First off, let me state for the record that I didn’t make any resolutions when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. And I got over making New Year’s resolutions years ago, once I finally figured out I was paving a pretty sizable road with them. It’s the one time of year we’re all like little kids, convincing ourselves that what we feel at this golden inspired moment will last forever and ever.
So what does cancer have to do with New Year’s? Plenty, as it turns out. Both of them remind you of your mortality and the passage of time. Both offer opportunities for fresh starts. But because cancer has a way of putting you on notice, it’s much better at effecting results. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been changed by her experience in some way. That doesn’t mean any of us have vowed to hit the gym six days a week or swear off French fries because of our cancer adventure. Cancer isn’t any more magical in that regard than New Year’s Eve.
But I know from my own experience that you let go of something. My friend and hairdresser told me last fall that I’ve changed; she could see it in my face. And I know what she meant. I remember feeling inexplicably happy while I was driving to work one day in the middle of my cancer adventure, and I couldn’t come up with a reason—except maybe that it was good to be alive and driving to work. The birds were chirping and the sun was shining and I suddenly felt like a character in a Disney movie. I realized it doesn’t take more than that for life to be good. I talked to a friend who noticed something similar in a breast cancer survivor she worked with. Things that used to get her bent out of shape had lost their power over her.
I’ve read that one of the keys to keeping your New Year’s resolutions is to make your goals realistic. Maybe that’s why cancer is so good at helping you let go of life’s little annoyances while appreciating its pleasures. It’s the biggest reality check I know.