Wednesday, December 26, 2012

2012: A Year in Review

The morning after Christmas, I went to the gym with my Dad.

This is actually a pretty epic event.

In order to understand why this was an important turning point, you first have to get on board with the fact that 2012 was a hell of a year. 

Not just for me. I've confirmed this fact with no fewer than 87% of my friends and family, so I know that it's basically fact. 

It was pretty quiet for the first half, except that all of my friends got married/engaged/pregnant, which was pretty awesome. Spring apexed with our trip to the Dominican Republic in May which was, quite honestly, I think the last time that I felt the ground was firmly beneath me with any stability.

Here's what happened next:

A day after I returned from the Dominican, my dad announced to the family that he had a lump in his neck. Ok, a lump. Alarming, to be sure, but one of those "sit tight and wait" situations that involve doctors and tests and extractions and special appointments.

It turned out to be the thing that you fear. It turned out to be the big, bad, scary thing. On May 31, 2012 (my thirtieth birthday), my dad was diagnosed with cancer. He went into surgery two days later, and started chemo and radiation a few weeks after that.

Over the next few months, our family vocabulary changed. We started using words like "nodes," and "scan" and "mass." Later, we used words like "feeding tube," and "radiation," and "side-effects." We joked that our lives revolved around Dad's cancer. It did. As well it should.

My dad was a trooper, my mom was a trooper, my family were all troopers. How can you be anything else? You just deal with it, one day at a time. It becomes your "new normal." Friends and family were amazing and kind and generous, and my dad had extremely excellent care from friendly, informative, and transparent staff. 

On November 16, my mom's birthday, my dad told us that he is now officially a cancer survivor, nearly six months later. The side-effects of the radiation and chemo are beginning to wane, and somehow we all maintained our senses of humor through the dark time.

We are lucky. We are lucky that my Dad was brave and smart enough to get a lump checked out immediately. We are lucky that so much is known about cancer today. We are lucky that he had excellent care. We are lucky that they treated the cancer aggresively, and that they eradicated every cell. We hope we will continue to be lucky in the coming months and years when they search to make sure nothing comes back. And we are lucky to have each other, and our friends and support systems.

While all of that was going on, this happened:

THE XLDR (X-treme Long Distance Relationship)
The universe had an excellent time planning things in 2012, because two weeks after my dad's diagnosis, my boyfriend (The Gentleman) was offered a sweet new work position. In the Middle East. Effective in 30 days.

I basically curled up in the fetal position for about a day, and then decided that that wasn't a productive use of my time.

All of June and most of July was spent trying to spend as much time as possible with my family and with The Gentleman. As my dad got further into treatment, The Gentleman's life was being packed up and shipped overseas. On July 13, I drove him to the airport, dropped him off, and cried the entire way home.

That was also because I was stuck in traffic and may or may not have eaten some questionable sushi the night before.

But mostly because I was sad.

Time sort of stopped for awhile. I watched a lot of Netflix, tried to go home at least once a week to see my family. I tried and failed to write a novel (as per usual). I trained for a half-marathon, went to work, and experimented with cooking lentils. I went to San Francisco, video chatted with my boyfriend a few times a week, and made my bed every morning before going to work.

If that sounds dramatic, it's not meant to be. When life throws you a curve ball (or, you know, two or three at a time), sometimes making your bed in the morning and catching up on Downton Abbey are significant things. 

And then, suddenly, the trees were changing colors. Summer drifted. My dad finished chemo and radiation and, a month or two later, was eating solid food again. I went to the Middle East to see The Gentleman. I started a new certification course for work. I spent time with friends who went out of their way to be comforting, accommodating, kind, patient, and available to me. 

And today, I went to the gym with my dad. Because he can go to the gym now. And tomorrow, I fly to Prague to see The Gentleman and to spend down the last, lingering days of 2012.

2012 taught me to sit still, something I've never learned how to do before. It taught me to allow chaos, to let tornadoes swirl,  and to make do with very little information just trusting that, somehow, everything will turn out ok. 2012 taught me, again and again, John Lennon's adage that "life is what happens while you're busy making other plans." 2012 taught me to be grateful for the chaos, because it means you care, and to show gratitude for even the smallest, simplest of things. 2012 brought my family closer together. And, somehow, despite putting 7,500 miles between my boyfriend and me, we were brought closer together too.

I'm packing sweaters, boots, warm socks, hats, and scarves to head off to Eastern Europe. I'm also packing calm, love, and patience. I carry these things with me. Perhaps I always did - but 2012 made them evident.

We will ring in 2013 on the Vltava River, on a jazz cruise. I'll get to greet it six hours earlier than I would at home, and that's fine by me. 2012 was a hell of a year, and I'm perfectly happy to chop 6 hours off of the end of it.

And, you know, to spend the last five days of it eating sausages and drinking gluhbier and going to the Museum of Communism. 


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