Late at night, once Zsolt has finally come to bed (I’ve already been there for an hour, reading my Terry Pratchett), we lay together in the darkness beneath our four layers of duvets and blankets, and we talk. We speculate. We console. And inevitably one of us will begin asking: The ‘Ifs’ . . .
“What if we opened a guest house?”
“What if we had stayed in England?”
“What if we can’t have a baby?”
“What if we bought a car and drove across Canada?”
“What if my hair never grows long?”
“What if I can’t find a job in Ottawa?”
“What if an asteroid crashes into the earth?”
“What if we get a puppy?” (yes, we should!)
“What if we moved to Toronto?”
“What if we moved to Australia?”
“What if we go to sleep?”
Late night discussions in the bed are where possibilities linger, worries are soothed, and change begins to smoulder. I have mixed emotions toward The Ifs. Right now, like right now, Zsolt (my husband) and I are truly speculating on what to do next. We started off in England with this exciting plan that at the time felt essential: Go HOME. Now in Canada, having arrived home, we lay awake at night and worry: “What if we made a mistake? What if this doesn’t work out?”
On Facing Cancer Together there’s a question that has sparked conversation: “What cancer-related challenge was most unexpected for you?” And I think there are endless answers to that sort of question. Everything becomes a challenge when cancer strikes. Everything demands enormous effort. Everything spirals out of control.
Some challenges are chosen, and some are imposed. While cancer most certainly imposes upon life, it also has the effect of grabbing those late-night Ifs, and squeezing out the speculation. (Imagine squeezing a lemon and all that juice running down your fingers. That’s your ‘oh, but, buts’ dripping away.) Cancers makes us insist that opportunity and desire be taken seriously. So even as the sky falls, a different sort of challenge can also grow.
And keep growing.
Zsolt and I are in the middle of our go-to-Canada If. It has outlasted the cancer treatment, the chemotherapy, the constant trips to the hospital. Having moved to another country without any plan has challenging results. And we have no idea where we’ll be in a few months, or how the ‘become really successful’ idea will be unfold. But I’m nevertheless thankful for my If realized. Because If you don’t try, If you let good ideas disappear into the night, then all you’ll be left with are those imposed, pushy, what-the-frack challenges like cancer.
For me cancer was in-my-face and centre during treatment – but even at that time I gave myself a different sort of challenge: the challenge to get home. And it was a beautiful distraction, if not also quite hard at times. Now as time passes there are still the late night ifs of cancer that have a haunting presence . . . but thankfully new challenges are cropping up all the time. New ideas that slowly, steadily carry me away from that year of being sick.
So I need to remind myself at night, when the Ifs come marching into our minds, that they’re not all bad. In fact – they’re most exciting. Windows of possibility are opening, even if I can’t quite see through them, and if we keep trying, something good is bound to happen.
What are your Ifs? Do they scare you? Excite you? Have you begun to act upon those late night wonderings?
(P.S. This isn’t a very festive post, I know. But I wrote it last week and promised myself it would be shared. So it lands on today. With Christmas having settled down, and a new year approaching – I reckon this is a perfect time to reflect upon our Ifs . . . 2012, a whole new year with adventure and growth just waiting to happen.)