Last week I wrote, with anger and frustration, about how I am "close to zero percent" grateful for my cancer experience. But there's another side to that story. A side that defends my initial post where I expressed thanks for my cancer journey.
Gratitude is a complex emotion. On the one side, where gratitude is absent, there is bitterness and anger. On the other side, where gratitude is present, there is acceptance and release.
Obviously, I'm struggling to accept my current circumstances. Cancer has limited my options for the future. And if there's anything I know that us millenials want in this life - it's options. Cancer robbed me of that. Learning just a few months ago that starting a family will be a long, arduous, and possibly heartbreaking process for me reminded me of how awfully unfair, illogical, and meaningless my cancer experience was. If it is taking from me all that I ever dreamed of (placing me in this "tangent universe"), then there can't be anything to gain from it.
And yet, I want to be grateful. I think we all do. I want to believe that I am living a life that was exclusively designed and intended just for me. I want to believe that the conditions of my life, no matter how unfair or unbearable, are experiences for which there is some meaning, lesson, or logic. I think I'm like most people - desperate to understand why, and hopeful that on some level what has happened to us was meant to happen.
And even in the most bitter and angry moments, I still find myself asking "WHY?", as if understanding the logic behind the path that I've been put on would open me up to understanding, acceptance and eventually, gratitude.
I think that's what I meant when I said, in my original post, "I hope I'm grateful for the experience I had until that moment. Yes, possibly even cancer." I meant: I hope I eventually understand this experience and am able to accept it as a part of a life I cherish and value.
So, I have a partner. He doesn't worry too much about finding meaning or understanding the mysterious workings of the universe. But he does believe - no, he knows - that he and I will have a joyful, fulfilling, and exciting life. No matter what. We will travel, he says. We'll dine at the finest restaurants. Maybe we'll buy property abroad. We'll give ourselves all the time we need to determine the make up of our family and won't make snap decisions out of fear or peer pressure. He maintains that our happiness does not depend on our ability to procreate. He assures me over and over again that we will "take over the world."
Looking back on our small wedding back in September (oops did I forget to mention I got married), I remember thinking with pride that I had picked my husband for all the right and rational reasons. But now, while enduring this first test as a married couple, I realize there was no way for me to predict all the ways he would amaze and surprise me. With this challenge before us, he has taken it upon himself to show me how varied and full of our lives can be, if we only permit ourselves to dream of it.
Rick Hanson, in his super helpful e-mails "Just One Thing," (12/29/2105) shares that gratitude "does not mean ignoring difficulties, losses, or injustice. It just means also paying attention to the offerings that have come your way. Especially the little ones of everyday life."
I don't have to be grateful for my cancer experience. And I'm certainly not in this moment. But I am overwhelmingly and undeniably grateful for the joys in my life it has illuminated. Both little and big.