“My cancer scare changed my life. I’m grateful for every new, healthy day I have. It has helped me prioritize my life.”
- Olivia Newton-John
In case you’re feeling sorry for yourself…
I know I do. Too often.
While I try to put my angst over not:
finding a job
I often indulge in my own personal dramas.
In May, a parent of another child in my son’s class died*, and since I found out, I’ve thought about her everyday. During the last week of school, I spoke to another parent and found out more about her illness. Those details made me feel the brunt of her loss all over again. I think about the family of four that has now become a family of three.
Jackee’s mother has cancer too and has battled it for a long time. (http://windedwords.blogspot.com/)
These are reminders that things can be so much worse. When things are going well, when people around us are healthy, remind yourself of your good fortune. Treasure it.
The curse of living a long life is that we “win” the race of longevity. We watch many others around us die.
My maternal grandmother came to America from Sicily when she was three-years-old in 1913. She was one of eleven children. She lived in a tenement house on the Lower East Side of New York City. The oldest, she dropped out of school in third-grade to help support the family by doing piecework. Only three of her siblings made it to adulthood. One babe, at age three, died in her arms of tuberculosis. “That was hard,” she once told me.
This grandmother had five children whom she raised in Queens, New York. She lived into her 90s, outliving her husband, her siblings, and many other relatives and friends. For many years she languished in a nursing home, living but not living.
The story is different for my paternal grandmother. Of Irish descent, she was born in America a year after my maternal grandmother, and lived her first years in upstate New York. When she was five, her father, a conductor on a trolley, stepped off, and was hit by an oncoming trolley. Her mother soon remarried. One day, her grandma came over and her mother left. Asking where her mother had gone to, she was told her mom went to have a baby. She hadn’t known her mother was pregnant. How did she feel when she found out she had a little brother? “Boy, was I mad,” she said.
She frequented speakeasies with my grandfather during Prohibition. Right after getting married, she became pregnant. That was the first of four children. She lived in Queens, New York (ten minutes from my other grandmother) for most of her life, with her best friend in the same town. She outlived her husband and stepbrother. When she was in her 80s, her best friend died and she took it very hard, harder than we knew. I think my grandma was closer to her than anyone else in her life. Not so much time had passed after the death of her friend when my grandmother died of a heart attack. My father found her when he went to check in on her after she hadn’t answered her phone.
I’d rather go quickly than languish.
I’d rather get to say goodbye than to be taken suddenly.
Do I want to live a long life to endure more goodbyes of those I love?
When it’s my time, I won’t get to decide any of these things.
But I don’t want to dwell on death - I want to dwell on life.
Why am I writing this post? Because my writer-friend, Selena Sheaves has finally left her job. She’s a talented writer, dedicated mother, and a dear friend. I met her years ago from the SCBWI board for potential critique partners. We wound up living in the same town, with children of a similar age. One of the first things she told me was that I should know she had cancer. At the time, I didn’t know what it meant. Was she still getting treatment? Would it mean she might have periods when she wouldn’t be able to critique? Was she letting me off the hook in case I didn’t want to deal with it? Or was it just a fact she wanted to share?
Of course, I still agreed to share pages. Our manuscript exchange turned into a friendship.
Selena is an amazing person. She does more than me, often overtaxing herself. The more she took on, the more I mourned the shortening of her writing time until it disappeared. But now she’s back. She has a blog. And this post moved me, reminding me what a wonderful writer she is. Read the post NOW:
I recommend following her blog. She needs more people (especially writers) in her life nagging her to write. So join me.
We have to remind ourselves to appreciate what’s good, what’s working while we have it. It’s all about perspective.
* Post about Lisa: