 

And order and perfection? Shoot. Doesn’t it just feel like you could crawl into that Pottery Barn catalogue and all your problems would dissapear? I know there was a time in my life where I believed that perfectly coordinated bedding, curtains, and furniture would really heal that hole in my heart. Funny how it didn’t seem to work out that way.

But I still forged this mindset that peace of mind could be won through preparation, order and perfection. And the critical point was that there were always options. If A didn’t work, try B. Throw your weight behind Plan C or D and keep going until you break through. But sometimes with the really tough stuff in life, you run out of options. Youth and optimism had prevented me from seeing this before. I suppose it’s a lesson you learn more and more acutely as you get older. It is one somber piece of wisdom you start to understand as you see people who, despite their absolute best and unrelenting efforts, cannot break free from what troubles them. It’s that- watching people whom I care about-that troubles me and presses on me to enjoy the gifts and beauty in my life. Right. Now.

And maybe there is this at the end of it- happiness isn’t a destination. We don’t get it all together and then arrive at happy. Happiness ebbs and flows from our lives just like everything else. And maybe happy isn’t even the goal. For me, I think peace and serenity have better mileage than happy. Something will always pop up like the Boogie Man to threaten happy. True peace, true serenity, is less fragile. It exists underneath all the other stuff. It’s like a cool current you can dip your hand into when the surface is hot and threatening. It’s there just waiting for us to tap into. 

So today, as I work on handing over that control and living in the unknown, I’m aiming for peaceful. So be kind to each other, life is being rough and brutal to people around us. Kindness opens up some space for peace. And I don’t know a single person who doesn’t need a little more than they have right now anyway. Lots of love.

Give ‘Em Hell.

Ideal Peace Of Mind

My Peace of Mind. At Least I’m Trying!

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