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The Gift of Lowered Expectations

Written by Kaeley Gubler

If you are anything like me, when the word “cancer” entered your world, it felt too big and too frightening—you thought it must be a nightmare. For weeks, you expected to wake up any minute to realize this was all just one giant bad dream. But you never do wake up; slowly over time you start to accept this as your reality. You begin learning how to adapt to your new normal and figure out how to survive this uncharted world of cancer.

When our middle child was diagnosed with T-Cell Lymphoma, we were only two months out of our eldest daughter being diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder. I had given birth to our third baby only five months prior, and we had just begun marriage therapy for our 10-year marriage that was starting to come apart at the seams. Throughout our two-and-a-half years of treatment, we also had the normal stressors of juggling our careers and all the other responsibilities that come with raising children. Our lives were bombarded with potty training, sickness, striving to find the elusive work/life balance, diffusing tantrums, managing a house that never stays clean and seemingly endless laundry, and the list goes on and on. Sometimes life is heavy and overwhelming—it just is.

In life's many challenges, parenting has been and seems to always be the place that I struggle the most. It is where I doubt my every move and word and second-guess my every decision. I feel constantly weighed down with the overwhelming thought that I am screwing up each one of my kids. I become overwhelmed at the weight of it, and my fears take over and paralyze me from taking any action at all. Then shame enters in, and I am rendered unable to show up as my best self or the best parent I can be. I have learned now that harshly judging ourselves is rarely the solution to do better or to be better.

Part of our cancer survival kit was a large supply of lowered expectations. We simply could not do what we were doing before cancer, and learning to be okay with that was challenging for us stereotypical Type-A perfectionists. I will not pretend to have mastered this yet, but I have come a long way.

I am starting to understand that it is okay that today my “best” might not look like yesterday’s “best” or last year’s “best.” I am learning that my best today is just the best I can do today—with everything that is being thrown at me. Each season brings different trials and different obstacles, so why would my best not look different each day?

For many years, I believed that progress was a straight line moving forward and onward. But that is not always the case. It is a line made up of loop-de-loops and sideways jags and vertical backslides. There are still learning opportunities and growth in the moments of life that may appear, on the surface, that we have regressed or have handled something better before.

We can start to feel lost on our way through this world of cancer. As we cross the enormous mountains with overgrown foliage that sometimes impedes our progress, and as we endure the harsh, biting winds—we press on. The beautiful thing about a journey, even such a treacherous one as this, is the ability to look back from our vantage point on the peak to see how far we have come. To see the wilderness we have navigated, the hills we have climbed, and admire the strength and stamina we have gained from this experience. We see that, even during the darkest and scariest times, God was with us. Even when we felt alone and our footing was unsure, He was there. That is where you see this journey was not uncharted after all. This path was part of a beautiful map of our lives on this earth that unfolds as we learn and grow, try and fail. Every diversion, every obstacle, every dark night was an experience created for us to grow and become something more.

If anything in this resonated with you today, I promise you are doing better than you think. You see, a muscle would never become stronger without resistance. There would never be a diamond without pressure and heat. So, if you are struggling, take comfort in knowing you are in good company. If you can choose to surrender to God and His plan for you, you will be molded and shaped into the amazing human you were sent here to become.

Kaeley Gubler is a health and wellness coach who lives in Utah with her family and two husky dogs. She enjoys painting, hiking the Utah mountains, and spending time outdoors with her family.

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