Thinking About the Holidays... an Introspective Retrospective
Last updated: February 2020
I read a post on Facebook recently that said:
"For many, the holidays are a time of joy. For some, it is a time of sadness. It reminds them of loss and loneliness. Be aware of your colleagues and staff, understand this may not be an easy time of year for them and be willing to help. The holidays are a time of giving and sometimes our time, compassion, and understanding, are the best gifts of all."
Trying to stay in the moment
This statement wasn't targeted at or meant to apply to those of us living with stage IV metastatic breast cancer, an uncompromising terminal diagnosis; at the same time, it captures part of the intense ambivalence that I feel at each holiday, at each milestone. I think others may feel this too, the sense of participating, yet always waiting for the other shoe to drop; of being somehow being an outside observer as well as participating. Being present and focusing on what is actually happening right now rather than worrying about all the things that will happen in the future is a struggle.
Observations in the heart
I am reminded of Mary, Jesus' mother, of whom it is written that she marveled and stored up her observations in her heart. Parenting reminds me of this often - the act of observing, being captivated in such observations and yet not feeling capable of acting on or even speaking about these observations. I do this a lot; trying to capture the perfect memory, the perfect picture of what is going on right now. And yet, such pictures are fleeting and two dimensional, not providing the entire story.
Living in the "what ifs" of life
The entire story of how it feels to be participating and yet thinking about how this could be the last time; participating and yet wondering how holidays will look in the future, without me; participating and yet worried about how increasing illness will affect everyone else; participating and yet concerned about what my boys won't remember; participating and yet wondering if an unresolved conflict will be resolved before I am gone; participating and yet making note of the traditions that need to be documented in order for them to continued; participating and yet making sure that everything is documented just so.
It's exhausting, in mind, body, and spirit.
The dangers of living this way
Sometimes I think that we humans are not meant to live with the knowledge of our impending doom; that we are not well equipped to do so. At least I'm not well equipped to live with this knowledge. I get frantic. I put impossible expectations on others. I have a short fuse. I engage intensely and then lose focus, withdrawing into myself.
It's not all that fun to live inside my head during these times. I can keep the joyful outlook, for a time. I can smile and engage, for a time. I can hold my breath, for a time. I do my best to maintain an upbeat, positive demeanor as long as possible. It is, after all, supposed to be a joyful time of the year and I do have so very many things to be joyful about, to be thankful for.
Trying to be the light in the face of darkness
It just takes Herculean effort to keep my focus on the positive things, to now allow the dark thoughts to interfere, to not dwell on the negative.
I'll close with another saying that was shared with me during a recent seminar I attended on supporting children with struggles... "Life is short, live it. Love is rare, grab it. Anger is bad, dump it. Fear is awful, face it. Memories are sweet, cherish it." The speaker at the seminar said that the author is unknown. These short sentences can be a bit of a mantra and it helps me to have these kinds of short, snappy reminders of the things that are important.
Life, Love, Family, Nameste.
Advanced breast cancer is an isolating and lonely disease.