This month has been very busy, as I know most months are busy for most people. This new, modern, technological age where people are expected to do it all tires me out. I know, in particular, that it definitely affects my female friends who are trying to juggle a high paced career and the joys of motherhood, all under the heavy glare of judgment from social media. I mean, it was probably hard enough to find or make Halloween costumes for your kids before Facebook, and now I´m sure it´s even worse knowing that come October 31, your feed will be filled with small children and smiling families donned in amazingly creative and intricate outfits. It´s all so much pressure!
My reasons for feeling rather harried and extremely tired are no different than others (aside from the baby thing). My job requires a lot more personal patience when I don´t do it perfectly. I also seem to be overcommitted and a little overzealous about my extra curricular activities at school: every free minute of the day is spent doing a hundred little tasks that probably don´t matter so much in the end. My computer is so covered in To-Do List sticky notes, that I can barely see the screen to type. In addition, I have an active social life, which is nothing to complain about, but sometimes it does prevent me from fully relaxing on the weekends. We also got a new puppy (Kubi Two, to replace the Kublai that went missing about a year ago) and the new puppy´s bathroom schedule does not allow me to get a full night´s sleep as I used to. I know all of you parents out there can sympathize, what with up-all-night feedings and diaper changes. Since motherhood is not really in my plans right now, Kubi Two´s bathroom needs fully satisfy my maternal instincts.
The point of all of this complaining is to say that no matter what your personal story and your own personal problems, we all live in a high stress world. In my opinion no one really deals well with stress: me included. I recently broke down one night in sobbing heaps after I realized that I had spent almost an entire two weeks being pretty much miserable and complaining about everything I had to do. I was definitely not looking on the bright side and completely blind to all of the good things in my life.
This past Saturday Brittany Maynard (the death by dignity advocate with terminal brain cancer) died, and while I do know her story was hyped up too much by the North American media and that she has plenty of nay-sayers, I do know that the story is tragic. Brittany´s experience, as I have mentioned previously, really hit close to home, especially since her treatment yielded the exact opposite results of mine and she fell victim to the status-quo regarding Stage IV cancer patients. I felt so sorry for her and her family and so amazed at her bravery in the face of such an overwhelming situation. In her latest video she mentioned that one of the hardest things about her disease has been her weight gain- she had gained about 25 pounds in just a few months. This was due to nothing she put in her mouth, food-wise, but largely due to the man-made drugs she was taking. She mentioned looking in a mirror and not recognizing herself, which is most certainly a scenario I´ve dealt with since my treatment and surgery.
While reading the article filled with opposing judgments regarding her decision, I continued to wallow in my own misery and grief over the loss of a person I didn’t even know. Because I wanted to be even more miserable I guess, I ended that article by clicking on several related articles such as ¨My mother deserved to die with dignity¨. With a title like that, I´m sure that you can guess it was not a happy story. Strangely, I emerged from my session of surfing the web for more devastating cancer stories, feeling not depressed, but more determined than ever to change my emotional path.
There´s no shortage of adages out there that encourage you to ¨stop and smell the roses¨ or to view the cup as ¨half full, rather than half empty¨, but it´s hard sometimes. Every time I hear someone´s sad personal story I feel more and more helpless and angrier at the world around me. There are so many sad stories. Unfortunately, the older we get, the more prevalent these depressing tales become, so sometimes it´s easier to focus on the negative than the positive. I know this sounds strange, but sometimes I long to be the bald, Stage IV breast cancer Eli again, facing the 5% odds of survival with a kind of attitude I don´t even recognize in myself any more. During those months of treatment, hair loss, chemo, job loss, radiation, and personal struggle, I truly felt like my best self. It was so much easier for me to seize the day and smile through it all because I didn´t really have any other choice. And now that I´m healthy again, I feel a bit jaded because I´m definitely not that person any more: I´m still the same, imperfect, flawed person that I used to be, maybe even more so because I desperately want to make meaning out of my life and get over what happened to me.
But the truth that I realized while reading stories of women who lost all of their female body parts while undergoing treatment for 4 different types of aggressive cancer over a period of 15 years is, that with that kind of real suffering in the world, all of the small stuff bothering me right now shouldn´t even matter. I need to just let the anger and feelings of injustice go. People are flawed, people are imperfect, and people are going to make mistakes. Not everyone is going to like me, not everyone is going to be empathetic, and I need to not let that bother me. No one on the planet can really say they´ve experienced the same hard times as me, which means they can´t truly empathize. But many other people have experienced their own hard times, some much worse than mine, and they manage to go on with their lives and smile and find hope and make the most of the short time we have on earth. I also realized that although I am currently in remission: my cancer could come back any time and life could revert back to being really scary and overwhelming. If I don´t spend time focusing on the positive things that make up my days while I am healthy, then I am not doing a good job of living. Life is hard enough, without making it harder on your self by adding all that stress.
From now on, I am determined to complain less, be more positive on a daily basis, and let the imperfections of humanity slide a bit. This is not the same thing as evading or ignoring responsibilities or sadness, but I do hope that I will be a lot happier as a result. Mainly I want to be kinder and more patient with the people who are closest to me. I don´t want to be a ticking time-bomb of stress, wondering when I might blow up again. That is definitely no way to live. Last time I wrote I received a lot of good feedback and advice about life mottos and philosophies. I would really appreciate any and all thoughts regarding how to lead a good life and reduce stress and whether you think there are some philosophies out there that I should try.