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The tyranny of what if

Posted in Life & Love

woman at beachAre 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

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9 Comments

  1. Yuck. I’m so profound, right? What you need is a chauffeur so you can take even longer lunches, brunches, dinners…

    November 11, 2016
    |Reply
  2. I’m going to send this to my dad. Just over a week ago my mom passed away. My dad has said many times since then “what if?” It’s heartbreaking and I don’t know how to change his thought process.

    November 2, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      As I am going through the motion of imminent loss, I am trying to stay away from what if. It adds too much to the pain. How can you change that? I am sure a spouse is going to look back wanting to change a million things. I hope he finds some peace in time. I am so sorry for your loss. Huddle close, I guess. And remind him that regrets are pointless.

      November 3, 2016
      |Reply
  3. Incredibly well said. I remind myself frequently of the notion to “eat that elephant…one bite at a time” to get me through all the what-ifs and if-onlys in life. Both of them look backward and only contribute to a stiff neck. Best to look forward at all the ‘pawsibilities’ traveling in this crazy world. Continued good thoughts to you and your family. ღ

    November 1, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Thank you Monika. Taking your thoughts with me.

      November 3, 2016
      |Reply
  4. Mm.. three-hour brunches… The best way to spend a Sunday morning.

    “Pointless hypotheticals” is a good label for it. I’ll try to remember this.

    November 1, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      We all need three hour brunches with strawberry margaritas in our lives more often….

      November 3, 2016
      |Reply
  5. Even if moments aren’t filled with sunshines and butterflies, if you have gratitude or have a sense of purpose to what you do, any moment, good or bad, can be fulfilling. Keep faith and stay strong. Thanks for sharing.

    November 1, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Very true. And too easy to forget.

      November 1, 2016
      |Reply

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