When I was 5 years old my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down 'happy'. They told me I didn't understand the assignment, and I told them they didn't understand life.
I've always been an optimistic and happy person. I expected good things to happen to me, and - generally - they did. I saw the glass as half full, not half empty.
And then, ironically, my glass became either totally full or totally empty, in quick succession, and as the alcohol poured into my life, the happiness drained out.
For a while, everything became a bit grey, joyless and featureless.
One of the miracles of quitting drinking is watching the colour gradually seep back in, and monochrome giving way to technicolour.
(See my posts Let Me Not Die While I'm Still Alive, and Smile and the World Smiles With You)
Then I got hit with the breast cancer.
For the first six weeks I was in shock - dealing with one day at a time, swinging from despair (I'm going to die soon!) to elation (I'm not going to die yet!) and back again. Pretty much every day was filled with hospital appointments on top of all the everyday activities, so I really didn't have time to dwell.
But now, nearly two months on, the dust is starting to settle, and the reality of living the rest of my life as a cancer survivor is starting to kick in.
And it's giving me panic attacks.
I have always had the attitude that if you don't have a temperature, and nothing's fallen off, you go to school. I've always assumed that bad things generally didn't happen to me, or my loved ones.
Then I got proved wrong. And I can see how easy it is to lose that faith, and to start seeing the world as essentially hostile, filled with pot holes just waiting for you to fall in.
I spotted a new mole on #1 the other day. Instead of thinking oh look, a mole, I thought aarrrggghh! Skin cancer! She's going to die, and she's only twelve! I keep fretting (for no specific reason) that Mr SM will lose his job and we'll be penniless. I worry (with some good reason) that our house is falling down.
This is not like me.
I have, so long as I take the right drugs, a 92% chance of remaining cancer free. Most of the time I'm able to focus on the 92%. But, increasingly, I'm jolted by the thought that I have an 8% chance of a recurrence, which will be incurable.
A close family member of mine died a year ago of breast cancer. She had nine years disease free following her initial diagnosis. But instead of living life to the full, she became a hermit. She spent every day fearful of her cancer returning, until - eventually - it did just that.
I do not want that to be me.
So I turned to Wayne Dyer (see my post on Change the Way You Look at Things).
Wayne believes that happiness is a choice. He says
You cannot always control what goes on outside. But you can always control what goes on inside.
And this Wayne Dyer quote feels like it was written for me:
With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.
Several times each day I feel like I'm standing at a crossroads, with the left path marked FEAR, and the right marked POSSIBLITY. Every time I have to consciously make myself turn right.
I trust that, eventually, choosing that path will, once more, become automatic.
As always, the Dalai Lama sums it up in a few short words:
Choose to be optimistic, it feels better.
Happy, hangover free, optimistic Sunday to you all.
P.S. I love checking which Google search terms lead people to my blog. Someone got here today by way of typing 'Mummy sex.' I'm feeling very racy ;-)