Last weekend I had the opportunity to get together with my “old gang” — friends I hung around with in high school, college and in my 20s. I was a little nervous; a couple of them I hadn’t seen in a couple of decades. But we were immediately joking and telling stories like we did back in school. I forgot what it was like to laugh so hard that I cry. It was so fun!
I’ve been doing a lot of reminiscing lately. For instance, right now I’m listening to Depeche Mode on Pandora radio. It reminds me of simpler times, BC – before cancer. Looking back, the things I worried about seem so trivial – finding or keeping a boyfriend, whether or not I had weekend plans, and thinking I was not good-looking enough or fat – when I was about 20 pounds lighter than I am today. I didn’t really love myself or realize how blessed I was.
Of course, youth is often wasted on the youth. I never dreamed of the life I had now or that I’d be looking death in the eye starting in my 40s. I didn’t know that having a boy/man in my life or being beautiful was not the key to happiness. But most of the time, as I was reminded, last weekend, I had a lot of fun.
And I still have fun today, even with the shadow of cancer looming over my head. I had an amazing time on the Breast Cancer Thrivers Cruise in April, spending quality time with my old college roommate – we were cabin mates this time! I even got to spend my birthday on the cruise, complete with ice cream and cake after dinner!
These experiences reminded me that I’m not too old or too sick (thankfully) to live a life of joy and laughter. I may be 51 in my body with all the aches and pains associated with cancer treatment and aging, but that young person is still inside of me. I’m lucky because I get to experience some of that joyful exuberance with my 15-year-old daughter. I live vicariously through driving her friends places, going to band competitions and track meets and going clothes shopping with her. And I continue to nurture my inner young person by making sure I get enough laughs and connection with others. I won’t be riding roller coasters at the amusement park, but I think staying young at heart is the best medicine for me rather than focusing on the roller coaster ride of cancer.
Some tips for recapturing your young self:
- Get together with friends who knew you back in the day and find things to belly-laugh about
- Go to the pool and practice standing on your hands in the water or just floating on your back
- Read a young adult book or watch a young adult movie (or you can flashback to some John Hughes films like Pretty in Pink or Breakfast Club)
- Spend time with some young people (if you don’t have a child or grandchild, borrow one of your friends’)
- Eat a refreshing summer treat (ice cream may not be good for you, so try watermelon or a fruit pop)
- Play miniature golf or do some other summer fun activity
- Listen to songs from your youth or go to a rock concert – dancing and/or singing along is required
- Take a vacation and get away from it all. And if you dare, do something you’ve never done before.