Are there any greater pleasures in life than spending time with girlfriends? To be in the company of smart women, tough women who have carved and hacked their way in the world, one strike at a time? I don’t think so.
A leisurely brunch with two of my favorite women is the only pursuit that will get me off the couch on a Sunday, and it’s exactly what I did yesterday, undeterred even by the rain that, as every Los Angeleno knows, it’s an acceptable and accepted excuse to cancel all sorts of plans.
I am driving down the freeway, one strawberry margarita and one perfect fish taco in my belly, after a three-hour brunch and I am feeling perfectly contented, happy even. And then it surfaces: my life would be perfect, if only my dad weren’t sick and I didn’t have to worry about possibly flying home earlier than anticipated. The thought spoils the bliss.
This time last year, I am pretty sure the refrain went: my life would be perfect, if only I didn’t have cancer. And there is a lifetime behind me of “if only” that interrupted an otherwise perfectly serviceable life. If only my work were better, or paid more. If only I had a boyfriend. A child. A new car. If only my boobs were bigger, my children less demanding, my thighs slimmer. It’s a slippery slope of “if only” that can last for years, a new one ready to replace the one that is solved.
There is one worthwhile thing dealing with cancer has taught me: to be in the moment. I never quite grasped the significance of it before, and it has nothing to do with spontaneity or lack of planning. As I see it now, it’s parcelling the day into chunks of time that can easily be tackled or just enjoyed. When a problem is too overwhelming, or its implications too large to grasp all at once, I have learnt to push it aside and dismantle it into manageable chunks. And then stay with one chunk at a time.
My father is sick but I cannot make the decision of whether to stay or go until I have a clearer picture so I am going to enjoy my three-hour brunch and its afterglow. It’s not always easy but it mostly works. Learning to stay with what is in front of me.
If only, and its close cousin, what if, deal in pointless hypotheticals that corrode days filled with lovely moments. And when a thought begins to take over despite my best intentions, like it did when, in the middle of work, what seemed the endless trail of cancer-related things would scare me, I take a breath, and remind myself “I can do this”. Fifty-four yeas on this planet have proved there is little I cannot do.
Image: Alice Lemarin