My last blog post, Moving Forward, spoke of my friend and kick-ass drum-major, Amy who died from complications of breast cancer. I have been following her parents (who defined the best band parents around) on Facebook as they journey across the country to honor Amy's memory by visiting places she loved. It is such a beautiful and meaningful way to remember, to grieve, and to find peace. Seeing these updates is a reminder of what Amy's family asked us to do as her time on earth was coming to an end -- to not put off what you want to say to your loved one, make that call, send that message, take that trip.
I imagine there have been some pretty tough times on this bucket list trip for Amy's parents - my respect for them is so very deep. I've had quite a bit of reflection time these past couple of weeks because I've been helping out with state testing at the middle and high schools - it is so very quiet. I'm inspired by their courage - in many ways, they are fighters too, warriors here on earth while Amy is forever our Angel Warrior.
I wasn't prepared to be diagnosed with cancer, I certainly wasn't prepared to die, and oddly, I wasn't prepared to survive either. Living after cancer is a strange existence riddled with survivor guilt and other emotional and physical setbacks. It's a weird cycle of I'm tired/ill of not really knowing why I still feel tired, but that's o.k., I just had cancer, so it's o.k. to still feel tired (but, secretly, I'm really angry and fearful for feeling this healthy version of sick and then feel guilty for feeling angry). These feelings make it hard to feel like planning for the future, so I usually try to combat that feeling by listening to some music and connecting with some resources. Getting involved with the community, in particular looking for ways to help with breast cancer fundraising, research, and support programs makes me see the bigger picture instead of just wallowing in my own situation. I think that's the trick, to not make "objects larger than they appear."
If you know someone going through a trauma, I suggest contacting them weeks after a treatment, a loss, or other serious issue. It's understandable that this time frame is sometimes forgotten because everyone thinks the person is doing fine, that the trauma is "over", but in reality, that is often when the person is most lonely, vulnerable, and fearful. Think about reaching out when nobody else would think to and offer something specific to the friend. Try to refrain from saying, "Just let me know if there is anything I can do to help", this puts responsibility back on the person and that actually can be even more stressful. Take the extra steps, even if they are uncomfortable, to offer tangible help.
I love the Dalai Lama's concept of being motivated by love so that your actions are fearless and free. This philosophy can certainly apply to just about every aspect of our global society. But, I can't help but think that if I took the time to love and recognize my accomplishments more, I might not be as paralyzed by the guilt and fear that drives my actions or in so many cases, lack of actions. Why do you suppose it's so hard to get out of guilt jail when you own the key!?!
(I look at this sign each time I volunteer at the hospital.)