Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Perspective

First, I want to take moment to remember the people of Joplin, Missouri. I can’t imagine anything more horrifying than being trapped in a store while a tornado bears down, knowing that the store will probably collapse and bury you alive. The devastation is vast, the damage unthinkable. So, sending good thoughts and prayers to the people who are trying to put their lives together, one day at a time.

I am reflecting on this because I just passed the sixth anniversary of my original melanoma diagnosis. (There would be another, more serious diagnosis, the following year after I had achieved NED—no evidence of disease—just two months prior.) This past Friday, the day I had been diagnosed all those years before, was the same as every other here: get up, make lunches, walk dog, feed cat, do laundry, find lacrosse stick, carpool, grocery shop, walk dog again, feed cat again, make dinner. In between all of that, I juggled the management of twenty books for my day job, all of which need to go to the printer by this Friday at the latest. All were in various stages of being finished. Finally, after everything was cleaned up, I poured a glass of wine for me and my husband and sat down. I then proceeded to belly ache about my day and how busy I had been, how tired I was. He matched me, complaint for complaint. After we had finished, I looked over at the calendar to see when the next Little League game was and saw the date: May 20th.

I had a couple of reactions. The first was awe that I had not counted down to the day as I had in previous years. I was making progress on that account! The second was that I needed to shut my freaking pie hole.

I looked at Jim and said, “Six years ago today, I was an unpublished writer with a Stage IIIc diagnosis. Today, I have five books in print and I’m healthy.” I clinked my glass against his. “Here’s to complaining about the little things.”

When I was dealing with my cancer situation, people would say things to me like “It really puts everything in perspective, huh?” or “I bet you’ll never complain about the little things again, right?” Wrong. I didn’t need perspective then or now. I had and have it; I know how lucky we are. And being able to complain about the little things, the stupid stuff, means that you don’t have anything big to complain about. To me, focusing on the little problems that we all deal with on a day to day basis—standing in a line we consider too long, driving behind a car we think is going too slow, having an appliance break down—is a gift. It means we’re human and we can focus on the small stuff.

One of the best days in the last six years occurred when my kids—who normally get along swimmingly—had a knock-down, drag-out fight over something ridiculous. There was screaming, yelling, and eventually crying. There was Mom “taking sides,” according to one kid, and blame placing. Eventually, there were hugs and resolution. And all of it was music to my ears. When you go through something like an illness, or god forbid, a death, things change. The way people behave around you changes. Your kids stop fighting because they don’t want to upset you. They think you’ve got enough on your plate and are wise enough to settle their disagreements in private, away from you. So the way you know that things are normal again is when they have a knock-down, drag-out fight in your presence, and expect you to make everything right again.

All of that, to me, is perspective.

Today, take a moment and thank the universe for all of the petty annoyances that make up your day. I have already given thanks for the dishwasher that really doesn’t wash dishes, the dog who refuses to do anything in the rain, and the manuscript that won’t edit itself, no matter how long I stare at it.

Blessings to all of our Stiletto faithful and to anyone else dealing with the things that life can throw at you and that you have to learn to deal with without any preparation whatsoever.

Oh, and May is Skin Cancer Awareness month! Wear your sunscreen, even if it's cloudy!

Maggie Barbieri

5 comments:

  1. Maggie, ah, perspective! It's wonderful to get and going through a health crisis definitely clarifies what's important. But, yeah, it's hard to get so Zen that you stop griping entirely. I love your point of view that we should feel grateful when we have the luxury of complaining about the small things! You are so right! As you know I'm wearing my sun screen faithfully (well, when it isn't pouring down rain!). Heading to the dermatological surgeon this morning for Mohs surgery for my bad spot, thanks to spending the first 21 years of my life in the sun without sunscreen. If I knew then what I know now! Sending you hugs and best wishes for many more celebratory anniversaries to come!

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  2. Soooo happy that May 20 can now be a day of broken dishwashers, long lines, squabbling kids, unedited manuscripts - and good health, poo, poo (it's me, so I had to add it). You're right that is how it should be.

    Enjoy, Enjoy!

    Marian

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  3. Thanks, ladies! And Susan, good luck today. When you get through this, we will share a virtual bloody Vindaloo in celebration that your Mohs is Mohver. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) Maggie

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  4. Here's to your courage and your humor from a faithful reader of your books. Sometimes I think I learned more about my strength from all the curveballs-Heart disease, and breast cancer. I took a deep breath and soldier on and read to make me laugh. I like your posts.

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  5. Lil, thanks for writing! So, another survivor, huh? Keep on keeping on, like the rest of us. Thanks for being a faithful reader. I plan on keeping you laughing for a long time to come. Maggie

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