Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Four years later
Last night, Matt made the kids’ sandwiches and cut their apples for today’s school lunches. This is a task I usually have each school morning in our tag-team routine to get the kids to school by 7:30. He graciously did this, without my asking, so that I could have some extra time to myself this morning. I think his idea was that I could sleep in a little. Alas, I was up early, coffee in hand, and enjoyed some quiet time, reading and writing. We haven’t spent much time talking about today, but I know we both saw it coming. I believe we each felt it coming, too. Today marks four years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Today remains a marker in the road map of our life--a profound demarcation of before-and-after. I wonder if there will come a year when it doesn’t feel heavy, when it doesn’t feel huge. However, accepting it for what it is and how it feels, I will honor today with a few self-reflections.
Four years means I’ve traveled a significant, precious distance from my disease. Clinically speaking, each year I spend cancer-free increases the likelihood I will remain that way. I decided some time in the first year after my diagnosis that I didn’t want to live my life paralyzed by fear and anxiety. It’s one thing to have that realization; it’s another thing to try to live it out. Fear, anxiety, and sadness remain, and like I said last year, I accept them as traveling partners. I just try not to let them drive. My resolve every day has been to be calmer and stronger.
Invoking calmness or peace of mind involves a lot of intention and introspection. That’s often a struggle in our seemingly ever-changing, increasingly complex lives, raising three humans. Our kids are all reading, writing, and really thinking now, challenging and questioning us in ways that are both daunting and exciting. There’s certainly a lot to help them process these days, especially in school where so many of their friends are immigrants. In the midst of some anxiety, we have had opportunities to teach them about kindness. compassion, and empathy. I’m grateful for a public school that’s supportive and helpful in reinforcing these values. I’m thankful for a church where our kids studied this Bible verse in Sunday School earlier this month: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are!” I John 3:1. There’s a peace in my heart, because I know I am loved. I see my most important work right now as helping my kids understand that they are loved and worthy of love. And so is everyone else.
Strength is also rooted in intentionality: a decision to grow--to move beyond a comfort zone. For me this past year that has meant entering the paid workforce. Back in September, through a fortuitous set of conversations, I landed a part-time job working for an investment advisor. Most of my work there is very simple, straight-forward administrative work, but still, I’ve been grateful for the opportunity to meet and work with some kind, thoughtful people in a very pleasant environment. While this job is only ten hours a week, and I can confine my work hours mostly to the kids’ school schedules, it has been an adjustment to have less time for myself--particularly in a year when I’ve taken on more time-consuming volunteer roles at the kids’ school. Additionally, I’ve acquired a part-time, project-based gig: my first legal writing work in eight years. I think we’ve all been stretched a little by this change in our family life. The kids have adjusted to riding the bus home most afternoons. Matt has covered a few more dinner and bath times solo for me to attend evening meetings. And I’m adjusting to a more rigid schedule for grocery shopping, meal planning, and other household logistics--and learning to let some things slide. While I lament the passing of a simpler time in our lives, I know it’s necessary to give way to something new for us. I’m grateful for what I’m remembering and learning about myself--and a measure of courage and confidence--as I reenter “professional” life.
As life moves and changes, I'm very grateful to be right where I am. I don’t appreciate every single moment, but I hope my heart and mind remain open to the everyday grace and love in my life--like a husband who does me a favor I didn’t even think to ask for.