A Cultural Perspective: The art of trying

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“If you have nothing to lose by trying and everything to gain if successful, then by all means try,” is a North American truism. We love to try!

We try new looks, new jobs, new partners. Then there are new places and spaces. We try new sights and sounds. Not a day goes by when we are not trying!

We try to be honest and forthcoming. We try to be kind and understanding. We try to be fair. If you have a partner, you try to make them happy. If you have children, you try to give them the best of everything. If you are a child, you try to live up to the expectations of your parents. You try not to disappoint them.

As individuals, we try to be successful, whether personal or professional. Some of us measure success by what we try. Tyrants try to control everything around them. Politicians try to run countries. Monarchies try to rule kingdoms and then some of us just try to get by.

We try to pay our bills, and try to makes ends meet. Some of us try to burn the candle at both ends and then some of us will try just about anything (at least they try to convince you of that).

We try to put our best foot forward. We try to look good, and we try to do good. We try to understand the bad things that happen or the people who make bad things happen.

Through religion, people try to understand God. Through science, we try to understand existence.

We try to do what is right and we try to do what is best. We try to know which is which. There are things that try our patience (people too). Then there are things that, even though we try, we have a hard time accepting or understanding. Try as we might, they boggle our minds.

My March column was “The Art of Acceptance”, and in it I spoke about my sister and I having to accept the inevitability of losing our war with MS. I missed my April submission because I was away trying to get some answers. Now I am trying to stay hopeful that the relapse of MS I’m experiencing will go into remission with no residual effects and trying to prepare for what comes next if it does not.

I’m trying to rest. I’m trying to make things easy to manage. I’m trying to tell myself I’ve come back before and I can come back again. I’m trying not to get discouraged and spend a lot of time trying to find the humour that must be there somewhere even if it’s dark. I’m trying my hardest to make the best of a bad situation. I’m trying to hold off on making any major decisions, life-wise — trying to ride this wave of life safely back to shore.

These days, though, when it comes to trying, what I’m really having a hard time trying to wrap my head around is the terminal cancer my sister was diagnosed with in April while I was down at the MS clinic. I can’t even begin to try to understand what my sister is feeling. Trying to come to terms with perhaps six to nine months is not something anyone wants to try to come to terms with.

“Death is really fine, but dying…” is one of my favorite e.e. cummings poems but until now I never really understood the depth of the emotion behind the statement.

I am also trying to imagine what if: My sister’s slow decline over the past several months — her pain, fatigue and weakness — was assumed to be MS. Once you are chronically ill you try to deal with symptoms all the time. What if she didn’t have MS? I’m trying not to think about that. I’m trying not to think about losing my sister. I wonder about her children losing their mother, her husband losing his wife. I’m trying to figure out why after 18 years of fighting MS my sister is going to lose her life to lung cancer.

I’m trying not to scream. I’m trying to keep it together. I’m trying to laugh at the irony of my sister quitting smoking nine years ago. I’m trying to tell myself a lot of things. I’m trying to be strong. But these days mostly I’m just trying to master fear.

Lori Wikdahl is a Creston Valley artist.


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