This is an excerpt taken from my upcoming nonfiction book. Enjoy!
A year ago to this day, New Year's Eve 2015, I sat down and uncontrollably sobbed. Not for any immediate loss or worry, but for what was to come. What would that be? I did not know.
As I sat alone with my thoughts my intuition was telling me that 2016 was going to be a very sad year. As the tears streamed down my face the feelings grew stronger. The only thought I had was that I didn’t want 2016 to happen. With my brother having terminal lung cancer, I figured it was going to be a sad year because maybe we would be saying goodbye to him. I remember rationalizing in my head that maybe that was why I was so emotional.
Fast forward to today, one year later, and I have tears once again. Not because I don’t want 2017 to happen because damn, it can’t come fast enough. It is from what has transpired over this year. Little did I know just how sad this year would be. My brother is still here and I am thankful for that. But I had no idea that my mom would be gone and that my daughter would be diagnosed with Non Hodgkins Lymphoma.
With much soul searching this year I know all of this has happened for a reason. There are many, many lessons to be learned here. We are to do good things with these lessons. And as I have always said, you need to look for the silver lining in everything. If something is not going your way in life you need to remember that there is a reason for what is happening.
This year isn’t entirely lost. There were many good things that happened. My oldest daughter, Katie, graduated with honors in April from U of M Ann Arbor. We are so very proud of her and all that she has accomplished! My daughter, Emily, finished out her semester on the Dean’s list for 7 consecutive semesters in a roll at MSU. That would be since day one as a Freshman! She would have had a 4.0 this semester but missed it by one point. Considering all she’s been through, I can proudly say she is truly amazing! My husband and I traveled and attended a handful of concerts and hung out with our wonderful friends.
To bring this year to a close it could not have ended better than to see my daughter’s pet scan clear and to hear the doctor say that she is doing better than expected and that her results were more than he had anticipated. She is in remission!!!!
We are ending this year with a beautiful gift from God. Thanks be to God.
I want to thank my daughter for currently bringing to my attention that I am sensitive. It’s not a bad thing. It has actually helped me to understand myself better. So thank you Emily for bringing this up to me in a fun way.
Pretty much all my life I’ve been told I am too sensitive or too emotional. I have often wondered why I have been labeled this way. I mean all I do is wake up and go about my day. I have never thought to myself that a certain action meant that I am sensitive. I am comfortable in my skin yet this negative feeling I get when labeled "sensitive" somewhat bothered me.
So I set out to research what qualities sensitive people have and I found out the following: Sensitive people are both introverts and extroverts. They are more considerate and polite. They feel more deeply and process things on a deeper level. Sensitive people are very intuitive and go deep within to figure things out. They don’t like scary movies because they can feel the depth of what’s on the screen even though it’s not real. They have tremendous empathy. They tend to want to work out alone or at the gym when it’s not crowded. They need mental breaks and feel completely comfortable being alone. They are perfectionists. They have a hard time making decisions. Add that to the stimuli with the sights and sounds that they take in of their surroundings, good and bad, sensitive people get overwhelmed very quickly. After reviewing these qualities I realized I have many of them.
I have found over the last couple months just how sensitive I am. Maybe it’s because I’ve been able to step aside from some of my responsibilities to take care of my daughter, which has helped me to slow down and take notice. I have found that I’m very observant and that I embrace situations and scenes and pull them in where I can feel them. When I meet people I can sense their happiness or sadness, even when no words are spoken. Lately I have found myself smiling at complete strangers while I observe their actions or a good deed they may be doing. They don’t see me smile, it’s just an automatic response for me.
Spending time in a hospital, especially on a floor where you see so many people fighting for their lives, has given me more reason to embrace my sensitivity. The people here are just like you and I with the exception that their lives have been put on hold. Interestingly I find it so difficult to open up to the family members here. That has bothered me because my desire to talk to them is shadowed by my overthinking on what to say and I consider the fact that maybe they don’t want to talk. Overthinking and worrying about saying the right thing is one of the not so good qualities of being sensitive. But I really don’t have to speak any words, I can send a caregiver a passing smile because I understand their journey. And sometimes that could be all they need.
Being sensitive is not a bad thing. Being sensitive is where I feel comfortable. I am glad to finally understand why I do the things I do. Embrace who you are. We are all individuals with our very own qualities and traits. If there is something you don’t like, you can change it. But understand it first before deciding.
I always knew what day it was when I woke up in the morning. The minute I opened my eyes I would run through my head what I had planned for the day. Then I would go make something warm to sip on while I read a chapter or two or pounded out a couple pages for my book.
It’s been a long couple months of sleepless nights, groggy mornings and days that melded into one another. I have to confess though when I wake up now, I have to think about what day it is. Usually I do that by recalling what I did the day before and only then will I figure out what day it is. At least I can still remember things.
When thinking about taking things for granted, we may look at our friendships, our health, and maybe even the roof over our head. I know there are more than that, and that each person is different so I kept the list to just a few. I never knew the intensity of taking things for granted until my daughter’s life was turned upside down. I wanted to be there for her, to help her the best I could. This meant being by her side for the most part, and forgetting about my responsibilities. I would like to slip in here something I am grateful for and that is my husband for understanding that I needed to step aside and he let me do just that.
Things I would not have thought of when taking things for granted:
Planning anything. I’m talking about planning the next hour, or day.
That I would always care what I looked like heading out the door.
My desire to want to cook.
My speech and loss for words.
Losing things we take for granted doesn’t have to be the end. Wanting something bad enough gives you the motivation you need to get there. For me the first thing that I wanted back was how I looked when I walked out the front door. I took taking care of myself for granted. I never thought in a million years I would lose that mindset but I did. I would like to add, I didn’t realize I wasn’t taking care of myself. It was the constant reminders from my sister and my friends that it finally kicked in.
I am starting to plan my days and even weeks out. It feels good. In February this year I had started to plan out the entire year. Buying up tickets and making plans to go places in and around town. I am grateful for being able to do so many things and to enjoy it all. I wonder once the new year comes if I will make it another year of YES. I’m pretty confident that YES I will.
As sucky as this year has been, I have learned a lot and I embrace the many great memories I have had with family and friends.
Looking forward to kissing this year goodbye and welcoming 2017 with open arms.
When life unexpectedly throws you a curve ball, you begin to experience it in a whole new light. You slow down and become more aware of your surroundings and the people in it. You see the good and the bad and you try to make sense of it all. Over the last several years I have had a few 180’s in my life and each time I’ve learned a little more about myself and about everything that surrounds me.
I remember the first time I experienced this, some 8 years ago when my dad passed away. As I entered the grocery store around the corner I started to notice the people I passed. I saw an older gentleman by himself. It made me think of my dad. But then something changed in my mind and I started to wonder if he too had just lost a loved one or maybe his wife. He looked so lonely. I noticed an older women by herself struggling to get items off the shelf. Where are her children, or another adult that could be there to help her? Did she just lose her husband of 50 years? Possibly she didn’t have any children. How long ago did they lose their parents? With tears streaming down my face, I picked up what I needed and quickly left. Seeing these elderly people alone made me wonder how I could live that long without my dad. That day I realized that not only do I have a story but everyone that I pass on a daily basis does also. That day changed my life. I look at things and people in a much different light now. And for the most part it’s been a good change.
As I mentioned, slowing down allows you to see the good and bad. I want to share with you my most recent list of things that I am sensitive to or that I have become more aware of. This is my most current short list.
How blue the sky is on a sunny day.
How many prescription drug commercials there are on tv.
How slow the snow falls.
People complaining about small insignificant things.
Women complaining about how they hate their hair.
While driving this fall, I noticed how the fall leaves would tumble and swirl across the road in front of my car.
A mom or dad with their two young daughters out shopping. This is something I notice a lot.
Taking pause in your life does not have to happen when your world comes crashing down. You can make changes in your every day life to slow down, open your eyes, breathe and be in the moment. Try it. It really is such an amazing feeling.
Have an awesome weekend!
“...Freely you have received, freely give.”
(Matthew 10:8 NKJV)
I have been so blessed with so many kind and gentle people in my life that I can say that my cup is definitely overflowing.
At an early age, before my teens, I realized how great a feeling it was to give freely of myself. I would do things for people because I loved to see them smile and in return it fulfilled me. I continued this practice throughout my life and became creative in my gifts along the way. I would also have to add that I believe I got this trait from my parents as they were both giving in their own way.
And that's just it. There is no right or wrong way to give. It can be something as small as smiling at a stranger. Letting someone go ahead of you at the checkout line. Holding the door open for someone. You must do things with a kind heart and not expect anything in return. If you need to be rewarded, then you have it all wrong.
Having your life turned upside down, unfortunately and fortunately, shows you who in your life gives freely. And by that I mean, gives freely of their time. And that my friends is one of the gifts that you should definitely be giving freely. It doesn't have to be in person. It can be a quick text to say you are thinking of them. A card in the mail with encouraging words. A funny video, that you know will brighten their day. And if they don't return your call or text, don't stop checking in with them. Know that they are receiving what you are sending and it is making a difference in their life.
How much effort or time does it take to be kind? Not much at all. I truly believe that in being kind, your life will be blessed in so many ways and the kindness comes back to you 10 fold. This has been proven to me over and over again.
So I ask you, how can you spread kindness today? Have you done something special in the past to make someone's life a little better? I would love to hear in the comments below of your stories of kindess.
I know I'm not alone when I say that the holidays are a tough time for many. They may be for different reasons but I can be confident that most are dealing the loss of a family member. As we age, it is only natural for that number to grow.
Knowing that this holiday would be especially sad for me, I set out to prepare myself by facing my feelings head on and acknowledging them early. A few weeks back when I was in the gift shop at the hospital, I can't remember what I was looking for, but when "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" came on overhead I stopped dead in my tracks. People around me were talking, one person was angry about something...it seemed all my senses were heightened and I thought to myself "why is that person so angry about something so small". And then they were gone. I was left still not moving but listening to the words of the song I've heard a million times.
From now on, our troubles will be miles away
Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more
Through the years we all will be together
If the fates allow
So hang a shining star upon the highest bough
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now
My mind immediately went to past Christmases. Every year when we decorate our tree, Craig will hoist one of the girls up so they could place the angel tree topper on top of the tree. It's a big deal and the tree is not complete without this ritual. So when the words "hang a shining star upon the highest bough" rang through the shop, I couldn't hold back the tears anymore. I was caught up in how grateful I was to have my husband and daughters in my life. I thought about my dad who will have been gone 8 years on Thanksgiving day. I miss his comments and silly jokes. I miss conversations with him. Every holiday big or small, my mom would celebrate the day with my family. But this year her chair will be empty. Although we had our differences, I still loved her. And when my daughter was diagnosed with lymphoma, interestingly I missed being able to reach out to my mom. Even though we didn't see eye to eye sometimes, she was always very supportive when it came to things like this. I thought about my brother who isn't doing well and if he will be here for Christmas. And I couldn't help but feel the overwhelming sadness and the reason why I was even in a hospital gift shop to begin with.
Fast forward to yesterday. We decided to have Thanksgiving today because we couldn't all be together. I pushed through the day yesterday keeping busy. My husband and daughter made the plans. We would go to Frankenmuth to one of their breweries to watch the game and have a few beers. The food wasn't that great but the beer and conversations were. I love the little town of Frankenmuth. So many great memories with my kids. Although I was sad that we couldn't all be together yesterday, I realized that not dwelling on it made all the difference. It's okay to have a bad day. Just don't unpack and set up house. And by all means, reach out to a close friend when feeling down. I am grateful for all my wonderful friends. And it always seems like one of my friends will reach out to me in a text or message just when I need support the most. Thank you Marie, Gail and Reeta for knowing what to say to make me feel loved.
It is so important to acknowledge your feelings and give them the attention they need. I find that meditating or doing something with my hands like coloring, or even wiping down the kitchen counters helps tremendously with stress and feeling a sense of calm. If you don't acknowledge your feelings, then you are setting yourself up for extreme sadness and health issues. Yes, our mind and body are one. Treat them both with love and kindness and you will reap the rewards of a healthy body and mind. And speaking of kindness, please remember that there are people walking amongst us that may be battling their own problems, issues, or sadness. Don't judge. Don't get angry. You don't know what battle they are facing. When I find myself being inpatient with someone, I will smile at them and usually I will get a smile back. That my friends will do your mind, body and soul good.
I read a book a very long time ago titled The Four Agreements. I gained great wisdom from this book and it sits alongside many other great books I have read over the years. Little did I know after reading The Four Agreements, that one day these agreements would come back into my life over and over again. Agreements that rerouted my life and habits that I changed which have helped me through out my life so far. It even helped me with raising my daughters. One in particular agreement I taught them was "Always Do Your Best". Ironically I am going to talk about this agreement today.
When I first found out that Emily was diagnosed with NHL I went into this crazy fact finding, research guru. I researched everything from what the hell is this, to what needs to be done to get my daughter through this and back to living her life. I thought I was doing my best and what was best for her. And I was. To a degree.
I found my days were consumed with searching articles, recipes, and anything I could get my hands on. I had no idea what was going to happen, what I needed to do, and how best to attack this terrible disease and help Emily through it all. Even though I have learned a ton of valuable information, I literally became a person I didn't even know or want to be.
It didn't dawn on me until I was gently told that I over did things. I didn't know when to stop. At first I thought, no that's not me! I'm doing my best. But sometimes the truth hurts and it takes a few minutes or a day to let honest words sink in. I would have to agree that I do go over board with certain things. And I really go over board when it comes to my family and their health. You may be thinking I have every right to, and yes I do, again to a degree.
I took these words as a reminder that I can do my best and not over do it. If you are constantly trying to do your best and never feeling like you are achieving it, you are always going to feel like you aren't doing enough. This is where I was a couple weeks ago. You end up missing out on so many important other things in life. Like living. And in living, you are giving your best to yourself and to your loved ones. Also known as self-care.
A good example is taken from the book which I have adjusted to save time :) If you meditate 30 minutes a day it will take you less time to achieve your best than it will if you meditated 2 or more hours. Because you may feel if you meditate longer you will achieve your best. When in fact you are being taken away from living and enjoying your life when you over do it. More time does not equal your best.
I still will look up things if I think they are interesting. But I no longer dive deep into anything anymore. I realize that what I have researched is enough for me to do my best. If something is of interest to me I'll look it up. Other than that I know I am equipped with the best information to get us to where we want to be. And at the end of the day when I'm laying there ready to fall asleep, I can truly tell myself that I've done my best. Nothing more, nothing less.
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