After taking a bit of a breather the past two weeks, I’m back today with my first post of 2012. Just two nights ago, the calendar brought us all together to count down the last ten seconds of 2011. One night ended an entire year and began a new one. How do we recognize and celebrate the endings and beginnings which aren’t so obvious? How do we muddle through the endings and beginnings which make up our “middle,” the core of our lives?
Cancer survivorship brought definite endings and beginnings. It ended my 50 year run as a healthy person who never thought of herself as a “patient.” The immortality my children thought I had ended, leaving them aware for the first time that someday I would die and leave them.
My mastectomy ended my cancer naivete, which I approached as my only hurdle, only to wake up and realize that emotional devastation trumps physical devastation every time. The ability to look at my body in the mirror without automatically hearing the word “cancer” also ended.
In the midst of so many endings, were continuous beginnings. I learned to ask for help and was overwhelmed by the intensity of my gratitude for the many wonderful people who came to my rescue. I began friendships with those same people which I treasure to this day. My Gifts and Losses list was the beginning of WWGN. Since I launched the first WWGN blog post last February, I’ve connected with so many wonderful cancer survivors from around the world who share, support and enrich my life every day.
I’ve learned a lot about accepting endings and beginnings by having cancer, but this isn’t my first go-round. Twenty-three years ago, my husband and I decided to have a baby, thinking that the decision was the only hard part of the process. Our first miscarriage shocked us and was the end of the innocence. It took another miscarriage and years of infertility before our daughter, Emma, was born. With her birth, I felt a giant sense of “Hallelujah, we got exactly what we worked so hard for all those years. All is right with the world!”
And that was certainly true, but endings and beginnings didn’t stop with her birth. There was joy and wonder in every new word she spoke, every step taken. But there was also the end of our life as a childless couple who could concentrate on each other and come and go as we pleased. It was a big transition, always worth it of course, but still a transition.
This year, we will face a huge ending and beginning when Emma starts college in the fall. I know I can’t be sure exactly how it will go. But, as we continue to let go of her, I know it will be wondrous to watch her spread her wings and fly. I also know it will be a painful to end her years of childhood safe at home with us on a daily basis.
I don’t know about you, but I actually don’t like New Year’s Eve. It’s a made-up holiday that forces an arbitrary ending and beginning. Is there any real difference between December 31st and January 1st? There isn’t, yet we give it meaning and make resolutions and promise to start off fresh. If only for a few weeks, anyway, until we are squarely in the middle again and muddling through as best we can.
My cancer survivorship has continued to teach me about accepting endings and beginnings, whether they are tiny or cataclysmic. I think that acceptance is how we “muddle” through the middle. If we can also learn to celebrate these transitions, with or without noisemakers and funny hats, we may actually be on to something wondrous.
I wish you all the best endings and beginnings in 2012. As Oprah Winfrey said, “The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.” What endings and beginnings are you looking forward to this year? Are you ready to celebrate them?
Survival > Existence,