I don’t know if I can put my finger on it, but it seems to me that waking up in a new year is like a breath of fresh air. I feel lighter. There’s a sense of shedding weight and worry, of leaving troubles and tears behind us. “Oh that?” we can say to ourselves, “That was last year.” It feels good. It feels like renewal. And we get to experience this symbolic starting over with each new calendar, beginning and ending the years of our lives like chapters of a book – our story.

Poet and cancer survivor Ted Kooser pictures the chapters of his life story in another way. In an excerpt from his book Local Wonders, he explains that “life is a long walk forward through the crowded cars of a passenger train.” Listen here as he reads this passage on how he views the years behind him and the years ahead, painting a picture for us with words. After you’ve listened or read this excerpt, find a comfortable spot and spend 15-20 minutes free-writing to the following prompt:

As you examine your year on passenger car 2018, what strikes you? Who were the people on either side of the aisle, whether strangers or familiar faces, that helped to steady you as you made your way through the year? What glimpses of the world did you catch as it clattered past through the windows? What were the joys and disappointments of the year? In what ways did you surprise yourself? In what ways have you grown over the past year? What might you have done differently, if given the chance? And, finally, as you step out into the “windy perilous passage” to cross the threshold into a new year, what do you see ahead? What does it feel like to close one door and open another?

Every month, the drop-in expressive writing group Healing Words meets at the Froedtert Clinical Cancer Center to explore what it means to be living with cancer. Artwork, photography and the published writing of cancer survivors are used as conversation starters and writing prompts, like the one above, for journaling about our own experiences. Join us!

About the Author

Marloe's passion for women's health and wellness has intensified with her recent diagnosis of breast cancer, at age 29. Despite her professional experience in oncology, traveling through the cancer world was mystifying and lonely. Finally on the upswing of her treatment, she is continually looking for ways to support others who are facing this incredibly personal journey.

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