several months ago, i wrote about facing and accepting the loss that accompanies illness — especially terminal illness. i also promised a follow-up post about the vast world of possibilities that opens up after everything is lost.
michelle marquit, the therapist i mentioned in my prior post, posed the following question at the end of her workshop: “once you have accepted that your situation exists and that it’s a shitty situation, how are you going to make the most out of today, tomorrow, the next day, and every day that you have left?”
for me, making the most has two parts: who i want to be and what i want to do.
earlier this year, i told my journal that i intend to be infinitely brave, infinitely strong, infinitely patient, infinitely kind, infinitely caring and infinitely loving.
i’m far from perfect and i know i can’t get it right every day. i know not every day is going to be a good one. i know those fears and disappointments will return, time and again. i know i’ll struggle with weariness and impatience and envy and bitterness. but i am setting intentions for myself because, at the end, i want to look back and know that i endeavored to be the best version of me — the best daughter, sister, lover, friend — i possibly could be.
a couple months ago, my lovely friend kate gave me a book of poems (good poems, selected by garrison keillor). she marked the section called “a good life.” i’ll no doubt be sharing some selections from this chapter in the future, as many of them have struck a chord with me. but what struck the most resonant chord of all was her inscription: “to naomi — who, more than anyone else i know, is leading a good life.” humbling words from someone i love and respect…words i’ll seek to be worthy of in the years to come.
one can’t possible do everything one wishes in life. there are many constraints — time, money, physical ability, just to name a few. but i think, for many people, there’s an overarching constraint, an inhibiting factor, that keeps us from doing the things we wish or dream. fear of the unknown, perhaps, or of failure. an unwillingness to leave the comfort found within the safe boundaries of the status quo.
so, within the practical constraints of time, money and physical ability, i seek to do everything i wish and dream — and to do the things that my friends wish and dream alongside them while i can. i seek to have experiences that challenge my assumptions, make me uncomfortable, cause me to see things in a new light. i seek adventures that will fill up many photo albums with memories of time spent among friends and family. i seek opportunities to learn and grow. i seek opportunities to sit in silence and think. and, as i start a new year, i would like to take this opportunity to highlight the some of my most poignant and memorable experiences of 2011. not all were good but, on balance, i’d say this was a good year. i might even go so far as to say it was my best yet.
• i snorkeled for the first time.
• i saw a therapist for the first time.
• i progressed from walking with a cane to walking a mile at a time.
• i baked a hash cake for my birthday.
• i lost my enjoyment for food…and slowly recovered it.
• i took my first helicopter ride.
• i went to USC football games. on foot.
• i attended the wedding of a close college friend.
• i had 11 rounds of chemotherapy.
• i went to hawaii with my book club.
• i bought a first-edition classic at the western-most bookstore in the US.
• i went to support groups and workshops.
• i attended lectures on healthcare-related issues.
• i marked the one-year anniversary of my diagnosis.
• i formed relationships with others in the young-adult cancer community.
• i collaborated on projects at work that won awards.
• i went to museums. in a wheelchair.
• i fell in love.
• i swam in the ocean at night. for the first time.
• i (sort of) rode a bike again.
• i began learning how to be comfortable being me.
• i went whale watching.
• i spent more time with my family than i have since high school.
• i went to a fiddle festival.
• i read a lot of books.
• i wrote a lot of blog posts.
• i hosted a steady stream of friends and houseguests at my apartment.
• i strengthened existing friendships. and formed new ones.
when i read this roundup, i am grateful to have had the opportunity to do so much, despite spending a week out of every month in bed. or perhaps it’s because i’m forced to spend a week out of every month in bed that i do try to take the opportunities that come my way on the days i feel well enough to fully participate in my life.
i hope you’ll do the same. be all you can be. do all you can do. you never know how many tomorrows you have left.