"What keeps you motivated?" she asked me as we sat tucked into a corner of a spot that still holds too many memories of earlier days for me to feel entirely comfortable there.
"What do you mean?" - the only response I can come up with. I still don't quite grasp this line of questioning. Once the cancer diagnosis is handed down, you don't have many options if you want to survive. You either jump into the arena or you start counting your days. So I guess at the very basic level, saving my life keeps me motivated.
But that wasn't what she was talking about.
The last time I was handed a diagnosis, I did what they told me I had to do to get well - surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. I also decided to study for the LSAT in there, but other than that, I didn't do anything out of the ordinary during my nine months from diagnosis to remission.
This time is different. This time, my rest days are filled with acupuncture and energy work, yoga and meditation, step work and meetings, lymphatic massage and cupping, supplements and juicing and castor oil packs, therapy and trauma coaching, meetings with my sponsor and long walks with Hope. By day seven, it does take a lot of motivation to keep pursuing these methods of healing when I've gotten so acquainted with my couch and the clicker. By day seven, my head is in a bad place and the light is just barely breaking through and it would be much easier to keep half-sleeping through the days while exhausting the ABC Family lineup.
That is what she meant. How do I stay motivated then?
It took me awhile to figure out how to answer her real question. And I've spent a good bit of time pondering it in the days that followed.
* * *
After feeling like I reached the end of Netflix, I've started rewatching Orange Is The New Black in anticipation of the new season. At one point, Piper says:
Everything ends, Brooke. Even prison. Try focusing on that.
Now, having crossed the halfway point, I find myself motivated by my early August end date for this ugly chapter. Even on days like yesterday, when it seems like maybe that end date will move, I am quickly reminded that there will be an end date. Some day. This, like everything, is temporary. This is not permanent.
Even if I cant pinpoint its date, the end motivates me.
* * *
I was asked a similar question today - about how I gear myself up for seven days of chemotherapy and feeling awful.
I gave her the list. I bought the food I know I can eat - frozen fruit and popsicles and lots of seltzer water. I have a few new shows in the Netflix queue and my daily readers by the couch. I've paid the bills, done the laundry, gotten extra food and treats for Hope. I have visits lined up from some really good huggers.
But ultimately, I know by now that nothing can prepare me for the next six days. Even though I know what is likely coming, even though I have plans laid out and countdowns at the ready, the plain truth is that nothing I do will prepare me for the moment the nausea strikes, for waking up with the bone pain, or for the reality that I need to do almost nothing but sleep for seventy-two hours. I know by now that with each day - each hour - the enemy will creep closer, attempting to persuade me that its all for naught.
But I also know by now that God will also be there. He quietly reminds me that there is a reason for all this. That although I do not know what the outcome will be, He does. And it is beautiful.
When I can no longer motivate myself, God motivates me.
* * *
I have a favorite quote tattooed on my left forearm.
It's so awkward to be a phoenix.
It was awkward the first time I came through cancer. It was awkward when I got divorced. It was awkward when I got sober. It was awkward when I finally walked into Al-Anon.
Its difficult to look at yourself and realize that there is real work you need to do. To honestly tell yourself that things and people that once seemed right aren't. Its even harder to honestly tell yourself that things you have done, ways you have behaved, thoughts you have thunk need changing. Its difficult and, yes, awkward, but its so worth it.
So most of all, I suppose that is what motivates me. Me. God gave me this space to transform, and it may not be pretty or pleasant or even remotely fun most of the time, but I love what is happening. I scared to death most of the time, but right along side the fear lives love.
On day eight, when I open my eyes and the pain has subsided, thats what gets me off the couch. Its what makes me take a stack of books and my sweet little pup to the deck with some tea, where I can look out at the world and take the first slow steps forward again.
What motivates me?
The beautiful life waiting at the other side of all this.
So long as I am willing to do the work.