Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Life Changes In An Instant

At the risk of whining, which I try not to do here too often, I have to say this has been a pretty crappy week so far. If I were a little younger, I'd say it was "the time of the month," but, since that issue no longer arises for me, I guess I'll have to attribute it to plain old bitchiness. I've overslept the past two mornings, so I've barely had time to get out the door dressed, much less enjoy my first cup of coffee reading time or do my morning pages. The dogs are extremely dirty and smelly, and I don't have time to take them to the groomer until Thursday. I accidently left wet laundry in the washing machine before I went to Florida! which I've had to re-wash three times because it smelled so bad. Anyway, it's just been a week when things like this are really irritating my nerves.

So, I drag home from work today, and the postman had stuffed a huge pile of mail in my box - five days of accumulated catalogs (yes, the holidays are coming soon!), credit card offers (just what I don't need), bank statements, a few bills, and tons of political advertisements of the "my opponent is the biggest loser of all time variety." There were a few belated birthday cards for my husband (plus one for Magic who just turned 4), and an invitation to a Halloween party. Tucked in among this grocery bag full of wasted trees, was a letter from a friend I hadn't heard from in a while. Here's what it said:

"Dear Friends:

Last month we found out that Bill has Stage IV melanoma. You may remember that he had surgery seven years ago, but it apparently did not get rid of all the cancer cells, and melanoma has now spread to his lungs and to lymph nodes in the center of his chest. He currently has no symptoms. The spread was discovered when two moles on his scalp were found to be melanoma. A CT scan revealed the lung spots. He will be undergoing Interleukin-2 treatment, which is intended to boost his immune system to better fight the melanoma. We are asking for your prayers during this time of treatment...especially since melanoma, once is has spread, is particularly hard to get rid of. Thank you for all your supporting thoughts and prayers. All are appreciated."
Needless to say, this certainly knocked me back a peg or two. How dare I feel aggravated by lack of sleep, household chores piling up, or dirty dog feet on the furniture? Here is my friend, who has a 12 year old daughter to raise, facing the possible loss of her husband.

Life does turn on a dime doesn't it? If you haven't read Joan Didion's remarkable memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking, I highly recommend it. In it, she writes of the night in 2003 when her husband sat down at their dining room table, suffered a massive coronary, and died while she was in the kitchen fixing his dinner plate. At the same time, their only daughter was hospitalized and in a coma from septic shock and pneumonia. Her first words in that book are "Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner, and life as you know it ends."

So instead of going to bed grouchy and disgruntled tonight, I've spent some time this evening being grateful for the health and wholeness of my family. Why is it that I can't remember to do this without being hit on the head by someone elses sadness?
Go hug someone you love that you're fortunate enough to still have with you. And say a few prayers for my friends, if you would.



Blogger deirdre said...

Yes, life changes in the time it takes to answer the phone or read a letter. My thoughts are with your friends. And you.

Anonymous bella said...

Oh, Becca - I'm so sorry to hear about your friend and his family. It is such a reality check, isn't it? I know, I've had days when I feel like crap and I'm a bitch for such minuscule things. There is so much to be thankful for - thanks for this post and for reminding us all.

Pee-eew, that laundry must have been stinky! LOL. Little trick (learned from experience of course) add 1 cup of white vinegar while rewashing the clothes, it should kill the stank the first time.

Blogger Kim G. said...

Becca - Thanks so much for stopping by my blog! It's so nice to meet another bloggie friend! ;)

I really appreciated your post today. It can be so easy to focus on the negative things in our life especially on those weeks whenthere seems to be plenty to pick from. And yet, we don't have to look very far to find someone who has things much worse in their lives.

I'm so sorry to hear about your friend. I'll be lifting up prayers for her and her family today. Thanks for sharing this!

Blogger Star said...

WARNING: selfish moment ahead!

Whenever I hear of circumstances such as Joan Didion's, I am immediately filled with sympathy for those left behind--friends, family, coworkers. Their lives will never be the same and, for some, they have missed the opportunity to part on good terms, to right wrongs, to put into words their long-held feelings, to say goodbye. And then I think about the one who died and hope with all my heart that my parting from this earth will be just that quick and, hopefully, not too painful for too long.

While I realize that Bill is not yet symptomatic, there is a long road ahead for him and his loved ones. I'm feeling this ambivalence right now in my own life--one is my boss's wife whom I worked with for a year before making the move to her husband's company. She is elderly and just this week has found that she suffers a recurrence of cancer that they thought they got last spring; this woman has a heart of gold. The other is a 26-year-old who had his right foot amputated last Friday in hopes that by taking his foot, they can save his life from the rare form of cancer he has. An unmarried young man with so many of life's pleasures yet to explore who has >50% chance of recurrence.

If I didn't have my little gratitude book asking me for five things each and every day, it would be easy to sink beneath the weight of everyday living.

So my only suggestion is to keep up with your morning pages, but look back each evening and count the things you're grateful for--good bookends for living each day.

And if you would, please add Lois and Erik to those you remember each day.

Blogger jzr said...

A great post and reminder Becca! My prayers are with your friend!

Blogger Jerri said...

Your friends are in my prayers, Becca.

So are you. I'm so grateful for finding you and your blog.

All I can do right now is echo Star's suggestion that you keep a gratitude journal. It's a life changing exercise.

Blogger paris parfait said...

This post brought tears to my eyes, because Joan Didion´s book - something catastrophic happening in an instant - is my biggest fear. I don´t even like writing the words for fear of tempting fate. It just knocks me out how many people die tragically and too young. So sorry to hear about your friend. And yes, something like that helps us put everything else in perspective! Thanks for your important post. xo

Blogger Helen said...

Life does change in an instant such as mine did 2 years ago. Thanks for the mention of that book and my thoughts are with you and your friend. God bless.

Blogger Tammy said...

We all must be reminded Becca and you just did. Thank you! Sending warm fuzzy hugs and prayers for you friend.


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