Live With Hope, Change Your Life

0

Today is my “Cancerversary.”  It was two years ago today that I was diagnosed with Stage IV liver melanoma; December will be 10 years since I was diagnosed with ocular melanoma, which is where the cancer spread from. I don’t celebrate this day, but I do reflect on it, and I’d love to share with all of you what I’ve learned in the last two years:

1) Figure out how to be happy and then go after it with everything you’ve got. If I want to go down to Austin for a weekend to visit my best friend or dream of becoming a writer or last-minute hop on a train to attend a friend’s out-of-town bridal shower or take the day off of work to play, I do it. It’s not that I’ve completely gotten rid of the guilt that I feel around making myself a priority, spending money, or wondering what others will think, and you can look at these things as irresponsible or as a carpe diem kind of thing. I look at it as squeezing as much fun out of life as possible, as well as investing in myself.  As long as I am devoted to my loved ones, what better investment is there?

2) Whether you have cancer or not, take a look around you. Who is by your side? Do you want them there? Do they treat you with respect, do they infuse more joy into your life, and do they “get you?” This may sound harsh and may be a buzz kill if you feel like you should just “take it and let people suck the energy out of you,” but it’s easier than you think to take stock of who adds and who depletes. Sure there are some in my life who are a little bit more draining than others, but I don’t necessarily kick them out of my life. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I try to focus on just having fun with them or spending a limited amount of time with them so as to preserve my own sanity. For the most part, though, I have been lucky enough to have the most amazing people around me—family, friends, co-workers, and even acquaintances have all made my life better over the years. Team Lozier continues to expand and as it does, more and more love and support fills me up. Yes we must find happiness within ourselves first, but who we surround ourselves with will have a huge make or break on your attitude and the way in which you see the world and your own life.

3) Be able to detach yourself from the negativity and the fear of others. This one is so, so hard, at least for me, and I’m not sure that I’ll ever be able to fully do it, but I sure try. There was the friend who told me over email when I wrote about my diagnosis that she was “scared for me” with no follow-up of hope, and the woman at the Chopra Center who sucked air in through her teeth, shook her head, and told me that I “sure have a long road ahead of me.” Not helpful people. (This is where having a sense of humor is KEY! After she walked away M and I just shook our heads and laughed). But please don’t look at me like I’m going to drop dead as I’m talking to you. That crap just scares the shit out of me. It’s OK for you to be scared—believe me, I am too!—And I’m not trying to tell you to be inauthentic with me about your feelings, I’m just asking that you think about the best place and time to express that fear without making me feel like I’m doomed while we’re out buying our produce at the local farmer’s market.

4) Bookend your days with intention and gratitude. Not every day, but most, I try to set an intention for myself. I usually end up thinking about it on my way to work, after I’ve had my coffee and have woken up a little bit. Sometimes my intention is simply not to lose my temper at work; sometimes it’s to help others. Frequently it’s to find something during the day to love about myself or make sure that I connect in a spiritual or meaningful way with somebody that I cherish and just enjoy being with. Sometimes I set the intention to just find joy in as much as I can, even if I’m dragging my feet to work, and sometimes the intention is as simple as not letting stress drag me down. Do I always get it perfectly? Absolutely not. But I like the shape that it gives my day and it helps me to check in with myself to see if the intention that I set that morning is still feeling right for me. And at night I love to take a warm shower and that’s where I think the most about my gratitude for the day. Sometimes my gratitude takes my breath away; maybe something extraordinary has happened that day, or maybe I’m just grateful for that shower and a warm cozy bed to crawl into. I find that starting with mindfulness and ending with mindfulness brings me more into the present moment and is a great way to stay grounded (especially when my mind wanders to words like cancer… incurable… hard to treat…) and gives me a nice start and end to the day.  It’s as if soaking up one day at a time for all of its goodness or harshness makes me feel alive.

5) Love Yourself.  (Sounds so Stuart Smalley, right?!  I’m good enough!). I’m still working hard on this one, but I try to put the effort into it because I believe that creating more self-compassion and appreciation for ourselves can only help with our overall health. I catch myself all of the time saying mean and nasty things to myself. Lately I’ve been trying to reframe those negative thoughts. There are always going to be things about ourselves that we’re unhappy with (the weird bump on my leg or the way that I can lose my temper), and being kind and paying compliments to myself still feels so weird. As Anita Moorjani says (Author of “Dying to be Me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing): “I can’t say this strongly enough, but our feelings about ourselves are actually the most important barometer for determining the condition of our lives!” I had the amazing pleasure of hearing her speak at the I Can Do It Conference in D.C. right after I was diagnosed. I think I was still too much in shock to really let everything that she has to teach soak in, but this quote really strikes a (good) chord with me.

And lastly…

HOPE is one of my all-time favorite words, as most of you know (the other word that I love is magical). This is what I’ve learned about hope over the last two years:

H—Helping Others. It’s really hard to think about my own problems when I’m helping somebody else, and that can be a good thing. For me personally, I feel like at least part of my “purpose” here on this earth is to help others. It’s a great way to take myself out of my “woe is me” Eeyore stuff (which definitely happens and who are we kidding, sometimes has a right to happen), and instead focus on giving to somebody else. In a way it’s selfish because it makes me feel so good. But really, it’s just a method to try to get out of your own head for a while, which sometimes makes it an easier place to be!

O—Odds; Beat ‘em! Statistics are statistics, but write your own story. I’ve said from the get-go that nobody else’s story is mine. Just saying this gives me power to write my own chapters. I don’t know what’s going to happen; nobody does. But I like to think that I’m not a statistic. I am my own person, my own story, my own unique blueprint. And the quote that my friend H wrote on my Team Lozier bulletin board by Mary Anne Radmacher helps me to take it easy on myself when I feel like I’ve had a bad day: “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” Amen.

P—Passion. I’m not necessarily talking about finding passion for your job/career, a hobby, or even anything tangible. I’m talking about just finding and feeling that passion for anything. I think BC (before cancer), I really only was aware and in touch with the “good stuff” when it was something obvious, like a vacation. Now I feel like I get excited (or passionate) about building sand castles with my nephew, having deep, raw, real hysterical conversations with my friends, or telling my story in the hopes of it having some kind of positive effect on somebody else that may steer the trajectory of their life in a different (i.e. more hopeful) path. Sometimes I just feel passionate about having fun.  We can all be passionate about anything that we want; don’t let the word scare you.

E—Elicit your best self. Are you your best when you’re taking care of yourself? (Whatever that means to you). Are you your best self when you listen to your intuition, or when you make creativity a priority? Are you your best self when you’re with your child or partner or best friend? Are you your best self at work? What is your life philosophy? (And nobody else’s). What are your own unique values? Think about your own mission statement and how being mindful of these values can add such richness to your everyday life.

My mission statement continues to evolve as I continue to evolve, but today it is: To live with greater joy, ease, purpose (today it’s to write this post) passion (have fun!), and health. To love without holding back. To foam at the mouth when I need to (per Kris Carr’s suggestion that she gave me at the Chopra Center). To show others that by living with hope, you can change your life.

With hope, love, and gratitude,

Sam xoxo

 

Nelson Mandela

 

 

Advertisements

Hiking the Canyon

0

“Have the courage to run your own race.”  ~ Todd Henry.

There are such powerful women in the world that I look to for guidance, inspiration, nurturing, and strength.  When I let myself melt into a warm shower each night I usually take that sacred and comforting time to think about all that I am grateful for.  And these women who offer their creativity and love and wisdom are so often on that list.  But sometimes I wonder if I look to others too much, forgetting that there is great meaning inside of me as well. 

I’ve been looking left and right a lot lately.  Sometimes Kris is to the left and Gabby is to the right, or the other way around, but either way, I feel their presence with me.  It’s not a bad thing, but I’ve been mulling over how to find my own unique voice and run my own race.  At first I believed that I needed to get things perfectly in my head before I could even think about finding my own voice, but now I am coming to understand that nobody ever understands or does things perfectly and to wait until that is true means that you will never see those deep-down dreams come to fruition.  Yet sometimes when I think about carving out my own path, I feel lost.

I heard the analogy recently of going after what you want is like hiking a canyon.  You can see your destination ahead; it may be far away, but it’s clear.  As you begin to hike you encounter trees and shrubs and branches and maybe even thorns and mud and animals and suddenly, your destination is out of sight.  The air changes.  You’re not sure how you’re ever going to make it.  But you keep climbing until eventually, even through the haze of uncertainty, you get high up enough again to be able to see that destination in sight.  You may still be far from it, but at least you can see it.

That analogy gave me some peace; that everybody who believes they have a message to send into the world for the greater good has also, at times, been in the bottom of that canyon.  It’s normal, expected even (who has never been scared when going after their dreams?), and what I hold onto is my desire to continue climbing (embracing all that happens as I walk, as scary as it may be) until I can see that destination again.  Maybe I’ll even learn a thing or two along the way. 

I was also relieved to hear Todd Henry (author of Louder than Words, among other books) say that sometimes we actually need to “do things that are inefficient in the short run, so that we can be effective in the long run.”  Carving out some me/down/fun time is actually not a waste of time, but can breed incredible creativity.  By giving myself the time and space to let my ideas breathe, though this may seem to be gloriously inefficient, I am actually allowing my dreams to ripen.  I love that.

When I think about having the courage to run my own race and not always be looking left or right (no matter how comforting that is, eventually I’ll need to figure out what kind of impact I want to have on the world), I like to think that by developing my own authentic identity, that’s when the truly meaningful stuff will come.  The middle will be scary (the bottom of the canyon) because I’ll be wondering, “What if I fail?”  But if I remember that my dreams are not only present but are also worth pursing, even if I can’t always figure out how I’ll get there, and am open to learning things about myself along the way, I have a feeling that magnificent things may happen.

Here’s To You, My Summertime Now All-The-Time Friends

0

This weekend at the Cape with friends we had toppings for our hot fudge sundaes, including M&M’s.  The new gimmick now is a bag that labels them “Fall M&M’s.”  Of course they taste exactly the same, but we all sighed a big sigh when we saw the bag.  Fall, already?  No matter how much I love the rainbow of leaves scattered on my doorstep or the new boots that I get to pull out of my closet or cozying up with blankets in our family room while watching TV with SHL, I still want to enjoy what is, right now.  My dear friends, it is still summer after all! Let’s stay in the present moment, shall we?  There are still 37 days left of summer, technically!  I for one want to savor and sip and swoon in each one.

This summer has been such a gift.  I got good news on my scans, thank g-d, that things right now look stable.  SHL and I had an awesome 2 weeks away in Hawaii, I just got back from the Chopra Center, and a weekend on the Cape with our friends.  Next weekend my brother, SIL and nephew join us for another weekend on the beach, and I can’t wait to see them all.  We lost our cat Teddy Bear, which is still like a punch in the gut, but we’ve been giving a lot of TLC to Riley and thinking about bringing home another furbie (fur-baby) for Riley to play with.  I think about Teddy and his tremendous love every day.  I’ve taken some days off of work here and there which has been a game-changer.  It’s given me the chance to recharge my batteries and focus solely on having fun (what a concept!  You should try it too!).

Having just returned from the Cape, I’m still in beach mode.  I feel like I could live in my flip-flops eating ice cream (what a treat!) for days to come.  This past weekend we had 7 friends with their 5 kids in total to the house, and sometimes I still can’t believe that I’m an adult hosting other adults and playing with kids and can’t fathom that I’m not the kid anymore.  We all grew up together at summer camp, so our memories are of Shabbat Dinners and Color War and throwing up on the Pirate’s Ship at Canobie Lake Park and the big barrel of ice filled with those fake sodas that they used to give us after a day at the beach.  Walking on the rocks and the smell of a cookout and locking our counselor out of the bunk (we were trouble-makers!) and sitting at the lactose intolerant table in the mess hall and eating warm cookies and drinking cold milk for snack in the middle of the day (we all agree that the snacks these days must be healthier).  We wonder what it’s like for the campers now to have the option of a pool instead of the “ka-ka” in the lake, and if the kids still love to go to the G-store and buy raw cookie dough and eat it on each other’s beds late at night when they’re really supposed to be asleep?  We cried like crazy on the last day of camp, clutching our yearbooks and looking forward throughout the school year to the next time that we could be with our summer families.  Everything I learned about Judaism and the beauty of our culture I learned in the summertime at Camp Tel Noar.

This weekend we camped out by the ocean and watched the kids play and dip their toes in the water squealing with delight when the waves came to chase them back to shore.  We ate hamburgers and cupcakes and drank wine and took pictures outside because I couldn’t imagine all being together like this and not documenting the moments.  Part of me wanted time to stand still forever so that I could feel that warmth that wasn’t just from the sun, but also from the joy and the love and humor and camaraderie that I have with my friends.  Thankfully I love everybody that my friends have married and I love their kids, so it’s almost like it’s always been all 14 of us, and not just the 6 of us (and those that didn’t go to camp with us like SHL are incredibly patient with all of our CTN stories).  These are some of the important people in my life who love me for who I am, who cheer me on and cry with me and read this blog and are honest about their work and their love lives and the ups and downs and they’re just… real.  Being so raw and open with each other makes the friendships just that much deeper, and I’m grateful for the depth that these relationships bring into my life.

I can’t wait to tell you all about the Chopra Center and especially Kris Carr (spoiler alert, we’re now BFF’s!), but this post feels right to just be about the camp memories that we reminisce about, and the beautiful warm memories together that we know are still yet to come.  I love you guys, my summertime and now all-the-time friends.  xoxo.

Camp group pic Funny camp pic Benji and Sean Lori, Sam and Deborah Sam and Lori Selfie with the kids