Unfortunately, I learned recently a friend was diagnosed with cancer.
Instantly, I sent love and prayers. And I reached out. Call me anytime I implored. No, really, I said, anytime. Even if you don't think you should, call.
And he did.
And we talked.
I don't know if I helped. Or if I talked too much. Or if I said the right things. Because sometimes when your head is buzzing and you just feel so helpless to help people you care about, sometimes words come out wrong. Or we don't manage to get all the words out. But I did the best I could. And I tried to say the things I would want to hear in those first few days of diagnosis.
And at one point he asked me, "How did you do this? How did you get through it?"
And I had to bite my lip and hold back the tears.
Because, I don't think I got through it very well. And I don't think I'm getting through it today much better.
I did get through it, sometimes minutes at a time. I got through it because I'm here today. And even the darkest of the darkest days ended.
But, there's still a part of me back there. There's a still a part of me, like a tantruming three year old, stomping my feet, shouting, kicking and screaming, I DON'T WANT TO DO THIS! IT'S NOT FAIR!
Sometimes things are fine. There is smooth sailing. I have a smile on my face. I feel good. Things are good. Cancer sometimes feels like it happened in another life, to another person, or in a dream, or just a weird out-of-body experience.
Other days, not so much. It feels like it was all yesterday. The lingering side effects make me feel broken. I am angry. I feel jaded. There is a chip on my shoulder the size of the sun.
It's not the pretty truth, but it's the truth.
I take those moments as they come. I do my best to roll with them. I dive head-first into projects to distract myself. I focus on the kids. I clean the house a bit more than normal. I avoid blogging (ahem, like I have pretty much this entire July). And when I ready, I sit with those feelings and I try to just let myself feel them as I need to.
But how can I explain all of this to him? I can barely explain it all to myself. I can barely find the words to type here to explain it.
I know, inevitably, someone will read this, think I'm huddling in the corning crying and never getting up and that person (with the best of intentions) will start to worry. It's okay, you don't have to worry. Because that's not what's going on.
Yes, I'm sad.
Yes, I'm angry.
Yes, I'm tired.
Yes, I'm jaded.
Yes, I wish things could be different.
That is all true.
But I also get up each day and do the best that I can on that day.
It's what people do. We get up, we put one foot in front of the other.
Sometimes, I have to take a break and go cry.
Sometimes, I vent about it all to those who will listen.
Sometimes, I go into a dark room and sit there for a few moments.
Sometimes, I think I don't have the energy to do what needs to be done, so I cull to-do lists, I take naps, I lean on friends and family.
And time ticks away. Another day passes. Another day begins. In between it all there is hope; hope for better days; hope that I learn to understand what happened better; hope that I can accept it more than I do today; hope that there will be many, many, many days left to continue this path I'm on; hope that the learning curve becomes less steep with passing time.
But that feels too big, too small, too cliche, too dark and yet too sugary-sweet all at the same time.
So I tell him, hey, some days will be hard. It's okay. Cry if you have. Be angry if you have to. Let it out. Then just take it a moment at a time.
It doesn't seem like enough to say. It doesn't seem to adequately fill the space of what is being asked. And yet, there it is. Some days suck. But not all of them. Some days are hard. But not all of them. Some days are great. But not all of them.
Each day ends. Which is great, because it means we get a new one tomorrow. Tomorrow might be hard too. And the next tomorrow might be hard too. And the next tomorrow. But life has taught me they can't all be hard. The glimmer of hope in my eye tells me that fewer days will be hard than not hard. And I cling to that.
I cling to it even today. Even 4 years later. Even through the anger and the pain and the weight of it all.
I cling to it on the days where I feel like I blindly muddling through the day. And on the days when it is smooth sailing. And the days that are somewhere in between the two.
I cling to it even in those moments where it feels like I'm drowning in everything going on, in the middle of the storm, and I can't see that rope I'm clinging to, but I know it's there. And I hold on with all my might.
This is how I did it. This is how I do it. I'm not saying it's the right way to do it. I'm not saying it's the wrong way to do it. But it's how I do it. It works for me. I don't know if his path will look the same as mine. I assume not, but it might look similar.
So I told him that some days will be hard - not in effort to scare or frighten, but behind those words is this thought: some days will be hard and that's okay. You can admit it. You can even embrace it if you need to. You don't need my permission to acknowledge the rocky parts that come along, but I give you permission anyway, because sometimes it's hard to feel the bad parts. Sometimes we think we should smile all the time. Sometimes we think we must be brave all the time. Sometimes we will feel like if we admit it's hard, it's like giving up. But we don't need to smile. We don't need to be brave. We don't need to pretend it's all easy and that we aren't scared or worried or angry. Some days will be hard. And it's okay.
I don't know if that will help him. I do know I wish someone had said that to me 4 years ago. So I said it to him. And if asked by someone else, I say it to them too.
And in the meantime, I will continue to cling to my hope, to take life a moment at a time, and to do the best that I can each day.