In my previous life, pre-diagnosis, the idea of diverting from my well-crafted plans was enough to make me a crazy woman. I'd schedule my days with little wiggle room, and tried to cram in as much activity and efficiency into every moment. If things didn't go precisely according to plan, I wasn't a happy camper. I'll confess that the old me was what you'd call tightly wound. When you're trying to accomplish a boatload of things in a given day, day after day, being tightly wound simply came with the territory.
These days, I try to be more spontaneous, more go-with-the-flow, and less stressed out when my days don't go quite as I had envisioned.
Take today, for example. I was supposed to get lunch with my high school buddy, Meghan. We hadn't nailed down a time yet, but it had to be around 11:45ish because I had my first ever Reiki appointment at 1pm. Well, I woke up around 9ish, figured I'd catch a couple more winks, and woke up again way, way too close to noon.
First plan foiled. Meghan and I rescheduled, but still. The old me would've flipped out and been mad at myself for the rest of the day, but I was fine.
After my Reiki appointment (which was very cool), I realized that I was across the street from the batting cages. Even though I knew I had to hustle to make my 3:30 appointment at the gym, I looked at my friend Aymee, pointed at the batting cages, and said, "Wanna go?" We darted across the street and were hitting softballs in no time. Let me tell you, I've missed swinging the bat. Connecting with the ball and driving it felt great. We followed that up with a couple games of air hockey. A little boy watched us while we played, smiling when one of us scored a goal. After I beat Aymee after game one, I turned to him and said, "Gimme five!" He readily complied.
When I finally got back to my parents' house, I waited for Will, who was supposed to join me on the what should've been the 30-minute drive to downtown L.A. I waited for him, and waited, texted, and waited, and realized that I couldn't wait for him any longer if I had any hope of making my appointment at the gym. I left at about 3pm, got on the 5 freeway which closely resembled a parking lot, and realized that it would be at least an hour until I got to downtown. That meant no gym for me, which was majorly disappointing.
But instead of losing it completely, I let myself feel frustrated for about 5 minutes, then got over it. I chilled out in the heavy traffic and sang along to the radio.
The day turned out great, in the end. Tim and I grabbed lunch (luckily for me, he hadn't eaten lunch by 4pm and neither had I) and hung out for a bit at the office (luckily for us, there weren't many people around because we were laughing pretty loudly). When I got home, I felt totally refreshed (and not tired from lifting weights since I hadn't lifted any), and proceeded to tidy up the loft quite nicely in preparation for Christmas. Soon enough, Will joined me at the loft, and we dressed our chubby Christmas tree to the nines with our favorite ornaments.
I never like to encourage cancer by giving it credit for anything, but I think that battling this stupid disease has taught me how to unwind a bit, to enjoy each moment (even if it's in traffic), and not to let the frustration of small (or large) inconveniences rule the day. The old me isn't completely gone (even now, my days are scheduled a little too densely), but I'm evolving into a more peaceful, centered, and relaxed person. And it feels pretty great.
So thank you, cancer. I'm still going to kill you. I know it's the holiday season and all, but I'm showing you no mercy.
The next addition to my cancer-killing soundtrack is a song that I've loved for a long time, but holds special significance now more than ever. I first came across Carole King's "Beautiful" when I was in college and my roomie for three years (and maid of honor at my wedding), Katie, introduced me to the world of Carole King. I thought all her music was great, but really gravitated toward this one in particular because of these lyrics, which are repeated throughout the song:
You've got to get up every morning
With a smile on your face
And show the world
All the love in your heart
Then people gonna treat you better
You're gonna find, yes you will
That you're beautiful as you feel
I thought that those lyrics were a perfect guide on how to start each day, and I promised myself that I would get up each morning with a big smile on my face despite how sleepy, stressed or tired I might have been. I listened to it all the time with Katie while we studied away at Duke, and biked to classes at Stanford Law School with it blasting on my iPod. I'd sing it in the shower as I got ready for a long but satisfying day at O'Melveny. I never wanted the challenge (or challenges) of the day to affect my attitude and enthusiasm for my life, which was -- clearly -- pretty sweet.
"Beautiful" still guides me, especially now, as I fight cancer and endure chemo with a huge smile on my face. I greet each day with a smile and the joy that fuels that smile not just because I'm feeling great and utterly confident in my ability to beat back cancer like a pesky mosquito, but because, as Carole King says, I've simply got to show the world all the love in my heart. And there's a ton of it.
Here's the song in its entirety for all you beautiful people.
I got these nifty LiveStrong-style bracelets made recently, partially as a party favor for my 29th birthday bash (pictures from my party are now posted in the photo gallery, by the way), and partially as a little gift for my family, friends, and supporters. They are Duke Blue not just because of obvious reasons, but because royal blue is the "color" of colon cancer awareness. You know how we all know that pink = breast cancer awareness? Now you know that royal blue = awareness for my particular brand of the cancer (am I the only person who thinks "the cancer" is a hilarious phrase?).
I've still got about a hundred or so of these puppies in my possession, so please let me know if you'd like one. I would love for you to wear it proudly, and it would be especially awesome if you wore it on my surgery date (February 3rd). This WunderGlo thing is becoming a movement!! Poor cancer is terrified.
I'd write more, but I spent about 4 hours Christmas shopping (carting around my ridiculously heavy bags all around the Westfield Shopping Center in Century City), and followed that by hitting the gym to work my biceps/shoulders/back even more with a lovely workout. Before my arms refuse to work, I need to do some serious gift-wrapping. Hope you're all having a great pre-Christmas week!!
Tonight, Will and I went to the Walt Disney Concert Hall to see the Blind Boys of Alabama, a Grammy-winning Gospel group made up of -- you guessed it -- blind dudes with incredible voices. When I noticed the Blind Boys were on the Disney Concert Hall holiday schedule, I jumped at the chance to see them. I'd been a fan since college and knew that their rousing gospel stylings plus the fact that they were singing Christmas songs would equal a wonderful way to celebrate the holiday season. I figured the concert would be fun and energizing, and it was that and more.
There's really something about gospel music. I don't listen to it enough, but when I do, my entire spirit is lifted. The music fills your heart with a fullness and a happiness that starts the moment it hits your ears. Everyone in the crowd seemed moved by the music -- clapping, swaying, even standing at times.
During the last song the Blind Boys sang, the lead singer was led around the stage while all of us stood, dancing and clapping to the beat of the music. I looked around the Walt Disney Concert Hall, a place usually filled with quiet, pensive music-lovers, and saw how it had been transformed to a church of sorts. Men in suits, grannies in scarves, and hipsters in flannel shirts alike were caught up in the music and the sheer joy of it all. It didn't matter that some of them weren't clapping perfectly on-beat, or that others swayed awkwardly -- what mattered were all the smiles on their faces and the shouts of delight that they'd frequently emit.
And that's when it hit me -- this is how life should always be. We should always live life like we're listening to gospel music -- with smiles on our faces and throats filled with happy sounds, reveling in the sheer beauty of each moment. I tried not to get choked up as I scanned the crowd and soaked in the beauty of that particular moment (seriously, I am such a crybaby at concerts), but it was an incredible moment and I learned something from it.
My new challenge for you, dear readers, is to soak up this holiday season like you would a moving gospel hymn. Life life joyfully. Close your eyes if you need to, clap a little if it helps, but let the beauty of your life lift your spirits and fill your heart with joy. Even with this pesky, dying cancer taking a ride in my gut, I know I'm truly blessed. I know you are, too.