Positivity: Easier Said Than Done

Tommy and I spoke the other night about what we thought we might be doing if cancer had not entered our lives. You might think we would have said, "traveling more, achieving career goals, making more money”, but instead it sounded more like, “focusing on problems that don’t matter, spending energy on things that don’t make us happy, missing out on moments we probably would have taken for granted”. I have spoken before about the positives (its even difficult for me to type that) of cancer, and they can be undeniable a lot of the time.

That being said, I haven’t felt positive this week. Nothing bad happened, treatments are going really well, but I just felt like my positivity was forced/false. My most prominent emotion was anger. I found myself feeling angry; angry for Tommy as he was poked and prodded and fed new medications, angry for the lack of normalcy in our first year of marriage, and angry at myself for not being able to shake this negative perception. I felt like I was leading a double life: the one I wanted to be feeling, and how I actually felt. How do you remain positive without completely denying the reality of your situation?

We’re going through something awful that no one should have to go through. There is no denying we have a lot to be angry about, but the really difficult part is having no one to be angry at. There is nowhere to place blame or direct frustration. I didn’t want to simply release my anger because I knew it was valid, but deep down I also knew it wasn’t serving me.

For me, the answer has been gratitude. I’m mad, and I’m grateful. It really comes down to trying to be present during low moments. I have a tendency to jump twenty steps ahead, and think of all the things that could go wrong before anything even happens. I realized this is where my disconnect has been stemming from. I felt like I was faking positivity because I was giving myself the lofty goal of being positive about everything for the rest of my life.

My thoughts on positivity stretched WAY farther than the present moment. I realized I don’t need to feel positive about next month. I don’t need to feel positive about next week. I don’t even need to feel positive about tomorrow, but right now? Can I find gratitude at this very moment? Yes, that is manageable. Then the next moment arrives. Can I find gratitude at this moment? Yes, I can. Is it okay if I can’t? YES. Knowing I’m being honest with myself makes feeling positive much more attainable. I am angry at this situation, but at this exact, tiny moment, I am grateful. Being present in an ongoing traumatic situation has been a sticking point in my exploration of myself this past year, but I’ve found the more I practice it, the more easily it comes.

A few weeks ago, I told my therapist I didn’t want cancer to change me. I am a generally happy person, but I was becoming worried that the weight of this ongoing fight would close off my heart and make me inherently darker and less happy. I expected her to respond with reassurances that I will always be who I am and nothing can change that etc., but instead, she said, “It’s going to change you.” I shot up. That’s completely unfair. “It’s going to change you, and it already has changed you. It doesn’t mean it has to change you in ways that don’t serve you.” We stretch and grow whether we want to or not. Change is inevitable, but the direction is up to us.

Some days positivity comes without effort. Some days it seems like a far off unreachable concept. Continuing to seek it, whether you fail or not, is what makes all the difference.