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  • Mary-Sue Cowell

Love, Laughter & Letting Go

Can you remember the last time you felt joy? When I think of joy I think of a good old belly laugh. My daughter when she has a tickle fight with her father, my dad when he laughs and we can actually see his smile or my husband laughing uncontrollably at something completely inappropriate. The times we are with friends and I snort because I am laughing so hard. These are my moments. Joy for me means I am surrounded by those I love and can let go and feel that love with no background noise.

This takes me back to the summer of 2017 when we camped in the mountains for two weeks. We were completely disconnected, no cell service or Wi Fi. Just the three of us, our little family and our two dogs, the river, the trees, some gophers, deer and maybe the odd cow. In those two weeks I was completely able to let go. You see the mountains are my place, they always have been. My husband claims something visible happens to me when we get to the mountains, a release; my shoulders drop and I usually let out an audible sigh. I am able to completely relax, unwind and experience a freedom like no other.

During this trip we walked, talked, fished, played, sang, napped and laughed and laughed together. I felt pure joy, breathing fresh air and being together. These are memories I will always hold dear. It was only three months later that I was in the doctor's office receiving my cancer diagnosis. Cancer has shifted my feelings around memories. I remember the joy but it now comes with a sad reflective and inward conversation with myself. The memories are there but instead of taking them in and feeling them for what they were at the time they are now tempered by the fact I was diagnosed with cancer. What do I mean? I mean I tell myself I should be more grateful and aware. I berate myself for not recognizing more of the joy in the small or simple moments. Today, I ask myself, "Why is this? Why did I let cancer make my background noise so loud and so critical?" We all have our background noise, I think it is natural. It's normal when faced with illness, death and grief or just the journey of life and age that we reflect on our memories. What I do not think is healthy for me is that I have allowed this reflection to prevent me from experiencing joy to its fullest or to question if I have been present enough when I do . Why am I more critical because cancer found its way into my life for a period of time? This does not seem right.

The honest answer is fear. Fear of the unknown; not knowing what is in store for me. Will it come back? Feeling too much joy somehow makes the lows seem so much lower. The risk is big. Feeling too much means losing too much.

I had a conversation with my dear friend and fellow cancer survivor this morning and we speak of our lives as BC - before cancer and PC - post cancer. It's funny how we compartmentalize things for ourselves. We all do it, our life before kids or after; before this job or after that... It's a natural way to create a timeline in life but with my cancer diagnosis I allowed fear to take over. Do I think my battle has brought some wonderful insights; yes and do I think I am more present; for sure and for that I am grateful but I have also become more fearful. What I am no longer willing to do is let fear prevent me from feeling and finding joy. I'm learning to say, "FUCK you fear!" I want to remember memories of joy and laughter as just that joy and laughter. In the moment I will belly laugh and quiet the background noise. I will feel what I feel and try not to question whether I was present enough or joyful enough. I will just be who I am in that moment in time. I want that freedom to run in the fresh air again not worrying about tomorrow or 3 months from now.

My wish for all of us is to love hard and create beautiful memories. Belly laugh. Let go of fear and live; we only get one shot at this life. When I remember the good times; I will feel the joy with no strings attached, experiencing them for what they are.

We are all works in progress, remember that.

I give myself permission to love, laugh and let go.


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