Over the holidays, I was on vacation in Chicago when I woke up to a Facebook message from a lovely girl I had met at a networking event I was hosting a few months prior.
“Hey Chelsea! Not sure if you remember me, but we met through Madison at your event. I wanted to reach out and tell you that I really liked your DSP page before, and now my mom has been diagnosed with endometrial cancer. She's had a hysterectomy and we're waiting on pathology. I just wanted to reach out and let you know that content on how to deal with emotions during this time, how to deal with the waiting on medical news, and if being positive is helpful or harmful, would all be of great help. Thanks so much! -Beth”
“Oh, man,” I thought to myself. I could feel my inner wheels begin to spin and my ears turn red. “Beth! No way! That girl was really cool. How weird that in our moment of bonding, little did we know that our lives would both be altered just a few months later. V weird. What else in life is just months away from happening? Hey, maybe something good…maybe a big TV show?! That would be cool. I deserve that with what I’m going through, right? But oh wait. Maybe bad things happen in threes, and this is only 1 thing, so maybe 2 more bad things will happen. That would be horrible. Maybe I’ll win the lottery though! Or maybe I’ll spend it all on actor coachings for auditions I probably won’t even book and be poor and move home and that would suck because my mom is sick and it would be depressing. All the more reason to enjoy the present moment. I immediately should bake a batch of chocolate chip muffins, which are my favorite things on the earth and I haven’t made ‘em in years!!! Gonna make them! Like, today! And eat them all!!!!” Cancer makes your head spin and go cray cray sometimes, so I forgave myself for having these insane thoughts. Then I came back down to Earth.
Beth was onto something. These were all really important concepts to tackle, so thanks Beth, you rule… I’m definitely going to cover them all. But the last one in particular - if staying positive is harmful or helpful - really stuck out to me; we are entering a new year and many people have asked me how I stay positive. “You’re doing great, they say. How do you stay so positive!” people will ask me. “Thanks! I’m not!” I tend to joke.
But the reality is…I kind of am. And hey, I’m not even wired that way. (Trust me, I hide in like…a lot of holes.) So Beth, back to you. Part of me wants to say, “This all sucks! Run! Hide in a hole. I will join you. Muffins on me!” But part of me - the bigger and stronger and more intelligent part of me - will tell you this: welcome to a new, more meaningful way of living. In this post, I’m going to disucss why I think it’s important to stay positive and how it’s helpful more so than it’s harmful.
#1 You In Da Club
Sup G. You up in da club now. The DSP club. There are hundreds of thousands of us around the world. We don’t all know each other. We don’t all live in the same place. But we exist and we are strong. We cry alone in our own rooms and we eat chocolate in large amounts with our own friends…but we are all in a family slash club so welcome: you are now a member. It can be a bit sad and frustrating at times, I won’t lie, but also - this club will reward you with gifts that make you feel all kinds of meaningful ways. I’ve found that staying positive is beneficial not only to your mom, but girl - it’s beneficial to you. Do it for the teenager whose mom only has months to live. Do it for the first-grader whose dad just found out that he will die this year. Do it for the kids younger than you who will never even really “know” their parents. Do it for your mom. Do it for yourself. And if you don’t know who else to do it for - do it for us. We need you.
#2 There is Hope
The next reason that I think you should stay positive is because, well, there is hope. Let’s not forget. Technology has advanced considerably and there are some incredible ways to fight cancer. Thank g-d slash thank the actual G-d. My mom doesn’t even have to do chemo (yet) and that really rocks. So, breathe. Because there is hope. You are not doomed. You are not cursed. You are not completely f*cked. You have actually, and I have to slash hate to slash love to say this - in some ways been chosen. I challenge you to think of this situation as a transition.
#3 It’s a Transition, Not the End of the World
You now have more responsibility in life and that’s key to needing more positivity. What I mean is this: it’s instrumental to stay positive any time that you have more responsibility in life, difficult as this may be. This goes back to any stress that you have in life - let’s say you’re promoted at work. Your life may be fuller and hopefully richer - literally and figuratively…and yet you have more responsibilities to take on. In this situation, it would be important to stay positive. Sure, you could choose to freak out & be miserable and think that your life is over (less time to see friends, not sure if you’re doing what you want to do, hate your boss, jealous of other friends’ jobs or incomes) - but in order to succeed, you will go through transitional struggles, sure, but ultimately, do know that you must stay positive in order to prevail.
If you had a baby, your life would become fuller and richer and you will have more responsibilities. If you move across the country. If you are going through a breakup. These are all transitional life changes that will cause growing pains - but with more responsibilties comes the necessity to stay positive and work through the transitonal phase.
What about those of you saying: um hello? This is not the same thing. This is actually way worse. Some of those situations actually are good. But you know what? A transition is a transition. And I’m comparing life transitions because that’s really what this is. Becuase your life isn’t over. You are going through a transition. And you will be okay. For those of you reading this who have a parent who has JUST been diagnosed - I would say that the first 3 months are the daily-cry months (they were for me) so you may be in a slightly different mental place. More on that later…just remember, you are not going to feel this way forever. Breathe.
#4 Your Mom Needs You
Look, it really comes down to one thing that you already know…it’s hard to admit, it’s hard to look at. But let’s be real. Your Mom needs you. Your energy matters. If she has a good attitude about her diagnosis, we need your good vibes, if she has a bad attitude about it, we need your good vibes…if she isn’t sure how to feel or how to process the situation, we need your good vibes. See the pattern? All good and necessary reasons for needing good vibes. Sure, it’s easier to say it then to do it. Because our moms are supposed to be our super heroes and take care of us and have all the answers and be smiley and happy. Your mom is still all of those things. She may be scared or unsure of how to talk about this situation with you, so I cannot even tell you how freaking awesome of you it will be to share positivity.
Put it out into the universe. Tell her you love her and are thinking positive thoughts - which is true. Put quotes out on social media if that’s your thing. Say positive sentences out loud. Talk to yourself in the mirror and tell yourself you’re a badass rockstar (even if you don’t believe it…yet) and scream to the hilltops that you’re pissed off or confused and oh-so-sad. But stay positive, feel it from within you. Your mom needs you. And you need you. And the DSP club needs you! We are a collective energy of positivity beating and pulsing amongst the masses.
#5 The Alternative = Heck Nah!
Still not convinced? Well, let’s go over the alternative. What would that even look like…expecting the worse? Crying for the rest of your life? Counting down the days? Heck nah! Hopefully, your mom can beat this. In my situation - neither parent could have/can beat their illness. But please remember that yours either a) can indeed beat this cancer. It can be rid of their body entirely or b) maybe he or she has precious time left and it’s impossible sometimes to remember, but the amount left in some ways comes from within you.
I used to think that being positive on the outside meant people wouldn’t really know that I was sad on the inside. But nah….people will know you’re upset, but they will also see the light in you and they will smile at you on the street. Light attracts light. People want to help positive people and they will still know that you are hurting. You don’t have to tell them. They know.
Your life experience is indeed going to be richer and fuller than it was before. “Um, what?” you may be thinking to yourself. “Excuse me?” Girl, I’m not kidding. Your life has more meaning right now. Always from this point forward. Some of the happiest times of my life has been post-Mom-diagnosis…deepest conversations, ugliest (but fulfilling) cries, and most resonant laughs.
You are more empathetic now, more self-aware. I honestly think that’s a beautiful thing. Look at how many people girls your age aren’t! When it comes to emotional intelligence - you’re basically at the Harvard of Emotions and they’re at some random State University (no offense.) That’s boring. Your life has a deeper meaning now. You are called to something large and vast and beautiful, even if you don't know what that means quite yet. People will be touched by you and your story and you will learn so much…I promise. So stay positive. You will feel lighter, richer, happier. You have been called to something deeper…something bigger then yourself.
Because the universe has a bigger plan for you.
I am positive.