Do you ever just need a break from your life?

The last few weeks have been challenging, to put it mildly. I feel as though I’ve been darting around stressors and issues like a gawky teenager in a dodgeball game. After finally being hit smack in the face, I am calling uncle!

This morning as I was driving into work, I thought about how deeply I’ve been letting things get to me lately. And how much more negatively I’ve been seeing the world and even my life because of it. This is not me. I have prided myself on my growth as an adult and my ability to still seek out the positive even in the most trying times. Falling down the rabbit hole of despair is not how I choose to spend the time I have left to me on this Earth. Yet, how do you pull yourself back up when the bad hooks to you like an anchor?

Rip off the Velcro of Negativity

Every little thing, and most of them are little, that causes you grief attaches itself to your person like stepping in hot bubblegum. (I am heavy on analogies today.) That bill you are having a hard time paying? The argument you got into with a family member? Stress at work, stress of kids or spouse, your house that needs a hazmat unit to come in and clean it. All of these things build up to become one large storm of stress and negativity. Now sprinkle that sundae with a cancer topping and you have a recipe for an historic melt down.

I have been in the thick of my own for weeks and have not been able to shake it off. So instead of looking at everything piling up as one big tornado, taking my happy mood and goodwill toward man with it, I decided to break down each one and tried to see it in a different light. This is something that is a learned practice for me and one I’ve been improving upon for years. I don’t want to be the frowning faced lady with cancer. That is not how I see myself and it surely isn’t the memory of me I want to leave behind.

Turn that Frown Upside Down

So what is stressing me out, driving me mad, and making me miserable right now? Let’s take work first…this time of year is always stressful at my job. Deadlines to meet, performance reviews to write, and audits to perform well at. I have been pulling my hair out and working myself to the point of exhaustion every day. But aside from the negative aspects, how can I set this into a positive motion? For one, I love my job, I always have. I am so lucky not only to enjoy my work, but to also love the people I work with. My work family has become a cornerstone of my life and I am thankful every day for them. I am also lucky, and I know how fortunate I am, that I am still able to work with my illness. I have the support and trust of my colleagues as well as the empathy from my upper management. When I remember this, work doesn’t seem so antagonizing after all. I am placing additional stress on myself because I want to do a good job for those reasons.

How about that argument with a family member? I think family and cancer is probably the most difficult dynamic to navigate. Some are afraid to hear about it, afraid to ask, or don’t know how to approach it. This can be taken as uncaring, however that is probably stemmed from my own insecurities. Then there are those that need to be seen as the caring, unwavering, member of the support system when the truth is, they really don’t want anything more than to be included in the attention a cancer diagnosis brings. Without going into specific details, I am madder at myself in this situation than the other party involved. I had so wanted to believe that things had changed, that old hurts were memories, and that we’d learned from our mistakes. I was naïve. I allowed myself to be pushed right back into a familiar situation and this time? I carried my son right in there with me. The fact is that some people, even those who claim to love you, will never respect the boundaries you set. Sometimes when you open that door a crack, they come barreling through like a bull in a china shop. The realization I have come to is that I need to forgive myself. I can’t blame myself for taking a risk and believing in the best just because it didn’t work out the way I had hoped.

Don’t Say Cancer is a Gift

Of course, beneath all of this is the boogeyman under my bed. Cancer. Cancer is hard to put a positive spin on, because really? Between the pain, the pills, the appointments, the fatigue, and of course those damn medical bills, there is nothing positive about cancer. One day I am riding a mechanical bull in Las Vegas (bucket list check) and three days later, I have treatment and  difficulty walking. Every day you wake up and do a mental check-up, what hurts, what doesn’t, and what kind of day can I hope to have in respect to that. By the time I roll out of bed, I am already doing a mental calculation in my head to see if I’ll be able to squeeze in a nap later that day. #napqueen

I may not be able to bring forth any positives about cancer itself, but I can bring about positives that have come up in my life the last four years as a result of my MBC diagnosis. First and always, I have met some of the most amazing people, some of the best friends I could ever hope to have, through this awful disease. Friends so strong, so full of life and love, that you would almost not believe they were ill if you didn’t also share in their darkest moments. I am forever grateful for each of them.

I have also found my voice in a way I never understood was possible. Most of my life has been spent trying to make other people happy without really knowing what would make me happy. I have allowed myself to be mistreated, minimized, and manipulated. Even understanding it was happening at the time, I never knew how to stand up for myself, to speak up. That is completely foreign to me now. When you are told your life will be cut short for whatever reason, you find that you do not have time to waste. I am very conscious of my time and how I spend it, including who I spend it with. Someone who brings me down is not someone I choose to waste time on and I no longer have a problem saying it. I will always be a people pleaser at heart, however I now include myself in that conversation.

I have discovered freedom, fulfillment, travel, and the pleasure of having my time to spend how I want it. Depending on the day, it may be a Netflix binge and pizza, another margaritas and dancing. Cancer has forced me to be present, every day, and I don’t want to waste that focusing on the things that bring me down. It is easy to get overwhelmed, but you don’t have to lie there letting things continue to pile upon you. Break it down, one by one, and find the balance. There is one. Things wouldn’t feel so terrible if there wasn’t something wonderful to compare it to.

Find your balance and focus on the upswing.

*Notice I never went back to talk about my dirty house. It’s a disaster. But I’m choosing to focus on the fact that it is lived in with love and creativity. It’s not a mess if it’s for creative purposes, right?


**And Colin, if you are reading this, know you are the light of my life. You drive me insane. Like, bang my head against the wall crazy, but you are the funniest, big hearted, and loving boy. You CAN do your homework; you just don’t want to. You are so smart and make me so proud. I love you more than all of the stars in the sky. I always will.