I met a woman who used to be my neighbor in the grocery store yesterday. We knew each other fairly well, talked fairly often. We borrowed eggs and cups of sugar from each other when she lived across the street as we raised our kids, but we haven’t communicated since she moved into a new house a year ago. She’d lost a lot of weight. I mentioned that she looked thinner when I saw her, I asked how much weight she had lost. I guess I thought she’d tell me she’d been to Weight Watchers or was on Atkins or the South Beach diet.

She said she had lost 40 lbs., but not intentionally. She’d been sick for the past year. Only in her 40s, like me, she went to the emergency room after being treated for unresolving bronchitis only to be admitted to ICU in heart failure. They aren’t sure why she went into heart failure or why her heart was so enlarged or why her heart rhythm to this day is disturbed, but her heart is in trouble. She takes lots of medications for congestive heart failure now. She no longer takes her life here for granted. She lost her old “normal” too. She said they’d lived in their new house for a year now, but they still hadn’t painted any of the rooms. And she didn’t care that they weren’t painted. It didn’t matter. It was insignificant. Painting walls no longer qualified as a priority.

I’ve recently been thinking. I used to rent a professional steam cleaner and steam clean my carpet once or twice a year. I haven’t in years now, it doesn’t matter. I just vacuum. I used to have a great personal filing system. Don’t anymore, doesn’t matter. I used to be into spring cleaning every year. Not anymore, doesn’t matter. I used to take more pictures, I don’t much anymore. Can’t take them with me– only what is in my head and heart stays, so it doesn’t matter. I used to crochet afghans while I watched TV, don’t anymore as most TV now seems a colossal waste of time. Lots of things now don’t make the “important” cut in my life. Only what matters matters.

But sometimes life was simpler and easier when unimportant stuff was okay to contemplate.

I find myself sometimes missing the days when frivolous things made the cut. The old normal. When life and priorities were simpler. When I didn’t think so hard about everything. When my house was cleaned and more organized. When I could crochet in front of a TV program and not feel guilty about wasting precious time.

Life was in many ways easier before cancer, when I was more naive. Something about surviving cancer makes you live your life much more responsibly. You have a great need to make your time count after cancer.