Resolution Chronicles: letting cancer and depression ride shotgun

It’s the day after the Chicago Walk for Bladder Cancer. I can tell you that I’m pretty tired of being surrounded by cancer. Some of the teams walked for people who had died. They wore badges with pictures. One was an image of a young woman. I’m getting pretty sick of that.

When I got home I realized that I had a slight sunburn on my cheeks and arms, around my neck above the t-shirt line. I don’t feel that sense of excitement for summer anymore when I see the pink. It isn’t a reminder of a wonderful day in the sun, walking along Lake Michigan. Instead, it’s a reminder to get sunscreen because that skin damage can kill me. It is killing others.

I’m tired of cancer being the backseat driver of my life, correcting every move I make, pushing me away from joy. The grief I feel for those who are suffering and for those who die sometimes crowds out everything else.

My husband, daughter and I with the Chicago skyline in the background.

My husband, daughter and I with the Chicago skyline in the background.

I was talking with my psychiatrist about struggling with a week of depression and how it scares to me have setbacks. I don’t remember how he phrased it, but he said something to the effect that I need to learn how to sit with it, how to just let it be. He assured me, with kindness, that I will feel fear and anxiety and depression again. These things live in the house that is my soul.

The goal isn’t to be free of these things, but to learn to accept that they are part of my life, to acknowledge them, and, perhaps, get to know them better. I’m trying to learn to lean back into the arms of the universe.

By leaning back onto the universe, I don’t mean to trust it or have faith in it. Unless by faith you mean knowing that the universe is always going to offer its chaotic and unpredictable mix of grief and joy, boredom and clarity.

We will always be given suffering, some in unequal measure. We will hurt and we will break. We will run and never tire. We will be abandoned and betrayed. We will be cared for by strangers and, unaccountably, receive grace.

So, it’s not faith I’m seeking, but rather acceptance. Acceptance of what is, of what is the nature of this world.

Acceptance doesn’t mean giving up fighting and trying, at least I don’t think it does. Instead it’s that damned Serenity Prayer, changing what we can, accepting what we can’t, and with wisdom learning to know the difference.

So, today, I’m letting the sadness I feel about cancer and the depression that seems to always eventually find me sit next to me. They’re riding shotgun. I’m going to let them be, sitting right next to me on this weird journey.

For now, they aren’t taking the wheel and they’re keeping their mouths shut. They’re looking out the window to their right. And, I’m looking out the window to my left.

I’m thinking about the bladder cancer walk yesterday and about the sunshine and about the chattering and laughter, about how life goes on. I’m feeling grateful for an hour or two to spend with people who know what’s it like to let these things ride shotgun.

This post is part of a year-long series about my New Year’s resolution. All in the series are included in the Resolution Chronicles category below. This is the first post that explains my resolution.

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