What is it about late fall and early winter that heralds this weird despondency into my life? Why, come mid-November, am I suddenly so lethargic and unmotivated, so willing to give in to self-pity and even a little self-disgust? I blame SADness, even while acknowledging that doing so is a bit of a cop-out. True, this time of year means only about 9 hours of sunlight, leaving 15 hours of darkness behind. True, too, the shortened days and way below freezing temps we've been having mean I am much less inclined to run outside, even though running is one of the few fail-safes I have against total Caroline-shut down. But it is more than seasonal depression, and this year especially, for whatever reason, it is more than something a sun-lamp can fix.
The end of November and December are no longer "the holidays" for me. Four years ago, they became the jump-off point for the rest of my life, the time when I was diagnosed with cancer and every thing changed. A beautiful, wonderful woman I met over a year ago posted on her own blog recently, "maybe tomorrow I’ll be one step closer to the place of true acceptance that I’d mistakenly thought I’d already reached." Maybe I've placed her quote a little out of context because she is one of the few people I truly and deeply admire for her total annihilation of cancer, but it illustrates that we all have these days. I've been trying to figure out just why I've been so down lately. I've realized that I am deeply dissatisfied with myself and my life, but I am at a loss as to how to pick up and organize all the pieces that are right in front of me.
For the most part, I have come to terms with having had cancer. I have accepted it. I am happy with who I have become as a person, the insights I have gained and the perspective I have been granted. It's just that around this time of year, when I'm struggling to balance my lack of running with my excess of eating, I can't help but remember four years ago when I could neither run nor eat nor do anything much besides wait for my hair to fall out and watch my legs shrivel up. Hopefully he won't mind, but I've been conversing a bit over e-mail with a close friend of mine recently, and the other day, I had this really disconcerting realization. He had asked me if my cancer diagnosis caused me to reevaluate my life and live it differently, perhaps more fully, than before. Was I granted some existential clarity that most people only glimpse when reading good literature?
My realization (and response) was that I have been fundamentally changed as a person, much more self-aware and deeper, which I didn't know was possible. But nothing became any clearer. I was diagnosed smack in the middle of college, college, its own, strange, insular world where ephemera like college hockey and GPAs and the grade on your post-modern analysis of a neo-classical Irish poem are important. But I got through cancer and managed to quash my doubt that GPAs held any lasting import and I got through college. But that was it. When I was diagnosed, I didn't know what I wanted, and my life certainly wasn't on any sort of path. Four years later, I still don't know what I want, and whatever path I've found myself on is so twisty and disconcerting because I have No Idea where it is taking me. "True acceptance" is hard to come by because I still harbor resentment towards this disease for what it has taken from me, and because of what it has taken from too many other people. I'm pissed. And lost, which helps no one.
I am putting all this out there on the Internets knowing full well that my issues are selfish and a bit petty. But a personal blog is, by its very nature, a self-serving venture. I guess I'm just struggling because I know a number of cancer survivors whose diagnosis caused this seismic shift in their lives, and now they've changed everything and are happy and successful and blah blah blah (we see what we want to see). I feel mired in a sludge of self-doubt and uncertainty and fear heaped on this belief that no one's ever going to actually hire me for a real job because I'm not qualified for anything.... Like I said, I need to be running more.
So many young adults struggle every day with the direction they want their lives to go. Very few of us know what we truly want to do with ourselves. Or maybe that's just me because I spent the past four years healing myself physically and mentally from cancer and only now am I starting to look forward but all I can do is grasp at darkness. Arghhh, I'm sorry; I'm frustrated. But this is life, and believe me when I say that I am so much in love with living. Not that this resolves anything, but I do believe that everything happens for a reason, and it will all work out eventually. Someone will realize I'm pretty cool and want to pay me to do cool things.... Right. In the meantime, for whatever reason, I'm still here. Four years later, and I'm still here against all the odds. And I sucked it up and went for a run earlier today, and I am going skiing in Colorado in less than three weeks. Life is Spectacular if only for those two things. So thank you for bearing with my silly grumblings today. Tomorrow will bring its own new adventure. Peace.