On more than one occasion recently, I've had someone say to me something like, "I see the stuff you post on Facebook, but really, how are you doing?"
It occurred to me that there are undoubtedly other people who haven't asked me but are wondering the same thing. So I thought, why not write something about it?
I suppose people are aware that there are situations like this one. If you don't feel like clicking the link, it's a heartwrenching story about the contrast between a college track athlete's cheery social media persona and the inner depression that drove her to suicide. Not that I think anyone would suspect me of being secretly suicidal! But we all know there can be sizable gaps between the lives people present to the outside world and the lives they are really experiencing, and that social media can magnify this effect.
As for me? I can honestly say everything I post on Facebook is an accurate reflection of how I'm feeling at that time. Granted, I do tend to focus more on positive things, but that's not me putting on a false front. It's more that staying positive externally helps me stay positive internally.
Of course, I miss Cara a lot, and I probably will for the rest of my life. Of course, I feel a great deal of sadness over her loss. However, and again I am being completely honest, I feel happy more than I feel sad. That's due most of all to the fact that I have a lot of great friends and relatives. It's also due to me keeping myself busy doing things that I enjoy, and it also helps that I, as always, have a lot of great music to listen to.
Thinking about it, I've had a pretty amazing life so far, and you know what? There's no reason I can't continue to have an amazing life. That's not meant to diminish the importance of Cara to me. Not at all. In fact, I consider both the life that I have had and the life that I'll continue to have to be largely thanks to her.
It's said that, in marriage, two people become one. In that sense, Cara lives on as part of me. To some, that might sound like a platitude, but I wholeheartedly believe it. The influence we each had on the other, in making our lives happier, and in our development as human beings, was incredible. If I had not met Cara, I would be a completely different person, and I believe that I'm a much better person for having known her. And now, everything I do, it's partly her doing it as well. If I bake a pie? Cara is helping me. Enjoy a long bike ride? Cara is helping me. Make a new friend? Cara is helping me.
I spent twenty months of my life with someone who had had something really terrible happen to her, and she reacted to it by living her life to the fullest and trying to approach each day with a positive attitude. I wish deeply that Cara had never had cancer, but given the reality that she did, I'm very grateful for those twenty months, both because we had so many happy times together during them and because I learned so much from the way she lived her life.
Our lives are largely defined by how we deal with adversity. That's something I believed even before Cara had cancer, but I never knew then that I would see firsthand such an amazing demonstration of grace and courage.
In writing her blog, Cara provided a great service both by exposing everyone to the realities of what she was going through and by being a shining example of how someone could deal with an awful situation. Perhaps I can do something of the same. I could not, though, do it without her.
A final thought. I'm very grateful that I live in an age in which people are free to fall in love and marry the ones they love. Obviously, the recent Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage (which Cara would have been thrilled to see) is very relevant to this, but there's more to it than that. The people who pine for the days of "traditional marriage" seem to want us all to forget that, traditionally, marriages were often not based on love. They were often arranged marriages, and women were generally treated as property. Yet clearly, the ability to fall in love with another person is deeply ingrained in us as human beings, and it's likely something that has been around much longer than society's concept of marriage. Cara and I were very lucky to meet each other and to have the opportunity to share that love.