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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Life is Like a Box of Crayons

Lately, I’ve thought a lot about a conversation I had years ago with a doctor where I worked. He was complaining about some change he didn’t like, and I said something like, “Maybe it would help to think of this as one of those opportunities to learn.”
He glanced at me sideways, and in his gentlemanly southern accent drawled, “You know Carol, at this point in my life, I just don’t think I need another opportunity to learn.”
As I learn to live with cancer, I can really relate.
A recent piece of advice I’m trying to follow is that you can’t have cancer 24 hours a day. When I first heard that it didn’t make sense. Slowly, it’s starting to sink in. I’m still the same happily married me, surrounded by devoted family and supportive friends, a beach addict living in a shore town I love, a writer, coach, and educator who is blessed to do work that fulfills me. Cancer is just one part of me now—it only blots out the rest if I let it.
If you’ve read PEACE BY PIECE, you know there’s a line where Maggie says, “I’ve never had a box of 64 crayons.”
A reader recently told me that after reading that line, she thinks Forrest Gump’s mother might have had it wrong. That instead of chocolates, life is like a box of crayons—full of choices every day to pick the color of our mood.
That feels a lot like another way of saying that I don’t have to have cancer 24 hours a day—that cancer doesn’t have to tint my every waking thought and attitude.
Years ago, after Jim read the line about 64 crayons in a very early draft of PEACE BY PIECE, he bought me a green and yellow box of 96 crayons—equipped with a built-in sharpener. For over a dozen years, that box has sat on my desk reminding me of Jim’s unwavering support. No one ever colors with my crayons, but browsing through the colors often recharges my creative batteries.

And, now I have a new way of thinking about the 96 colors in that box. As I learn to live with cancer—one day at a time, one color at a time—I will try to focus on all the shades of gratitude that remind me I’m still me.


  1. Replies
    1. Mare, thanks for always stopping by and sharing a smile. carol x0x0

  2. AnonymousJuly 20, 2014

    When my sister lost her hair during chemo, she said her wig was uncomfortable and made her head sweat. She said, "If I have to have cancer and be bald, I have to have something good come from it. When people see me, they hold the door open, let me cross the street and let my go ahead of them in line". That was her way of taking something positive from the experience! BTW, she has been cancer free for 5 years now.

    Julie V

    1. Julie, thanks for making me smile with your sister's wig story. Although I voluntarily (gulp) wore a Farrah Fawcett wig back in the 70's, I'm not sure I'm a wig person now.

  3. A beautiful post and a beautiful attitude. I'm inspired and may go out and buy a box of crayons for my dresser. All the best...Peggy

    1. Peggy, I hope one color at a time, one scene at a time, your crayons inspire your next novel

  4. Carol,

    A beautiful and powerful message to anyone and like Peggy, I am thinking of getting a box of crayons in your honor too. (I won't promise that they will go unused though.)

    I like Julie's sister's idea too. This illness really sucks, but I know that you will get something (or give something) as a result. I have to believe in that kind of magic, don't you?

    Thinking of you everyday with a prayer and hope that this time flies by for you. Be tough, accept love, and take a lot of naps without guilt.

    Love, Chris

    1. Chris, I love that this post might help others find magic in their own box of crayons. Although mine may not have been used for their intended purpose, I never think of them as unused.

  5. Thanks for sharing this. It came at just the right time! I, too, am going out to buy a box of crayons to remind me that there is always something good to be found even in the worst of times.
    Good luck with everything and all the best!!

    1. Holly, I'm so glad this post is timely for you. I hope your new crayons help you face the tough times. best, carol

  6. Carol, this post reminds me of what I love about 4 Broads. I love the photo, your books standing strong above the crayons. I love Jim's purchase of the crayons, that it speaks volumes, that you kept them as a reminder of his love and support. And thank you - so much - for passing on the idea that we can pick a color for our day, or maybe just for our hour or moment. That is sometimes hard to do, especially when we're sick, which I have been too this year, but the box of crayons is worth opening to look at and to remember that we have choices, that there are many colors - not only the gray, brown and black. I too, shall be purchasing a box for my desk. You may be starting a movement!

  7. Julie, as you know it's humbling to be sick, and some days I need to be reminded repeatedly that I can pick my color for the day. I wonder how we find the tipping point for a movement? Sounds like lots of fun.