Our Uncertain Life: We Are Living in a Both And World

Written by Tami Sulistyo

June 7, 2020


Mourning and Celebrating. Lamenting and Rejoicing. Both And.

2020 is the year of the both and world.

I mourn the death of each and every person who has fallen victim to the pandemic. I celebrate the once in a lifetime incredible gift of having my 25 year old who lives across the country from us drive all the way here to stay with us for an entire month with her boyfriend, sheltering in place together with us. Both And.

I lament the horrific death of George Floyd and the underlying systemic racial injustice and police brutality. I rejoice that my son made a stand against racial jokes even at the cost of being bullied, and I rejoice seeing people support each other and mandate change.  Both And.

Today is Cancer Survivor Day. Anyone who has had cancer will tell you they live in a permanent both and world. Mourning that life will never ever be the same as it was before cancer because there is always the very real possibility hanging over your shoulder that cancer could come back. Mourning those who didn’t make it, like my brother-in-law FX Setyono (Tenggo), who passed away yesterday from brain cancer in Central Java, Indonesia.

Celebrating the beautiful gift that each new day represents. Lamenting that cancer could take you away from your loved ones much sooner than you ever would have anticipated as a trajectory for your life. Rejoicing the blessings that have come from cancer, such as a deeper Faith, no longer sweating the small stuff, and appreciation of people and things once taken for granted. Both And.

A friend wrote this spot on poem called “Uncertain Life” – about surviving cancer and the uncertain world we live in:


“Certainly I am alive as you can plainly see.

But what is uncertain is how long I will be.

I live my life three months at a time.

Cancer is a death threat and that’s the bottom line.


Scanxiety sets in about every two months,

Four weeks of worry and fear to confront.

Will the scans be clear or will something show up?

I think of it from sunset to sunup.


When my scans show nothing and the report says clear,

I set aside the worry and the fear.

For two months I go around feeling elated,

Then scanxiety sets in and I feel my hope deflated.


When my scans show something, fear grips me tight.

I can’t see my future, can’t look to the light.

So amidst the world pandemic and all of the strife,

I take a day at a time and lead an uncertain life.”

-Deborah Bowen

So amidst the world pandemic and all of the strife, I take a day at a time and lead an uncertain life. Learning to survive, and some days even thrive, in a Both And world. Mourning and Celebrating. Lamenting and Rejoicing. My gratitude and admiration to all cancer survivors for showing us a way to be in 2020, taking it one day at a time.

So how do we embrace the Both And? Mourning and celebrating at the same time? Lamenting and rejoicing simultaneously? Taking it one day at a time and learning to be ok with living an uncertain life? Everyone has their own ways of navigating this. For me, I look to the book of Psalms. I remember what my coach Aaron (www.AaronTeich.com) says: Acknowledge it, Accept it, Allow it. I listen to guided meditations, hug my dog, take walks. I listen to comedy, exercise, hydrate, sleep, try to eat healthy. I write or talk it out. I pray and listen to inspiring music, look at motivational quotes, practice qi gong, try to do some good in the world. I kayak and hammock and work hard to choose my attitude.

When all that fails, I give myself some grace, recognizing how perfectly imperfect and human I am, in need of being cut some slack now and again, and at other times needing someone to show me some tough love. How about you? What has been helping you adjust to this Both And, Uncertain Life?

7 thoughts on “Our Uncertain Life: We Are Living in a Both And World

  1. This is lovely Tami. I’m so sorry for your loss. Your both and approach and choosing your attitude are great experiences for me to reflect on.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your story hits home! Cancer free 4 years this past Saturday…reason to rejoice and praise our dear Lord who walks beside us always, in this Both And world. HE is good and yet, I will always remember…EVERY DAY IS A GIFT! So very sorry to hear about Api’s brother. Hugs and love to each of you. Keep on keeping on!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Our Uncertain Life: We Are Living in a Both And World | Story Lighthouse

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