At this time of year, we often feel the urge to make resolutions. From breaking bad habits to starting new ones, the drive for self-improvement leads us to promises that are hard to keep. I’m still nibbling on my cuticles despite years of resolving not to, and still battling those same few extra pounds I have promised myself to lose for a decade. So why should anything be different this year?
I can’t say that cancer changed everything. It didn’t. I’m still me, and I will always have a short temper, feel indifferent about running, be distracted by my curiosity and undisciplined in my follow through.
But cancer gave me a new appreciation of the preciousness of life and the importance of love and kindness. Cancer reminded me of the complexities of the human body and mind, the balance between shared experience and individual realities. And cancer gave me the desire to help, to give back.
That doesn’t mean that I won’t still snap at my husband for some imagined wrong when I am feeling stressed. Or that I will open up a soup kitchen to feed the homeless on my doorstep. But it does inform my inner dialog and help me sharpen my understanding of my own motivations.
Understanding My Motivations
Before my diagnosis, I could push myself to run 4 to 5 miles a few times a week. Now, I am happy to get out there a couple of times a week and satisfied with 2 to 3 miles. Is that because I play the cancer card in my mind, giving myself an excuse not to push? I don’t think so. I think it’s that I run to feel good about my body, to feel the exhilaration that comes from and achievement, and to feel the endorphins from physical activity. And I can get that without the extra mile or two.
What are the motivations that focus my desire to help? Maybe I feel guilty that I got off easily while cancer causes others to suffer so much more. Maybe sharing my knowledge feeds my ego. And maybe helping others is a way to allow my curiosity to take me anywhere I want to go. Maybe.
But I also know that being kind to those undergoing treatment can ease their emotional and physical discomfort, if only for a moment. That sharing the experience allows others to heal. That my time is felt as love by those I touch. And, while no two people will endure cancer in the same way, I know that by talking about my emotions, I can make it okay for others to acknowledge their own.
So, while I lack sufficient motivation to lose the weight or leave the cuticles alone, I resolve to use my cancer experience to be kind, to share, and to help how I can. I resolve to stay focused long enough to make a difference. And I resolve to apologize to my husband when I snap at him!