Saturday, August 30, 2008

Like Water for Chocolate

School is underway here and my son started 1st grade. I'm so excited to see him move forward in his life and I take great pride in each little advance that he makes. I remember how excited I was when he started Kindergarten last year - it seemed like such a huge rite of passage to finally be in "real" school. It was shortly after that, though that I received my cancer diagnosis and life seemed to implode. I wasn't able to be involved in the class as much as I had wanted to. I missed events while hooked to IVs. Thank goodness there wasn't any homework.

This year the start of the school year feels different. In amongst the happiness of letting him lead me through his new classroom, showing me his first few days of work was a sense of "fear". I almost felt afraid to be excited or happy. My mind was doing some pretty interesting associations. "Don't get too excited, you know what happened the last time", I found myself saying.

Standing in the hallway waiting for his class to finish one afternoon, I looked at all the other parents chatting away with one another, and I felt a bit jealous that their lives seemed so carefree. And then I saw her. The woman sitting a bit away from the crowd, sort of inbetween two easels. She was thin, had a shy smile of her face and was sitting a bit rigidly, watching all the acitivity from a distance. She looked a bit gaunt but the bandana on the head was the give away. We made eye contact just briefly but enough to communicate the "I know what you're going through". (You see my hair is still very short and although I don't need a hat, it has that "chemo" style to it.). I really felt for her because I know the pain of that feeling, as if because of what you are fighting, you can't totally immerse yourself in the joy of your children's lives. I wanted to let her know that she would get through it and move forward - and then I realized having only finished my 9 months of treatment 3 weeks ago, that I'm just now making that transition myself.

Moving on is a process - tough and fragile. While I'm getting my feet underneath me, I realize I learned two very important things this past year. One is to take it one day at a time. You hear that so often, it sounds cliche. But it really is a different way of living life. Yesterday afterschool I made cookies with my son. He loves to cook and he was so happy to be involved. A year ago I would have felt less patient about taking twice as long to get them cooked or having cookie dough dropped on the floor or him constantly licking the spoon and having to get another clean one and always wiping his "cookie" hands on his clothes. (Note to self: remember to put his apron on the next time). It was a truly fun experience and the cookies came out the best they've ever been! There's a lesson in there I'm sure. If you've ever seen the movie "Like Water for Chocolate" you'll know what I mean.

The second thing I've learned is to "look around". If you observe those around you, you'll see "us"; people struggling to make life work. It may not be health issues, it may be other things. I will never completely forget what it's like to be there at the edge; in some sense that's where I live now. I don't know what life holds for me tomorrow, a year from now, 5 years from now. But I know that I have today and that's what is important.