somewhere yesterday someone was playing the song fighter by christina aguilera. i one thousand percent participated in a summer sleep away camp dance show to that song. and if i dig deep enough into my core memories, i could probably remember some of the choreography. it was definitely spot on for the early two thousands. but anyways. the song. she says ‘and i wanna say thank you, cause it makes me that much stronger, makes me work a little bit harder, makes me that much wiser’. and those lyrics sat with me yesterday. it’s weird. to be in a place of gratitude at the exact same time that you absolutely hate the universe and what it’s given you. and it made me think of all the times the universe and i weren’t exactly on speaking terms. trust me, this isn’t the first time. and you all know how i absolutely do not believe that things happen for a reason. i can’t stand when people tell me that i was dealt a shitty hand because the world intended it. or that i was the right person for this misery. and that it was so my patience could be tested. or because i was strong enough to do it. nah. i call bullshit on that. always have and always will. shit just happens. not for any reason at all. it just happens. and so the universe and i, well let’s just say we have ‘it’s complicated’ listed on our profiles. because it is. while we spend a lot of our time giving each other the silent treatment, sometimes there’s bits of gratitude thrown into the mix. and honestly, right now, in this moment, i am having a hard time. balancing the gratitude with the sadness. finding the light in the cloudiness. sifting through the sorrow to find that silver lining everyone keeps shoving in my direction. christina aguilera. she thanks people and things and experiences in that song. and man, that means you’ve gotta be thankful that they happened to you. because it meant something. because you got something out of it. out of the experience or out of that person. and these last twelve months. they have weakened me. they have been really hard on my heart and my soul and literally every ounce of my existence. and this place. survivorship. it’s, um, it’s a lot. which i know, i know, you’ve heard that before. and i wake up each day, hoping for the best. planning to utilize every ounce of energy i can to put one foot in front of the other. because contrary to popular belief, i am not back to normal.
and i think it has a lot to do with the space that existed before cancer and the space that exists now. being thankful that you have exited a hard season but not thankful you went through it. and all the hard stuff that lays on the other side. the stuff no one tells you about. like that the muscle they cut through during your thirteen hour surgery is the same muscle you use to hold your bladder. and you trained that muscle at age eight on a road trip to florida and now you’re thirty two, unable to hold it while in line at the post office. or that people still leave. and people still say shit that they really shouldn’t. that they held their tongues while you were sick but didn’t retain the skill later. that there are people who are not capable of seeing you in a state of unrest so they demand that you pull yourself up and truck forward. but forward is, well, it’s a lot of things. it’s new and it’s unknown. it doesn’t look like the forward you had planned. the vacations, the friends, the budget, the time, the energy. you definitely didn’t plan to still be open at an abdominal incision or have crippling back pain or be hitting the pillows before eight on a monday night. or the forced sobriety or the nerve damage. the carefully crafted cocktail of medications. picking out a dress for a wedding but making sure your port or new breast scars don’t show. and there are moments where i stop to catch my breath and think to myself: ‘how did we get here?’ or ‘why did the universe choose me for this?’ and i remind myself that there will never be an answer. that there is so much unknown and there is so much that can still happen and so much that can still shape me. and that this, this diagnosis, this journey [ugh, it ain’t a cruise], this mountain range, this experience, this season, this marking. it’s been dark, it’s had its bitter moments. it’s been painful and it’s been enlightening. it’s brought me the best people and given me the breaks i needed, when i needed them. it’s shown me my power and my strength. it’s forced me into corners and shadows but allowed me to be my own light.
and i am thankful for that. for being forced to see my strength and worth. to be able to push forward and know that i don’t plan on taking anyone’s shit. that i will not bend or break for anyone. that i will not lay down for anyone to walk over. i refuse to be a bridge between one person and another. that my worth and my resilience and my strength are not for everyone. that my survival and my endurance of this past season do not deserve to be shoved into a box and put onto a shelf. that my markings will be understood and recognized; they will be cared for and nurtured. that the ones who are still here will continue to embrace me in hard times and carry me in weak moments. and so maybe our girl christina aguilera knows what’s up. maybe she’s on to something. or was on to something when that song came out in two thousand and two. that the fight, the struggle, the battle, whatever you wanna call it; it’s brutal in its big moments. it eats you alive and breaks you into a million tiny bits. it leaves you tattered and lonely and feeling doubtful of every moment to come. it pushes you to adjust every ounce of your existence. down to how you wash your face, what body wash you use, how high up you keep your laundry detergent, how much caffeine you need, how you do your homework. i was recently on a group call with a cancer survivor group i belong to; literally word vomiting about how massive the self doubt is. how insufferable it is to be under the weight of imposter syndrome. of how my life was feeling unmanageable. forgetting what we needed at the grocery store. forgetting a school assignment deadline. forgetting what time i said i would meet a friend for dinner. five planners deep. four to do lists. six color coded margins. highlighters. pens. a digital notepad in the door jam of my civic. but the chemotherapy did a number on my brain which in turn, is pushing me into spaces filled with self doubt. and a friend on this group call said to me- ‘this post cancer self is not the same. and that just means you have to adjust. you have to bring yourself into understanding how to recognize your new learning style and how differently you learn now.’ wow. it took the breath out of me. differently. everything is different now. and even though it’s not okay, because it’s unfair and wrong- i have the knowledge to know what’s different. what’s in the past and what lies ahead. how now is different and how to adjust as i take each step. that every moment that looms in the distance will forever be different than what it could’ve been. that these moments may never have existed had this not been my path. and that’s a far reach, believe me. it’s tumbling down that path of looking for reasons when reasons don’t exist.
so maybe she had it right, christina i mean. maybe you can be a fighter. maybe you can be a fighter and be mad at the universe at the same time. i know i was. i know that was my mode. mad as hell but still a fighter. but you can also say ‘thank you’. thank you to the universe for taking the people who didn’t deserve me out at the right time. thank you for showing me what i am capable of. thank you for tearing down the walls, making me vulnerable as hell, the most vulnerable i have ever been; to show me who can handle me at my worst and who deserves me in my finest moments. thank you for showing me what i have earned and for scarring me in the most beautiful ways. for creating this new badge of honor that i am choosing to wear. proudly. and thank you for leading me through dark passages and narrow halls; through the scariest of moments and conversations that tore me apart; through literal hell. thank you for bringing me here. to a place that’s just as scary. but it’s safe. and it has its beautiful moments. it’s new and it’s not at all what i had planned.
but thank you. thank you for making me that much stronger. thank you for bringing me to this part of life. this season.