“Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.” — Gilda Radner
Have you ever been completely satisfied with life? Everything is humming along perfectly, including your job, your health, your relationships, your kids and your community.
Like they say, “It’s always something, right?” Annoyances spring up all the time to test our patience. The furnace breaks down on the coldest day of the year, endless traffic gets between you and an appointment, the cable is out again.
That’s all small stuff compared to life’s unexpected curveballs. For me, there’s been infertility, miscarriages and breast cancer, to name a few. I bet you’ve been thrown a few curveballs too.
Here’s the thing: When we face a curveball, change happens whether we like it or not. We may not realize it in the thick of it, but our “normal” life ceases to exist and is replaced by something unrecognizable and euphemistically referred to as the “new normal.” That’s why they call it life-changing.
So here you are, facing a life-changing event, but that doesn’t mean you can accept it. In fact, most people stare into the “new normal” with complete disbelief:
“When will I get pregnant and have a baby like everyone else?”
“How could he leave me?”
“Why does my body look like it got run over by a truck?”
“Will I ever feel safe, normal, happy, healthy, trusting, (fill in the blank) again?”
As painful as it is, you’re not wallowing when you ask questions and speak your fears. Introspection brings answers that let us eventually accept that change is necessary. Seventeen years ago, it took just one pivotal question to open my eyes during the most stressful time of my life.
I was at the crossroads of an intense job I didn’t like, mothering the toddler who took five years to have, and fearing infertility and miscarriages would strike again if we tried to have another baby. I was burnt out, crying on my way in and out of my law office, and paralyzed with fear. At one point, I theorized I couldn’t have a second child and keep my job, so I had to sacrifice the child.
One day, I hit bottom and made an appointment with a therapist. I don’t remember anything she said, except for this: “Why do you feel you have to endure?”
That question changed my life. Why was I choosing to stay stuck in a situation that was killing my spirit and the family we wanted? Why did I feel there was strength in enduring the known, when it was fear of the unknown that was really driving my decisions?
That question and the answers it evoked led me on a journey of reinvention. Shortly after I talked with my therapist, I got pregnant with our son. The pregnancy went off without a hitch, and I quit my job after he was born.
Reinventing myself was necessary again after my breast cancer diagnosis. Treatment, body image issues, anger, loneliness and fear break a person open. I struggled for a year, all the time religiously meeting with my oncology therapist to sift through the muck cancer stirred up. Finally, I was able to embrace my “new normal” and reinvent myself as a writer and advocate for cancer survivors.
What’s the difference between enduring and holding on through a difficult time? You are enduring if:
- Living your life is sapping every bit of your happiness.
- You get up every morning dreading the day ahead.
- Your personality is changing for the worse to the point that you don’t recognize yourself.
- Your friends don’t want to be around you.
- You are making crazy deals with yourself. (Like: “I guess I have to give up having a baby so I can keep a job I hate.”)
How do you know it’s time to stop enduring and face the unknown? Simple. When the fear of “having to change” becomes less awful than the hell you are living, you are ready.
At that very second, you finally understand that enduring the beast you know isn’t where we find the juice in life. It’s only when you stop resisting change and make the best of the moment, “without knowing what’s going to happen next,” that the universe supports you to create inspired healing, wellness, and live-out-loud joy.
Survival > Existence,
Coping with Cancer Anger