Sunday, July 18, 2010

Shopping the Aisles of My Life

Our inner lives are eternal, which is to say that our spirits remain as youthful and vigorous as when we were in full bloom."
- Gabriel Garcia Marquez
There are moments of grace and moments of clarity which are all part of the CancerLand journey. Sometimes these moments of grace take the form of people; sometimes they are memories which come roaring back to remind of who I am and what I really want; other times they are simply quiet moments that reassure me that as unlikely as it seems, I will move forward from this experience.

I am already a different person from this experience. But as I live each day, I go through my life as if I'm pushing a shopping cart down the aisles of my life -- making important decisions about what I want in my life and what needs to change. Mentally, I put items in the cart that I know are essential to me – my lovely son, my family, my good friends, writing, being active, being from New York, laughing (“I’ll have a case of laughing, please.”) and many other things which define who I am and who I want to be “ABC” (After Breast Cancer).

I suppose the part of this journey I am still discovering – back to the shopping cart analogy – is finding the aisle in the store labeled: “Future State Essentials: Life, Love, Soul, Being." In some ways, it is the last aisle in the store and the most important one. Something about this aisle makes you feel that your shopping time is precious and limited. And choices are important. At least that's the way it feels to me right now.

I suppose this is not a big surprise. When you are denied some of the basic expectations of your life such as feeling good, being in control of your life, being able to work, and owning your own body and choosing what you want to happen to it, you start to make a mental list of all those things you either want to get back, or want to change when you are strong enough. It goes without saying that you re-evaluate decisions you have made, paths you’ve taken or stumbled onto or maybe you just have more time to think about the personal inertia that got you to certain “locations” in your life.

I am happy to say that I am generally happy with many, many things in my life. But it goes without saying that there are a few choices I’ve made that in hindsight, seem like doozies to me now. I can’t say that I have any real regret in these doozies because they were choices I made at a different point in time with a different set of expectations. But it does make me thankful (in a very odd, ironic way) for the clarity which living with a major illness has provided me.

So here is a random list of things that I want to make room for “ABC”. You will see from the list that some of these are easy, some more complicated, but I see them all as possible if I really want them. Maybe this is my first attempt to kind of “put them out there in the universe” as a way of attracting and committing to things I’ve decided are important to me.

1. I want to find a wonderful man who wants to spend the rest of his life with me. No more well-intentioned but dead-end relationships for this gal. Just like when I was in my 30’s and single and I felt the clock ticking, I feel it ticking in a different way now. Life is short. So much more to do and see and live and experience. If I have a choice, I’d like to do that with a man who feels the same way. Using the “shopping” analogy: No more “relationship clean-up in Aisle Three”. Been there, done that. I want the real thing now.

2. I need to go back to New York City for a “fix” soon. Very soon. I decided some months ago that I was homesick for New York. It started slowly with strange cravings to see the New York City Ballet and culminated in a major heartsickness when I watched the Tony Awards a few weeks back. I haven’t been to New York in about five years. The last time I was there I remember walking down Madison Avenue and looking down and thinking “these are my sidewalks.” I just feel so at home in New York. I love the crazy pace and the crazy mix of people; I take great pride in knowing my way around the city and several of the boroughs. Most of all, I miss Broadway and Lincoln Center. There was something about the great expanse of Lincoln Center and that part of the West Side that always made me feel like it was the center of the universe. As soon as I have recuperated from all this (“ABC”) and I actually have vacation time that I can use for vacation (instead of for having poison pumped through my veins…) I am going to New York for a few days where I plan to hoist a few glasses of champagne with my friends and go see enough plays, ballets and operas to send me into a coma.

3. I want to have another try at running. This being said, I will also need to get in better shape than I am now. However, now that they have reduced the amount of mandatory steroids they give you for chemo, I feel this may be a real option. I’m not sure I have another marathon in me, but I have always wanted to do one of the Disney World running events they hold in January. I’m hoping that maybe one of these days I’ll get there. Hell, even if I do a 5K, it’s worth it to get out of Minnesota in January and end up in Florida. Even if I have to run there.

4. I will do the MS150 next year! Call it “making a comeback” or whatever. I really missed participating this year and now that my company has a team, they can count me in.

5. I want to have a good reason to brush up my Italian. I spent six months on a semester abroad program in Italy when I was in college and I haven’t been back to Europe since. I would love to go back to Italy, but would gladly settle for just about any one of the many countries I have not yet traveled to. Life is short and the list is long.

Maybe if #1 happens, I could travel with The Man of My Dreams to (#2) New York for a few days. We could hop down to Florida for a quick 5K (#3), and then end up doing a bike Tour de Tuscany (#4, #5). A tour through the wine country of France would also work. From my lips to God’s ears. But hey -- I'm open to other adventures I haven't thought of yet as well.

But however it all turns out, these things are on my list. As I begin to get my energy back and I can actually see the light at the end of the aisle, I think of more things for “the shopping list”. Or maybe I should say, I can start to see my life “ABC” – or at least the life I want to create/recreate “ABC”.

I still have a long way to go, but it’s very comforting to me to have dreams, and to focus on the future. One of the things that helps me the most is the knowledge that I’m not pushing the cart toward my dreams alone, and that I am so lucky to have so many friends and family to help me get there.


  1. Wonderful posting, Denine. Again. As always. And, as someone once famously said in "When Harry Met Sally", I'll have what you're having in the ABC world! Including NYC and "my" sidewalks. Keep writing. Your blog is wonderful.

  2. Thank you, Amy. I will! One day at a time as corny as that sounds....(I really DO miss "my sidewalks"...)xoxo


  3. I'll run that 5k with you!