Here’s a theme I hear over and over again from women with breast cancer: “I’m afraid of what might happen next. I’m scared of what’s around the next bend in the road. What if…?”
Well yeah, what if? Let’s put the cards on the table. If you have cancer, you might die sooner than you’d expected. Simple as that. Black and white. The emotions that thought evokes are far from simple, but there it is: depending on your cancer, you have a tiny (or huge) chance that you’ll die before your time. What are you going to do about it?
The answer already lies within you. Over the course of your life, you develop a certain persona: you’re a glass half full, or a glass half empty. Your karma is good, or bad. Lucky, or unlucky. You see yourself as a certain kind of person, and that self-view impacts how you approach life. Positive personalities, those whose world-view includes sunshine and warm days far more often than clouds and rain, tend to lead happy lives. Even dark days are brighter when you wear rose-colored glasses. (It’s true! I wear them, literally.) And for those who view life through a dark prism, the sunniest day becomes gray and somber. Which camp are you in?
Truth be told, probably both. Some days, “God’s in his heaven–-all’s right with the world.” (That would be Robert Browning; I can’t help it, I’m an English major!) Other days, the self-pity sits on your shoulders like a lead blanket, and you’re barely able to raise your head, let alone your outlook. And please don’t think I’m putting the usual negative connotation on “self pity” here. Like cancer, it’s a fact of your life. There WILL be days when the chief emotion you feel is “Oh woe is me, WHY did this happen to ME?!” And that’s OK.
Here’s the trick: Don’t let those lead-blanket days crowd out the happy ones. Did you know happiness is something that can be practiced, just like any other skill? It’s not the result of outside forces over which you have no control. Uh-uh. It springs from within. Some of us have a deep well of it; others, unfortunately, a mere trickle. How, after all, to explain the happiness you can find in folks enduring the most wretched of life conditions? Or the misery of millionaires? Or of two women in the infusion suite, going through the same chemo? One sits alone, tears leaking from her eyes. The other drags her IV pole around the unit, visiting with “chemo friends” and laughing with the nurses. Yes, happiness can be practiced.
So, what are YOU going to do about the future? You have very little control over it, if any. If breast cancer is going to kill you it will. If old age is the killer, it’ll succeed, too. None of us is getting out of here alive. Don’t look back with regret. And don’t look forward with fear. Live today, as best you can. Then live tomorrow the same way, and the next day, and the next. If you accept each day as a gift, another opportunity to practice being happy, you’ll discover something wonderful: finally, you ARE happy. And you’re living your life–short, or long–to the fullest.
Published On: July 05, 2007