Posted by: julia
on Jan 22, 2012
Today is my birthday (yay!), but for those of you who've been around for awhile, you know it's also the anniversary of my cancer diagnosis (Stage 2 Hodgkin's Lymphoma). Of particular note today, however, is that it's also a Big Number anniversary: 20 years. 20 years! That's a damn big number. 20 years since I heard a new doctor in a new town say to me, "well, I've got good news and bad news. The bad news is...it's cancer. The good news is, if you had to get any kind of cancer, this is the kind to get." 20 years have passed since that big-fat-pushpin-on-the-map-of-life moment, and boy howdy am I a different, more evolved, more experienced person now. I feel both pleased and disquieted that so much time has gone by: pleased because, yeah, I kicked cancer's ass and lived to tell the tale, and disquieted because woah, how'd I get old enough to be able to so easily and clearly recall something that happened 20 years ago?
Because it feels like only yesterday, in some ways. I can so easily call up the anxiety, fear, physical pain, and grief; the courage I had to summon and sustain; the love I was surrounded with; and the sense of vertiginous change touching and transforming everything I thought I had or knew. It was a potent, transformative cocktail whose hangover will probably last my whole life, though it certainly is fading with time and with the addition of other pushpin moments to the mix. I'll always have that "cancer survivor" identity with me, even though it's not a central one to me anymore except in particular times and places.
One thing is for certain, I'm still glad that I have this personally defining moment to come back to every year, something to really remind me that life is short and uncertain and beautiful and kind (yes, kind) in its random assignation of growth-inducing suffering. I didn't enjoy the suffering, but damn I appreciate having suffered, grown, and moved on. Here's to the next 20 years--may they go by as juicy and full as the last 20, and give me as many opportunities to keep evolving as these last 20 have.
Posted by: julia
on Jan 05, 2012
Instead of making specific resolutions this year like "walk more/eat less" or "write every day" (though I have some of those too), I have decided instead that what I really want to do is set an overarching intention for the entire year ahead. In that spirit, then, I declare that 2012 is going to be the Year of Practice. It will be the year I stop planning to do things, and do them: I will marry epiphany to action. It will be the year I put into practice all the things I have learned about myself and what makes me tick, and about what I want and what makes me happy. Practice is my mantra this year, in both senses: practice in the sense of non-finalized, open-ended, continual experimenting with things to see if I can get them better, and Practice in the sense of a regular repetition of specific skills over time. I will practice creating Practices for myself: a Writing Practice, a Happiness Practice, a Parenting Practice, a "Be a better friend/wife/tzaddik" Practice, whatever.
The thing that's important to remember about practice (hey self, I'm talking to you) is that it's a journey, not a destination. I'm not resolving to achieve something specific; rather, I'm intending to continually keep myself in a rhythm of regular involvement with the things I've prioritized. I am hoping that thinking of my life as a practice will help me strike a healthy balance between ambition and forgiveness, because I need both. Yes, I want 2012 to be the year of continually transforming intention into action, but I will also keep compassion for myself and not beat myself up for the occasional slowdowns or wrong turns or mistakes (because after all, it's only a rehearsal, not the final performance).
So there it is, for the record. I'm done with pausing, I've got my priorities (at least temporarily) sorted out, and I'm ready to practice. I will train myself up and get myself in shape for the long haul of the happiness marathon that life should be (and hopefully will become). Wish me luck.