Every year on my birthday I think, “What has this year brought? Have I done it justice? What would I change for the year ahead? What goals should I focus on, what changes should I make? What can I be grateful for?”
This year is different. Instead of looking back in sentimentality and regret, or looking forward in anticipation or apprehension, I am looking within, and without to what is right in front of me.
This year, on my 39th birthday, I found out my 8-year old daughter has cancer.
God, how many times do we say it. Could you imagine having a child with cancer? There are awful things in this world, but at least we aren’t having to cope with that.
But here we are.
I could say a million things – about how absolutely precious she is, and how unfair that something so awful could happen to such a perfect little angel. How the world is unjust and cruel, and that I’ll never be able to get through this.
But I could also say that I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude and love. For the people that have shown their support. For the brilliant minds and hearts working on her situation at this amazing hospital. At the family I have, and the community, and the perspective that is allowing me to hold my head up and face this thing.
Over the past few years, I have grown a lot. COVID, my career, and my own spiritual exploration has brought me to a place where I have a deep appreciation for the power of story. I teach it, work with it, understand it’s function in my life. AS my life, and everyone else’s. Story is what makes us human – it’s how we form our lives, create them, give them meaning and significance.
We have the choice in how we write our stories. There are so many moving parts in the universe we live in – so many things out of our control. We are “dealt hands” that seem unfair and impossible to manage, but then we manage them, and we gain new insight and wisdom and strength.
We are all only here on this planet for a blink of an eye. And in that time, there is infinite opportunities to experience the depth and breadth and beauty of this place. Of these people. Of these precious moments.
This is a difficult hand we have been dealt, but it is not the end of any story. It is only the beginning of a chapter that will lead to new insights, new depths of experience, new wisdom, and new moments of extreme gratitude and love.
This morning my daughter woke me up from her hospital bed to ask if I’d snuggle her and play a game of Uno. I looked into her golden brown eyes and saw an endless sea of love – rivers and streams and galaxies full of everything there is, and everything that’s to be. She smiled her gorgeous, goofy smile and said “Mommy, don’t be sad. I love you.” And that, in that moment, was the secret to it all. That moment where it all comes together and life makes perfect sense.
Life is just shifting moments in a plotline that never ends – one new challenge to the next, with plateaus of peace and appreciation, and then onward to the next call to adventure. We ride these waves, seethe in their terror and bask in their glory.
I cannot control this. It’s too big with too many moving parts. But I can control the story. I can see the heroine for what she is – full of strength and beauty and incredible kindness and resilience. I can see the power of love and community and giving. I can see the way human beings can adapt to the most challenging of circumstances, find strength in the most unexpected places, and find joy and hope when everything seems bleak and impossible.
I have now been presented with life’s worst-case scenario, and I am still on my feet. Still laughing. Ready to fight. And ready to turn this story into one hell of a Hero’s Journey.