The tidal wave

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I had an “Oh shit, I have cancer moment” the other day. It comes in waves, washes over me with fear, some days hard and fast like a tidal wave, and other days it laps at the shore like a reminder on repeat. For the most part I’ve been able to manage my anxiety pretty well; meditation certainly helps, as do positive visualizations, being able to reframe negative thoughts (sometimes that’s easier than other times), and keeping myself busy and distracted (work is a blessing for the distraction, and at night while trying to fall asleep I can put all the states in alphabetical order if it means that I can keep the scary things at bay).

But recently in a conversation with somebody they wondered aloud if SHL is afraid of losing me at some point. Before you gasp with horror, it was in context to what we were talking about. And all of a sudden it hit me how much different my life is from yours. Yes there is uncertainty for everybody… People can make plans for the future, and yet we know that those plans can always change in a heartbeat. But the honest truth is that when you have cancer, those plans become much more hazy than most people’s. It’s when I think about the fact that SHL has to contend with perhaps losing me sooner than a spouse should that the fear becomes the giant tidal wave that I almost want to get lost in just so that I don’t have to deal with something that no young married couple should ever have to deal with. How did we get here?

The truth is, I have been trying so hard to stay on the positivity track and to be engaged with what is going on with my friends and family, and I don’t talk about the cancer all of the time (thankfully, right?) that perhaps people forget (?) that some of your day-to-day stuff are things that I don’t have, and may never. I love hearing about what’s going on in my friend’s lives, but what I’m learning about myself is that sometimes, as hard as this is to say, it’s painful to hear. And it’s not your fault: If I ask, then of course you’re going to tell me (and I want you to). And in order for our friendships to continue to grow and thrive, there needs to be give-and-take. It can’t be all about me (nor do I want it to be), or my cancer.

So how do we navigate these new unchartered waters that we now find ourselves swimming in? You are probably looking to me to lead, and I don’t blame you. I can try. I want to be a part of your life, want to know what’s going on with you and your partners, children, work life, home, etc. But I also want you to know that everything– EVERYTHING– for me has changed within these last 5 months. I don’t want my friends to be shy about telling me their stories, because then our friendships will be one-dimensional and unbalanced, and I would feel disconnected from you. I suppose I just want people to remember that for SHL and me, as much as we remain optimistic and hopeful and create and enjoy a joyful life together, our lives have taken on a whole new aspect that include a lot of difficult decisions, and a path that regardless of what happens, good or bad, we will have to figure out how to travel as time goes on. Our lives are different my friends, and to try and pretend that’s not the case would just be silly. But we can either let this separate us, or we can explore whatever comes our way together, and in the end, maybe our relationships can flourish even more than we had ever imagined.

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An “Aha!” Moment, inspired by you

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I had a revelation today. I can’t quite take credit for coming to this epiphany all on my own; I was in the midst of a life coaching session when the “aha” moment came. I was explaining to my life coach Tracy that I just started a Deepak Chopra 8-week Happiness Series (intentions, meditation, consciousness in motion), and that one of the things that Deepak mentions is being happy in the here-and-now, and not for any external reasons. Most of us as human beings tap into happiness as a secondary goal: When I get the promotion at work, I’ll be happy. When I go on vacation, I’ll be happy. When I buy that new car, I’ll be happy. His point is that if we make happiness our primary goal, instead of our secondary goal, it’s actually a lot easier to fulfill. So I began thinking about how rooted my happiness is in those secondary goals, and how to focus more on the happiness that already exists inside of me, perhaps for no reason at all. Does this seem like a hard concept to grasp? I’m still trying to wrap my mind around it, after living for almost 37 years thinking that my happiness is automatically tied to those other external factors.

One of the things that I am working on with Tracy are year-long goals, including health, wellness, creativity, and joy. We’re starting with the goals that I’d like to see come to fruition by the end of 2014, and then working backwards with short-term goals to get there. What I’ve learned about myself in the past few months is that without a concrete action-plan, I feel like I’m floundering at times. I love to travel but without a GPS I could drive around forever in circles! (Think European vacation: Hey kids, there’s Big Ben! Hey kids, there’s Big Ben! Around and around I would go). I need a road-map! So when I think about not just creating joy, but also tapping into the joy that already exists inside of me, I think about how exactly to do that (to be perfectly honest, I felt overwhelmed with the question at first. I know that joy exists inside of me, but where and how else does it exist, without those secondary factors?). When Tracy asked me what I’m joyful about right now, I expressed excitement that the next month is filled with lots of social connections, including time with friends and family; but from that snowballed the idea that in reality, I could conjure up joyfulness at any time (even while at work!) just thinking about and feeling gratitude for all of the love in my life. Aha! A lightbulb went off. “You could even be joyful during a scan,” Tracy commented, and for a second I was taken aback (I could?!?! Let’s not get crazy now). In thinking more about it, I realized that no matter where I am, or what I’m doing, there is always the magic of being able to think about my loved ones, our time together, memories, future memories to come, and how I feel when I’m with all of you. What a concept!

So as I continue to work on my values (at the top of my list, good health) and my road-map (have a draft of a book down by the end of the year), I also am focused on my intention for the Deepak Chopra Happiness Series. I have written down in various places throughout my house (and at work) different intentions that I am setting forth for the next 8 weeks (and always), including following my joy, being happy for no reason at all, living with a light heart and spirit, feeling more free, and being happy in the here-and-now. As I continue to do the best that I can to take care of myself (which some days is harder than others), I hold you all close, knowing that I can tap into my joy at any minute of any day thinking about all of you.

Stuck at the zoo (I mean the airport!)

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Happy New Year Readers! SHL and I just returned from a great 3 day trip to Florida. It was quick, but you can’t underestimate a change of scenery, especially when your landscape lately has regularly included icy cold temperatures and piles of snow! We got out just in the nick of time before this last storm, and stayed with Marla and her boyfriend Adrian for a few days of much-needed R&R down in Miami.

Unfortunately because of the storm, we got delayed coming home on Saturday night. I have to say, being stuck in an airport for 6 hours is a true test of patience, and I’m afraid that while I didn’t fail miserably, I didn’t succeed in curbing my crabiness as much as I would have liked either. As I looked around at what used to be the Fort Lauderdale airport, but what had clearly become a zoo with wild animals, it struck me just how self-centered people are, and it kind of sucked the energy out of me. What I wish is that when stressful events occur, people could rally together and be kind and patient with one another (myself included!), but it seems that very often that is not human nature (don’t get me wrong, I know that there are plenty of good deeds and kind people out there, but an airport full of stuck people after a huge storm is not typically where you see it). When SHL and I left Marla and Adrian’s our online flight status said that we would only be 20 minutes delayed, but by the time we got to the airport, we were delayed about 2.5 hours. We got in line to drop off our bag and figured we would at the very least have a leisurely dinner, but the line was barely moving, my back started to ache, and I witnessed people blatantly cutting each other in line, which is one thing that really ramps me up– injustice! One woman came into the airport with her family (Sean and I had already been standing in line for probably 30 + minutes at this point), and we watched as she took her kid’s hand, marched right up to the counter in front of people already waiting, and proceeded to somehow walk away minutes later with a boarding pass in her hand. Unbelievable! (We later saw her in line for food, so knew that her flight wasn’t leaving before anybody else’s. When the woman behind the counter went to take our order I muttered under my breath, “Oh, I’m sure this woman would love to order in front of us!”) Another woman who had been standing behind us chatting us up about hoping to get back to New York that evening somehow one minute was fine, and the next minute was sitting in a wheelchair in the front of the line ahead of everybody! I tried to conjure up Deepak Chopra in my mind, tried to chant a few “Om’s” and remember that I was with SHL, we would eventually get home, and all would be OK, but there was something about people behaving this way that really made my blood boil. I have been trying so hard to keep my stress levels down and to re-frame negative thoughts, and I found myself being incredibly challenged to do these things in this kind of a situation. It’s one thing to have your flight delayed for hours and hours and have to wait in line for an hour + just to check a bag, but it’s quite another to witness human beings act this way; it can be disheartening, and it takes a lot to remember that this was just a select few people who were probably panicked about being stuck in Florida for days, and their best just wasn’t coming out. I found that my best side wasn’t coming out either, especially when a new line formed to the right of us with people who were being served quicker than us, but waiting a shorter amount of time, and of course there weren’t enough Jet Blue agents to keep people in check or organize things properly. Fast forward another 2 hours and we were waiting for our crew to get in from another city and our estimated delay was now going to be about 5 hours, and my phone was dying. I looked everywhere for an open charging station, only to come to the realization that people were hoarding the chargers. Even if their phones or ipads or games were fully charged, they were sitting there all night plugged in, instead of letting somebody else charge their battery. Another X for humanity! I finally went to the closed-down food court and plugged in, only to be told that they were closed and I couldn’t even sit there and use their outlet. I hit rock bottom and went to the ladies room to charge and they were all being used! It was then that I had to let go that I would be able to use my phone, and instead I bought a fun magazine and tried to relish in not being able to connect to text or Words with Friends, but instead read about work/life balance and the best face creams. When we did finally land at 3:30am (4.5 hours from when we were originally supposed to get in), our bags didn’t come out for another 45 minutes, and I have to admit in my mind, I was already drafting an angry letter to Jet Blue with the words “what nerve” in mind! We finally dragged our tired butts into our house at 5am Sunday morning, and poor SHL had to go to work just a few hours later.

It’s difficult when you end your vacation on a note like that, after being so relaxed, but our trip was rejuvenating and most importantly just about having fun, if only for 3 days. We played tennis, sat by the pool, and soaked in the hot-tub. I started a new book. Adrian took SHL out on his boat, Marla and I got massages, and the 4 of us had an amazingly decadent dinner out on South Beach, kept toasty warm outside on the patio with heaters and encompassed by beautiful lush green trees, complete with creative presentations of food entitled “The Boarnie Madoff Bucket of Bones” (a bucket of succulent meat with dipping sauces with a side of a pig in a jail!) The Bernie Madoff and for dessert the Carnival Fun Cakes Carnival Fun Cakes So yummy and fun indeed!

So what I take from our time at the airport is that I guess even when you have cancer, you still sweat "the small stuff" sometimes. My patience was tested. My energy was sucked. It felt hard to let things roll off of my shoulders, like people cutting in line or having to wait for our bag after being delayed 5 hours. But more than ever I am aware of just how much I can really only control myself, and not others, and how important it is to try (even if you have a right to be frustrated) to re-frame negative thoughts and look for the gratitude (I was so happy that our flight wasn't cancelled!). But the truth? Since my blog insinuates that we can all handle it? Nobody likes being stuck at the airport. Period!