I’m sure this is not how you envisioned your 2020 to be. But here you are. So now what?
My journey with cancer was a grand experiment. Not one that I ever would have happily and willingly conducted on my own, but one that as long as it had presented itself I might as well see what I could do with it.
My initial motivation was really quite indulgent. I simply didn’t want to feel pain! I didn’t want to feel sick. So any shortcuts to feeling better in my estimation were worth exploring!
Some of those shortcuts, including, creative visualization, mindfulness and focus with a dash of sheer determination proved to actually work.
There’s a lot of science behind them too.
Curiosity is KING.
Curiosity prompted me to ask questions like: “What would make me feel better right now?” “What’s possible here?” “What CAN I do, in this moment?” “What am I to learn from all of this?” And then finally, “What am I to do with it all?”
In the short term those questions empowered me.
Sometimes they led me to experiment with things that would make me feel better. When I didn’t have the strength to even walk around the block I would do laps around the inside of our home. Or get dressed and put on makeup even when I had nowhere to go. Or listen to some soothing music. Or play some happy music and imagine myself “getting down” on the dance floor. Give myself permission to sit outside in the sunshine and simply just BE. Meditate. Do some yoga stretches.
Those questions also led me to writing down my thoughts. Those thoughts led me to deep introspection, to some of the darkest places of my soul, to limitations and beliefs I had carried around with me my entire life.
That process of writing and introspection was powerful. It cleared my mind of the thoughts of doubt, fear, anxiety and uncertainty I felt. It was powerful in its ability to release me of the old and to embrace the new.
To my delight – it all helped. Every. Little. Thing. They all added up like little building blocks or pieces of a puzzle that minute by minute, day by day, made me feel better.
Those questions led to healing – emotionally, mentally, spiritually AND physically.
And ultimately the thoughts I recorded led to the writing and publishing of a best-selling book.
What you think about >>> impacts your emotions >>> which impacts how you feel, emotionally and physically >>> which then generates either health and vitality or dis-ease and ultimately disease.
The connection is real.
Did it make all my symptoms go away? No. Did I at times still feel like I was literally dying from the treatments meant to cure me? Yes. But when I didn’t apply the tools I was learning, I felt SO MUCH WORSE.
Sometimes it was pure determination, too. Because as crazy as it might sound, intentionally focusing on something that feels better in your attempt to channel your thoughts somewhere else, takes effort!
Sometimes I felt too damn tired to expend that effort. The mental fatigue could feel overpowering.
But what I found was that if I could muster even the smallest amount of effort to master my thoughts, there was a payoff. Sometimes I would feel a lot better and sometimes only a little.
Either way it was worth the effort.
Some life lessons have both short-term and long-term benefits.
Never in my wildest imagination would I have thought that I would go through the hardest journey of my life over the course of 2017 and 2018 to end up in the landscape of Covid and all of the life changes that have come along with it. But my husband, David, and I have both said had we not gone through the experience of cancer, life right now would feel so much harder.
We have empathy. We know how it feels, truly, to:
- Not be able to plan ahead.
- Be forced to take things day by day, often moment by moment; and
- Feel out of control of your life.
We get it. We’ve been down this path before, even if the story line was different.
I say all of this not for any accolades. My desire, my hope, is that as you read these words you will take a new view of your life and truly own, take responsibility for, the truth that what you focus on shapes your reality or at the very least your perception of your reality.
This is your grand experiment.
I’m sure this is not how you envisioned your 2020 to be. But here you are. So now what? What can you experiment with to make your life better as a result?
It is a choice. You can choose to let it take you down or you can choose to look at how you can, as they say “Turn lemons into lemonade”.
Just in case you’re someone who doesn’t buy in to the idea that what you think impacts what shows up in your life, how about you just entertain the idea that your thoughts about what you observe in your life impacts your experience of it?
In other words, if you look at the restrictions or changes being thrust upon you and you think “This really sucks!” or “I hate what Covid has done to my life!”, do you feel better about your life?
How about if instead you were to look at even the smallest of good things that have come from it? Like, maybe for the first time you have some really meaningful time with your spouse or children. Maybe you have found yourself doing things that you “never have had the time for” before. Better yet, maybe you’re having conversations with yourself around what’s really important to you in a way that you haven’t before.
How about all that time that perhaps you used to spend commuting back and forth to work that you now can use in some other way?
I have heard of people using all of that “free time” to take up all kinds of new hobbies or cooking more or learning new skills online.
This “free time” that has been forced upon us all has prompted many to explore some of life’s most important questions such as “What do I really want?” “What brings me joy?” “How can I shift my life to include more of that?”
All through history you can read about those who have suffered through some of the hardest life events, both personal and world events, and how from those events came some of the greatest shifts and growth of their lifetime.
There was even a study of breast cancer patients where they found that a high percentage of them stated that cancer was a gift. A gift!!!
Dr. Julia Rowland, the director of the office of cancer survivorship at the National Institutes of Health, reported a survey funded by the National Cancer Institute in which 2000 women with breast cancer were asked the question “Is there anything else about your experience as a breast cancer survivor that would like to share here?”
The reviewers were struck by the many reports of self-discovery, insight, hope, and resilience and commented that if you didn’t know it was cancer that had prompted these discoveries you might well seek out what these women had experienced.
That is the power of your mind to impact your perception of what is happening and as a result your experience of it.
I’d like to think that I could have learned the lessons I learned without going through cancer. But you and I both know that isn’t how it works, is it?
The reality is our biggest points of growth come from challenges where we are prompted, or forced, to shift and expand beyond what we thought we were capable of.
They rarely come when life is easy.
Life transition is a birth process.
Like any unplanned or unwanted life event, we as humans go through a process in order to transition or evolve out the other side of it.
Like birth, it can feel really hard. I don’t have any first-hand experience with it, but any expert on birthing will coach you that the more you resist, the harder it will feel. When you resist or clench in anticipation of what’s coming, the body contracts and it hurts more. If instead you can breathe through it, the body relaxes and the contractions are smoother.
Likewise, the more you can find a way to be more in a place of acceptance of what is, the easier and more at peace you will feel.
It is what it is. You can’t change that, but you can change how you respond.
Part of that new life birth process is to acknowledge the sense of loss of your life as you knew it and allow yourself to grieve. Each of us process grief in our own way and at our own pace. Some of us move through it more slowly than others. Some of that has to do with your ability to process change – that’s neither good nor bad.
You’ll do better if you resist the urge to compare where you are in the process to someone else.
Once you’ve processed your grief and loss then, and only then, can you really begin to look at what’s next without your grief clouding your vision.
You are stronger than you know.
Even when you think you’ve surmounted the toughest odds, there’s more inner strength available to you. It’s like a muscle. The next challenge will be easier.
Because you’ve been there, done that.
The question before all of us now is the same – what are you going to make of this?
What’s possible for you as a result?
The answer to that question is within you. We’ve all been given this rare, even if unwanted, “opportunity” to explore that for ourselves.
There is no room for denial or sweeping it under the rug, not without major consequences as a result at least.
We are at a major point in a shift of consciousness, for the entire planet. Someone, something, is trying to get our attention.
So I ask you, to start off, what would make you feel better right now? Self-care is first and foremost. If you can’t find a better-feeling place, you’re going to find it much harder to be motivated to do anything.
What CAN you do, in this moment? Small actions build a sense of movement, of accomplishment, which makes you feel better about yourself, about your life and that then breeds motivation for more action. Start small and build from there.
What are you to learn from all of this? This question moves you from a place of feeling like a victim to one of feeling self-empowered. It shifts your focus from what feels hard to a place of possibilities.
And then finally, what’s possible for you here? What is your role? What are you to do with it all? What’s pulling at your heart strings? What are you feeling “pulled” towards? How can you make a difference? Sometimes that’s not what you think. You don’t necessarily need to join or start some “movement”. It ultimately means you just showing up in your true essence; doing what comes naturally for you and using your innate gifts and skills.
There are the leaders who begin a movement. There are those who execute and are the voice of the movement. And then there are those who are the supporters. Each role is valid in its own right. What’s your role?
There’s real power in those questions.
And, it really is worth the effort.