the whipped cream conundrum

"would you like whipped cream with that? hell yeah!"


January 2020

If You Can’t Do the Little Things Right…

Sometimes it’s the small things in my life that seem so big and the big things in my life are no big deal.  Hey, I’m here, right? I often wonder why that is — I can confront life’s biggest challenges, but when it comes to the basics I’m somewhat helpless.  This notion got me thinking about whether I am doing the big things beyond surviving.

Often times, things that seem so insignificant, like watering my plants, feel overwhelming.  I have to go into the kitchen (which I am in countless times a day), get the water bottle filled, and walk around my living room watering my seven plants.  I probably could have completed this task in the time it took to type this sentence, but instead I wait until the plants start to wilt and decide it must be time to suck it up and get them fed. Sometimes the plants come back to life, although I have killed several plants, so I suppose it’s not a successful strategy.

I try to convince myself that my issues with completing small tasks are related to time — I often feel that I’m on borrowed time, so really the time I use to water the plants could be used for something more important.  But, the question essentially becomes, am I doing something important instead?  Usually not.  Instead, I think it’s due to a lack of vision.  Stay with me…

In his commencement address to the University of Texas graduating class, Admiral William McRaven advised the graduates that to accomplish big things, you have to start by making your bed:

If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.

If you can’t do the little things right, you will never be able to do the big things right. 

So if you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

I keep hearing that phrase run through my head —  If you can’t do the little things right, you will never be able to do the big things right — because I want to do big things.  Not Greta -sized things, but working to ensure access to high-quality cancer care for all people, becoming an advocate for cancer patients and research, sharing my story with others who can benefit from my experiences, and writing a book.   I suppose that if I water my plants (and make my bed), my vision of greatness will take one step closer to becoming reality.

When I am overwhelmed by the thought of watering the plants, or making the bed, it is because I have a lack of vision, or, more likely than not, a lack of confidence in my vision.  I can get stuck in the “I don’t have time” mindset or wonder “who would really care anyway.”  There is time and people do care, so if I look at the small things as conduits to my vision, they may seem less tedious and more worthwhile.

Tonight I’ll water the plants, and when I wake up tomorrow, I’ll make my bed.  I’ll take out the trash and clean my car and empty the dishwasher.  I’ll do these little things because I’m ready for the next big thing.

I Got This … or Not

Survivor: a person who continues to function or prosper in spite of opposition, hardship, or setbacks.

As I was struggling to work through some complicated feelings today, someone called me a “survivor.”  It’s a word that people throw around a lot as it relates to those of us affected by cancer.  In fact, the term “cancer survivor” even has its own Wikipedia page – a person with cancer of any type who is still living.

But being a cancer survivor is more than being a person who is alive after a cancer diagnosis.  I am a human being living with the emotional aftermath of the experience.  There’s the post-traumatic stress, the sleepless nights, the unpredictable emotions, and, most of all, the paralyzing fear of hearing that other shoe hit the floor.  That fear is almost indescribable – the butterflies in my stomach every time I wait for my bloodwork to come back; the feeling of dread when I feel pain anywhere in my body; and the panic that runs through my body every time I think that the doctors I trust really can’t tell me how long this will last.

In spite of this emotional volcano just waiting to erupt, I “continue to function and prosper.”  Today,  however, I wondered, “at what expense?”   I do it to protect myself, as well as those around me – if they think I’m ok, they won’t worry and if they don’t worry they won’t ask me difficult questions.  It’s telling the world I got this, when, in reality, I really don’t have it at all.

So, I decided to Google “what is the antonym to survivor.”  Words such as “failure” and  “loser” popped up.  I’d be lying if I said I don’t see myself as those things more often than I’d like to –  it’s easier to see my flaws than my strengths.  But, simply seeing myself that way from time to time does not make me a loser or a failure.  Neither does trying to keep it all together while avoiding the difficult feelings.  It makes me human and does not negate the fact that I am, indeed, a survivor.

Somehow or other, this “analysis” has moved away from seeing myself as a cancer survivor to simply a survivor.  Cancer is only one of the setbacks in my life, although it has been the most major one and the one for which I carry the most emotional baggage.  But, I have come to realize that being a survivor, be it cancer or not, doesn’t mean having all my shit together.  That’s just exhausting.  What it does mean is fighting for myself and figuring out what I want out of this precious life.

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