I’ve never been a fan of fake happy. I want to keep it real. But whether out of fear or a desperate need, I’m choosing happy a lot these days.
I’m not talking about a fake smile on my face. I don’t want to pretend to be happy. I’m just sick of letting fear run the show, and I know that if I stay in the here-and-now (and don’t “time travel,” as one of my good friends puts it), I’m okay. I’m often much more than okay. Isaac and I dissolved into hysterical, can’t-stop-laughing laughter last night, and we both had tears streaming down our faces. I don’t remember why. I take lots of walks, and the glory of fall stuns me. I have a chance to do some writing work as a volunteer for GlobalCures, and I’m grateful to have an opportunity to learn about cancer cures and research and to contribute to the cause.
There’s a sucking pool of anxiety that I’m often tempted to dip my toe in (and risk getting pulled in entirely). I’m running away from it, frankly. I used to think that anxiety was actually based on some sort of facts or truth. I see it differently now. Anxiety is, often, a choice. (Not always, but I’ll get to that.) Yeah, I’m going to die one day, guaranteed. Yeah, my son is going to have pain in his life. Yeah, the world needs a lot more fixing than I can personally give it. Besides doing my fair share and being responsible for the tasks in front of me, why give those painful and difficult realities any more time and energy than they deserve? What good do I do by investing my life’s energy into worrying about them? I don’t want to miss all that this glorious and messed up ride called “life” is.
And sometimes, when I wake up at 4:00 a.m. and think with panic about that weird mole on my arm (yes, I have an appointment at the dermatologist scheduled for it), I can’t shut it off. I try. I pray. I think about happy things. I roll over. I try switching to something else I’m anxious about. I know, I said anxiety is often a choice. Yes, often I can change the direction of my thoughts and choose not to focus on the paralyzing, mesmerizing “what ifs?” that tempt me to panic. And sometimes I can’t seem to do so. As with so much in life, I take a deep breath, remind myself that a good deal of the human race feels like I do at one time or another; this will pass and will look better by daylight; and at least I’m not living in that anxiety all the time.
My battle with breast cancer really wasn’t much about cancer at all. Cancer never really did much to me. It made a lump in my breast. I had some surgery. I’ll have another surgery. I take some medication and some supplements. I take exercise a lot more seriously. Big deal.
The real battle was and continues to be between my ears. That’s always been my fiercest battle ground. At least today, I see that fear is the real enemy. It’s the enemy that robs me of the here and now. It’s the enemy that robs me of relationship. It’s the enemy that robs me of beauty and creativity and connection. I wrote in my Wilderness of Motherhood memoir about the fierce warrior woman, with her baby on her hip and her sword in her other hand, with the corpses of defeated demons at her feet. I feel her presence in my mind. She’s chopping at fear with a strength I didn’t know she had. I’m glad to have her around.
(The title of this blog post comes from Frank Herbert’s novel, Dune.)