Monday, January 30, 2012

Letting the Days Go By...Once In a Lifetime

The sky was blackened by the cloud cover, rain sheeting down as I drove to work for an early meeting. I was up early and would be coming home late, as was my practice for 80 hour work weeks at the helm of a small nonprofit organization in Portland, Oregon. I had had to drag myself out of bed that day, the black dog of depression at my heels as it had been for months upon months combined with lying awake in the middle of the night worrying about guiding this fantastic, but fragile, organization to the next level.

In short, I was miserable. But a week before, my friend Annie had come to town for a reconnaissance trip visit, pregnant with her second child. I had taken a call (for work, of course) while she cruised into the kitchen for a snack. Thump, thump! Thump, thump! The strangest sound came from the kitchen. Thump, thump! [pause] Thump! When I walked into the kitchen, there stood Annie with an incredulous look on her face. "I have been through every cupboard. There is nothing to eat in here. Nothing." "Bah!", I said, "Look in the fridge." "Fran. Condiments don't count."

Wind and rain pounding on my windshield,  I remember driving down 39th street when the eerie first notes of the Talking Head's song Once In a Lifetime came on the radio.

[You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
You may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
You may ask yourself, "Well, how did I get here?"]

And the weight of it all just hit me. How in the hell had I gotten to this state? I was in terrible shape, depressed, lonely, too busy for friends and living a life that was the polar opposite of what I thought a good life to be. I had become a slave to what I thought was important...but important was a single dimension of my life.

I drove to my office and emailed my good friend to ask for the name of her therapist and started a journey of reframing my life.

So, here I am again. Not in the stressed out, hating life mode, but given the utmost gift of a really incredibly intentional space of reframing.

What occurred to me the other morning was that I have six years to make life as good as I can. Maybe this is not the right way to think about it (I am sure my friends in medicine will find flaws with this reasoning), but when you are a triple-negative breast cancer, uh, person (I can't say survivor), your stats for recurrence look kind of crappy for six years and then they look really good. Getting through those six years is the deal. But, in some ways, it's the deadline.

So, how am I going to feel in two years if I have a recurrence and I have wasted those two years just operating out of the same mindset that I have had for the past ten? How am I going to feel about only seeing my kids for 2 hours a day because I commute to a job that has me leaving at 6:45a and getting home at 6:30p? Six years broken down into the very real possibility that at any time, the shit can hit the fan again.

How many times in your life do you get to ask yourself the question:
"Will I be satisfied reflecting on the life that I am living now, if it happens again?"

Because that reframes *everything*. If I get sick again in two years, will I be happy that I wasted time on the drama? If I get sick again in two years, will I be proud of making a difference in this world? If I get sick again in two years, will I wonder where the time went with my kids? If I get sick again in two years, will I have spent my time *filling my time/my heart/my life with things that make my spirit sing*?

Because, my friends, that is the shit. To have a life that is fulfilling and good. To feel like you are living your best life in your best self. To be loved, to love deeply, to appreciate, to think of the future  as it relates to this reflection of 2 years instead of 10.

What a gift. What a freaking gift.

Because you can plan all you want, but the reality is that shit happens.

You die of appendicitis at the age of 50.
You die in a car wreck at the age of 15.
You get diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer a week before you retire.

You get diagnosed with stage I breast cancer at 39 with very good outcomes...and you have a chance to make life what you want it to be.

How many more big, huge freaking billboards does one woman need?

When I hear that song by the Talking Heads, I am reminded that we get to reset, that there is time/it is time to think about the choices we make

[You may ask yourself, "What is that beautiful house?"
You may ask yourself, "Where does that highway go to?"
You may ask yourself, "Am I right, am I wrong?"
You may say to yourself, "My God! What have I done?"]

Just listen...chills.


  1. HUGGING you feel it.

  2. make it a double hug. and a thank you.

  3. I hear you,,,believe me, I do. Thanks Fran. - Marcia