Lately there has been a lot of talk about Gratitude, especially on Instagram. According to the eight million lifestyle gurus out there – who all seem to live surrounded by succulents, crystals and those white, fluffy IKEA bear rugs/throws – if we begin each day with our hearts full of gratitude, good things will come our way. Can we just please stop with this faux-spiritual crap? It’s enough already. Being grateful for what you have: loving friends, a roof over your head, food on the table, good health, a job – is hugely important. Those who are not grateful are basically just assholes. But the idea that gratitude is somehow an elixir that will allow light, beauty and positive experiences into our lives is a lie. The problem is that the truth just doesn’t sound as good, it’s not as hashtagable. The truth is that you can start your day full of gratitude – for your life and for everyone and everything in it – AND tremendously shitty things will still happen to you and your loved ones.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of gratitude as a magical potion. It is vaguely comforting, like drinking a glass of wine while swaddled in a velour blanket. And, full disclosure, I own three crystals – I bought them at one of those Witchy Woman type stores, the kind that offer workshops on making your own moon juice. I bought the crystals because I thought they were pretty to look at, although I tried to tell myself that I was buying them for their healing properties. They sit next to my succulents, which are the only plants I can seem to keep alive. But as someone with cancer, I find the whole Gratitude Movement annoying and kind of insulting. The truth is that no matter how much gratitude you bathe yourself in, life is completely random, some of it is just plain horrible and much of it is out of our control. Yet, in many ways this truth is magical. Because in all of its harshness it quickly simplifies things. The shades of grey disappear and POUF! life becomes more starkly black and white – it can be freeing. You become a better editor of your life. For me, these editor conversations sound something like this:
Do I want to spend my evening with a woman who will only talk about herself for three hours? No, no I don’t.
Do I want to go to a party when I’m not feeling well just because I’m expected to go? Nope.
Do I want to make sure that my partner and I travel somewhere wonderful this summer while I am still healthy-ish? Hell yes!
That said, I think we should all use whatever tools and whatever bag of tricks we have to help us move through life with as much ease as possible. And I definitely think that gratitude is essential. Also, it’s entirely possible that I’m just envious of all those who truly believe in the Gratitude-Crystals-Succulents-IKEA Bear Rug/Throw Religion. I think I secretly want to be one of them. But I just can’t. I like the look, I like the idea of it, but I just don’t buy it. #butistillwantoneofthoseIKEAbearrugs
One of the many annoying things about having cancer is that you are expected to “make the most of every day!” & “live each day to the fullest!” Frankly that is too much pressure. And yes, I know I am lucky to be alive. Many of the people in my private FB Mesothelioma group are doing far worse than I am, or they have already died. But I reject this pressure to live the perfect cancer life. I refuse to drink green smoothies, post positive affirmations on social media and joyfully check off items on my bucket list.
Just like everyone else on this planet I have enough to worry about without this added “be the sparkling cancer inspiration girl” bullshit. I worry about my aging parents who seem to have no long-term plan in place. I grapple with how best to deal with my sibling who has a personality disorder. I have relationship problems. I am trying to figure out a new career path/going back to school, even though some days I am so exhausted and nauseous that I can’t even get off the couch. I am navigating depression & anxiety. I am experiencing that weird mid-life crisis, wondering “what does it all mean?” I am feeling unsettled, missing the U.S. where I spent most of my adult life, but knowing that I will now never be able to move back there. I am dealing with longing and sadness over the fact that many of my close friends and family live far away. I am navigating life with our recently adopted senior dog who seems to be in great pain and so now the endless Vet visits begin. The list goes on and on. And of course I am indeed one of the very lucky ones because I don’t have to worry about keeping a roof over my head, or having enough money to put food on the table, or fearing for my children’s safety. So although my worries are nothing compared to those of most people out there, they are enough.
This whole pressure – intensified a gazillion times by social media – to be endlessly grateful, joyful, spinning in positivity while you have cancer is f*cked up and I am not buying into it anymore. And for the record, I don’t have a bucket list. But what I do have is a two item list of things I get to do when I get very sick, which my partner has agreed to: 1) I get to feed the squirrels peanuts – I know it’s not a good idea but it’s my list & 2) my Pit Bull Dexter The Elderbull gets to snuggle on the bed with me. 💖
If one more freaking person tells me that juicing will prevent my terminal cancer from returning, I will strangle them. Or, at the very least, I will de-friend them on Facebook. Believe me, I know all about juicing – I lived in Los Angeles for twelve years! And it’s not like I’m sitting around all day eating Doritos and drinking Orange Crush! I eat a balanced diet, but I also include one daily treat – like a couple of cookies or a bowl of ice cream. I inherited my sweet tooth from my paternal Grandmother who used to hide chocolate bars all over her house! If anything, I am more aware than others about the importance of diet because I have an ileostomy. With ileostomies, and mine is a “high-output” one, food (or juice!) goes right through you. So I am very aware of getting enough calories and nutrients to keep my immune system strong. I have managed to get myself back up to 115 pounds – from a low of 90 pounds! – so I clearly know what I’m doing. I understand that people just want to help and that often they don’t know what to say and I truly appreciate everyone’s concern. But please, enough with the Juicing.