Lately, on my social media feed I’ve been seeing the quote, “Choose your hard” and it is pissing me off. You’ve seen it, too, haven’t you? If you haven’t, give it time. It’s one I’ve seen several times over the years. But here it is for your perusal:
“Marriage is hard. Divorce is hard. Choose your hard.
Obesity is hard. Being fit is hard. Choose your hard.
Being in debt is hard. Being financially disciplined is hard. Choose your hard.
Communication is hard. Not communicating is hard. Choose your hard.
Life will never be easy. It will always be hard. But we can choose our hard.
Pick wisely.” — Unknown
Since being diagnosed with cancer in February 2020, I have come to hate the term, “Choose your hard.” I think it’s bullshit. I didn’t choose cancer. There was no other way to choose my hard, it found me. To boil it down to such simplistic terms, takes away the frustration, anger, sadness, and resignation people feel when life has handed them something out of their control.
The quote comes from a place of privilege and the ability to choose. Sometimes, it just isn’t a choice. Hard is hard is hard no matter what you choose.
I especially hate the last line, “Pick wisely” as if it’s an end-all, be all to how we live our lives.
Life is messy and we make mistakes. But telling me to “pick wisely” sounds ominous. Don’t I get a do-over if I don’t like this choice?
However, coming off cancer treatments this week (woot!) this quote just completely ticked me off. I didn’t get to choose my hard in 2020. It came at me in full force with cancer in a pandemic. My body rebelled against me despite all the miles I’ve run, the healthy meals I cooked, the clean makeup and detergent I use.
I didn’t get a choice about when I would be immunocompromised, and let me tell you it wouldn’t have been smack dab in the middle of a pandemic where getting the coronavirus would have quite possibly killed me. And I certainly wouldn’t have chosen to have cancer when my kids needed me to support them at home during distance learning and where they had a front-row seat to my illness. Though I will say, my kids have come out of this whole 2020 debacle stronger, more empathetic, and a little more aware that life is fleeting and we better appreciate the heck out of it because we learned the hard way that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.
Please stop telling people to choose their hard. Sometimes, they don’t have a choice. How about instead of telling people to stop choosing their hard, we say, “What can I do to support you right now? What do you need?” We need to do more than reframe the situation, we need to identify what the individual needs. Sometimes situations are beyond our control and we have to face that it’s not going to go the way we would have chosen if given a true choice.
I really hated when people told me to “think positive thoughts” during my cancer treatment as if that’s all I needed to get through it. It really ignored that I was struggling and that the only way to get through it was to will myself into healthiness. It ignored how chemotherapy ravaged my body and my brain. It ignored that I felt absolutely helpless and praying for the best outcome from surgery and treatments.
That’s not to say there isn’t a correlation between positive thinking and a stronger immune system. There is a University of Queensland study that shows that a positive attitude can improve your immune system.
“Participants who recalled more positive than negative images had antibodies in their blood suggesting stronger immune systems than those of their counterparts, who did not show this positivity in memory,” Dr. Elise Kalokerinos, University of Queensland’s School of Psychology
However, it’s important to keep in mind, that when people are ill or in a state of distress, thinking positively is hard to manage. Instead of showing them bullshit quotes that only makes them feel worse, try supporting them instead.
There is one friend I have who wouldn’t bullshit me. I would tell her how awful I felt and she said, “Yep, it sucks. It totally sucks. I’m sorry.” She did what I needed her to do, she acknowledged my feelings and didn’t tell me to “think happy thoughts.” Instead, she sent books that she thought I would enjoy. She brought cookies. She had an open-door policy about asking her anything and everything about breast cancer. That in and of itself, was more valuable because the internet is not very helpful and what you really want is real-life experiences.
The same goes for my “Breasties” online support group. It’s a safe space where we can ask anything and share our trials and celebrations. There’s definitely positivity thrown around and we’re grateful for it, but there is also room for empathy. We didn’t choose our hard. It found us. And now we’ve found each other to share advice, laughter, and tears.
Telling people to choose their hard comes from a place of privilege. Instead, I urge you to come from a place of empathy and support. Stop telling people to choose their hard. Sit in their space with them. Support them. Give them grace. Then be there for them when they are ready to move forward again.
Cancer totally sucks and I didn’t choose it. But now, after a year of treatment, I can finally move forward. And to those who have held my hand through it. Thank you for joining me in my hard so that I find my way back to myself again.