Finding Focus In the New Year With Cancer


Living resolution-free has given me a chance to really think about what matters now and how I want to live.

Right about now, sometime between the second and third week of January, is when my new year's resolutions would start to fade and then disintegrate. I'd promise myself and, sometimes unhappily, others, too, that I would exercise more, lose weight, more actively pursue my dreams, find a boyfriend (back in the day), be more friendly, go to museums, etc.

It's not that I was such a heinous person. Instead, I had succumbed to the be better/do better mindset that overtakes us when there are big changes afoot, whether those changes are real or manufactured, such as on New Year's Eve.

This year, as I stood next to my husband at a party, watching the clock tick toward midnight, I belatedly thought about resolutions. Should I make a silent resolution? What would I even resolve?

There are a lot of things that we learn as we get older. Throw a metastatic cancer diagnosis into the mix, and maybe it's true that you learn a lot faster. There are, of course, things I would improve about myself, but I have learned to accept that I am already doing my best in this moment.

And, if I am living in the moment as much as possible, then putting a resolution to do something else on top of that defeats what I actually have accomplished so far in my new life living with cancer. Which is not to say I didn’t think about the year ahead. I did.

What I realized is that my life now is about focus. Not focus in the eyes-on-the-prize mindset I espouse at times to my college-age and college-applying daughters, but focus in the most basic sense. The idea that I don’t have to act on or dwell on thoughts that take me away from what is happening in my life in this moment. In short, here’s my guide to a resolution-free 2017:

Focus on what matters now. While I have never and probably will never just say I’ll let the future take care of itself, I can say that by focusing on what is important at this moment in time I can also see the future more clearly. That clarity lets me more easily understand why I do the things I do and what is likely to matter to me in the months ahead.

Focus on who I am with now and don’t worry about the next person I need to see, reach out to or call. If, like all of us, I am here for too-short a time; I don’t want to spend it half-heartedly connecting with the people I love. Paying attention is a gift I can afford to give.

Focus on what I am doing now, whether it is “bad”, such as enjoying a too-large slice of chocolate cake, or “good” (getting in the qi gong or mood-improving exercise).

Focus on what I can give. While cancer has caused some unpleasant effects in my life, I am still able to give my love, my knowledge, my time to people and activities that matter. So I do.

It’s true that all of these behaviors are things I’ve learned over the years. But more formally thinking about and incorporating my “focus” points has made 2017 get off to a more relaxed start, which is exactly what the doctor ordered.

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