Gilda Radner, Saturday Night Live comedienne who died of ovarian cancer in 1989, had this to say about life:
Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it without knowing what’s going to happen next.
Six years after her death, a center to provide social and emotional support for cancer patients and caregivers opened in New York City. It was the first of several Gilda’s Clubs in honor of Ms. Radner — all with brilliant red doors.
Photo credit: Panoramio
Hubby and I spoke at the NYC flagship Gilda’s Club on Houston Street one late spring evening in 2009. We were impressed with the combination of usefulness and beauty in each space — a kitchen with updated stainless steel appliances; beautifully-finished hardwood floors and a wall of mirrors for dance and exercise classes; private rooms with overstuffed chairs and soft lighting for discussion groups; a lending library; comfortable spaces for art classes, writing workshops, a knitting group.
Hubby and I returned to Oregon with a vision of what a cancer support house could look like in our hometown. With us as house parents, of course.
I can so relate to Ms. Radner’s quote above:
1. Life is about not knowing. We think we want to know what the future holds, but we don’t really. A job lay-off that precipitated the sale of our home and the cashing out of our 401(k); a cancer diagnosis; and now doing life alone without my beloved — this would have devastated me had I known in advance. But honestly, on this side of all I’ve lost, hmmm … not so overwhelming as one would think.
2. Life is about having to change. Few of us like change. We don’t want to learn a new computer system, move from our familiar neighborhood, lose someone irreplaceable. As far as I can see it, though, we have two choices when unwanted change presents itself:
We can choose resistance. Whine, kick, scream, be angry all the time, be miserable, make everyone around us miserable … you get the picture.
We can choose acceptance. If there’s absolutely nothing we can do about this unwanted change, then perhaps we simply need to un-hunch our shoulders, breathe deeply and go on to the next point.
3. Life is about taking the moment and making the best of it. Hubby and I learned to do this well, although not until after our whining, misery, self-pitifulness. Making the best of our new circumstances is also about choices:
We can choose gratitude. I keep thanksgiving lists rolling through my head; more thanksgiving lists on paper as I’m numbering my way to one thousand things I’m grateful for (from Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts).
We can choose to look for the positive. Hubby used to say that he discovered cancer makes you better looking. “No, seriously,” he’d say after the crowd chuckled, “… every time I visit family and friends, the first thing they say is, ‘Boy, you’re sure looking good.’” After a well-timed pause, Hubby would add, “Before I had cancer, no one ever said that to me.” (I loved his dry sense of humor, this man who kept me laughing all the years of our marriage.)
We can choose meaning and purpose. Is there something about this new change of events that can point us in a new direction? Something purposeful, something we’d never thought of before? Hubby and I established a non-profit and wrote for grant funding and set off across the country sharing our story. Who would have thought?!
So if life is about not knowing what the future holds, and if change is inevitable, then why wouldn’t we make the best of each moment, even without knowing what tomorrow holds? Isn’t this the way to living well as things are going crazy awry all around us? I’m thinking, yes.
I’d love to hear from you: Is there an unwanted change that’s knocked the wind out of you? What have you done about it that has proved to be effective?
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