Sometimes life can bring a level of irony that catapults you right into the back seat of the car Alanis Morissette drives when she sings the 90’s hit “Isn’t it Ironic”. As I navigate all these moving parts in my life right now I can’t help but laugh because life really does have a way of sneaking up on you.
Last week I spoke at a woman’s conference on “leading through change” – when I booked this engagement I had no idea I would be navigating one of the largest moments of change of my personal life and be days away from my company announcing one of the largest changes of its 30 year history. At the heart of my talk is the idea that not only is change constant in our lives (especially in the pandemic world) but it is also extremely hard… for everyone. Sure, some folks are resilient and can flow through change pretending it doesn’t send a shock to their system – but the honest truth is that change is a shock to the human physical and psychological system, no matter how big or small.
As humans navigate change, they go through a change curve over time, often there is resistance, denial, and then slowly acceptance, exploration, and commitment. It is helpful to be aware of this as you navigate change yourself or as you help other people navigate change. Some people make it through change, some people don’t… some people get stuck in a fixed mindset, unable to move beyond the way things used to be. This can be hard for people around them, people who love them, support them or care for them.
One thing that is clear to me - people who navigate cancer are superheroes of strength – master change managers – resilient change conquers. Again, with my early stage, and the unknowns pending before my surgery, my situation is so much better than others, but no matter how big or small, a cancer journey forces you to ask yourself so many questions.
What habits do I need to change?
How do I feel about death?
What really matters to me?
Am I strong enough to get through this?
Am I strong enough to stay committed to the lifestyle changes?
Will the depression ever lift?
Am I making the right treatment choices?
Will this come back?
Do I have all the information?
Do I understand all the information?
What else is coming and can I handle it?
The list goes on… but the one thing I know… life is never the same after you hear the word cancer and your name in the same sentence.
My mom and dad both went through cancer in 2015 – I knew it was a big deal – I cried with them, I was there for the treatments – I listened and loved as they navigated their situations in their own personal way. I thought I understood what they were going through, I did my best to be supportive and empathetic. The truth though, I don’t think you can really understand life changing health issues until you go through it yourself. I watched them both navigate things, but I had no idea how much was going on inside their heads.
My life needed change – on so many levels the silver lining in this is how life is forcing me to look at things I needed to look at. To make changes to things that I have been ignoring. To push myself closer towards joy, health, purpose, connection.
The last 12 months have been some of the hardest of my life, not just because of the pandemic, but because I have been falsely accused, mis-understood, bullied, rejected, disregarded, and stomped on by people I trusted. I have done the work to get through hard things only to be presented with the next hurdle – faced to grow, stretch, and move forward with a spirit and heart that was still weary from the previous blow.
I have been taking it in stride, adjusting, learning, growing, stretching… staying away from the victim mindset as much as I can – trying to still have faith in humans, as cruel as they are, living and enjoying the joys in life even on the days I want to curl up and disappear – focusing on empathy, forgiveness, peace and self-protection.
This moment of change – the moment life reminded me I am truly not invincible – is humbling. In this odd way, even though I don’t really know where this journey will take me… I am grateful for yet another wakeup call - another change to show myself just how strong, resilient, and independent I am… I am ready to face this change – accept whatever comes with it.
So I am here in this moment – ready to fight through cancer in this moment and make the changes I need to make to stay healthy, on track, and joyful for as many years as I am blessed to live on this earth in the miracle we call “life”. “And, yeah, life has a funny way of sneaking up on you, life has a funny, funny way of helping you out, helping you out”…. Isn’t it ironic?