Unchosen Life

“We live in a culture that only wants to talk about what’s going well. Anything that’s not going well is positioned as a detour from the main road. The truth is that pain is not a detour from the main road. Pain is part of the road we walk as human beings.”

Susan Cain, “Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole”

These halls are familiar now, these new halls that lead to necessary answers. All must be just right if I am to receive those precious monoclonal antibodies the next day. So I will give up some blood for the privilege of – maybe – being cured again. This is part of the ritual that is my Life now.

The question, “Why me?” is a far distant memory. Today I find myself feeling especially bright as I approach the lab’s waiting room. My footsteps are lighter, as is my spirit. I am surprised to find myself grinning behind my mask. These once-strange halls are now one of the pictures of my Life. We are connected.

Labs, tests, infusions, consultations, side effects to pay attention to: walking the halls of one of the world’s great medical centers, I am one of millions who live this life. A life none of us chose. A life that chose us.

I am pitied and that can feel warm and lovely. You understand! Who would choose this life?

Still, I am unexpectedly smiling on this day. This is the day of the week when I have blood drawn. Tomorrow will be antibody day. That’s how life flows now. I have just surprised myself by living even more fully into that reality. This Life may give me more life. It may not. But it is giving me increasingly rich days of gratitude in the meantime.

Giving up a need to control, I am set free to just let Life unfold as it will. To let it flow in its given trajectory while asking, “What can I do to honor all of these days?” The answer has become, “Do not fight the life you have. Join it, let all of it become rich with meaning. Find the deepest wells that can water every part of it. Let go and you will find that both joy and courage will find their home in you. Amazing grace will lead the way.

The wonder of embracing every part of my Life is that I have not planned or manipulated its direction in these many months of living under the challenge that is cancer. I have never understood what “fighting” cancer means. I do understand the courage to endure; I get the challenge of trusting that life is not out to get me. I do know the wonder of overcoming some difficult days when strength is at a premium and it shows up anyway.

I cannot “fight cancer” and know peace. Instead, I have been finding peace in acceptance – the acceptance that all of this is my singular road. It has been given to me and making my way along it has given me an unexpected bonus: I am happy in the midst of an unusual and often challenging life that can easily turn sour. As it happens, I have found that I do not do sour very well.

It turns out that every facet of my Life has been quietly integrating itself with all the others. Without my even trying. The unchosen life that could make me miserable and angry has, instead, been blessing me without my even trying.

I cannot take sole credit for this journey. The Spirit walks every step with me and gives me what I am ready to receive. I believe we call that “grace.”

It turns out, I’m very okay with that.