Last night, I watched a Netflix documentary about Tig Notaro, the comedian who catapulted to stardom after she stated “I have cancer” on stage and went on to share recent tragedies in her life to an audience that embraced her ability to find humor in her pain.
Watching the rollercoaster of Tig’s life after the death of her mother and cancer diagnosis reminded me about human resilience and what it means to live a meaningful life.
Towards the beginning of the film, Tig decides she wants a child. This means fertility medications, a surrogate, and risking her own life because of the possibility that the fertility meds might feed cancer back into her body. But she finds the surrogate. She also unexpectedly falls in love.
Spoiler alert: her eggs don’t result in a pregnancy. Before she gets the news, she is holding her girlfriend’s hand and she says something to the camera to the effect of: “If this happens for me [the child], I will never be sad for another day in my life.” It’s such a moving moment that we can all relate to.
If I could just marry someone, life would be complete. If I could publish a book, life would be complete. If. If. If.
Her girlfriend embraces her as she processes the news, and we know that Tig is going to be OK. Why? Because she is a loving person who knows that this particular incomplete—this not being able to have a biological child—may be painful, but it will not destroy her ability to love.
We can take comfort and learn from Tig’s life. We all live with disappointments, with dreams that go unfulfilled. We then make a decision: do we define ourselves by the disappointments, or do we learn from the disappointments?
A few years ago, I was crushed after a long-term relationship ended. I lost someone I loved, and I also lost the dream I had about my life—the dream of having a family, a marriage, a life that felt ‘complete.’ But that loss opened up space in my life to learn, to reflect, to better understand who I am. It led me to yoga. I’m infinitely stronger now than I was back then. And my future relationship and whatever family I eventually build will be stronger.
Imagine how much comfort and joy Tig has brought to those battling cancer because she turned her own struggle into art. Watch to doc here. Prepare to be inspired.
(Read a recent New York Times profile on Tig here.)