Saturday, May 19, 2012

What doesn't kill you

I've been thinking a lot about illness and loss, suffering and grief lately. About the patent unfairness of it all.  About how it seems like some people are just handed more, without rhyme or reason.

Almost as if there is some cosmic game of roulette that we are all playing, spinning around in the obliviousness and naivete of life until the spinning stops and the pointer is staring us down. Until reality comes crashing down on us.

After I wrote the post yesterday about the lessons I've taken away from my experiences with cancer (and really, any major illness for that matter), I got to thinking more about it.

About the lessons that aren't really positive or negative. The ones that just are.

My brother has a saying that he repeats and repeats and repeats. It used to drive me a little insane, but I can see the glaring truth in it now. I forget sometimes that as hard as my father's illness was for me, I was a thousand miles away through most of it. He was there for all the days, not just the ones that urged my presence. His phrase?

It is what it is.

And it is.

There are so many things in this life that we have a limited ability to change, many that we can't do anything about at all. Sure, we can certainly decide how we react to the things that happen, but we are more often than not powerless about the course of events.

Cancer teaches you things like that.

It doesn't matter what you want, or how badly you want it sometimes. It just is what it is.

I was talking with a friend now walking this road yesterday. I try the best I can to help her, even if the most helpful thing I can say sometimes is that I understand.

One of the things that I understand, and that she does now too, is that there is a fundamental difference between being a pessimist and a realist.

The pessimist assumes things will go badly, the realist knows that no matter what you wish for, things may very well go badly regardless. The realist knows that you have to anticipate and make plans for that truth as much as you can.  You have to be prepared.

People who've never had to deal with it don't understand, and I would never expect them to. They are still spinning in the land of obliviousness and naivete. They can be so quickly dismissive of the reality lived by those actually in it.

Sometimes the most helpful thing in the world is just knowing that someone else knows what it is like.

Some days you are just surviving. Getting from one day on the calendar to the next. Some days you just have to do what you have to do to get by. You can deal with tomorrow when it gets here, but it has to get here first.

For today, for right now, you have to live in this moment, whatever it is.

There's a huge amount of truth in the quote that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

We, as humans, are the sum of our experiences. Often the only thing we have any real control over is how those experiences shape us, how we react to them, and what we learn. What we can take away from it, fold into the fabric of who we are.

Tuck that strength into a pocket for when you're really going to need it.

Then take a deep breath and survive today.


  1. Josh always quotes Bruce Lee: "There is what there is when there is no comparing. And to live with what is, is to be peaceful." Playing the "what if" game is pointless, and sometimes things are just out of our control. Thinking of you and know I'll say an extra prayer for all of the loved ones in your life who need it.

  2. I think your brother and I would probably get along (okay, maybe not -- maybe I'd kill him). For me, there are no "why's" or "why me" or "why them." It just is. Of course, I usually end up saying, "It just is and it sucks."

    1. You know, Tammy....I just love you. That's all there is to it. And yes, half the time he drives me nuts too. Xoxo


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