Hope and Positivity

Do you think Hope and Positivity* are innate or can they be learned?

I suppose the argument that they are innate might go something like this: “We are programmed to seek Hope and Positivity. Otherwise, our species would have died out long ago from the crushing weight of sadness.”

Conversely, the argument that Hope and Positivity are learned may be: “Babies don’t feel hope or positivity, so it’s something that comes around out of experience.”

My initial reactions are these: I feel immense sadness at times – so Hope and Positivity haven’t saved me from that. And, how the heck do we know what babies think or feel?

(As a side note, if I had been privy to how babies think or feel, the first 3 years of each of my daughters’ lives would’ve been a lot easier on me and my husband!)

I’m not a philosopher. Or a scientist. So, I really have no idea about the mechanics. I can only speak from my personal research and experience. I believe that Hope and Positivity are innate traits — they’re part of our human programming. But, like any other emotion or feeling, we can choose whether we exhibit them or not.

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So, I created the HOPE program** because I believe three things about Hope and Positivity:

  1. We can learn how to access our innate Hope and Positivity in moments of need or desire.
  2. We can increase the volume of Hope and Positivity in our lives through practice (like exercising our muscles, if we practice Hope and Positivity more often, they will become stronger and more prominent in our lives).
  3. More personal Hope and Positivity translates into more Hope and Positivity in the world; and our world needs more Hope and Positivity now, more than ever.

 

Help Yourself, Help The World.

 

So, what exactly ARE Hope and Positivity? According to the dictionary:

HOPE:
(noun) the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best
(verb) to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence; to believe, desire, or trust.

POSITIVITY:
(noun) the state or character of being positive

POSITIVE:
(adjective) confident in opinion or assertion; fully assured

My personal definition of Hope and Positivity is being fully assured that you can look to the future with desire and confidence. When you exhibit Hope and Positivity, you trust that things will turn out for the best.

Now, that doesn’t mean that Hope and Positivity make your life full of unicorns, glitter and rainbows. I’m not suggesting that by embodying Hope and Positivity you turn a blind eye to tragedy or sadness. Instead, I believe that Hope and Positivity can allow us to shed some of the fear that is associated with emotion pain, so that we may move through a crisis more quickly and more intact.

Yeah. I said “move through.” It’s not possible to avoid the crises that come up in our lives. Whether it’s sickness, job loss, divorce or the death of a loved one — whatever emotions you are trying to avoid usually rear their ugly heads bigger and badder than before. The only way is through.

I should note that I admitted, above, that Hope and Positivity haven’t saved me from the immense sadness that I’ve felt at times in my life. And that’s true … because nothing can “save” you from hurt. What I didn’t mention (although you might have guessed), is that my secret weapons to navigating sadness are Hope and Positivity. They are not perfect weapons, but they allow me to face fear with more grace and less upset.

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I developed the 6 Keys to Hope and Positivity because I have discovered that they are essential to cultivating a high level of Hope and Positivity in your life. A high level of Hope and Positivity will allow you to face the good days with desire and confidence and the bad days with trust and assurance.

I’m going to be writing about each key in more detail over the next week or so, but here is your teaser introduction:

  1. LAMENTATION
  2. WISDOM
  3. GRATITUDE
  4. CONNECTION
  5. SUPPORT
  6. MOTIVATION

Each key, on it’s own, is something that we do easily … almost unconsciously… in our lives.  Sometimes we lag in creating connection in our lives …. or don’t seek to tap into our inner wisdom. Sometimes we over indulge in lamenting. But, no single dip throws the system awry because, well, you’ve got the other keys to keep you balanced and fulfilled.

It’s when we forget that the issues arise; forget about a whole key and we start to falter. (Here’s a tip: gratitude is the one that’s easiest to forget). We start to question our own existence. We start to wonder why and how we can continue. We lose hope. We stop being positive. Fear, sadness and overwhelm move in.

I designed the HOPE program** to step you through each of these essential keys so that you can REMEMBER that all you need is right inside of you.  Just the simple act of committing to working on yourself for 6 weeks … well … that alone will amp up your Hope and Positivity in untold ways. (Deciding to commit to this program is part of Key #5, by the way … seeking support from those willing and available to offer it to you.)

So, stay tuned over the next few days as I delve deeper into each of the keys to Hope and Positivity. In creating and working on this program, I’ve been writing more than I have since I wrote my book. I’ve learned to listen and follow through when the passion strikes me; when I’m called to help and motivate and encourage by whatever spiritual guidance system you believe in. I’m consumed with HOPE because I know, deep in my soul, that it is important. And I know that if you come on this journey with me, you will feel that too.

Live.  Love.  Be Free.

— Jenn

*P.S. Yes, I capitalize Hope and Positivity. Wondering why? I do it on purpose. I think Hope and Positivity deserve capitalization because the concepts they embody need to be set apart from the other words in the sentence. They are proper nouns to me. Sorry that that offends the grammarians among you.

** The HOPE program: 6 weeks. 6 keys to Hope and Positivity. Starting February 3.  Won’t you join me?! (Click the link above for more info … or the button below to join!)

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The Power of Positivity

I’m a member of several young adult cancer groups on Facebook.  It’s a place where I often go for support and to complain and to vent. I gain strength and perspective from hearing about how others have navigated our shared experiences. I am so grateful for that. But today, a topic came up in one of the groups that’s a hot topic for me. I can’t stop thinking about it … which is usually a sure indicator that I need to write about it. So, I’m going to get up on my soapbox here on my own blog about The Power of Positivity.

And here’s what I want everyone to think about and remember:

There is Power in Positivity — the power to heal AND the power to hurt. Tweet: There is Power in Positivity -- the power to heal AND the power to hurt. @JennMcRobbie http://bit.ly/1HXfzSB

When you’re sick, every where you turn you hear about the Power of Positivity:

  • “If you just stay positive this will all be over in no time.”
  • “You must be doing so well because you’re so positive.”
  • “Oh. You’re in pain? Well, just stay positive.”
  • “Oh. You’re upset? Well, just be positive.”
  • “Look on the bright side…”
  • “There’s always a silver lining…”

This message is so entrenched in how we, as a society, respond to illness or crisis that I think it sometimes slips out of people’s mouths unbidden. It’s become something you “just say” to someone who is having a hard time or in the middle of a terrible experience. We spit out these phrases because it’s hard to see someone be sad or angry or upset or scared or terrified and not want to lift them up with catchy phrases and show tunes.

I get it. I mean, I’m an intensely positive person (and I know…it can be annoying…even to me). But I didn’t “beat cancer” by being positive. It’s not like I wielded my positivity like a sword in an epic battle against the evil wizard Cancer.

Positivity can be so much more subtle than that.  Randall Munroe, the genius behind xkcd.com, illustrated my experience so very well:

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My positivity, mostly, kept (and keeps) me from laying in bed all day long wondering why this happened to me.

But, the fact of the matter is — even if I did decide to lay in bed all day long … it would be FINE. It would be NO BIG DEAL. Because it’s natural to feel a little sorry for yourself when your doctors are butchering, poisoning and irradiating you.  In fact, it’s natural to feel a little sorry for yourself when those things AREN’T happening to you.

And if you don’t take the time to really FEEL those feelings … well, they can come back to bite you at the worst possible times. Or they will manifest themselves in more insidious ways (e.g, as more illness, depression, sadness, etc.).

Let me be clear: Being positive is NOT a substitute for all your other feelings.

I know at this point you may be thinking, “Geez.  Why does Jenn have her panties in such a bunch about this?”

It’s because I don’t want people to feel like they are broken just because they are having trouble “turning lemons into lemonade.”  There is nothing “wrong with you” if you can’t (or don’t want to) see the silver lining in a sucky situation.  Your emotions are not “wrong” or “bad” or “inappropriate” because they aren’t accompanied by a smiley face emoticon.

Being told how to think or feel is like being bullied in the school yard. And I don’t like seeing people be bullied … with negativity OR positivity.

Yes, I’m a naturally positive person.

But you don’t have to be.

Do I believe that some people are born more positive than others?  Maybe.

Do I believe that you can cultivate a positive outlook regardless of your base level of positivity?  Definitely.

Do I believe that if you’re not positive that you’re somehow weak or “letting your illness win?” HELL NO.

I think the point of all this is to remind everyone that words can hurt. (More amazingness from xkcd.com … way better than I could ever explain):

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It’s not helpful to try and force others to be positive.  You can still BE positive without trying to convince everyone around you that they have to climb on your unicorn and take the rainbow to Happyville with you.

So, be gentle with your positivity, please?!  At the very least, you’ll avoid getting punched in the face.  And that’s got to be a good thing.

Will You Hold My Hand?

I love watching those Strong Man Competitions on TV.  I just cannot get over the fact that these guys can pull cars just by their earlobes. Ok, that might be a slight exaggeration, but you know what I mean.  These guys are big.  They’re strong.  They’re mountains that move mountains.

I know I’ll never be a physical specimen like that (because, um, do you know how much work goes into that?!), but, I do fancy myself quite the Strong Woman. And I feed that image of myself with a message that I tell myself on a fairly regular basis.  It goes like this, “You will take on that emotional burden because you’re strong. You can bear it.”

To prove this, I start stretching and preparing when I see someone having a strong emotion.  I am willing … able … to lift the emotional equivalent of a car for someone else.

Version 2A friend is sad?  Well, I’ll bear her sadness FOR her because I’m strong.  I can handle it.  My husband is stressed at work?  Well, I’ll bear his stress FOR him because I’m strong.  I can handle it. My kids are worried about a test? Well, I’ll bear that worry FOR them because I’m strong. I can handle it.

There are several super interesting things about this habit of mine.

It is physically impossible for me to bear other people’s emotions for them. I mean, they’re OTHER people’s emotions. That should go without saying. But deeper than that, by saying “I’ll bear your emotions for you,” I’m essentially implying that you are weak, but I am not.

Ick. Writing that out sounds horrible. I’m not a bad person. Seriously. I just so desperately want to help that I can substitute my own thinking for yours because … well … it’s mine, so it’s easier to know what to do with that.

“I’m strong. I can handle that” is a mantra, of sorts, for me. But, I don’t really believe it. And that leads me to the next interesting point about all of this …

By concerning myself with other people’s emotions, I’m avoiding my own. For me, taking on someone else’s emotions is like putting on a warm sweater in the winter. My own feelings and emotions and reactions are like a cold wind. If I surround myself with the warmth of your problems, well then, I can ignore the bite of the wind for just awhile longer.

But the longer I’m out there, in the cold, the colder I get … sweater or not. And really, over time, sweaters become threadbare because they aren’t meant to bear the burden of weather day in and day out. Plus, they’ll start to stink if you don’t take them off and clean them occasionally. So, you have to be naked at some point in your life.

Which leads me to the most interesting thing about my “thing”:

By telling myself that “I’m strong” all the time, I’m failing to recognize that the real strength lies in what I consider being weak.

Oooohhh.  That’s a hard one to admit right there.

Being weak, I’ve come to realize, is what I considered myself to be when I asked for help about ANYTHING (from laundry to professional advice). It’s ridiculous, really, to think that I am an island that needs to be self-sustaining. The times I have learned the most, been the happiest … they are the times where I have asked for help or had help or, at a minimum, had company for the journey.

I asked for help in a big way, recently.  But I didn’t realize it at the time.  I applied for a scholarship to Susan Hyatt’s BARE program.  I thought to myself – I’ve tried other methods of weight loss, but this would be something new.  Since weight loss hasn’t fully “stuck” for me at any time, I thought, “that is something I need to do.”  So, I set about finding a way to do this program. When I was accepted, I thought: “AWESOME!  Bye Bye saddle bags!”

But this is about so much more than saddle bags or a waddle.  What I didn’t realize is that by asking Susan to help me sort out my weight issues, we’d have to get down to the REAL thought that is keeping me from progressing in all areas of my life.  The thought that causes me pain on a fairly regular basis:

Asking for help makes me weak.

Ugh.  I would never say that to a friend. I beg my friends to ask for my help. I tell groups of cancer survivors that the way to “make it through” is to rely on the people around you to help.  In even the little ways.

And yet – I’m telling myself the exact opposite. I’ve been sending myself this message for years and years; that a strong, independent, smart woman (yes, such as myself) can’t be all those things if she’s asking for help doing the laundry.

I do let go of that crazy thought, sometimes. I ask for help. And when I do, I NEVER regret it.  But I always relapse into that “to be strong is to go it alone” thought.

What. A. Crock. Of. Shit.

My mind is a fickle mean girl. And I’ve decided that we need to duke it out on the tetherball courts after school. So, here’s how this GIRL FIGHT is going to go down:

Upon the unveiling of this thought, I told Susan that I probably needed to introduce small acts of vulnerability into my day so that I could become comfortable with it. You know, asking the kids to clean their own rooms (because their space is NOT a reflection of my abilities as a mother). And asking for help in the kitchen (because I am a strange breed where cooking can raise my anxiety levels). And, definitely telling people the truth when they ask me, “How are you?” (because they probably actually want to know. And if they don’t well, then, they are in for a treat).

But as I was contemplating this, I realized that I had also told Susan, earlier in that conversation, that I do things BIG because I am BIG. So, there I am making a public declaration of my weakness. Oddly, big acts are sometimes easier for me than the small ones. And that’s because I expect a certain amount of rejection when broadcasting “to the world.”  I actually celebrated when I got the first negative review of my book. That negative review meant, in my mind, that I was reaching broad audiences … not just people that agreed with me. That might seem counterintuitive, but it’s the truth. The BIGGER you are – the WIDER your reach – the higher the liklihood you’ll have haters. And I was prepared for that.

But exposing my vulnerabilities in small moments – well – that’s not quite as easy. I NEED my husband. I NEED my family. I NEED my friends. So, I don’t want any of them to dislike what I am or what I have to offer.

In typing that, though, I just realized something. By keeping my full self hidden … that self that needs help sometimes … I’m not fully present for the people that I need in my life. And that’s not fair to them. They deserve to know that they are needed and wanted and loved. So, I’m declaring an end to it. I will continue to be vulnerable on stage and in interviews and when I’m “out there for the world.” Because that’s important. Because that’s who I am.

But, I’m going to continue that good work at home too. In the small moments. Because being vulnerable will help me regain the strength I’ve stolen from myself all of these years.

Something I’ve learned in the short time that Susan has been my coach: these thoughts I have aren’t magically remedied by turning the light of day onto the dark recesses of my mind. Nope. There is no quick fix for feeling like I. Am. Enough. As. I Am.

But that’s ok.  Because it’s worth it to cultivate this feeling of ENOUGH every day. And some days will be harder than others. What’s important for me to remember is: I’m not walking this path alone. You are walking the same path – in your own way. We’re walking parallel to each other, but forgetting each other because we have blinders on.

When I catch my breath, I peek to the left. Then, I peek to the right. It’s confirmed: We’re all in this together. And even though your path is your own and my path is my own, we can reach across space and time and fear and hold hands when the going gets rough.

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As a mom, I hold my kids’ hands when I want to protect them (say, when we’re crossing the street), but also when I want to feel close to them. So, here’s my big moment of vulnerability today … as we walk these parallel paths:

Will you hold my hand?

 

Forgetting and Remembering

I’d almost forgotten. No. Actually, I did forget.

I forgot that this morning was my mammogram appointment. How did that fact disappear into the deep recesses of my mind? I was so anxious about it just a day or two ago. Selective memory block? Maybe. Getting comfortable with the idea? I doubt it. Immersed in the joy of celebrating my wedding anniversary the day before? That’s the most likely reason.

Basking in love and remembering a time before cancer. It seems like it should be so easy to forget.

When my husband reminded me this morning that I was supposed to go get my mammogram, I had to rush to get ready. I told myself, that it was kind of a blessing. A blessing that I’d forgotten (or shoved the memory aside, who knows) because I didn’t have time to get worked up and worried about whether or not they’d find cancer again, right?

Yeah. Nope. I found the time. The fear crept silently into the crevices of my moments.

IMG_7892I’m getting dressed and that oh-so-familiar pit in my stomach arises. But I put on my favorite shirt because … well … because it’s exactly how I feel.

I’m driving down the road and I momentarily forget where I’m going. I panic. Where is the building? Did I go the right way? How could I forget? I crest a small hill — the building looms on my left.  Oh yeah.  I turn here. It’s easy to forget when you don’t want to remember.

When I pull up to the building *my* parking spot is open. I park in the same spot whenever I go to see this radiologist.  EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.  The parking lot is full of cars. How in the hell is this spot always open?

I walk in the building and sign in. I don’t look anyone in the face. Sitting in the waiting room is weird. I pull out my phone to distract myself and am immediately reminded that this place is familiar because it automatically picks up the wi-fi signal. My phone remembers. It didn’t forget.

Now I remember how sad I was last year when the front desk staff told me I didn’t have to worry because of how young I am. I remember the look on her face when I said, “oh! I’ve already had cancer.” She hid her discomfort by telling me my hair cut was nice. I figured I’d already scarred her enough that I didn’t need to mention it’s a result of chemo.

I’m called back. The perky assistant hands me a pink bag along with my gown, “You can take this home.”  I look at her earnestly and say, “I don’t want this.” She is surprised.  “Okkaaaayyyy.”  I know she’s wondering why someone would turn away free stuff. I’ve had it with pink. Had it.

I get called back to the exam room. Time to get squeezed. But no. You’ve got to talk first. Of course. The tech questions me, “you’ve had a right mastectomy?” It’s like the air is sucked out of the room. She asks the date. Can’t that already be on my chart? It happened in 2013! I look down at the papers I know she has a copy of in front of her. In   B O L D letters:

S/P Mastectomy, right [V45.71] – primary

Malignant neoplasm of central portion of female breast, right [174.1]

Disorder of lymphatic a [289.9]

I think: CAN SHE READ?! Why do I have to list the dates every time I go near a doctors office?!

It’s time. I stand up and let my robe open. The tech stares at my breast. “Oh,” she says, “I need to mark the scars from your reduction.”

As she’s sticking stickers all over me she says, “People have no idea, do they?”

“About what?” I reply.

“They really have no idea all that goes on with the reconstructions, do they? About how hard it is.”

I blink a bunch of times to stifle the tears. “Yeah.” I say.

She is so much better than the woman last year.  Last year the tech sucked at mammography. She kept forgetting to put the plastic torture things in the right place so she would squeeze me – apologize – and then have to re-do. WTF. This year she only has to do it the required two times. It hurts, but I smile at her because it’s what you’re supposed to do.

Waiting. Again. Still in my gown, I wait for the radiologist to check out my results. Other people’s names are called. Every time it’s not my name I freak out a little. Did they find something? Everyone else looks so calm. 70% of them are geriatric – or at least 10 years older than me. My breast is sore. I have come to loathe sore breasts. Wait – can I even call my right side a breast any more? They removed the breast tissue…so…

“Ms. McROBEY” – I hate it when they mispronounce my name.  It’s McRobbie … Would you call a man named Rob ROBE-Y or Robbie?  lt’s Robbie, not ROBE-Y like the damn gown I’m wearing.

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She hands me a sheet: “Hear ya go. All clear.”

I actually pump my fist in the air. She smiles. I change. I walk out of that dreaded place.

I’m looking forward to forgetting all about it again. But I know, deep down, that I will always remember.

Forget. Remember.

Forget. Remember.

Endings and Beginnings

Oh boy. It’s been awhile. I’d like to say that I took a break from writing for some thrilling reason. Some unbelievable tale of courage and adventure. But really, it was just because I was tired and needed a rest.

This hiatus, though, reminded me how much I’m fueled by writing and sharing my stories with the world.  I’m excited for the kids to return to school next week because it’s just easier to write when I’m not constantly interrupted by “mom, I’m hungry,” “mom, let’s go to the pool,” “mom, she’s TOUCHING me.”

Anyhoo, here’s the thing about me taking such a prolonged break from writing….I’m so ready to be BACK AT IT. While on break I’ve made all sorts of really great decisions for myself and my family and my business. I’ve gathered up stories to tell. I’ve taken lots of photos that I can attach to blog posts (being married to an intellectual property attorney makes one a little jumpy about violating copyright laws). So, with any luck, I’ll be back in your inboxes and newsfeeds more regularly.

Now – onto the important stuff …. the story I want to share.  I started writing this at the beginning of the summer, which you can tell from the first paragraph.  I thought about editing it … then I realized I could just be honest with you and let you know I started it THEN and I’m finishing in NOW.  Because, in all honesty, this needs to end … now.

So, tell me what you think in the comments.  It’s time to begin a new chapter.  Rebirth and all that jazz.

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IMG_5512You can tell it’s summer.  It’s hot.
The pools are open.  The
squeals of children every where are too loud to ignore.

But that’s not how I know it’s summer.

I know because EVERY WHERE I look we’re talking about body image.  There are blogs on it.  Books on it.  Tweets on it.  Random Facebook posts on it.  Everywhere you turn you’re inundated with the “Get the Summer Body You’ve Always Wanted” message.  Just as prominently featured is the “It’s Ok To Love Your Body Like It Is” message.  I don’t disagree – but I do take issue.  So, let me set the record straight before you think I’m some kind of body shaming life coach.

I think everyone should love themselves as they are.  I think everyone is beautiful, regardless what the scale, their mother, their cousin, or their “best” friend has said about them.  And I wish we lived in a world where each individual person recognized their own unique beauty.

But we don’t.  Is it evil mysogyny that caused this?  Is it societal pressures?  Is it the porn industry?  Is it our own weak constitutions??

Frankly, it’s doesn’t matter WHY we don’t live in that perfect world.

What matters, at least to me, is that this is the world we live in … so let’s live in it.  Steep yourself in it.  At the end of the day – when you remove all the blame and the worry and the accusing and the anger – who is really responsible for how you feel about your body?

Yeah.  You.  You’re responsible.

Ouch.

So, I’m going to pass along an amazing piece of wisdom that my husband passed along to me back in 2008 (or was it 2009 … irrelevant) when I was obsessively caught up in being unhappy about my weight:

“I love you no matter what you look like.  But you’re clearly not happy.  So, either start loving yourself as you are, or do something to change it.

How’s that for a truth bomb?

As for me — I set about changing my weight.  That might be the road for you.  You might need to set about loving yourself as you are.  The thing is — neither of those decisions is the wrong one.  The real problem is that when we’re inundated with media on one side or the other, we’re often left feeling bad about the choice we make.  Don’t.  Don’t feel bad about the choices you make.  But, if you make a choice and it makes you feel bad … well, then, change your choice!

I know it’s easier said than done. It’s frightening to realize JUST how “in the driver’s seat” we are.  But you can do this.  You can start small.  Or you can go big.  Just start in some way.  Rarely are the decisions we make on a daily basis life or death. So if you make a “wrong” decision?  So what.  Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and then choose again.  Remember those Choose Your Own Adventure books in the 70s/80s?  Well, your life is YOUR adventure … and you get to choose.

As soon as you start choosing, you’ll realize that this advice can work on ALL things in your life … not just your body image woes.  Don’t like your job?  Either start loving what you can about it or do something to change it.  Don’t love your relationship?  Either start learning to love what’s great about it or do something to change it.

Does that feeling empowering?  Good.

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Now go on … go about loving yourself as you are (with the attendant responsibility to eat a big cone of ice cream) or work on changing it.

If you get scared, I’ll be waiting right here, ready to help.

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Waiting Isn’t Wasted

I just got off the phone with an *old* (not in age, but we’ve known each other awhile) friend. We haven’t talked in ages, but she called on me out of desperation because she was just diagnosed with breast cancer.

I both love and hate being the go-to person for my friends and acquaintances who are diagnosed. I love that they feel they can trust me. I love that they know there is someone out there who WILL support them. I hate that people are being diagnosed with cancer. I hate that I know so much about cancer to be that person in the first place.

The conversation we had reminded me of something – well, a lot of somethings. But as we were talking, I recalled something specific about the suckiest part of cancer: THE WAITING.

Notice something weird.  Just.  Wait.

Make a doctor’s appointment.  Wait.

See the doctor.  Wait.

Tests.  Wait.

Make an appointment for results. Wait.

Decide on treatment.  Wait.

Treatment.  Wait.

Will you have side effects or symptoms?  Wait.

Will I recover? Wait.

Will the cancer respond or come back?  Big.  Long.  Wait.

All the time spent waiting can be AGONIZING. Waiting was horrible. And when I was waiting, it’s not like the world just stopped and waited along with me. There were things that needed to be done. Things that should have filled my time.  Simple things like grocery shopping and doing laundry. Complicated things like getting blood work and preparing the kids for mommy being laid out again.

Simple or complicated — it didn’t really matter. Each time I found that I had trouble doing any of it.

The waiting left me paralyzed. If you talk to anyone that’s had a major crisis like cancer they’ll tell you the same thing: the waiting is Terrible.  With a capital T.

Part way through my experience, though, Craig and I learned something about waiting that we still talk about to this day. The lesson began, for us, in church. One of our pastors had prepared a whole sermon about waiting in the bible. I’m not well versed enough to tell which parts of the bible were relied upon. My chemo/turned-40/mommy/person brain prohibits me from remembering any specific examples. But I can tell you that Craig and I both walked away with this key idea:

Waiting Isn’t Wasted Time.

Despite my inability to remember details, this is now part of the advice I give to everyone that will listen, but especially to those facing down a crisis.  Now I’m going to do my best to explain it.

Here’s the thing: we’re programmed to believe that the times we’re waiting are wastelands. That waiting time is NOT the time to be “doing.” And even worst, we feel as if not “doing” means that we’re stuck. We believe that we should loathe that time when things aren’t “happening” for us or to us.

Interestingly enough, waiting is not a time of inaction, though. It’s just not action like we’ve come to worship.

Life can’t be all about GO! GO! GO! If all we do is go and move and do, then we never get a chance to sit back and appreciate all we’re working for. Waiting is an important part of any process (crisis or not). It’s the time we integrate all the happening that’s been happening around us. It’s the time we prepare for what is coming next. It’s the time that we gather our strength or replenish our reserves. In other words

Waiting is CRUCIAL.

This is especially true when you’re facing down something like a cancer diagnosis. The waiting can be agonizing when you know something is wrong with you but you don’t have confirmation. But, if you can step back, just for a second, and remember that the waiting is a time that everyone is gathering their time, energy, resources and knowledge to best serve you and your situation — it becomes a little less agonizing.

This knowledge helps me defeat the paralysis of waiting. It galvanizes me to do those tasks, both simple and complicated, that move me along to the next time of action. Waiting becomes less about sitting around in fear and more about moving slowly toward a goal that’s not quite clear — a haze on the horizon. Just because you don’t know where you’re headed doesn’t mean you can’t keep moving forward. Slowly. Deliberately. Waiting for signs. Waiting for clues. Waiting for cues. Gathering. Waiting. Anticipating. Waiting. Until eventually you’re not waiting any more.

Waiting still sucks. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not ever going to love waiting. But I appreciate it now. I appreciate what it means. I appreciate what it brings.

Waiting isn’t wasted time. Flip your perspective on waiting; embrace that time instead of dreading it. Don’t let waiting be your wasteland. Turn it into your wilderness.

The Pursuit of Happiness

I’ve got a question for you. One that’s been burning a hole through my heart. Here it is:

Do you know how to be happy?

Before you brush off the question, spend a quiet moment and think about it. Do you really know what it takes to be happy right now … in this exact moment? Are you happy right now … in this exact moment?

It’s easy to come up with a list of things that leave us feeling happy. Kitten videos on YouTube. A child’s laughter. Your lover’s smile. Your favorite meal. All of those things might contribute to happiness. But the only true thing that can MAKE us happy is a personal decision to pursue happiness.

I think we forget that happy takes work. It takes a conscious decision to turn away from whatever is making us *not* happy. It’s so easy to get caught up in stress and work and relationships that we forget that we are the masters of our own emotions. We get caught up in the idea that we’re victims to the circumstances around us and that we have no control over the world around us.

The ONLY thing we actually have control over is how we feel about what’s happening to us, around us, near us.

As much as I believe that it’s important to know how to be happy, I also believe that we can’t be happy all the time. That’s just not realistic. When we face a trauma or a loss or just a crappy day, we don’t need to be happy about it. But, if we know how to pursue happy, then this emotional dip can just be a blip in an otherwise happy life.

The tough thing about knowing how to be happy is that it looks different for everyone. And sometimes the pursuit of happy can seem so futile. We just start to get up and we get knocked back down.

Something that cancer has taught me: it’s in the act of getting back up over and over and over that you embody how to be happy. Because, in all honesty, it’s just the pursuit of happiness that we’re entitled to under the Declaration of Independence. We’re not entitled to happiness itself.

I don’t know about you, but something funny happens when I pursue happiness: it almost always lets me catch it. Even if you feel like your happiness is fleeting, isn’t it worth celebrating that you caught your happy? You now know which path to take to find your happiness again.

So, start taking steps today. Pursue your happiness. Be aware that the path to happiness is curvy and long and might have some major hills on it. Keep your head down. Keep moving forward. Because there isn’t anywhere else to go, other than forward.