living life in the deep end

we all go through at least part of our lives on cruise control — not giving much thought to the purposeful pursuit of our goals and dreams, not keeping the order of our priorities in the forefront of our consciousness, not being mindful of our own happiness.

the status quo, as difficult as it may be for some, is most often easier than the vast unknown that lies beyond.

a few brave souls decide to tap the brakes, grasp the wheel firmly in both hands, and take the course in their own direction and at their own speed.

for others of us, some external force slams on the brakes and spins the car around — and, like a blindfolded kid with a piñata, we strike out sightless.  all of our prior conceptions of the way the world works and our role in it are called into question.  we are forced to re-examine ourselves, our values, our goals, our purpose, what we want others to remember when we’re gone.

i feel so lucky to have been given this opportunity.  of course, it’s not what i would have dreamed or hoped for myself.  it’s shaken me to the core.  it’s made me begin the process of scrutinizing every fiber of my being under a microscope.  and it’s given me the freedom to keep what’s working, say goodbye to what’s not, and open myself up to a whole new world of possibilities.

the exact date and time of our own mortality is unknown to each of us.  but the awareness of my own — at what is supposed to be the prime of my life — has slapped me in the face and said, “wake up.  turn off the cruise control.  take off the blinders.  be present in your life.  be present in each moment.  live with purpose.  do not let the opportunity for happiness pass you by.”

i have said that i don’t want to let the cancer define me.  but perhaps, instead, i’m allowing it to redefine me.  or, better yet, it’s allowing me to redefine myself — and to be purposeful about each choice, each day, each moment, moving forward.

and so i choose, starting today, no more kiddie pool.  i’m jumping into the deep end — head first. heart first. feet first. everything first.

the first of many goodbyes

i called my social worker, crying.  i need help, i said.  i am overwhelmed with everything from my broken laptop to my inability to consume sufficient calories each day.  i don’t know where to start.

things seem to be falling apart around me in slow motion.  i close my eyes and imagine that if my life were captured with a time-lapse camera and then played back at 12 times speed, the whole thing would look like a building crumbling in an earthquake, or a house of cards tumbling down, or, maybe, a better version: a thunderstorm that gathers ominously, rumbles powerfully and then leaves a clear calm in its wake.

perhaps it’s because the big things are so bad that the little things have come to seem unbearable.  or because some of the things that used to seem little — inconsequential even — have become giants.

i used to take it for granted that my body would alert me when i was hungry.  i would eat, and it would then alert me when i was full.  now, it’s all topsy turvy.  my body feels hungry, starving, much of the time.  but my brain doesn’t.  food has morphed from an enjoyable necessity into an almost unpalatable one; from a friend into an enemy; from a pleasant fact of life into a task that must. not. be. left. unperformed.

the same goes for other realities that previously seemed typical, expected, and thus manageable: recalled seat belts, defunct laptops, broken iphones five days out of warranty, relationships with family and friends.

it’s all just too much, i told her.  i used to have the energy and wherewithal to live life, and it didn’t seem like a big deal, but it now seems insurmountably difficult.

her advice was as unexpected as it was powerful:  “naomi, you have to say goodbye to the old you.  i know it’s hard because you’ve known her for so long and you’re so close to her.  but the sooner you’re able to say goodbye to her, the sooner you and everyone else around you can come to love and accept the new you…the you who needs help, the you with limitations, the you who is not as independent and self-sufficient as the old you.”

saying goodbye is hard.  and sad.  but i feel like, in some ways, this first goodbye will prepare me for the many difficult goodbyes yet to come.  and so, as i begin to grieve for this dear friend whom i have known all my life, i hope you will help me mourn her and accept, in her place, a girl who is, perhaps, not as capable, not as independent, not as energetic, not as well — but who is still quite strong, determined to be happy, dedicated to making a difference, and open to loving and being loved as ever before.

and while we’re on goodbyes, i’d like to give a shout-out to you lovely jewel-toned and patent leather and nude and strappy and chunky and stiletto and all other varieties of devilishly sexy high-heeled shoes i’ll browse through longingly on piperlime and endless and zappos but never be able to wear again.  know that you are loved and missed.