As much as I like to think I walk through this world with a level of sensitivity and understanding, there is still so much I take for granted. Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or, you know, just busy…), parts of Massachusetts have been inconvenienced with a water line break. This break has meant that back-up reserves have been tapped to supply water to about 2 million people. The back-up water is just fine — it just hasn’t been treated — and so precautions have been put out there to avoid illness. The most popular and most effective of the precautions has been “boil your water for 1-2 minutes.” Now, first I thought, “big deal” — so, you boil water before you drink it. Little did I realize that it meant you had to “boil any water that might have access to your insides.” So, washing dishes? Boil it. Coffee making? Boil it. Brushing your teeth? Boil it.
Much like when I crave ice cream while watching The Biggest Loser, I heard about the water main break and immediately became thirsty. I hate drinking water, and yet all I wanted to do was to feel the cool, clear, crisp taste of refreshment freeze my tongue, throat, and send a chill into my chest. I had the urge to brush my teeth. The urge to make ice cubes. While I waited for my big pot of water to boil, I updated my Facebook status to reflect my embrace of Mother Nature: “I will boil water instead of buying it!” I proclaimed to my virtual audience.
My friendly Brockton neighbors quickly commented on my status: “Liza. We live in Brockton. We don’t even get our water from that supply. Stop boiling. We’re fine.”
I wasn’t thirsty anymore.
The impending feeling of death-by-dehydration was replaced with confusion, then boredom. Now what do I do?
Though I was only inconvenienced for, oh, 5 minutes, I was reminded that this whole routine was the way of life for many people who share our planet. Just a few months ago, a former student — a true Boston city gal — who had spent the last 2 years in Guinea told me of her daily walk to the river to catch her own fish, which she descaled, fried by the light of the fire, and then fell asleep in her straw bed. Growing her own vegetables made her reflect on the rows and rows and rows of oversized greens, oranges, yellows and reds that she walked by in the Shaws and Stop&Shop stores before she moved to Africa. She told me of the first time she had to catch and kill a chicken so that she could have protein. And, because there was no refrigeration in her tiny hut, she needed to share her prize with the rest of the village. Upon her return, she told me she truly appreciated the convenience of “fast food” — as gross as the concept was to her.
With my daily emotional battles with hereditary cancer, I can’t help but think of all the many, many, many years I was not nice to my body. Early years struggling with eating issues — starving, bingeing, starving, bingeing, over exercise, under exercise — , hating the way my body looked — no matter what size it was, poisoning it with the college traditions of Friday/Saturday night drinking, and years of on-and-off smoking were certainly not good choices. I didn’t begin to appreciate my body and all the cells that make up my skin, bones, muscles, organs, etc., until my daughter got sick. One tiny cell changed our lives.
To this day, I stand by my belief that her cancer was the best thing that happened to our family.
I find it so difficult to relate to people who are materialistic, self-centered, always panicking about nothing, and who “sweat the small stuff.” Some days, I’m jealous of those folks who have never had to experience fear and sadness in this way. And , yet, I don’t envy their all-about-me lifestyles.
Because of my daughter’s cancer, my sister’s cancer, the cancers of all my family members who have both been healed and who have passed on, and now my own anticipation of cancer, I am a stronger, more responsible person than I was 5 years ago.I have taken more responsibility over the way I treat myself emotionally and physically. I am a believer in how we treat others and how we should expect to be treated. I have taken a new commitment to standing beside those who are marginalized, who are seen as “different”, and who are treated as less-than. I have learned new ways of empowering myself and, in turn, empowering others.
I choose to surround myself with people who are beautiful on the inside. I choose to appreciate what I have on the outside. And, I am thankful for having been granted wisdom to never take life, love, and happiness for granted ever again.
Peace, love, and knowing that you are on the right path,