Yet, as another cancer survivor told me, "I've got the C card. I can change anything in my life that's causing me stress." Not that any of us would wish this on ourselves, but I heard a certain amount of confidence in her statement. And wouldn't it be nice to have permission to remove all stressful situations from our lives?
The trick is to give ourselves permission as we go along - not to wait for some catastrophic wakeup call to provide the permission for us.
"Survivor. It isn't just a term; it's an attitude," says Carr. "I was learning who I was, finding my inner voice. It felt good to release the heavy emotional weight I'd been carrying. And I didn't want to lose my sense of humor - just because there was something really serious in my life."
Carr's rare form of cancer is in remission now. She tells of a class she took called "Being with Dying" - a name she says gave her the creeps. The class started out with a writing exercise: "What's your best-case scenario? And your worst-case scenario? What do you have to let go of so that the best case can happen?"
At that point Carr realized the class wasn't about dying; it was about living. "Cancer gave me the freedom to really live. For the first time I don't want to play a role or pretend to be someone else. I'm thrilled to be me. A free-spirited, take-charge person full of sass and fireworks. A survivor."
I wonder how those 155 passengers on Flight 1549 view themselves. To be sure, they're survivors. Maybe they've thrown themselves back into their work and their everyday lives in an effort to get back to some sort of normalcy. Or maybe they've given themselves permission to stop and examine their lives.
Maybe they're even pondering how a regularly scheduled flight from New York to Charlotte could have gone so bad. They could be angry and asking, "Why me?" Or they could be overcome with gratitude that they were spared. And be wondering what to do to make the most of their lives.
Whatever the case may be with each individual passenger, their collective experience paints a rich tapestry for the rest of us. Maybe we can take away a bit of that awe and wonder.
Linda Arnold, MBA, is a certified wellness instructor and chairwoman and CEO of The Arnold Agency, an integrated marketing communications firm. Reader comments or questions may be directed to Linda Arnold, The Arnold Agency, 117 Summers St., Charleston, WV 25301, or e-mailed to livinglifefu...@arnoldagency.com.