As a writer I try to avoid clichés, phrases that are at times so overused that they become meaningless. But lately, I find there are a few that I ponder often for their veracity. I've come to realize that they've become clichés because they succinctly say "it". "It" being what we're trying to convey, wrapped in a tight phrase, tied with a neat bow, for a package that's easily relatable to anyone. So today, I'm letting my cliché guard down and am going to give credit to these phrases that have passed from generation to generation for a reason.
"There's No Place Like Home
I couldn't say it better myself. Home is where the heart is ... . I love, love, love our home. I love its covered porch. I love its big picture window. I love its dining room skylights. I love its gingerbread trim. I love that it's a hybrid space of old and new. I love thinking about what happened in the 1800s Baptist church that it once was. But most of all, I love how I feel when I'm in it. We've decorated it freshly and eclectically – our personalities on display. I feel so comfortable here, and there is no place I'd rather be, especially when I'm feeling awful. I love that I can snooze on our sectional couch – a fantastic Craigslist find – and gaze at the georgeous Japanese maple outside the living room window. I love that our bedroom is so airy and filled with sunshine when I awake each morning. There's nothing better than sitting in my rocking chair reading on the front porch or talking with our neighbors – neighbors that are beyond what one could ask for.
"This Too Shall Pass"
People often say this to me and I often say it to myself. It's one of those phrases that's hard to believe when you're in the middle of "this," but once you come out the other side you realize that nothing is forever. I felt so, so, so awful for several days following ICE chemo and at the time it was hard to comprehend that I'd ever get back to myself again ... but I did. It amazes me every single time how much my body can be knocked down and still have the capacity to bounce back. So it's true, no matter how much harder each step in this process has been, there is always an end and soon enough the pain is a distant memory – so distant that it's hard to even remember how badly I felt.
"Dog is (Wo)man's Best Friend"
I never feel alone because I always have Sammy's companionship. She's there laying on my feet when I'm curled up on the couch. Or, more often, laying right on top of me. She follows me into the bathroom. She sleeps on her doggy bed and watches me with one eye open when I'm feeling particularly bad and have to retreat to my bed upstairs.
A neighborhood kid summed it up best. Craig and I were sitting in our anti-gravity chairs on the lawn the other day and this little boy with dark chocolate skin and milk chocolate eyes and the bounciest tousle of dreds came into our yard and said:
"Excuse me. Can I play with your dog?," pointing over at Sammy who was rolling around in the grass with her tongue dangling wildly.
"Sure," we said.
They played for nearly an hour. They played fetch with the tennis ball. They passed the close-to-airless basketball treasure that Sammy once miraculously and instinctively dug up from nearly 2 feet underground beneath the pine tree. They chased each other around the yard.
While tousling her ears, we overheard the boy say to Sammy: "Sammy, if you were a human, you'd be a really good person."
"What Doesn't Kill Us Makes Us Stronger"
I know now more than ever what I'm made of and that no matter what challenge I'm faced with, I can conquer it. I know this is a valuable lesson that will serve me well – it already has. I don't necessarily believe this cliche as it is, but more a modified version. I think that what doesn't kill us gives us the opportunity to realize how strong we already are. That it's not the adversities that make us strong. Instead, the adversities bring out the best in us. There've been many times that I've looked back on a particularly bad blood drawing session or a surgical procedure and thought, How the hell did I get through that? I'm sure there are many more of those moments to come, but it's tests like this cancer journey that has made me realize how strong, adaptable and resilient I am and truly believe that this is the case for anyone faced with something of this magnitude. If there is a good thing to come out of the war that is cancer, it's that you learn that you can conquer the battles.
"You Don't Know What You've Got 'Till It's Gone"
To say that I've learned to better appreciate everything in my life is putting it lightly. Going through these treatments that have knocked me on my ass at times has taught me how much I appreciate my body, my mind, my abilities, and my freedoms. Being tied down to a strict regimen of daily doctor appointments, being quarantined, and being out of my body and out of my mind at times has made me realize how good I have it. Not having full control of my life right now has allowed me to step back and take a look at myself and everything and everyone in my life from all different angles.
I'll keep these clichés in my back pocket to reflect on from time to time as this journey surely isn't over ... it's only just begun ... and won't be over until the fat lady sings. I've heard it through the grapevine that it won't be a walk in the park, but I'll look for the light at the end of the tunnel and keep on keeping on with my eye on the prize – one step at a time. I'll make lemonade out of lemons and find the silver lining in every cloud.