In which our heroine is grateful & unafraid.

Dearest readers,

My intention for this blog is to not always be so serious & focused on the numerous ailments of humanity. My intention is actually to be as funny as possible, although you wouldn’t know it by the last few posts. I started it to make people laugh. But lately, a lot of things have happened that have had me thinking about the world we’re living in, and none of the conclusions I come to are really very funny. I promise, loads of fun things are in the works. But for right now, I have other things on my chest & they’ve got to come off. I appreciate you following me along in my madness & giving even the most cursory glance at the things I have to say.

In the summer of 2006, I moved to Blacksburg, Virginia. In late August, I was driving home from my first day of graduate school at Radford University when my older sister called to tell me that we had an escaped convict on the loose. Go home, lock the door, don’t talk to strangers…she told me all that good stuff your older sister is supposed to tell you when she’s afraid. The next morning, that convict shot & killed a police officer on Virginia Tech’s campus before ultimately being caught. It was a very sad day for the community, but also something that at the time I just accepted as a reality. Being a police officer is a dangerous job that, sadly, costs many brave & honorable people their lives. It’s horrible & a tragedy, but it happens. So goes life outside the West Virginia hills, I supposed. After a few weeks, community had it’s period of mourning & moved on. I didn’t think much of it beyond that.

I didn’t think much of it because I assumed that was the last bad thing that I’d be seeing during my time in this lovely town. Sadly, I was very wrong.

8 months later, on the morning of April 16, 2007, I was sleeping on my sister’s couch after undergoing an invasive biopsy. I’d gone in for a routine exam the month before & my doctor saw some worrisome tissue changes. Those changes could be nothing at all, just my body being weird, or they could be signs of cancer. And if they were cancerous changes, they appeared to have been progressing for some time (translation: we probably didn’t catch it early & cancer has a head start on eating me alive). Needless to say, I was a wreck. A quivering, neurotic mess of a human being. I was doomed at 23. The long life of unbridled joy that up until that point I’d felt so entitled to just got cancelled by the big C & I was as pissed off at that as I had been in my whole life. After the biopsy, I took a handful of the prescription narcotics randomly hanging out in my sisters cabinets (because fuck you DEA, I AM DYING & you’re not the boss of me) & passed out until the early afternoon.

When I came to, Virginia Tech was on CNN. While I was out sleep-moping, 32 people had been gunned down by a man none of them knew. The deadliest mass shooting in American history happened 20 minutes from the house I’d been sleeping in all morning. The horror that came over me in that moment is something I’ve always failed to properly articulate. It was the most wounded feeling of vulnerability & terror I’ve ever experienced. I thank God it passed into numbness quickly.

I went to the candlelight vigil days later. I cried a lot. I heard the stories of the exceptional lives we lost that day for no reason at all & was nauseated by the waste. I also heard the man that murdered these people spew his special blend of crazy, bile, & hatefulness on the world from beyond the grave. I vowed to never say his name, because I refused to give him another second of airplay. I thanked God neither my sister or brother in law had been on campus that morning. And in the midst of all this weeping & wailing, I learned the most valuable lesson of my life thus far:

Life gives no guarantees.

I had no right to curl up in defeat that morning because I MIGHT have cancer. I also MIGHT get hit by a bus, or blown up in a terrorist attack, or shot up by a crazy person. Or I might live to be 102 & have lots of fun & babies & die a happy, beloved old lady in my sleep. Who the hell knows? No one promised me a long, painless journey through life just because I’m Allison Ball & I’m a special little snowflake. The adolescent narcissism that still had a grip on my brain made that junk up & convinced me it was the truth. The real truth is that I will be on this planet precisely as long as I am meant to be & then I will die, be it in a blaze or a whimper. And this same process will happen equally to every person I love & every person I hate. Life will get us all in the end. We have no right to expect anything different.

Morbid & revolting, yes? It gets better, I promise. Just stick with me.

The silver lining of realizing that I’m actually not an invincible, eternal super-goddess turned out to be the development of a very powerful type of fearlessness. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dead inside. Things absolutely scare me. But, as soon as I got it through my thick head that life doesn’t owe me anything, my day to day happiness became entirely my choice & my responsibility. I could continue moping & withering away because of how angry I am at all the things that have happened to me and how afraid I am of all the things that could happen to me in the future. Or I could get up, put on some mascara, & carpe the living hell out of every diem I have left. I chose the latter & continue to choose it every morning when my feet hit the floor.

I learned to embrace life on its terms instead of having a temper tantrum when it doesn’t meet my expectations. Even though life hasn’t been a full time picnic over the past few years, I’m ok with it. Better than ok, I’m just happy as hell to still be here. I’m alive. I’m healthy. The cancer I nearly quit life over never came to be. I have a warm bed & food in the fridge. I’m surrounded by amazing friends & family who love me very much. What can I really complain about? Ultimately, the terror I felt when I thought my own life was being unfairly cut short compounded with the horror the April 16th shooting inflicted on my community taught me a very hard, painful lesson in gratitude. And that gratitude has given me a great deal of freedom.

I’m not sure why I’m putting this out on the internet. I’m not really even sure what my point is. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I am hopeful that even with all the evils in the world, we as a people do not give in to fear & despair. We can’t let the actions of cowardly people convince us that all is lost & that all the light has been snuffed out of the world. Because it just isn’t true.

In Boston right now, there are many people who have been senselessly hurt by bombs some sinister being decided to put at the end of a marathon. BUT in the very same city, there are doctors, nurses, policemen, & firemen who have made taking care of those hurt people & keeping them safe their JOBS. They’re picking up the pieces in the aftermath of this mess & doing it entirely by choice. That’s not nothing. Far from nothing, that’s actually wonderful. We still have heroes. We still have good people who love complete strangers like family just because it’s the right thing to do. We can’t give up & give in to the blackness. On the contrary, we have to whatever we can to fight it.

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