I spend too much time existing. Too much time blaming myself for things beyond my control. Too much time feeling guilty. Too much time being sad.
I spend too much time bemoaning what I’ve lost…my breasts, my sense of immortality.
I spend too much time being discontent. Unhappy.
I lost a childhood idol today. I played Princess Leia all the time as a kid. I had everything Star Wars a kid in the 80s could have (except an AT-AT…my mom drew the line there). I had all the ships, all the characters, including the ones you had to send in cereal box tops to get. I had all the different C3POs, Lukes, and Leias (and everyone else). Princess Leia was different. She was badass, even as a little girl in the 80s, I recognized badass, different from the rest of the female characters. She stood up for herself, her people, her friends, her family. She laughed in the face of doom, asked for help when she needed it, defended because it was the right thing to do.
I wanted to be Princess Leia.
I lost a childhood idol to a heart attack (or, as some places have said, a cardiac episode). I lost a childhood idol out of the blue, as 2016 has been likely to do…surprise!
Death comes for us all. It’ll come for me, whether it be from breast cancer or something totally unexpected, it’ll come. And, I won’t like it.
I’ll like it less if I’m just existing.
I’ve done some things that make me happy over the last week, thing that make me live instead of exist. I’ve cooked more. I like to cook and bake. My goal for last week was, before Christmas Eve, to try, again, to make my grandmother’s apricot pies (I did…they turned out…my dad claims they still need work 😂), and at the request of my mom, to make her the cake her mother used to make for her.
My mom has many talents, but cooking isn’t one of them. She could make some mean sandwiches for us, but cooking with actual pots, pans, ingredients, and utensils, not so much. My dad was the family cook. As for me, I’m self-taught. I can follow recipes well. Most of what I make turns out well, so I figured I could follow the recipe for my grandmother’s orange slice cake…if I could find it. My mom had it…in a cookbook, which she revealed to me during a text conversation.
So, instead of making it on my own, I roped S into making it. She’s been asking me to teach her to bake, and this seemed like a good recipe to let her try. She’s helped me make cookies for years, so, she made it, under my guidance, and it turned out well, too. Spending time baking with S (and AJ when he slows down enough) makes me happy.
My cancer counselor asked me to close my eyes and answer this question with the first thing that came to mind: “Besides spending time with your family, friends, and job, what’s something you enjoy spending time doing?” My answer: Baking.
Lame, but true.
She told me when I bake or cook to tell myself it’s ok to be happy, it’s okay to enjoy…because I need to remind myself it’s okay to be happy, to enjoy life
Lame, but true.
All of last week, I baked with S. I cooked for my family, and I enjoyed it. I was content.
We host A’s family every Christmas Eve for the Feast of the Seven Fishes. We eat, we talk, we laugh, we open gifts, we spend time enjoying each other’s company. On Christmas Day, we spend the day with my family. We eat, we talk, we laugh, we open gifts, my nephew, my oldest cousin, and I usually get into trouble during dinner for laughing at something my aunt said. Usually, I feel pressured to either be a good hostess (which I’m not) or to act like I’m fine. I didn’t feel any of that this year. I just enjoyed being with my family, all my family.
Last year, I sat on the floor of our bathroom and sobbed, scared and convinced last year was my last Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s.
This year, I had those same thoughts, but not as acutely. This year, I laughed more, I took pleasure in watching other people open the gifts we’d gotten for them. Last year, A did all our Christmas shopping. I was too tired and too run down from chemo to do it. I’d tried, but the one time I went out, I came home with an arm covered in bruises from carrying bags. After that, A made me stay home. This year, I chose our gifts carefully, more carefully than I usually do, which sounds terrible, but I really wanted to get people things I knew they would really like instead of getting something convenient that they’d probably like.
I want to live a long life, to grow old with A, to see S and AJ grow up and make their marks on this world. I want to live, but as 2016 has taught us, over and over, in shocking detail, death comes for us all, when we expect it, when we don’t expect it. I could relapse, I could be NED for twenty years. I hope it’s the latter. No matter what, though, death will come. I can bemoan it, be bitter about it, be unhappy and discontent. I can exist. Or, I can do as my childhood idol did, look destruction in the eye and laugh. To live.
Living with cancer isn’t badass, but living life on my terms IS badass. Living for my children, for my husband, for my family IS badass. Resisting is badass.
Existing is giving in, giving up, and as scared as I am, I don’t give up easily. So, as 2016 ends (without anymore surprises, please…someone wrap Betty White in bubble wrap from neck to toes and put a helmet on her head), I’m making an early New Year’s Resolution…nothing drastic, nothing dramatic, just a commitment to keep my gratitude journal going. One thing I’m grateful for everyday. One thing to remind me I’m alive, I’m not just existing.
One thing to reinforce that it’s okay to be happy, even in the darkest of times. Thank you JK Rowling.
And, thank you, George Lucas and Carrie Fisher. Thank you for Princess Leia, for showing a little girl a badass heroine, a strong, female character, a heroine I now share with my daughter. S wears a shirt, often, with an imprint of Princess Leia and the quote “Girls run the galaxy.” I want to be alive to see what S, and AJ, do in this galaxy. Alive, not existing…if I’m so lucky. And, if I’m not that lucky, I want to leave them memories of me choosing happiness over bitterness. I haven’t been an example of that over the last several months. They deserve better from me. I want to be like Princess Leia and laugh in the face of doom, ask for help when needed, defend because it’s the right thing to do. So, that’s my commitment: be better. Be me, but be a better me. Be grateful. Find joy.