Are you waiting for the kids to go back to school? Yeah, me too. Are you waiting for a little space because your house is a little more full these days? Umm… me too. Are you waiting to see what happens with the economy? Are you wondering how your kids will manage virtual school, or if you’ll be able to get them to do it at all? Are you just wishing and wanting and waiting for things to go back to normal? Yeah, me too.
I have news, though. Some things will go back to normal. Somethings will become a new normal and somethings will (for better or worse) change forever. It’s okay. You know why? You’re not alone. We’re all in this together, and most importantly, you get to choose how much of this goes.
Now bare with me here. This post isn’t really about me. It’s about you. I’ve learned a lot and want to share, but you have to read about me to get to you. Remember, you get to decide (for the most part) how things go.
When I was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer on December 22, 2014, I never dreamt that “waiting for normal” would be one of the hardest parts. Now, I will say… the fact that my oncologist has said to me numerous times, “I believe you have been cured of cancer” makes it 7 million times easier for me to see things the way I do. I’m typically not someone who lives in fear anyway, but her words are some of my very favorite.
“Waiting for normal” is something that never really goes away when a life-changing event occurs. The COVID-19 pandemic certainly qualifies as life-changing. Over time you will learn it’s more of a new normal you strive for. Your perspective, your attitude, being flexible and letting go of expectations are the things you can strive to keep in check. These are some of the only things we can control right now.
After my cancer diagnosis, I knew the next 365 days would obviously be very different from any I had ever experienced. (Turns out it was 367 days. I was pretty impressed with my guesstimate.) There would be chemotherapy. I would probably feel horrible, and maybe spend some days on the bathroom floor in front of the toilet. My hair would fall out for sure, and maybe I’d wear a wig, or maybe I wouldn’t. Then there would be multiple surgeries, and finally… radiation. Then I thought (expected) things would go relatively back to normal. Ha!
I have lots of specifics I could share regarding all of my experiences. I expected many of the physical challenges, because my doctors did a great job preparing me. There were also some physical challenges that were unexpected and even baffled my medical team. What I’ll say about that is… never, ever give up, and believe that challenges are temporary and know with all your heart, that one way or another, even if it’s painful, you will come out the other side.
Are you thinking…Blah, blah… get to it, Heather. How is this supposed to help me? Okay, here you go. Be thinking attitude, expectations, perspective, etc.
What I didn’t expect, were the emotional challenges I’d face. No one could have ever prepared me for how my illness would effect my family, both immediately and long-term. Our relationships changed. We grew together and at the same time, we grew apart. One example in which you may relate is, my kids are absolutely on different academic paths than they would have been had I not been diagnosed with cancer. It changed so much about how I view what’s important. And while there’s part of me that wishes I hadn’t been so vocal, because you’d better believe my kids (have forever) latched on to things like… “Your homework doesn’t matter. What matters is your emotional well-being. You’re not doing that tonight, and I don’t care what the consequence is.” I know that our family experience with cancer has shaped us into who we are. We came out the other side.
I also never expected the tremendous amount of personal growth that would occur. I never knew I could be so strong. My point is… use this extremely challenging and scary time as an opportunity. An opportunity show yourself (and your family) some grace. An opportunity to connect with the wonderful and amazing humans that live in your house. An opportunity to be open to a “new normal.” No one knows what that will look like. We are figuring it out… together, but separately at the same time. And we are all doing it ONE DAY AT A TIME. I’m not trying to yell there, but I need you to know… you will come out of this on the other side, one way or another. What is happening in our world right now is shaping all of us. We are all in this together. Stop looking for the “right way” to do it. Just do it…the best you can… because that is enough. You are enough and you will get through this.
It might feel next to impossible right now. You’re not alone. Take a breath, and try a new perspective. Dave Hollis, the husband of Rachel Hollis… you know… the author of Girl Wash Your Face recently said: “In the rush to return to normal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.” He goes on to say: “If things go back exactly as they were, we will have missed the opportunity to take the good from this bad. The gift nobody’s asked for is sitting here for us all to open — an opportunity to do some housekeeping in where we focus, who we spend time with, what we consume, how we work, what matters and most importantly what doesn’t. Take notes. We’re getting a lesson we cannot forget when things return to normal.”
I like his perspective, and my personal wish for you is that, during these unprecedented days, you figure out what matters. No… you get to decide what matters. Then, go do that. Whatever “that” is, because it doesn’t have to be what your friends and/or neighbors decide is important. Be who you are. You’re enough. (But please do stay home, for now… if you can.)
Sending big virtual hugs,