"In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy." Brother David Steindl-Rast

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Awakenings

Today I am grateful for the women in my local cancer support group, especially the three women I met for the first time last night. They are all in active treatment and they are in my thoughts and prayers. I am also grateful for the awakenings that have come my way over my lifetime, big and small.

With Easter just around the corner and spring emerging, awakenings are evident and being discussed.

Here are some of my random thoughts on the idea of awakenings:

*They are really about second chances we give ourselves and others. If we awaken to a part of ourselves we had been denying or fearful of, or not confident enough in, we have new goals and sometimes a new road, or at least a wider path to travel. If we awaken to a part of someone we know and care about, by accepting them as they are, or realizing this is their way of shining, then we get to share in their journey too.

*I often think first about my own personal awakenings. There have been so many. I think back to my painful teens and early twenties, and my excessive drinking. First awakening to the fact that I had a problem, then awakening to the need for help and seeking that help. The awakenings have been endless since then. Accepting myself. Living life on life's terms. A growing faith and spirituality. Awakening to the many blessings I have, starting with this day.

*A cancer diagnosis, treatment, and surgeries awakened fear, but also hope. It also helped awaken the essayist in me that was beneath the poet I had always been. And it awakened a new level of self-acceptance, starting with a flat chest and a new normal post-treatment.

*Gratitude practice provides a daily opportunity to awaken to life's riches, starting with the most basic of needs like air to breathe, food to eat, shelter to protect. But it only grows from there and includes things like fingers and eyes that work as I type this entry.

Awakening is both literal and symbolic. It is about paying attention. It is also about action. An awakening is a getting up, a noticing, a validation. It requires effort, but can be as simple as opening one's eyes.

That's it for random thoughts from Lisa today. I hope that you will consider the awakenings that come your way today. I will do the same. I will be taking a blog break until early next week. Have a nice Easter!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Energy

Today I am grateful for pizza. I am also grateful for the communication my husband Darcy and I have with one another.

My energy level has been on my mind lately, in a good way. I have been pleased with the amount of sustainable energy I have had in recent weeks. I attribute it first to the 12 or so pounds that I have lost and to the way I am choosing to nourish myself--less sugar and other refined foods, more whole foods, less calorie intake, more mindful eating.

I am a morning person, so I usually wake up ready to roll. I don't need to wait for my energy to wake up, it wakes up with me. I tend to be on the go much of the day too; physically moving, mentally working. I haven't hit that early afternoon wall as much lately, and I have noticed a faster pace when I run and more motivation to keep exercising. For all of these things, I am grateful.

I also try to be aware of the energy of those around me. Some people give me energy, others zap it. I try to make more connections with the former and keep my interactions with the latter brief.  

It also occurs to me that I can't really store up energy from today to use tomorrow. I might as well use up today's supply, rest up and give the supply time to recover, then welcome another day.

Gratitude and faith are energizers for me. Daily practice of gratitude brings me far more energy than it takes for me to journal, blog, and such.

It all starts with my health--physical and all aspects. Today I appreciate my health and the energy I have to begin my day. Have a good day!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Crucify is a Strong Word

Today I am grateful for two ears and one heart to help me listen to others and myself. I am also grateful for a mind that stays open more than it used to, so I can learn more.

With Easter coming up, the words crucify and crucifixion are more prevalent than at other times of the year. There is much religious significance surrounding Christ's crucifixion and resurrection. But our priest's sermon Sunday at my church got me thinking about modern day crucifying.

Do I crucify others with my judgment and harsh words? Do I crucify others by treating them as different or invisible? Do I crucify myself for being less than perfect? Do I crucify myself because "I should know better?" Mortify. Torment. Persecute. Crucify. They are all strong words and strong actions, but we choose them. If I am doing any of these things to others or myself, even if on a small scale, why? (And is there such a thing as small scale in this arena?)

Though we can point to ways the human race has made progress in accepting one another, we can also point to just as many examples of how our intolerance still leads to injustice and hate. Or maybe it's greed that leads to the injustice. Either way, it is wrong.

Strong words call for strong deterrents. It is not my place to judge others, but I do it. We all do it. Let's help each other out. More acceptance. More patience. More gratitude for each other in our glorious uniqueness. Take a stand. Don't join in with the gossip, bad-mouthing, complaining. Walk away if needed. It can happen among friends, in the workplace, with relatives. But gratitude can happen in all of those places too. When I am grateful, I am much kinder and gentler with myself and others. Less crucifying likely.

When I look for the the good in the world, in others, and in myself, I find it. It is there. It is here. It is all around. And when I focus on the good and positive, I am more likely to love, less likely to hate. More likely to glorify. Less likely to crucify.

Are you with me? Let's look for and share the good. Let's share gratitude.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Glorious or Terminal?

Today I am grateful for the nice day we enjoyed yesterday; not weather-wise, pace-wise. I am also grateful for my ability to read.

There is one more nugget from Gilda Radner's book It's Always Something that I would like to share. This quote is a powerful one:

"While we have the gift of life, it seems to me the only tragedy is to allow part of us to die--whether it is our spirit, our creativity or our glorious uniqueness." 

Glorious uniqueness. We all have it. It should be celebrated, but too often it is ignored or buried. The way I laugh. The quirky way I put my clothes in the drawer or closet. The predictability of a response I am likely to give to a certain question. The scars on my body and the stories that go with them. All of this and much more comprise my glorious uniqueness. I embrace it more than I used to. Gratitude practice has helped me see this uniqueness as a positive in myself and others.

I agree with Gilda, as long as there is life in me, my spirit, creativity, and my unique traits are all gifts to be shared. Part of my job as a human is to allow others to share their gifts too, to make it safe and comfortable for them to do so.

This idea of glorious uniqueness is a far cry from a different kind of uniqueness--terminal.Terminal uniqueness is indeed deadly, as the name implies. I first learned about it from my friend Terrie. For a person in recovery from alcoholism or addiction, terminal uniqueness might sound like this: "Nobody understands me. Nobody has gone through what I have. Nobody knows my pain. Nobody cares."

It is deadly because it keeps someone from seeking help, from surrendering, from reaching out. It keeps an alcoholic drinking and an addict using. Some will die from terminal uniqueness. I was taught to look for the similarities I had with other alcoholics, not to focus on the differences. That opened doors that led to the help I needed.

When it comes to uniqueness, I'll take the glorious kind. Celebrate your own uniqueness today, and appreciate the uniqueness of others.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

To My Husband

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy, in more ways than a blogpost can capture. I am also grateful for the theater performance of "We Are Young" that Darcy, Sam and I enjoyed at my school last evening. It was outstanding, entertaining, and brought the gamut of emotions.

"We Are Young" is a variety show that highlighted the music and culture of each decade of our American history beginning with  the 1920's and ending in the 2000's. Thank you to all involved in the production! Your work and your talent are impressive and appreciated.

Today is Darcy's 49th birthday. Happy birthday dear! The show got me thinking about Darcy and I and our history together through the decades. We met in November of 1997 and married in July of 1998. I met my stepson Arthur when he was 6 and my stepdaughter Emily on her 3rd birthday. Our son Sam was born in 2002. Oliver, our cockapoo, joined our family in 2008. Darcy and I ran our first marathon, the Chicago Marathon, in 2004. We have made moves, some just living space, some bigger, in 1999, 2000, and 2005. There have been medical concerns for each of us, job pressures, job changes for Darcy, hours reduced for me. There have been graduations and a wedding with the older two children, and we have a pre-teen in the house now.

That rundown captures some important aspects of our lives. But it is our daily living together that matters the most. Darcy and I talk about pretty much everything. We share a huge commitment to running, staying fit, and eating right. He is a wonderful and committed father to all three of his children. We continue to grow in our understanding of one another, and in our love and commitment to one another.

But don't get me wrong, we have our moments. We aren't in wedded bliss 24/7. We have our frustrations with one another. We don't see eye to eye on everything. Our relationship is intense, and that can play out in a variety of emotions depending on what is going on. We forgive and forget, Darcy quicker than I do. We hear each other out, eventually. We understand that a marriage takes work and isn't always smooth sailing.

On this day I want to say I love you Darcy and I look forward to the next 365 days of our lives together, one day at a time. I look forward to this last year of our decade of the 40's and I look forward to our future by doing the daily work of being myself as well as being a partner in this endeavor. Thank you Darcy for the difference you make in my life.

Happy Birthday! Enjoy your day!


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Mobilize or Minimize?

Today I am grateful for our backyard fire pit and a game of catch with Sam.

After writing yesterday's post, some thoughts stayed with me and are worthy of their own post."Did I cause my cancer?" is a provocative question in many ways. The answer given says more about a person's overall approach to life than it really does about their cancer diagnosis.

There is a continuum here. I can believe I caused my own cancer, beat myself up for previous choices, and obsess about everything I do, breathe in, ingest, and surround myself with. That is one extreme. The other extreme is feeling like a 100% victim, taking absolutely no responsibility for my own health, because cancer just happens regardless. Most of us answering this question are somewhere closer to the middle of this continuum.

It's really the difference between mobilizing and minimizing. If I take some level of responsibility for my health, I am mobilized to take actions to restore and preserve my health. If I am an unfortunate, helpless victim, I may minimize the importance of my own choices and actions. I may do or change very little. I would rather mobilize than minimize.

I already talk enough in this blog about the healthy actions and habits I try my best to adhere to for my own well-being. Individual mobilization. But mobilization beyond the personal realms, yours and mine, is needed if we hope to solve the mysteries of cancer.

We can speak up and speak out when we have opportunities. We can email or call our legislators when important bills are being discussed, like current national proposed legislation that regulates chemicals more effectively. Women can also join the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation's Army of Women and Health of Women study. Read more about both here.

We can take part in other surveys that help people studying cancer and those living with it. When appropriate, we can consider participating in clinical trials. We can be informed consumers of pink products and more knowledgeable about charitable organizations before we donate to them.

I appreciate the many bloggers out there who write so passionately and eloquently about many of these topics. I appreciate the organizations that have the right mission when it comes to cancer.

And we are all part of this "we" even though I initially was referring to people who have had a cancer diagnosis. If you haven't had cancer yourself, chances are high you know and care about at least one person who has.

Mobilize or minimize? Which will you choose?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Did I Cause My Cancer?

Today I am grateful for a smile, a simple smile that can help relax me. I am also grateful for the variety of tasks and opportunities my job offers.

Did I cause my cancer? This is a question I imagine many of us who have been diagnosed with cancer ponder at some point, even if only in our own minds. It is a tough question. Gilda Radner asked it too. She wondered if her smoking, love of saccharin and cyclamates (another sweetener), candies with red dye in them, and the damage done to her body while suffering from eating disorders, each or all may have contributed to her cancer.

I wondered if my high levels of alcohol consumption in my teens, the smoking I did for a few years, or my life-long love of ice cream and other sweets, or eating pesticide-laden fruits or using plastics with dangerous chemicals in them may have contributed to my breast cancer diagnosis. Some of these were more rational thoughts than others, and none of them took a stranglehold on my thought processes. With two sisters previously diagnosed with BC, that clearly indicated something genetic going on, and sort of let me off the hook.

The fact of the matter is we don't know what caused my cancer or that of my sisters. There are still so many mysteries surrounding cancer. It could have been environmental-something we were exposed to growing up on a farm, coupled with our genetics, that sparked a bad cell. It could have been a combination of factors.

But there is no use putting too much energy there. It doesn't change the diagnosis. And we have done what we can to provide useful information to our other sisters and the next generation of daughters and nieces. The important thing is making changes in our lives and habits that may help reduce chances of a recurrence, and improve quality of life at the same time.

That is what I strive to do. Exercise. Healthy eating. Avoiding known harmful substances. Getting enough sleep. Meditation and prayer. Gratitude practice. Do they help prevent cancer? They sure don't hurt. They make each day a better day for me, and that matters a great deal.