"To live as if we're dying can set us free." Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
Kung Hei Fat Choy! Happy Chinese New Year!
Under the lunar calendar, last month marked the beginning of the Year of the Horse. It always takes me some time to adjust to a new year. I'm still writing Year of the Snake on my checks.
I was glad to see the tail end of the snake. Last year was a poisonous year for me, discovering I have lung cancer, going through chemo and radiation, then learning to live life in the shadow of this disease.
In his wonderful opinion piece in the New York Times, "How Long Have I Got Left?", Dr. Paul Kalanithi discusses his lung cancer, and how challenging it can be to plan for the future when living with cancer means the future feels so precarious. I'll make certain choices now that it looks like I probably won't die this year. You make certain choices if you believe you have a year to live. If you think you have five or 10 years, well, that's a horse of another color.
Of course, none of us knows how long we have. My friend Kathy, who also has lung cancer, recently said to me, "We're all just ants. The only difference is that once you have cancer, you can see the big foot over your head."
When I was first diagnosed my priorities were crystal clear and I did not sweat the small stuff. Bit by bit, however, the minutia has crept back and now I once again get fully agitated when other drivers don't signal or I'm on hold with the cable company. On one hand, this indicates a return to normalcy, and that's a good thing. On the other hand, I don't want to lose perspective on what's really important.
So, as I saddle up for the Year of the Horse, here are a few things I'm going to do, or stop doing. These are small, daily choices that can have a big impact on my quality of life in the coming year. For example:
1. Wear my best perfume for any occasion or no occasion
2. Never again bother with hair dye
3. Continue flossing
4. Wear comfortable shoes
5. Don't be afraid to show kindness or affection through touch
6. Get a massage every week
7. See more live performance
8. Always have my reading glasses with me
9. Spend more time where I can hear the sound of the water and fill my lungs with ocean air
10. Write about everything
Some might call these resolutions, but I think they're just good horse sense.