I am once again prepping for the Pontiac Artists' Studio Tour. June 9th, 10th, 16th and 17th, I and 14 other artists will be opening our homes and studios to anyone who cares to see. The prep is long and seems endless but it's not really it just seems like a veritable marathon that I welcomed into my life. I sit now typing away on my keyboard knowing I could make better use of my time as I squint sideways at a very disorganized and chaotic home with paintings propped up everywhere, furniture, books, tchotchkies and other decorative accessories pulled away from walls awaiting storage elsewhere while the tour takes place. Add to that the general clutter and dirt that comes with spring, 4 kids, farm life, 2 dogs, a cat and more surrounding me I realize I'm not even near the finish line yet!
How lucky am I?
I am choosing my challenges, choosing life and chaos and risking hurt and disappointment and chancing success and welcoming failures and vulnerability and friends and strangers.
I'm so blessed to be able to choose.
I was not handed the burden of sickness like so many others are. I need to remind myself that whatever walls I build around my abilities are just fluff compared to what others are battling and although it all matters, some things matter more than others. My art show will be fine even if, God forbid I don't get this house all fixed up by Saturday.
Perspective is important.
I participated in my very first Relay for Life activity this past Saturday night in Shawville, it was a bit more of a marathon than I expected...after all I'm not 19 or even 29 anymore, an all nighter hits me a bit harder these days!
I imagine the event needs no introduction but as some of my readers are half a world away I will give a general outline. This is a 12 hour overnight relay where teams enter and participate and walk all night long. Breaks in the walk are given by trading off with other teammates. The point is to have someone walking all night for your team. The larger point is to raise funds for cancer research.
I'm really not qualified to comment on the importance or the scope of this event. I joined a good friend's team who is coming up to two years since being diagnosed, her story in some ways mimics my mother's story: Breast cancer, extremely young, very aggressive type and treatments. The 12 hour overnight relay's ad campaign is "because cancer doesn't sleep". I'm not going to comment on their objectives, initiatives or anything else as I've never explored the back story and don't intend to, if there's a cause I believe in I donate when possible -you don't need to sell anything to me.
I've got very little ground of reference in my adult life for living with or with someone who is affected by cancer and I hope and pray that I can always say this. Some observations I've made though:
-OMG and all things bordering every profane word I've ever heard!!! My legs are killing me! My feet and knees are swollen and I am exhausted!
-I suspect my first day after was a mild comparison of what a cancer patient who is undergoing treatment might feel which is likely what the event hopes to illustrate to participants.
-I feel better today. I know those cancer patients do not.
-The Relay was tiring but cancer is overwhelming.
-I am surrounded by fighters and winners. They are my friends, my mom, my acquaintances, they're everywhere.
-Unfortunately many of these fighters were not there on Saturday evening because their battles have been lost, these include a grandma and many other acquaintances some who were remembered with luminaries, many not.
While walking and talking to others, even those who similar to me have been lucky enough to avoid direct contact with cancer I concluded that we all fight battles. Everyone's battles are different though. These are battles with disease, emotions, work activities, expectations, families, children, spouses. We all have marathons. We all have challenges, some fabricated through our own activities, some welcomed, some not.
My marathons are minor, not non existent but really small potatoes. I am just like most everyone else. I'll win some and lose some, I'll ace some things and fail at others and be mediocre at most. The important thing is to keep going and just like the event on Saturday night I need to realize that I'm not alone. This marathon of life is not a solo performance but really more of a relay because people are there to take the baton and run with it for a bit on my behalf, let me breathe, change things up and let me see things in a new light.
As I prepare for the tour those around me have been in my camp, carrying the baton. You know who you are and I thank you because as insignificant as my event is in the grand scheme of life and real challenges, you never leave me to run alone and this pretty much guarantees that all will be well. More than wishing for success during the tour though, I am thrilled that I decided to participate in the relay. Others need me from time to time too and it is really the very least I can do when their journeys are so much harder. Did my presence make a difference? A very minuscule one, I know that much -but my hope is I'll always remember to think of others' marathons and offer to take the baton for a turn only if it makes their journey just a little less lonely.
Sure it's a bit of a sacrifice, and perhaps I'm a bit behind in tour preparations but what really is more important than the people who surround and hold you up through it all and the opportunity to do the same for them?
Most important though I hope that someday very soon we kick cancer's ass right out the door and all the way to the curb and it never, ever comes back to touch anyone again!