About five years ago, I started watching NFL football (Go Green Bay!). Over the years that followed, I learned all the lingo, bought a jersey, pilgrimaged across the border to see a game at Ralph Wilson stadium, and just generally fell in love with the whole scene.
The thing about football that I connected with most is the hundreds of readily available and often shared do-anything-and-everything-to-achieve-my-dreams stories.
Now, sweet, good-natured, faith-loving Russell Wilson has this kind of story. Too short to be a “real” NFL quarterback, let alone a first round pick, Russell Wilson works hard, never loses sight of his goals, and finally gets signed to the Seahawks 75th overall. He’s like the lowest paid starting quarterback in the league, and just crushes it. Being 5’11” aint no thing – he sets a ton of records and gets to the Super Bowl twice.
While this Hero’s Tale is unfolding for us all to watch, Russell Wilson has the most “influential question he’s ever been asked” (by his late father) on repeat in his mind: “Why Not You?”.
Why Not You?
So, here I am, it’s 2012, I’m watching this all go down, honey-moon-phasing hard with the NFL and I think, “Yeah, why not me? I have everything I need to do everything I want, Why not me?”. So I start using this as my daily mantra. A look-at-yourself-in-the-mirror, daily question, “Kristy – why not you?”
And it’s working, I have a great job, the best friends, I’m marrying my one-true-love (who just happens to be a doctor), and life is good. I’m doing my YTT, mapping my future, feeling happy and successful and loved.
But then the whole Why Not You? question takes a turn on me. My one-true-love becomes one of those one-in-three who will get cancer.
And now my morning, look-in-the-mirror question becomes “WTF?” and sometimes “Is this real life?!” and on really sad, weak days (often week days) it devolves into the lowly old “Why Me?”.
I’ve since had a few years to digest and process and build our new life with cancer, and I’ve come back to the once-abandoned “Why Not You?”. I mean, who was I to think that these fun, awesome, beautiful building years would last forever.
Nothing lasts forever.
The only constant is change. (How cliché!) And the good and bad area handed out to every one of us, deserving and undeserving alike.
Cancer, death, heartbreak and losses of all kinds are part of the human experience. These things happen. And they suck. They rarely seem fair. They’re almost never welcome. But they happen. Even to me.
And once I started to really truly understand that “good” and “bad”, “lucky” and unlucky”, “epic” and “down-right-shitty” are all mine to have to and hold, till death do us part, I was able to cultivate some peace. I was able to excerpt some control in a situation where I seemingly had no control. I was able to set boundaries and find joy.
In my (albeit limited) experience, I can now see that life isn’t meant to be easy. We’re told and sold this story that life should be rainbows and sunshine. It should be easy and picturesque. Work should be wholly satisfying and glamorous. Marriage should be fun and simple. Our homes should be tidy and expansive. Our kids should be clean and well behaved. And there are a lot of products and pharmaceuticals we can buy to ensure that story plays out. But that’s not real.
It’s not meant to be easy.
It’s not meant to be miserable either – don’t get me wrong. It’s supposed to be full of love and happiness, adventure and joy. But also trials. Opportunities to build depth and character. To support and be supported. To find the grace of God. To be grateful and kind and generous and positive and present no matter how tall the waves get.
To live a full life is to experience pleasure and pain, joy and sadness, love and loss. It includes challenge and achievement, safety and surprise, energy, exhaustion, elation, exasperation. It’s all there.
Someone, once famously said, “we are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience”. I feel like to honour this divine being, to show it (you! me!) what it means to be human – to give her a real bang for her buck! – we’ve gotta go for it! Live loud. Love with abandon. Act without fear of consequences (but always knowing that there will be consequences for everything.)
To live a life, truly live, is to take the good with the bad. To make space for our feelings. To take the time to experience what’s happening, even if it hurts. To me, living gracefully is to accept the twists and turns that appear – seemingly out of nowhere – on our paths. It’s about soaking in the good times, breathing through the bad times, approaching both as if we’d chosen them ourselves
We all die.
It’s a fact. Living in a family where cancer is omnipresent has helped me see that more clearly than maybe I’d like to. The only real shame is that we don’t all chose love while we’re here. We don’t all choose experience over safety. We don’t all get to die knowing the mettle of our character, or the true depth of our souls, or how beautiful God’s grace can be.
This life – this human experience is so damn special. The ride is both short and long. Fun and terrifying. We can make the most of our time on Earth. We can control how we feel and act and respond. But when we get picked in the draft and whether or not we make it to the Super Bowl, is largely out of our control. All I can do is approach each day with an open heart, a clear mind, and a sense of adventure.
All I can do is meet my gaze each morning, ask myself “Why not you?” and then steel myself for what comes next.