I was watching a clip the other day from the Graham Norton show and Gwyneth Paltrow was a guest. She shared a brief story about how she became an Oscar winner at the age of 26, and with such celebrated fame and status, obstacles started disappearing. Not necessarily on their own, but a lot of money and people with good intentions simply removed them. Her attitude towards others began to change and it was a conversation with her father who called her “a bit of an asshole” that put things in perspective and helped her become grounded again. She shared how she believes friction actually helps us learn, and while I’m sure that having her kind of money would solve a LOT of problems for most of us, she’s absolutely right.
When I first received my diagnosis, I kept saying “I just want all of this stress to be over.” I knew that the fear, uncertainty, anxiety and everything that goes along with that were part of the experience, but I didn’t want to actually experience it. I hated feeling like I couldn’t just solve this problem and stay positive about things when I was thinking about the inevitability of our own mortality and how I was not ready to let go of my life yet. I wanted to apply my logical brain to the lesson I was meant to learn and carry on…
…but that’s just not how it works.
Obstacles, challenges, suffering, whatever label you give it are part of the experience. We have to walk through the darkness to find the light.
Having a positive attitude and making choices that supported my best well being were undeniably critical for my success – at anything! I knew I could not expect to get through this challenge and thrive if all of my energy was expended on negativity, regret and “what if’s”. That said, however – the feelings that we experience through challenges that are often labeled negative are normal and they’re a tremendously important part of the experience. Anger, frustration and despair can actually bring about positive change.
I decided that I wasn’t going to unpack my bags in the dark place and sign a long term lease, but I allowed myself to visit and experience what all of that scariness felt like. Yes, cancer sucks donkey balls. It’s terrifying as fuck on so many levels and it can kill you. That’s the reality. But you know what else sucks? Living in a place where you fear dying over experiencing the joy of living. What gives us that joy is completely personal and individual but for me, it was loving every minute of my people, my ridiculous and beautiful ham of a dog, being grateful for all that I have and embracing the beauty of the lessons and gift that cancer brought me. Yes – standing in and moving through this experience has allowed me to see that this experience was a gift. We don’t all need a terrifying diagnosis to grow, but we do need a little mud. No mud, no lotus.