Adventure is Worthwhile

Years ago my parents attended a psychic fair. There’s one in Ottawa, held each year, I think. Anyhow, they were there and my dad got to talking with one of the psychics. I suppose she must have given him a reading. And surprisingly part of that reading related to me.

“Your daughter is going to travel the world, and there’s nothing you can do to stop her,” said the psychic.

“Catherine?” he asked with a fair amount of disbelief. I mean, not disbelief that I’m his daughter – but that I would have ever considered traveling. As a child I hated not being home. When I went to camp my parents had to fax me every day, just so I could cope with being away. One day the fax came through with only the cover sheet – I balled my eyes out.

So, he doubted her prediction very much.

adventure-is-worthwhile

And then, one day, I went off to travel the world, and there was quite literally nothing they could do to stop me. (Even though before leaving for Europe Dad did in fact warn me, “don’t go falling in love with anyone while you are away.” Ha! Well, we know how that ended up.)

All that to say, I have been adventurous. From going to camp, then moving to Jasper for the summer and working at a Tramway, to moving to Quebec City for a month of solitude and French, to backpacking with my brother in Europe, to almost becoming an Au Pair in Sicily, to living in Hungary, to studying in England, to crossing the Atlantic by ship, to eating the best pizza of my life in New York, to Iceland and Portugal and Malta and Greece and Havana, and all the incredible places I’ve been gifted enough to visit.

Life has been an adventure. And it has been, as the great Amelia Earhart stated, worthwhile.

As you may appreciate, adventure can be big and it can be small. It can be choosing to raise a family, it can be buying a home, it may be travel, or diving into a passion project, it can be trying something new, it can be saying “I want this for my life” and then chasing that down, it can be a new recipe in the kitchen.

Anyhow!! One of the dearest gifts I’ve received from my adventures have been the relationships – the friendships. My goodness, what incredible relationships life has brought. It’s a theme I’ve explored in Bumpyboobs before – how living here and there can create heartache, because the fact is you always need to say goodbye. But you know what? The good friendships, the REALLY good ones – they keep. They just keep. My best relationships came from taking chances. Even if that chance was simply reaching out and saying hello to someone new.

Examples/Stories!!

Zsolt: Went back packing with little brother. Experienced fear like crazy. It was my first time in Europe and so far away from home. Each new city terrified me for the first day or two, (and then it was technicolour brilliance of adventures.) Met a man I thought I could marry. MARRIED HIM.

The creative writers: I won’t name them. But here’s the jot-note story. Moved to England with boyfriend. Eeeep. Arrived with nothing. Worked in a miserable job for 6 months. (still made friends!) Decided job was miserable. Applied for Creative Writing program, despite being sure I wasn’t good enough and was pretty sure a career post-MA would be hard to pin down. Was accepted. Spent every last penny on International Student fees. Met people who LOVE writing. Met people who would help shape my passion for writing. Met people who had such compassion and fascinating stories, and who dared to share their writing over many cups of tea. Met people who would be incredible FRIENDS FOR LIFE.

Zsolt’s PHD: This was Zsolt’s adventure, but I stuck my nose in. Zsolt applies for a PhD in England and GETS ACCEPTED. (Even though one teacher at his school in Hungary told him he’d never make it through a PhD degree in England). Leaves everything in Hungary and moves to England with girlfriend (me). Struggles like hell with the pressures of a PhD in a new country, all in English, with big expectations. Bonds with those who are doing the same, and facing their own big challenges, and they all persevere together. Kindly, he invites his girlfriend to join him and his colleagues for lunch every day at the Staff Club on the uni campus. They welcome her as if she belonged amoung this group of incredible scientists. Those same colleagues begin to invite their partners to join us for lunch too. Friendships and families form. We are blessed.

The Tramway: Again, no names. But here is the story. Am inspired when 15 years old after visiting the park to move to Jasper for a summer after high school and work. Do as planned. Work on a mountain. Live in a shit hole. Meet the BEST DAMN PEOPLE you could ask for. Go to the club every other night and we sweat through our clothes with the dancing. The next day, everyone gets on their bikes and heads to the glacier lake. Or the veranda at the Fairmount. Or the grocery stor. Or that tree in the park with the perfect kind of shade. At work, we savor what it feels like to look across the world everyday from the peak of a mountain. And we wear very ugly uniforms of green vests and mesh pants. Those people matter to me, and I still value the important friendships that have lasted from that time.

Working for Amnesty: Accepted a job in August, found out the cancer had become worse in September. Still began job in October – took the risk that it might wear me out (It did at first! But then it lifted me up.) in exchange for doing what mattered to me in life. Met people who inspired me to strive for better things, and helped me realize my potential. Worked 1.5 years before I had to stop. CONQUERED MY DOUBTS and grew a better relationship with myself.

Adventure is worthwhile.

These are big examples, but there are so many smaller ones I could list here too. Podcasting, publishing, applying to work in a book store (was I good enough to recommend books?!), inviting people to attend pumpkin carving parties (because I am terrified of social rejection), and many other things. Small things matter very much.

Adventure is worthwhile. But in every day life, so is risk. So is commitment and just a tiny bit of passion.

Hesitation is reasonable, but ultimately, it’s for suckers. Do plan and learn. Me? I worked boring jobs to save, applied for visas,  entered contests I’d never win and took opportunities never knowing what might and might not work, what might or might not fail, or where it all was going. (I also took many naps, cried too many times, ate a lot of cheese, and watched a lot of Netflix, ’cause I ain’t superwoman.) Somethings worked, others didn’t. Try, try and try again!

But, despite feeling rather aimless occasionally (*ahem*, okay, often), I strive to remember that my big personal regrets are all from times I let my fear and insecurities me. Not having a baby. Not chasing after a boy. Not running for class president. Delaying what I want because I didn’t know how to do it well  (learn how if it matters so much, and ditch perfection) … and from those moments I have taken much too.

Regrets happen, and so does fear, and frankly this is real life – opportunities will at times be missed.

But…

Adventure is worthwhile. Risk is worthwhile.

You are worthwhile.

Now, give the world a chance to realize that. Stop hesitating and dive into life. (You know who you are!) I promise, I will keep doing the same. Together we’ll see what happens next.

(High five!)

Considering the time, that is all I want to say about that. Sorry for being SO very didactic towards the end. This blog post has somewhat carried me away on a sentimental TEDTalk-esque wave of PREACH, LADY, PREACH!

 

P.S. Thank you to you-know-who for inspiring this blog post. YOU are so very worthwhile, in every way. 🙂 Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

P.P.S.

I’d like to dedicate this post to Jasmin. She truly challenged me to face my fears when I attended her retreat Stretch Heal Grow through Rethink Breast Cancer. She had metastatic breast cancer and passed away recently. If you’d like to learn more about her adventures, check out her story and considering supporting her incredible project as a legacy to this women.

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The FLASH

I just thought to myself, “I should follow the Pollyanna Plan’s example and write one blog post every day for an entire year.” Then I had this flash where I imagined not being able to finish it because I’d died… So it scares me of course that this is the first reaction. The reaction of death. Man, it scares me.

But now, writing that first line of this post onto my wordpress document and thinking about it for a minute… now I’ve just thought to myself, “where did that original thought – that positive thought – come from in the first place? Where did that idea to live for a year spring up from?” And I’ve never really asked that question before. But, thinking about it now, it feels like there are two parts of me, except the only part I’ve been noticing and taking seriously is the one offering flashes of fear.

Weird confession: Whenever I see a knife in someone’s hand, I have a flash of them stabbing me. And whenever I have a knife in my hand, and someone passes by, I get this flash of myself stabbing them. That’s mostly why I’m a little scared of knives. It’s the same things for guns. I get these flashes of people shooting me. Weird.

My point is, these are the flashes that get my attention. The ones based on fear.

But there are other flashes, and I am realizing right now as I write this post that they need to be nurtured more. I have flashes where I can see myself teaching my own child a ‘life lesson’. I have flashes of living in a cottage in Balaton. I have flashes (dreams) that my book becomes a bestseller.

Just a moment ago, I had a flash to write 365 blog posts in a row, across one whole year. That suggests that some part of me – a strong part of me, since it comes to my mind FIRST – feels the capability of living at least 365 days more.

Each day I live with the fear flashes. They tell me I am going to die too soon. They make me afraid that I’ll be leaving my husband and family far too early. Part of me has been afraid to admit this in the blog, because what if this is me knowing what will actually happen? What if this is me knowing my fate, and not yet accepting it?

But then, if one part of me has that fear, another part of me does in fact have hope – otherwise I’d never be capable of dreaming.

So now I have this challenge, and it is to nurture the ideas that comes first, my ability to hope and to imagine. I want to feed that part of my mind, and help it learn to follow through. Fear will get me nowhere, hope can take me anywhere.

And I’ve literally just realized that that hopeful side of me exists. Like, right here as I wrote down the experience to simply get it out of my head… and it’s turned into this realization. There are many parts of me, not only the part who is afraid all of the time. I want to learn about Catherine Who Hopes. She has some good ideas. I reckon she should be introduced to Catherine Who Acts. And we don’t need to invite that other fearful Catherine along to the party.

Anyhow, this is what I’m thinking about, and I think it makes sense. Why haven’t I noticed my positive side before when it comes to life, and when it comes to cancer? Well, because I was scared of all this fear that has been running through me. But at least I am noticing it now. At least I realize it is there. That is power in itself. And it’s also a really good starting point for change.

P.S. I will not be writing 365 posts, because I think it’s better to just not. This isn’t about fear, this is about me not wanting to blog that much! Better to be focusing on that bestseller goal 😉

Am I not paying enough attention to cancer?

Okay, so yesterday I spent my entire Friday in front of the computer webcam making a video. It was a heck of a lot of work for something that is totally basic – but there was the editing, the lack of a script (my dad taught me in elementary school to never public speak using a written script . . . so instead we’d write points and I’d talk around those ideas . . . and then in high school during my debating club days, it was the same situation. So yesterday, I figured I’d ‘go natural’ and just talk. Four hours later . . .), and then of course the editing of my rambles. But it was SO worth it. The final result is open and honest, even if not fancy. I reckon open and honest come first when asking people to fund your project.

Okay, so the reality is that in preparing for this kickstarter campaign, even though I’m a wee bit overwhelmed with its growing requirement of commitments and work, it’s freaking FUN.

I’m having fun.

And it was realizing that last week that scared the crap outta me.

During an interview with a fabulous local blog, Apt613, on the kickstarter book project, I was asked about how I could jump into such a big project with the news I’d just received? You know, where do I find the energy? And my only answer for that was that this is my energy because it’s my joy. I’m also kinda worried about what happens next once this goal is realized (with your help!). Where does that energy go?

And then the other day a neighbour said to my mom that she’d “heard your daughter isn’t doing well.” Which is fine, and so understandable. Except that I am doing well. For someone in my situation, I’m able to walk, there’s been no chemo as of yet, I have my hair, my energy is good, I can breathe . . . I am doing very well.

Screenshot!

Screenshot!

But having had these questions, they must have lingered in the back of my mind or something, because the other day I had a big pause moment where a feeling of panic suddenly overcame me:

  • Am I in denial?
  • Am I not thinking about the cancer often enough?
  • Is it going to blindside me again, because I’m not paying enough attention?
  • How often should this be on my mind, should I be scared? Like, right now and today, should I have fear?

Because when I work on my book publishing goal, those feelings . . . that fear . . . it kinda just turns off. Is it a good thing? Or am I being naive?

Last week I had a coaching session with this lovely lady named Camille Boivin. She’s from Ottawa and I work with her for her company Sister Leadership. Anyhow, Cam is full of generosity and a desire to help people connect with their emotions and ambitions. And when the cancer came back, we started working together not as client and writer, but as coach and person-who-needs-some-emotional-work-done. (That’s me.)

So last week in our session I was talking about this anger I’d been feeling. And somehow that discussion of anger turned toward a discussion of sadness. Because along with that anger, I was feeling deeply sad (and still do sometimes, like when I realized last week I wasn’t feeling shitty enough). So we honed in on that sadness. Cam asked me to look back over my life when I’ve felt similar feelings of sadness.

*In this case of metastatic cancer, I’d say the sadness isn’t just about the disease, but more so about potentially leaving my husband behind and hurting my family and friends. The idea is completely crushing.

So I began thinking back in time when I’d felt feelings of loss and sadness. School graduations. Ends of summers working abroad. Moving to a new country. Saying goodbye at airport. Leaving a beloved workplace. Losing my golden retriever . . .

And then Cam asked me this: “If you could go back with what you know now, what would you tell yourself in those moments of sadness?”

And I said to her, “that even though it hurt, good things were coming . . . and love doesn’t stop just because you are separated. The love keeps on going.”

Because from school graduations came new schools, clubs and friends (and I just attended the wedding of my first friend ever – we may not be together always, but the love stays); end of the summer working abroad brought me back home where I found a bookstore job and made more friends there (though I’ll always love the Jasper Kids from 2002);  In moving to a new country I left my family and best friend, but learned oh so much about being independent and made such incredible friendships with people who I still carry in my heart even after returning to Canada; saying goodbye at the airport always means I get to say hello to someone on the other end; leaving my work gave time and space for me to become a writer; and losing my dog – well, that still hurts but the love doesn’t fade. Not one bit.

So I guess if I could go back to those moments when I felt that sadness, I would just tell myself that I’m not leaving the love and by moving forward more good things are going to happen.

Since that conversation I’ve felt a lot less angry, a lot less sad. I’ve been to doctor appointments, blood draws, chemo wards, searching for clinical studies, urine samples, meds from the pharmacy, acupuncture . . . but I’m not grieving the Catherine of four months ago who was almost certain she was cancer-free.

Today I am here, and I’d rather run forward toward whatever good can be created. This kickstarter is part of that. Being proactive in my health is part of that. Not being sad has been a result of those reflections.

Is it normal? Will it stay forever? Is it denial? Is it really because I haven’t met with Dr. Canada? I just don’t know.

How often should I think of the cancer, and will it do me any good? Again, I just don’t know.

It’s so strange to wonder if I’m not fearful enough. I also realize I’m new to metastatic cancer, and therefore incredibly naive to its realities. Is there a right way to cope? I would actually really appreciate hearing other people’s experiences with this fear vs. life thing – is there any use in holding fear close? I’ve been happier this past week than I’ve been for a while, and that is quite precious in these times.

Anyhow. That’s all I have to say about that.  Now, back to work!

~Catherine

P.S.

To not overwhelm you with blog posts, I’m going to slip in the second excerpt from The Adventures of Claire Never-Ending. Meet Elizabeth (Amelia’s mother) and read her story here! If you want to sign up for an email notification when the project launches, you can do so here.

liz