We stayed in this very charming cottage that was built in the 1800's that had been lovingly refurbished to rent out to the tourists who find their way to this historical town. It was set up beautifully with treats, wine and little creature comforts to make our stay comfortable and all of the furniture throughout the house were antiques. I loved it!
There is something special about being surrounded by things that have been used by people so long ago. I found myself wondering about what life must have been like back in those days and comparing how we live now to how they lived then. Are we better off? It's kind of hard to say. In some ways their way of life was so much simpler than it is now. Definitely less chaotic. We are a generation that seems to be very busy going absolutely nowhere. I wonder why we don't stop more often and truly appreciate what is right in front of us. I wish I had done more of that. But, you can bet I will be doing more of that now that I know how valuable it is to do so. And we of course took some time to stop and smell the wine and chocolate!
Only in Texas would you find a winery called Fat Ass... just sayin'... lol...
There was one moment during our stay that I can't get out of my head. It was Saturday morning. We wandered down to the local coffee shop to eat breakfast and partake of the local coffee. It was very crowded so we found a couple of seats at a long table. It wasn't long before a young couple asked if they could sit with us because there wasn't any room anywhere else and of course we said yes. Sitting at a small table next to ours was an elderly couple. They were reading the newspaper together and just enjoying what looked like just another morning out of many, many years together. I thought it was really interesting that in this one small corner of the world we had three couples sitting together from three very different generations. The young couple just starting out with a toddler sneaking away for a weekend together while grandma watched the little one. The old couple who had obviously spent a lifetime together and probably knew what the other one was thinking just from a casual glance and a facial expression. And, then there was us, the middle aged couple. We are somewhere in the middle of life, not really knowing if we are old or young. There is a reason they label these years the mid-life crisis years. And now I really get it because it's the years where our children are starting to not need us as much, we aren't grandparents, it's kind of just "us" now and we're trying to navigate our way through this change of life. I'll never forget this quote from one of my favorite movies, Fried Green Tomatoes: "I'm too old to be young and too young to be old!" Yes, that's us. Stuck in the middle. Add to this my Stage IV diagnosis and unfortunately this adds a new layer of unpredictability because we also know that we have a limited amount of time in front of us. It's like we feel the need to cram a lifetime together into the few years we have left. We are hoping of course that it will be the 10+ years that some people get, but with no guarantees it adds a certain amount of desperation to every moment.
As I looked at the young couple and conversed with them I was filled with a sense of envy. I so miss those days so long ago when my children were nestled into my lap, holding my hand and giving their love to me so freely and without barriers. On the flip side, as I looked at the old couple, I was also filled with envy. They had spent a lifetime together. They got to see it all from start to finish. It is an image that brings me great sadness. It is something I would love to achieve with my spouse but that dream is slipping out of my grasp. I am having to learn not to spend to much time looking ahead. That is a dangerous place for my thoughts to linger. It brings me too much sadness to consider the things I might not ever get to have. I must try to stay in the present. I repeat these thoughts to myself constantly:
"Just enjoy the moment."
"Just live for today."
"No one is guaranteed a tomorrow."
Even though I know these to be true. Living by them is so much harder when you have daily reminders by your physical limitations that you are indeed facing a difficult road ahead. And, each day draws you closer to the end. It's not just a saying for me, it is my truth. So, I can only tell you that I try, and sometimes I fail but, that is what it means to be human. We always want more of something that is good. And, life has been good to me. So, of course I want more.
Right now I am trying very hard to find balance in my life. Balancing the time I must spend addressing my cancer and trying to find ways of finding normalcy where cancer doesn't find it's way into my thoughts. It's turning out to be what sometimes feels like an impossible task. No matter where I go or what I do there is always something that triggers a small reminder that it is there. The image of the old couple reminds me of what may never be. The image of a young couple talking about how their toddler is being watched by grandma reminds me of opportunities I may never have. A jogger moving swiftly by me as I wobble around the block each day reminds me of that woman I used to be and can no longer be. The constant fatigue and muscle weakness reminding me every minute of things I can no longer do. It is a constant mental game I have to play that has me exhausted by the end of each day.
I have always found that by reaching out to others who have it worse than you is a good way to find peace with most situations. And, that's what I'm trying to do. As I was sitting in the hospital this week waiting for my husband to finish with a doctor's appointment I saw a woman who was confined to a wheelchair paralyzed from the neck down. I saw a young boy being wheeled by his mother into the doctors office thinking how sad it was that he's never known what it feels like to walk, let alone run. I think about little Charlie who was the flower girl at my daughters wedding and how she never got to live a full life at all. Her life was tragically cut short and she passed away one month prior to my mom's passing.
These are just a few small examples of how I can look at my life and be grateful that even though I can't do what I was doing just two years ago, at least I've had an opportunity to enjoy my life to the fullest up to this point. And, that is more than so many people get. But, I'm greedy! I think most people are. We always want more. But, at some point it has to end for everyone. Either by age, or illness or tragedy it will happen to us all one way or another.
This is the constant circle I find myself on right now. Sadness, Anger and bitterness suddenly finds it's way to the front of the line, then the battle for control commences, then the good thoughts start to overpower the negative and then finally, after a while, it's back to acceptance.
My husband said some wise words to me in the beginning when it was difficult for me to find peace. He said that maybe if I tried to reach out and help others it would help me find my way out of the dark place I was currently in. Helping others is a way to empower yourself and it will give you a reason to get up every day. It was very wise advice and it does indeed work. When I'm overcome with self pity, I reach out to others and it always helps me to find my center. It brings me fulfillment and peace and reminds me that there is still plenty to do and a life that still needs to be lived. We all need a reason to get up every day and that is mine.
There is a book I read before I was diagnosed called The Law of Moses by Amy Harmon. In this book the character Moses had a little thing he liked to do called his 5 greats! It would be his 5 greats for the day or the moment. I loved this and I think about it sometimes when I have a bad day. I try to scrape up 5 great things about the day to help put me back on track. So, today my 5 greats are:
1. The coffee that helped me to wake up this morning because sometimes it's pretty hard!
2. The comfort of spending time on the phone with a friend who treats me as if nothing has changed. We just talk about meaningless "stuff" which helps me feel normal and reminds me that I am more than just my cancer.
3. My cat who curled up in my lap and makes me feel loved by her gentle purrs.
4. My daily Words With Friends game with my husband who never goes easy on me and challenges me by never letting me win. He definitely keeps me on my toes.
5. The warm and beautiful day outside that you can only get in this part of the country. My friends up north are getting snow this weekend. So, I'm glad that isn't me. Ha!
The trick to the 5 greats and doing them every day is that sometimes it's hard to find things to be grateful for. But they are there, sometimes ever so small, but they are right in front of us waiting to be acknowledged. Even little things can matter in big ways.
This is my list today but tomorrow they will be different. That is the beauty of life though. Every day is a new day filled with new opportunities for Joy. They do not have to be big moments. The little moments sometimes matter more anyway.
Make it your project to take time to name at least 5 great things about your life each day. I promise it will make you feel better. If it can help me, it can help anyone!