30 Things I Learned in My 30’s

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On my the eve of my 40th birthday, as I leave the 30’s and enter into a new decade, I share with you the 30 things that I learned over the last 10 years:

  1. There are way more than 30 things that I’ve learned in this decade.
  2. I believe in miracles.
  3. Get a second opinion.  ALWAYS get a second medical opinion.
  4. When in doubt, sleep on it.
  5. Practice compassion towards yourself and others–everybody is doing the best they can with the tools they have.
  6. Meditation can save your life.
  7. If meditation doesn’t save your life, find something else– anything else– that grounds you and helps you cope with life’s ups and downs.
  8. Find what sets your heart on fire and do it.  For me, that’s traveling and I want to have adventures all over the world with SHL.
  9. Do what you want to do, when you want to do it, as long as you’re not selfish or hurting anybody else.  Life is filled with responsibility and crap; the rest of the time, enjoy yourself.
  10. Surround yourself with people who are not just like-minded in how they treat you and others, but who have positive energy/vibes.  Life is too short to get caught up in bullshit.  Leave that in middle/high school.
  11. When you feel like life throws you a curve ball and you’re in the trenches, do something nice for somebody else.
  12. Clean up your side of the street (as Gabby Bernstein says).  It’s the only side you actually have any control over.
  13. Have an open mind.  If I didn’t, I never would have met my husband through Facebook.  After all, he lived in Canada!  Where did I think that relationship could go?  Turned out, this random guy from Facebook is my soul-mate.
  14. Be authentic.  You don’t have to write a blog or post your every feeling on Facebook, but just be yourself in whatever way feels good to you.  It’s way too much energy and effort not to be.  And for what?  This is the only life we’ve got, we mine as well make it our own.
  15. The deeper you go with the people you feel safe enough to be vulnerable with, the greater the love and support that you will feel in your own life.  Guaranteed (if you open yourself up to the people who “get it” and “get” you).
  16. Nobody’s life is perfect, even though it may look like it.
  17. Find others who you can look up to; I have learned so much about love, self-compassion, healing, forgiveness and being in the present moment from Kris, Gabby, Lolly Galvin, Ella Woodward, Brenee Brown, Glennon Doyle Melton, Geralyn Lucas, Matthew Zachary, and many others who are constantly striving to live their best lives possible while helping others.  We don’t know it all; admit that you don’t and learn from others.
  18. If you have a miscarriage, even before hearing a heartbeat, you’ll never stop loving that baby that could have been, and wondering who they could have grown up to be.
  19. Show up for anyone and everyone who means something to you.  Whatever that looks like, just show up, in any way.
  20. Say you’re sorry.  Oh man, I know this is hard, but it can be so freeing, so humbling, and it can even take your closest relationships to a whole new level.
  21. Give second chances.  Boy am I glad that I have and that others have done so for me too.
  22. When life hands you lemons and you don’t know else the f*ck to do, follow these steps:  1) Take out some small candy bars of your choice 2) Put them into a zip lock bag 3) Put the zip lock bag on a sturdy cutting board, 4) Proceed to smash candy with a rolling pin or a cooking pan.  5) If your tears don’t taint it, turn that smashed candy into the best g-d damn ice cream cake your friends have ever tasted.
  23. Cry, when it comes naturally.  Let it flow.  Let it heal and ground you.  Don’t ever force it back inside; it will only come out in other, unhealthy ways.  As painful as suffering is, suffer.  Face it.  It allows you to be more in the present moment.
  24. Have gratitude for everything– I mean the big stuff (your family, spouse, kids, health, money to take care of your basic needs and then some, home, friends, job, whatever) to the “little” stuff (warm shower, running water, birds singing, a dog’s smile, crocuses blooming, a funny movie, a beautiful meal, coffee with a good friend, a warm embrace, a note from a loved one, a cat-like peaceful nap, a great piece of chocolate).  Then remember:  There really is no such thing as a “little” thing after all.
  25. Let the gratitude rise to the surface in an organic way.  It’s nice to keep gratitude lists and have a daily practice (I do), but there will be some days when life hands you a big bag of shit and you don’t want to say “thank you.”  That’s OK.  Be true to your soul.  Say thank you when you mean it.  That’s the best kind of gratitude, the authentic kind.  The kind when you’re eating lunch with your best friend and you realize how freakin’ lucky you are that tears just melt down your face.  That’s gratitude.
  26. If there is something that you want, go after it.  Our only limitations are in our own minds.
  27. Take your own advice.
  28. If you only read one “self-help” book, let it be something by Thich Nhat Hanh.
  29. There is no map.  Really.  We may think we are destined for one thing, but if a door closes, promise yourself that you will still live a great life, despite what you think you don’t have. You create your own journey, nobody else can tell us what great is.
  30. Love.  Love deeply, gently, authentically, without expectations, passionately, and with abandon.

31) Bonus:  Feel the fear and do it anyway.

Extra bonus: If you ever need to spend the night in the hospital, bring your own toothbrush. For the love of ug-d, BYOE (bring your own everything!).

Love,

Sam xoxo

#tbt Are We There Yet?

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A little “Throwback Thursday” to my life after I moved back to Boston.  This is just before I met SHL and started two new jobs, and after kidney stones, being bed-ridden for two months over the summer with a bad back, cortisone shots, and problems with my eye.  Written on January 18th, 2008, from my previous blog, Breathing Under Water– Letting Go To Find Myself.  

Greetings from the land of one dazed and confused girl.  Apparently I’m a chicken and apparently I’ve been running and apparently I have no head to speak of.  Talk about all over the place– The last couple of weeks haven’t been that busy, but they’ve been busy enough that I missed a scheduled appointment this morning with my back doctor.  Just didn’t show up.  I opened up my calendar this morning at 10:17am and there it was, in bright purple:  10am with Dr. Limke.  SHIT!  I can’t remember the last time that I did something so flaky (Yes I have my flaws but forgetting important doctor’s appointments isn’t one of them!).  I suppose considering the fact I’ve been busier than I have in months I am definitely feeling the ramifications of what it’s like to be a real human being again.

I shouldn’t complain, I know:  After all, I have been begging the g-d’s above to turn me into a normal human being day after day.  And yet here I am, maneuvering the dating world, socializing with friends, traveling, and working my ass off in 2 jobs, and instead of being grateful for the hectic life I am leading, I am, simply put, exhausted.

They say that the busier you are, the more productive you become, but I’m still in the phase of needing 10 hours of sleep just because I have a job!  I’m not proud of it, but the truth is, I’ve become one hell of a lazy human being (the more pain you’re in and the more physically inactive you become, the lazier you feel) and now that I’m challenged again it takes an immense amount of effort just to get out of bed in the morning and tackle my to do list.

None of this diminishes the fact that I have a life once again and that I am beyond hopeful that this life will turn into something utterly fabulous (if it isn’t already).  Sure, it’s about the journey and not just the destination, but sometimes (come on) don’t we want to get there already?

I myself am often like a little kid on a long car trip, fumbling with my play toys in the back and itching to unwind myself from my seat belt and stretch my damn legs already.  “Are we there yet?” my brother and I used to whine to my parents on long car trips, and now I find that my manners are even worse as an adult.  Thankfully as a kid my parents were expert at keeping my brother and I entertained… And they always played games with us, even in the car.  But now that I am 30 there is nobody to entertain me, or occupy my mind, no big brother sitting next to me to bug, no games to play, no clock to tell us when we will arrive.

So I wander.  I wander and I try and I learn and I screw up and I do it all over again the next day.  I wonder if someday I will get to where I want to go, and then I wonder if I even know exactly where it is that I want to go.

But it has begun, my life here in Boston.  I am finally working, and not just working, but working my ass off.  I am challenged and stimulated and I can’t just nod my head and zone out:  I have to really pay attention!  I have people depending upon me, counting on me, believing in me that I am not the fraud I think I am but that I have some real kind of skill.  If they only knew, and I wonder what will happen when I am finally found out.  I imagine my world crumbling all around me, left with nothing but an empty bank account and people standing all around me laughing, like in a bad dream or something.

It is around this time of year that I also begin to feel tired and strange and messy and sad, and I know that it will happen like clockwork because my 6th month checkup with my surgeon is in just 10 days.

I am more predictable than I like to think, at least in terms of how I will feel each and every January and July.  I do better in between those months, even seeing my oncologist, though the MRI’s don’t really ever get easier.  And then, in other ways, I am not who I ever thought I would be; I seem to be having more fun and dating more and being way more open than I ever thought I would be (for example, dating a 24 year old).  Life doesn’t always have to be so serious, and it doesn’t always have to be measured with dollar amounts, or who we associate with, or what we decide to do with ourselves in our free time.

And “are we there yet?” can sometimes be the most fascinating question of all: The one that precipitates an opening up of our eyes, the one that tells us to look out the window at the scenery and to take a deep breath… the one that reminds us we are heading somewhere.

Goodbye drinks with friends in NYC in March of 2007, right before I moved to Boston… Now I know there is no “there,” it’s everywhere.  It’s you, it’s me, it’s now.  XOXO. 

goodbye-drinks-in-nyc

Goodbye Guilt…

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I am so great about preaching to others around living a (at least almost) guilt-free life.  I quote my therapist frequently when talking to my friends who feel guilty because they can’t be in three places at once for their kids or don’t call their MIL as much as they should or only make dinner four days a week instead of seven.  I say, “Guilt serves no purpose.”  But the truth is, just writing it makes me feel like a hypocrite.

It’s so easy to say, and hard to believe.  And yet, I do deeply believe that if we work on self-care, forgiveness (not just of others, but of ourselves as well), express to our partners what we need and want, and actually take the time deserved to serve our own minds and bodies, we can slowly shed this guilt the way a snake sheds his skin.  Did you know that sometimes snakes will even rub up against a rock or something else hard in order to shed that old skin?  Maybe we need to do the same; go right up to whatever you’re feeling guilty about (work, kids, husband, money, food)—really get up in there, face it like a demon, and then scrub scrub scrub.  Goodbye guilt!

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because I’m going on Day 10 of a cold, and my guilt lies in not being able to be there for SHL in any kind of “wifely way” (i.e. I haven’t made dinner let alone the bed in the last week and a half).  I know my hubby; he would shake his head and tell me that I’m being crazy, but there’s this thing called wife guilt that I’ve been perfecting for the last five years, where despite what SHL tells me his needs or wants (and honestly making dinner or the bed is not high up on his list), I decide that whatever I can’t give to him is actually what he should need or want.  This is an art, my friends.

The other piece of the guilt lays in just how much work I’ve had to miss over the last two weeks.  I took time off to go down to Austin to visit my bestie and her family, which was time well spent, but then came back and was sick and missed a few days of work last week, plus I was out yesterday as well (sleeping all day).  I dragged myself in to work this morning simply because I didn’t want people to whisper around the office that I’m a slacker, which makes little to no sense since everybody knows my work ethic combined with the fact that they can all hear me hacking in my office.  I even caught myself apologizing to a co-worker for being out yesterday and hoped that she didn’t get slammed with work!  So what if she did?  I’M SICK!  Oh Sam…

I can see it so clearly through the eyes of my friends, but when it comes to myself, it is much, much more difficult.  And focusing on our own self-care, forgiveness, and living an authentic life sometimes takes a little push… Like, “I’ll focus on that someday.  Today I have to… “(Fill in the blank).  It’s only because of cancer, quite frankly, that I’ve given myself permission to really live FOR ME, and nobody else.  Most of the time.

I for one desperately want to release the guilt that if I am sick, I am letting others down.  This combined with the worry that my immune system is compromised and I’m living with cancer is enough to make me truly batty.  I don’t need it.  It’s time wasted, when really all I want is to be in the now and to be content with the present.

What do you feel guilty about?  In what ways does feeling guilty serve us (if any), and in what ways does it work against us?

Am I Worth It?

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You know you haven’t written in a long time when you not only forget your password, but the website with which to log in.  It’s not that I haven’t thought about you, or the blog, because I do– virtually every day.  It’s just been a tough month or so, and I guess when the tough gets going, it just doesn’t always feel like writing.

The times when I don’t feel well really can push me into a downward spiral that I feel isolates me from the rest of my world.  I often times feel very alone when I don’t feel well.  Sure, everybody has had a stomach ache or a headache or whatever, but for me, every single time I don’t feel well, I worry that it is somehow related to the cancer.  You have to understand that living with cancer can sometimes add a whole new layer of worry and sadness to things.

Going for an ultrasound of my abdomen a couple of weeks ago was scary, and I’m not being dramatic.  The technician got eerily quiet all of a sudden and told me that the doctor would be in soon enough to explain things.  It turned out that I had a kidney stone, but that wasn’t explaining the stomach aches (I still don’t have a concrete diagnosis on that).  It took them all day to get back to my doctor with the results because they were studying my liver so intently.  Thank g-d they didn’t see anything, but a stomach ache doesn’t just feel like a stomach ache to me anymore.  It feels like, g-d forbid, it could be so much more.

And when I don’t feel well, if I can’t eat well, then psychologically, that begins to take a toll on me also. If I don’t fuel my body well enough, I don’t have enough energy to work out, and my whole world seems to spiral out of control.  I’m not obsessive (if I’m busy and don’t work out every day I don’t think about it much, but to not be working out because I don’t feel well is a whole other ball of wax), but I do realize the benefits of exercising not just for my body, but for my mind as well.

For a long time, I thought that the whole point of me reading and blogging and learning new things and meditating and exercising and juicing was to better myself, my life, my physical and emotional health.

I began to see it as a way of safeguarding.  A way to make sure that nothing bad could ever happen to me again.  If I did these things perfectly, then somehow, I would be OK.

Somewhere deep down inside though, I knew that was magical thinking.  I also knew that it was probably pretty normal in my circumstances and even somewhat rational, if you think about how you may feel yourself while living through a trauma.  You just want to think that you have control, over something.

The truth is, we do have control over some things.  Not all, but some.  But thinking that if I eat a salad every day I will never get cancer again is, I am now beginning to understand, a little bit wacky.  After all, if it was that easy, then wouldn’t we all just be eating salads all of the time?  (This is not to negate how awesome it feels and how truly beneficial I believe healthy living is).

I love my heroes and heroines, but sometimes, they sure do make it look easy, don’t they?  Sometimes I just want somebody just like me to say that I don’t have to be perfect to be OK, to be healthy, to be happy.  That actually striving to try to get it perfectly (use non toxic sunscreens and cleaning products and lip glosses and giving up meat and dairy and gluten and only eating cashew cheese and training for a half marathon) can actually, truth be told, make you feel a little bit crazy.

What stopped my in my tracks were the intensity of the last two work weeks.  Still on Cloud Nine after our fundraising event for the Jimmy Fund a couple of weeks ago,  I didn’t expect to come back to the office and have work knock the wind out of me. There have been tons of changes in my office lately; a new VP to get to know, construction, a team member going out on maternity leave, learning a whole new database system that I’ll have to be using every single day when I talk to clients, etc.  I have been doing my best to try to imagine a giant shield between myself and the rest of my colleagues when they talk about their concerns around all of the changes (I will say that having the toaster in the conference room did throw me off a little bit).  As if I could somehow protect myself from their anxiety.  I can’t.

But this past week, I literally didn’t know what I was doing, where I was going, or what to tackle first.  All of a sudden I became totally overwhelmed (like the shredder in my house just stopped working one day and I started crying).  Where to even put my to-do list?  Phone?  Outlook?  Old-fashioned pen and paper?  That’s how crazed I felt, that my own to-do list, even just creating it, was somehow overwhelming to me.  Not every week is like this of course, thank goodness, but between wrapping up the fundraiser (more to come on that fabulous day!!), tough cases (taking care of inebriated and suicidal people) and training on the new database and then moving everything out of my office again (first time was for the painting, now it’s for the new carpeting), I couldn’t even get through the day without thinking about a vacation (or a brownie).

What bothers me the most, I think, is that I don’t have the creative juices right now to read, or write, or just think.  I am not the best at handling stress and to-do lists, this seems clear, especially now that I’m so in tune with my mind, body and soul.  I am, more than ever, realizing that I am being depleted left and right, not nourished.  But it doesn’t feel like there is time for nourishment.

We all have responsibilities that we must tend to, that’s just the way life is.  But is there any wiggle room?  What can we take off of our plates, to allow more room for spiritual growth and the kind of joy that’s found in the little nooks and crannies of the day (not even the kind that you plan for) and feeling present, not like your mind is on that task that you know needs to be completed by next week?  I’d like to get better at this.  Not only for the peace and quiet that my mind aches for, but for my body and my immune system as well.

And then I had another striking thought:  That I am really the only one who can do this for myself.  Not SHL, not my parent’s, not my boss.  That I don’t need approval anymore to take it easy, that for some reason I’m invested in seemingly “doing everything,” when really, all I want to do is some good old-fashioned nothing. It’s as if the day I got cancer I pushed an “on button” that is hesitant to be turned off, for fear of what?  That people will see me as lazy, or boring?  That if the off switch is pushed, I’ll be missing out on life, which is a big no-no for anybody, let alone somebody with cancer?  I’m not sure.

Speaking of getting better at things, what I’d also really like to get better at is staying present with the gratitude, while letting the universe expand my abundances without me feeling guilty, worried, or tripping over myself to please others.  Case in point:  My boss looks at the schedule to see if I can take a mental health day this week, and I thank him so much and tell him that I can do whatever works best for HIM, that I end up making it sound like he is doing me such a huge favor that I barely deserve.  The truth is, he is doing me a favor, but we are so short-staffed and I work so hard, that I believe that I do deserve a little “me time,” especially after I’ve given so much to the company despite my health issues.  When I do this, I am beginning to realize, what I am actually doing is devaluing my worth.  Am I worth a mental health day?  You better believe it.  And though that may be the culture of my workplace (keep going despite x,y,z), it’s just a reminder that it’s not my culture.  Or it doesn’t have to be anymore.

 

 

Ego Vs. Truth

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“I recently did an interview, and someone said to me, ‘Are you so proud of who you’ve become?’ … ‘I haven’t become anyone. I’ve just become more of who I really am.'”  ~ Gabby Bernstein.

I learned a big lesson this week my friends.  I let my ego get the better of me.  I got into that “I’m better than you” mode.  It was like everything that I’ve learned from Gabby Bernstein just went right out the window.  I didn’t even feel like myself.  Actually, as I write those words, I realize that I did feel like myself– like the Sam a year ago or even 6 months ago who let the negativity run her life (at least in some aspects).

I sometimes get wrapped up in the ways in which I feel that bureaucracies let us down. The things that seem so obvious, and yet don’t get done.  But I don’t have to tell you; we all have situations in life, whether at work or dealing with a customer service issue, or even a spouse or partner who doesn’t necessarily do things the way that we would (or the way that we think is best), where we feel frustrated by what we view as the incompetence (or inadequacies) of others.  Our ego gets in the way, and we so badly want to be right.

On Friday I let myself get sucked into a place filled with anger and frustration; a place that I haven’t been to in a long time, because I’ve been making such a concerted effort to stay in the light, and not get stuck in the negative energy.  At the heart of it, most everybody has the best intentions (and if they don’t, I can’t change that).  Still, I recently began to realize that I need to take better care of myself when it comes to shielding myself from negativity (as much as possible), and the first place that I wanted to start was work, since I spend 40 + hours there every week. So I was able to identify that my energy and creativity could be better used in making sure that my own space at work felt healthier. I rearranged my office so that my folders no longer cluttered my desk, moved things off of the windowsill so as not to block the light coming in (grateful for a window), and put pictures and flowers in places where feng-shui deems them as bringing in more love, light, and creativity.

I started to close my door (grateful for a door) when I needed to.  Not all of the time because I enjoy the social aspects of work and I don’t want to give off a sense of being unavailable, but when I need to focus or when the energy doesn’t feel good.  I say good morning and smile, even if it is Monday morning and I didn’t have time to juice and I don’t quite feel like saying anything at all.  I try to see the positives in others, even if I don’t always agree with their ways of doing things.  It would be silly to say that I get it right every day, but once I began to focus my attention more on creating a positive work environment for myself, things felt better.  Lighter.  And once I started to meditate on seeing more creative solutions to situations that I thought of as being “set in stone,” doors lined with possibilities began to swing open.  I just don’t believe in coincidences anymore.

When I originally wrote this blog post I went into great detail about this situation that made me want to write this in the first place.  And then I realized that what had happened, the specifics of it, didn’t really matter.  What mattered was that after the situation occurred, the rage started to bubble up inside of me.  I began to feel superior.  Clearly I was better, knew more. How come people just weren’t getting it?  (Translation:  How come people weren’t just doing what I “knew” to be right?).

So I went back to what Sam 6 months ago would have done, what I have done before. I sent out a scathing email to the “culprits” expressing my dismay.  It wasn’t pretty.

Now I can tell you (and you’ll just have to take my word for it) that what I was upset about is valid.  It’s what I did next that reflects the “old Sam.”  At the time I can tell you that I felt justified.  Better, even, having gotten it off of my chest. I was so in the middle of it that I couldn’t even see straight.  I let my ego and my frustration with others and with this particular system as a whole drag me into a thirst that just didn’t feel as though it could be quenched unless I exploded and hit “send” on that email.  I told myself that because I had a valid concern, I was right to be so angry, and therefore I was right to send out that email basically yelling at people (I didn’t write the email in caps, but I mine as well have).  I wasn’t living in my truth at that moment,  I was living in my ego.  I know this not just because of how I handled things, but because it ate at me all weekend.  It wasn’t the fact that I was upset that was a problem (I still believe that my feelings were in alignment with the situation).  It was how I decided to convey my feelings that later made me feel crummy.

Looking back on it, though only two days and one Gabby Bernstein video later, I realized that while I wasn’t proud of losing my s*** (for lack of a better term), the real lesson was in the fact that I was able to see that this isn’t how I want to handle my anger, anxiety, or frustrations anymore. That there must be other ways (I’m still trying to figure out what those are, but I know that they must exist.  Sometimes I feel like I’m not heard unless I scream).  And that while we try to stand in the light most of the time, sometimes we get sucked into the darkness because we’re human.  We’re not machines with a formula who can spit out the proper response all of the time.

But the biggest lesson of all?  While I can work hard on forgiving others, I think I also need to forgive myself on this one.  But next time, I hope that I’ll choose differently.