Thursday, July 12, 2007

ESP of Purpose

Yesterday I got an email from the MLIS graduate program I had been attending last fall when I was diagnosed. It's enrollment time again. Which brings up the question that seems to be a theme with cancer survivors - what do I do now?

There's a bit of expectation that surviving cancer will transform you into a little Dalai Lama or Thoreau or Oprah - someone who sees more clearly than ever their "purpose" in life. Someone who has stared the beast down and now has some sort of strength unknown to mere mortals. And while there is a kernel of truth to this - anything that might have seemed daunting before would probably be a cakewalk now - I'm not sure that I have any better sense of purpose than I did before. I feel a bit like when an elementary school teacher says "not working up to her potential." But my potential for what? Do I need to be a phoenix rising triumphantly from the ashes or can I just step out of the ash pile, shake off my tail feathers and mosey on down the road?

I know all of these "expectations" are internal - this is not a new theme for me. I've always had periods of my life where I feel like what I'm doing is not enough. Although not enough of what, I'm never sure. So, when I start to feel like I'm not successful enough, I ask myself, "But, are you happy? " If the answer is yes, then I feel like I must be in a good place. I think the issue right now is that I'm not happy. I'm sure at some point I'll feel happy and grateful that I didn't die of cancer at 35, but right now, in the midst of lingering side effects and uncertainty of reoccurence I mostly feel bitter.

I know that the best thing you can do with any emotion is just let it take it's course. I don't place value judgments on "good" or "bad" emotions - they are all part of all of us. So I'll be bitter for as long as I need to. But you may want to stay a good 2 meters away until further notice. Or maybe dive right in and give me a hug. I dunno.


Ed said...

"I feel your pain." Well, we know that's crap, but it seemed like a truism that I might be able to get away with today. I was a busy, independent, consulting analyst prior to my surprise diagnosis of colon cancer in March. The whirlwind of the past four months has been startling, but thanks to your candid blogging, I decided to start my own blog adventure. I don't know how many times people have said, "you're such a good writer - maybe that should be your next career!?" Just an idea that may apply to you too, I guess.

It can be a little bit overwhelming to feel like you need to find a calling "right now", especially after the "long battle" supposedly ends. And it's interesting that you were pursuing an MILS degree (I seriously considered that path to, as I am an information junkie and have worked in IT for the past dozen years). Did you enjoy the program you were in and the studies that you undertook? That might be a big clue for you... and an MILS degree will open plenty of diverse opportunities for you when you are through the program...

But back to my reality for a moment - when I was diagnosed I had just applied to work again for a state agency, doing work that I ran screaming from a short three years ago. It just felt right (job-wise and timing-wise), and I knew that I needed to have a challenging distraction from the chemo regimen. I am now working full-time, my boss is fully aware of my situation... and it is a kind of "reunion" with the professional career I had before I went independent. Maybe that would work for you too... resuming your pre-treatment dream for a bit, finishing that part of your life project, stepping forward consciously into a future. Good luck with everything - you know I am pulling for you!

inger said...

*big hug*

Ed said...

Just realized I should have thrown a hug in too. *hug*