Silent Arrows

I found a quote the other day  and I thought of it again today because I realized that it resonates very strongly to what I’m currently going through in my life:

“An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. When life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means it’s going to launch you into something great. So just focus, and keep aiming.”

That’s what I’ve been trying to do this past summer, I’ve been trying to focus. However, I think I’ve been going about it all wrong. Here’s the thing, BC (before cancer) I thought that my life was mine and only mine to control. After my experience with cancer, I became terrified whenever I would think of the future. I felt powerless. One day I was just another careless 20 year old college student and the next I was contemplating my own mortality due to one diagnosis, one test, and the one phone call that changed the course of my life.

Back then I turned my fear and my sadness into a kind of careless, blind hope. I made plans I was unsure I would ever accomplish (a semester abroad in Paris), and after my surgery I faced every day with a kind of reckless abandon. Perspective has taught me that my 20 year old self used the desire to live as a way to cope with illness, and I now find myself envying her and her limitless dreams.

Sometimes, when I feel the familiar chest tightening, the dizziness, the physical weakness and the mental incapacitation that anxiety brings, I think back to the moment when I was first given a cancer diagnosis. I think back to the ways that I’ve dealt with anxiety disorder and panic attacks since my first terrifying experience one sunny afternoon in California when I was 15. If it’s mild, I take a deep breath and hide under the covers until it’s passed, but if it’s a particularly nasty one, it’s accompanied with tears and silence. I block the world out and look for the solution within myself. Living with this anxiety is my most difficult ongoing challenge and lately, with my dissertation due date less than a month away, it’s been particularly difficult to cope.

I’ve been trying to focus on my dissertation, on succeeding in writing it… without fully comprehending what I’m aiming for. Sometimes I pose myself existential questions setting my mind of to wonder the meaning of it all, (particularly the meaning of the ten thousand words that have taken over my life and my summer). Like with any challenging situation, some days are worse than others, but now with September approaching so quickly, the question that has been brooding in the back of my mind for quite some time now is becoming louder and louder: “What’s next?”

Instead of succuming to the darkness and accompanying fear that anxiety brings, I’ve been trying to see this uncertainty as a gift.

I landed on my blog today as a mistake, I was doing some research and it led me here: to myself. I instantly regretted having gone the past couple of months without publishing, and I realized that only I had the power to end the silence like only I have the power to answer that pressing question.

Time and time again I’ve confronted the question: “what’s next?” with the purchase of a plane ticket and the pursuit of a new adventure. This takes courage and the same kind of hope that I found when I was fighting cancer.

No, I know that I don’t have limitless power in determining my future. However, perspective has also taught me that I do have some power…like that in deciding where I should aim my next arrow.

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