Monday, January 21, 2013


Today is Martin Luther King Jr Day. It's also President Obama's second inauguration day. I don't really care what anyone thinks of either one of those guys. For me, I'm just going to consider it an inspiration day. Inspiration in a lot of ways. Inspiration to have goals, reach for them, and achieve those goals. Inspiration not to sweat the small stuff. I'm not a "small stuff" kind of person actually- small stuff in the way that I don't really let minutiae bog me down. I'm not really detail oriented in a general sense and I'm not a perfectionist. For me, not getting caught in the vortex of the small stuff means just not letting myself get heated over stuff that isn't that important in my bigger picture. It means not holding a grudge or even just taking a moment to think, "do I really care about this?" before flying off the handle. It doesn't mean you don't have a right to be upset because you ordered boots in plum and when they came in they were more hot pink than plum. Or that you can't be annoyed because your cleaning person fell on your lampshade, tried to repair it with medical tape and just thought you wouldn't notice (true story just told to me by a customer ten minutes ago). Everyone's problems are their own and they're bigger because they're their own. There are always going to be children starving in third world countries, an AIDS epidemic, and homelessness in our own country. We all are still allowed to have small(er) problems and feel whatever we feel about them.

This is more, maybe, a little reminder to myself and others that we can or should be able to just take a moment to try to find some silver linings. I guess this thought may have subconsciously started after seeing Silver Linings Playbook on Saturday night. Now I'm all about baby steps and silver linings, and finding a little inspiration in places you wouldn't ordinarily see it.

I was watching American Idol from last week on my dvr this morning while I was on the treadmill. I kept hearing young girls, over and over, saying, "Mariah Carey inspired me" or some version of that. I thought it was interesting because I can't say I've ever been particularly inspired by anyone. I don't sing so it wouldn't be a singer. The only "physical challenge" I ever face is fat so I don't identify with those who are physically challenged in more serious ways. I FEEL for them, I cry with them when I read or see their stories, but I'm not sure I'm "inspired". I just sort of do my thing- whatever strikes me, whenever. If I was in some sort of competition and a win was based on the answer to the question, "Who would you consider to be your inspiration?", I'd be standing there, cotton-mouthed, with no answer. Until recently.

I've written about my friend Jocelyn who has Stage 4 cancer. I never understood exactly what the stages were, I just knew that the the lower the number, the "better" it is for the patient. She never actually SAID the stage, at least to me, to my knowledge, until maybe a few months ago. And I was taken aback. Because she LOOKS so good. I mean, yeah, her hair fell out, but if you saw her- she just doesn't look like what I've seen or what you can imagine.

She was even feeling ok...whatever ok feels like with cancer, up until a little more recently when radiation took more of a toll. She was having a shitty few weeks lately. And she still does her stuff. I've had family members with cancer. I've known people with cancer. I just have not actually SEEN someone FIGHT the way she's been doing. Obviously a lot of people have dealt with cancer and have family and friends who are survivors. So maybe it doesn't seem like that big of a deal to other people. But I see her pretty much on a weekly basis, often more than once a week.  All I see is someone working really hard to kick ass. I saw her yesterday and I just...felt her strength.

She had a bad two days prior but we had a birthday invite for the boys yesterday. I was texting with her Saturday and jokingly told her to try to get her ass in gear to be there Sunday because I had stuff to tell her. Not important stuff, but just silly stuff I thought she'd want to know about. She could've just let her husband, Eric, take their son to the party, said fuck it and stayed home. She didn't. She showed up. It may seem like a small thing, but it was just indicative of her whole demeanor through this. She takes her son to school in the morning when she can. She picks him up. She just powers through. She doesn't have to- there are tons of people who have been offering to help them do stuff. And she does let them if she's not feeling it, but for the most part, she really just puts on her game face and gets moving. We went to eat after the party. She has no appetite and I'm fairly certain her bed was looking way more attractive to her than sitting in a pizza place. But she stuck it out, with no appetite, ate her white pizza, and pushed through because she has to eat and she wants to do normal stuff like it's a normal day and cancer isn't keeping her from what she would do if she was fine.

For me, the inspiring thing isn't that she goes or does, it's the attitude she does it with. She doesn't mope around or sit around crying. There are just some people in life you encounter where everything is "heavy". They have a heavy air about them where you just feel bogged down in sad just being in the orbit of their energy. Not Jocelyn. She shows up with a smile and a wave, in her knit cap or a baseball hat, and stands there chatting and gossiping until she finally says, "You know, it's really fucking cold out here when you have no hair. We need to move this along.". And you have to laugh. With her. Because while she definitely means she's had enough, she still has the smile on her face. Her smile reminds me that there is nothing really that bad that you can't muster up at least a little laughter, even if you're facing a shitstorm.

Look, she could be home crying in her soup every day. She'd be justified and that would be fine too. I'm sure there are so many more people that know her better than I do. She's not a rampant over-sharer like I am. I'm sure I'm not privy to her deepest feelings and fears. She could sit and cry to me- I'm sure she knows I can take it and would want to be there for her no matter what she was feeling. I just believe her positive attitude is totally genuine. I can say, that for as much as I see her for small snippets of time- two hours at a birthday party, a few hours for the boys to play, or a leisurely lunch with a mutual friend, she's still smiling, she's still joking around and she's THERE. Physically AND mentally. We joke and goof, gossip and laugh, and we make plans. Plans for the boys, plans for the future, plans for when she's healthy.

I'd like to think I'd be that strong. I'd want to be. I think it's one of those things that you just couldn't know unless it was your problem to face. I thought it was interesting- she lost her hair, then it grew back, and because of the recent radiation, she lost it again. I know so many people who lost their hair from cancer and I never saw them without a wig. Not that there is anything wrong with that. For one, maybe wearing one is empowering. Maybe they wanted to live as normal as possible. I don't know. I just love that Jocelyn just doesn't make it a thing. Hair, no hair- she's out and about. Obviously she'd rather have her hair but she's just who she is even if people are whispering that she must be the one with cancer. She could probably avoid that if she wore a wig, but she isn't fazed by it either. She looked hot with her short Sinead O'Connor look when it was really growing in and she looks beautiful bald as a baby's ass too. But the interesting part is that I know it bothered her- I'd say "sad" was an appropriate word, probably for the vanity of it, to lose the hair again, but she was more PISSED. Like, she was literally angry. It's moments like those when I feel her strength. Someone else may have just cried at home, refusing to leave the house, wrapped up in the vanity of it. I mean, no one wants her to have to feel anger, but for some reason, I feel like that's all part of her fight. The fight inside her. Sort of like a FUCK YOU cancer- fine, take my hair. I'll go out, bald, it'll be cold, and it'll be annoying, but I WILL WIN. And I swear- I truly believe her.

So today, on a day many people feel is or should be filled with inspiration, she is my inspiration. Keep on doing your thing Joce.

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