The positive legacy
Whilst I was out Christmas shopping this year, I bought two warm/soft/fuzzy/happy hats at Old Navy. This is somewhat embarassing to admit, as I have an extensive hat collection. However in my defense, my 2012 chemo was in the spring/summer, and this one is in the winter, so it generates completely different head coverage needs. I wear hats both indoors and out. I find on below-freezing days, I need a hat that covers my ears and as much of the nape of my neck as I can tug it down to cover. I wear vests/jackets/sweaters with stand up fuzzy/warm/fleecy/soft collars to cover where the hat leaves off. I wear hats as I make dinner, do bath time, fold laundry, and write. I wash my hats with the same frequency I wash the clothes I wear; they are woven into me during this season.
The above makes me realize a few things.
Gosh, these are the days where I miss my long thick hair.
How are bald men not freezing all the time?
My fashion sensibilities are forever harangued by my functional needs. Oh well, nothing new there.
Anyway, I bought two fuzzy hats, one purple and one gray. Maren, who has inherited my passion for soft textures, began borrowing the purple hat often. It is in her regular rotation for school. She likes to mix it up with her headwear (as do I) because, “Not every day is a polka dot day, Mom.” So very true, right? Meanwhile, the gray matches everything, so it is one that I have in heavy rotation. Maren always high-fives me when we have on our “matching” hats because, well, when you are six matching is brilliant.
One night this week, I finished tucking Greta into bed and came to say good night to Maren. She grinned as I came in the room, and said, “Hi Mama.” She was snuggled in her top bunk, happily reading to herself, wearing the fuzzy purple hat. It was the first time that she had worn the purple hat inside.
I tell you, it was an memorable moment for me. Here’s my girl, and she’s decided to take the most cliche cancer talisman: the hat, and to redefine it as a cozy, mommy-and-me, bonding comfort item.
Her unconscious choice that night told me some key things:
-She’s resilient and adapting and comfortable with the “side effects” cancer has brought into our home.
-She’s proud of me and wants to be like me. (Wow, is this ever humbling.)
-She’s not only accepting what comes, but she is reframing it for herself: this is good, this is a way for Mommy and I to connect, I am part of this journey. Even: Mommy is beautiful, cancer is beautiful, I am beautiful.
I might be extrapolating too much into this scene, but there. is. nothing. better. than seeing, and believing that my children are seeking joy in their circumstances.
Many of you asked me how I stay positive. The truth is that I look for the positive. I seek it, I crave it, I thirst for it. I am so much happier when I am feeling positive than when I am sad.
To be clear, I get that I am allowed to be sad. Sadness in my situation is totally legit. However, the weight and burden and tears and lead that comes with thinking about the bad side of all of this doesn’t help me do anything better. When I think about The Worst, I never, ever feel better. I always feel, well, sad.
And so I cut my thoughts off. I’ve told my girlfriends not to ask me questions about The Worst because we all know the answers: it is craptacular. I don’t wallow. I don’t spend days in bed, depressed and angry.
I get up and I find the good. If I can’t find the good, I create it.
In the post office, I watched a man literally cuss out a postal worker. Seriously. I mean, who does that? So when I went up to the shaken clerk, I pulled a gift card from my purse and gave it to her and told her I hoped that my act of kindness would be what she would remember about her day, rather than the outburst of the troubled man before me. When I’m feeling mediocre, a random act of kindness always pushes the needle into the good column. Ripples, right? Ripples are awesome.
I welcome newcomers to the Chemo Room and high-five them. Chemo, remember, is one of the good guys. Chemo kills cancer, and we are all big fans of cancer-killing in the Chemo Room.
I do feel like God has given me an anointing of peace and strength to continue to have the will to seek goodness. But, I am the one who does the work. It’s work. It’s a renewed choice many times a day. It’s hard.
But I never regret stepping out into the light. And I’ve been dwelling in the light for long enough now that the hard moments are weaker, and the happiness is fuller.
When I don’t have the strength to be positive, I think of my children and my Mama Bear reserves kick in. Being positive is part of my legacy for them. I’m planning on living out that legacy for the next 48+ years. Now, I also think of Maren in her purple hat. If she can do it, I can do it.