“You know, Hobbes, some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don’t help.”
— Bill Watterson
Never mind that the decorations were up and the carols were playing even before the first trick or treater hit the pavement, the holiday season is now in full swing. Joy and happiness are required feelings no matter what you celebrate. And, of course, we are all supposed to feel gratitude …
But what if you aren’t feeling joyful? Are you having a rough time feeling grateful? Do you experience a pressure from others, and within yourself, to be more positive than you actually are in the moment?
It’s ok. Be gentle with yourself. It’s ok to have a bad day.
Cancer seems to be a robust focus of the positive thinking brigade. There can be a kind of tyranny in the expectation that you should address cancer by being smart, sassy, and edgy. This import from the glib “get over it, don’t wallow” school of thought creates guilt and shame for having lingering feelings, particularly in survivorship. The message is that something is pathologically wrong with you if you still feel worried, scared, sad and the worst of all … depressed. You’re supposed to be sexy and cool. Get a tattoo and go sky diving. The point seems to be that you need to impress others with your courage and moxie. It’s become cool to act like it’s all just a big joke …
The sooner we can acknowledge the underbelly of the cancer experience, the sooner we can balance the horror and the gift. Bitterness and overwhelming anxiety are merely plugged up emotions that haven’t been allowed a scream or a howling cry. Yell, shout, cry, shiver … shake until you can’t shake anymore. Then rest … and move on. By giving yourself this space, you might even find an authentic joy and a deep sense of gratitude where you least expect it.
How do you take care of yourself on those days when even your lucky rocket ship underpants don’t help?