Unchosen Life

“We live in a culture that only wants to talk about what’s going well. Anything that’s not going well is positioned as a detour from the main road. The truth is that pain is not a detour from the main road. Pain is part of the road we walk as human beings.”

Susan Cain, “Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole”

These halls are familiar now, these new halls that lead to necessary answers. All must be just right if I am to receive those precious monoclonal antibodies the next day. So I will give up some blood for the privilege of – maybe – being cured again. This is part of the ritual that is my Life now.

The question, “Why me?” is a far distant memory. Today I find myself feeling especially bright as I approach the lab’s waiting room. My footsteps are lighter, as is my spirit. I am surprised to find myself grinning behind my mask. These once-strange halls are now one of the pictures of my Life. We are connected.

Labs, tests, infusions, consultations, side effects to pay attention to: walking the halls of one of the world’s great medical centers, I am one of millions who live this life. A life none of us chose. A life that chose us.

I am pitied and that can feel warm and lovely. You understand! Who would choose this life?

Still, I am unexpectedly smiling on this day. This is the day of the week when I have blood drawn. Tomorrow will be antibody day. That’s how life flows now. I have just surprised myself by living even more fully into that reality. This Life may give me more life. It may not. But it is giving me increasingly rich days of gratitude in the meantime.

Giving up a need to control, I am set free to just let Life unfold as it will. To let it flow in its given trajectory while asking, “What can I do to honor all of these days?” The answer has become, “Do not fight the life you have. Join it, let all of it become rich with meaning. Find the deepest wells that can water every part of it. Let go and you will find that both joy and courage will find their home in you. Amazing grace will lead the way.

The wonder of embracing every part of my Life is that I have not planned or manipulated its direction in these many months of living under the challenge that is cancer. I have never understood what “fighting” cancer means. I do understand the courage to endure; I get the challenge of trusting that life is not out to get me. I do know the wonder of overcoming some difficult days when strength is at a premium and it shows up anyway.

I cannot “fight cancer” and know peace. Instead, I have been finding peace in acceptance – the acceptance that all of this is my singular road. It has been given to me and making my way along it has given me an unexpected bonus: I am happy in the midst of an unusual and often challenging life that can easily turn sour. As it happens, I have found that I do not do sour very well.

It turns out that every facet of my Life has been quietly integrating itself with all the others. Without my even trying. The unchosen life that could make me miserable and angry has, instead, been blessing me without my even trying.

I cannot take sole credit for this journey. The Spirit walks every step with me and gives me what I am ready to receive. I believe we call that “grace.”

It turns out, I’m very okay with that.

16 thoughts on “Unchosen Life

  1. As I was reading this post, i was reminded of my trip to Asheville, North Carolina. One day I stood for a very long time by the raging water of the rapids. The water is simply hurled along. It just keeps going. With faith, we too, keep going. We are not hurled however, as if our journey were reckless. No. Our journey is made possible by God’s continuous connection to us as His children. He is there with us in the rapids. He is there when the waters are calm. By the deep mystery of faith, we ‘flow’ as a river divinely inspired by God.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree about the term, “fighting cancer.” It’s more accurate to say that you’re treating cancer, and living your life as best you can in the process. As difficult as cancer can be, it does alter the way we look at ourselves and the world around us, and often for the better. I’m speaking only as a spouse of a cancer survivor, of course, so I realize that I don’t truly understand what it feels like to get that diagnosis. But I do understand what you’re talking about with the familiarity of the hospital halls, the doctor’s appointments, and the treatments. It’s different for sure, but it’s still life, and yes, grace shows up just when we need it most. Blessings and peace to you, always!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, Lynn, this went straight to my heart and the tears flowed – tears of gratitude for the peace that has been given me as I’ve gotten out of the way. Knowing your long and difficult journey, I can appreciate your sending me this even more. Thank you, my dear sister!

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  3. “Life may give me more life. It may not. But it is giving me increasingly rich days of gratitude in the meantime.” As a cancer survivor this whole post spoke to me, but especially these words. It’s how I promised myself to live now. And I try not to forget!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We are family, we survivors. We continue to do our best to honor the time we have been given, having been so close to the possibility of not surviving. Every day is a victory, and sometimes I get caught up in the everyday monotony and forget that life could be so different right now. We have indeed been blessed!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Your title. Your sharing “on paper” blesses us as we come alongside you in your unchosen journey.

    This is National Poetry Month. I shared Elizabeth Gauffreau’s “Grief Songs” on my website today, yes, dealing with losses. Coming up later is a poetry collection about trying to cope with war’s terrible legacy, and one wading through tests and treatments for prostate cancer. I’m hoping another man will share his poignant writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. National Poetry Month would have passed me by had you not mentioned it, Joy. I’ll be checking out your website, knowing that Elizabeth is one of the very special poets/writers in our midst. I’m glad we share an appreciation of the beauty and sensitivity and truth in her writing. And war’s terrible legacy is among the tragedies of life, so I shall watch for that, too. Thank you for the suggestions. And thank you for traveling my journey with me, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I so appreciate your insightful and uplifting perspective, Martha. It’s troubling to read obituaries talking about a person’s losing his brave battle with cancer, as if succumbing to the disease were some kind of personal failure on his part.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree!! And it makes the whole journey exhausting emotionally and spiritually. I have watched “fighting” friends who were miserable when their trajectory wasn’t working out, only to find cheerleaders around them who wanted them to continue the battle. However, I do acknowledge that there are those for whom the battle is invigorating and hopeful, so when it works for them, I say “Go for it!”

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Once again, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I’m going to think hard about this post and archive it for later reference. This is a perspective I had not considered, and a most helpful one.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, dear Joyce! This perspective has seemed to appear without my “doing” all that much. I’m just grateful that it’s made its way into my late life! There is power in surrender that I’d never realized. It’s not a giving up; it’s giving into that which heals the spirit. At least that’s what seems to have happened on this journey. Surprise!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I think this road began when you introduced Eckhart Tolle to me, and then Martha’s meditation class picked that up and added more insight and practice to the mix. It doesn’t feel as if I’ve “worked” at achieving this. And that goes against everything I’d based my life on. This is surely the better way! Thank you for your always beautiful words!

      Liked by 1 person

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