This post is part of a ChicagoNow blogging challenge where every blogger is given a topic at 9 PM and must post a blog by 10 PM. Our assignment was to write a post offering advice to someone, anyone, about anything. In keeping with the spirit of September being Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, I will be giving advice to myself on March 22, 2007, the day before my oldest child, Donna, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Here goes . . .
Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
I know you’ve been worried about Donna being not quite herself these past couple of weeks. Your gut is telling you it’s serious, despite what everyone else around you is saying. Trust your gut. You are Donna’s mother — no one, no one, knows that child better than you. You are her mother and in the next days and weeks and months and years, you will come to understand the true meaning of what that is, far better than you do today.
I can’t tell you what will be or won’t be, as this isn’t about forecasting the future. This, dear Self, is strictly about advice and I want you to listen, as my words will help you. What I tell you, this advice, is precious, as it is based on some seriously hard earned wisdom. This advice is golden, foreshadowing intended. Let these words guide you, not just tomorrow, but for the rest of your days.
You can do this. Whatever it is that is asked of you, know that you can and will handle it. You will find strength inside that you never imagined. You are steel, girl. Steel. As powerful and mighty as the metal your immigrant grandfather worked with in the mills day in and day out. And like steel, you will learn to bend when you need to bend and hold when you need to hold. Whatever is needed, you will manage. Whatever is asked, you will provide. You can do this, whatever this may be.
Receive help gracefully. I know that you are a stand alone kind of gal. You pride yourself on being independent, self-sufficient, a sister doing it for herself. I get it. Now enough of that. Enough. When you need help, allow those who love you to give it. Understand that for you to do what you need to do, you will need the support of those around you. Change your paradigm, girlfriend, cause we all need one another. There is no shame in accepting help. To the contrary, knowing your limitations will only make you stronger, more capable, better.
Let Donna be your guide. Okay, it’s hard to imagine, I understand, that this wee little sprite, just twenty months old has all the wisdom of the ages, but she does. Trust her. Donna knows things. She will teach you lessons that will guide you for every day hereafter. That girl you made, the little imp with the almond eyes, well, she will not steer you wrong. Now you still need to be her parent — make her drink her milk and eat her vegetables and mind your maternal demands, but open yourself to all she has to teach. Know that she is smarter than you, wiser than you, more graceful than you, and yes, cooler than you. Learn what she will teach you, as it is her gift to you.
Love your man. Woo-wee, you got yourself a good one! Damn girl, you must have done something right in a past life to deserve this man, because he is as good as good can be. Love him. Care for him. Trust him. Lean on him. Support him. He is your rock, your anchor, your sail, your compass. Know that he will not leave your side. Know that he believes you to be extraordinary. Know that he understands your value. Know that those vows you took on your wedding day were more than words. Know that you are loved. Trust him, love him, show him.
Go to the joy. This world of ours is a beautiful place. Wondrous. And joy is everywhere, even in sorrow and rubble. Always look for the joy, and when you find it, go to it. Do not be ashamed to feel joy, ever. And if you can share it, bring others to it? Well, yes, do that. Often.
Choose hope. When you wake tomorrow morning, this four letter word, H to the O to the P to the E, is going to be more important than I can explain. It’s never been anything more than a virtue learned in your grade school catechism, St. Paul’s gift to the Bible. Now I know the Bible isn’t really your thing and you are long past your catechism lessons, but stop for a moment and embrace what I am telling you. You need to introduce hope into your life. You need to understand that hope is a choice. A conscious decision on your part that will enable you to follow all these other little pieces of wisdom I have dropped in your lap today. If you don’t hope — live it, breathe it, preach it — well, I just don’t want to say. Without it, you will be nothing. Less than nothing. You will crumble. Choose hope, let those hopes evolve, appreciate that it is your only option.
That’s what I’ve got for you. Sometimes you say these words to Donna: Never forget that you are amazing. You, too, are amazing. Truly. You can do this, Sheila. You can.
Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
I love you.