Because without the bitter, baby, the sweet ain’t as sweet. — Brian Shelby, Vanilla Sky

I was watching Vanilla Sky this past weekend.  One of the main characters, Brian (played by Jason Lee) kept talking about how one had to experience the bitter in life to appreciate the sweet.  If you have seen this movie, you know it is hard to sum up without giving away too much.  The basic story — David (played by Tom Cruise) lives a very charmed life.  Handsome, charming, and extremely wealthy, David has everything he can imagine.  Yet, with one decision, the course of his life changes dramatically and his charmed life suddenly seems a million miles away.  The audience is suddenly quite aware of all of the things he had taken for granted.  For the first time in his life, David has a different perspective.  For the first time, he is really feeling the bitter when in the past he had only experienced the sweet.

Although Vanilla Sky has many twists and turns that I wouldn’t relate to, the concept of having a taste of the bitter to really appreciate the sweet really resonated with me.  How many times do people only appreciate something once it is taken away?  You hear that story time and time again.  You don’t know what you’ve got, ’til it’s gone.  Even the little things in life, the simple things, even the boring things, suddenly become that thing that we most wish for once the are gone.

I think about how cancer changed the person that I am.  When I was diagnosed, I had just turned twenty-six.  I had been married for two years, and my son was just turning one.  We lived in a town that we loved and had friends we loved too. We were building a life. I had my whole life in front of me, and I was suddenly faced with the idea that I could  lose it all.  The fear of not being a part of that future broke my heart.  The bitter.  At the same time, it ignited my fight.  I couldn’t imagine anything other than getting through it.  I was sure.  I was positive.  There was no other way.    And, I got through it, and moved forward.  Suddenly I was a part of that future again — the beautiful future with my family — the one that I certainly didn’t want to miss being a part of, and definitely did not want to lose.  The sweet.

Did I appreciate it more because I faced the idea of  losing it all?  I’ll never know.  I like to think that I would have appreciated my life with or without cancer however I do know that cancer had a hand at changing my perspective.  I don’t spend a lot of time complaining.  When I hear people talk about how the have to do this or they have to do that, I cringe.  The ones that get me the most are when people complain about thing they have to do with their children.  What?  Are you crazy?  How about get to do this or get to do that?   I try my best to make things work.  Is life always rainbows and sunshine?  No.  But, for me, I understand that we all get one life, and I want to spend it focusing on the get-tos more than the have-tos.  Maybe facing the bitter helped me appreciate the sweet that much more.  I don’t know.  Are there moments that feel more bitter than sweet?  Sure.  But that is life.  For now, I am choosing to spend my time trying to focus on the good rather than focusing on the bad.  I put out that effort because for me it feels worth it.  I think that is pretty sweet.


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