Ramblings of a World Traveler,
Having returned from a holiday in England and a retreat in Italy slightly damaged (I fell twice), I have had some down time to reflect. I have been reading William Bridges book TRANSITIONS. For those of you who have followed me, you are aware that my husband died last March. Six months have passed and I am moving out of the paralyzing "time of fallow" into a time of inspired creativity. It is with great excitement and gratitude that I can see possibilities that were hidden from me before.
Bridges proposes that all new beginnings come from "endings". Obviously, the death of a spouse is an ending of a way of life. There is so much to do, to comprehend, to adjust, to recover, to rest, to come to grips with reality. The actual change in one's sense of self is overwhelming. The possibility of a new beginning is foreign. In fact, our brains have no room to contemplate such a thing.
So... what changed, you ask?
As a traveler, this was my first trip abroad since Ken's death. I was traveling without carrying him in my mind. I had been his caregiver for a decade or more. I was now free to savor my experiences in a way that was foreign, yet, delightful. I carried his ashes to England to one of his favorite places in the world. I experienced the love and care from old friends, who loved us both. I took my first fall in England.
Traveling to Italy the next week, my purse was stolen upon arrival. I was surprised by my reaction. Calmly, without panic, I moved into a state of lack of identity. No passport, money, credit cards, driver's license. Somehow, this seemed familiar.
With gratitude, many people were instrumental in their generosity to help me reestablish my identity. Our fabulous cook and host Roberta helped me complete the police report, get passport pictures, and train tickets to Florence. Nancy Bailey, a high school friend, worked diligently to help me prepare my application and assorted paperwork at her home that night. The next day on my way to the consulate, a group of "angels" (tourists and locals) arrived when I tripped on the cobblestones and needed stitches. Again, without identity, I moved into another foreign world. .... an Italian hospital. I found more "angels" there. Four stitches later and an excruciating headache, I returned to the world with a purple face and a huge compression bandage on my forehead. I certainly didn't look like me!
The next day, Nancy and I arrived at the consulate early in the day and by 10:30 a.m. I had my temporary passport in hand and boarded a train back to my retreat.
Since my return home, I have given serious thought to this whole experience. I see it as a mirror of the last 6 months of my life. The falls were instrumental in showing me how much I am valued by friends and strangers. The stolen purse reflects my lack of identity after Ken's death. With the help of many "angels" and my daughter, my identity was restored by the time I reached home. A new identity, new life, new opportunities and new perspective.
Yesterday was a bit magical. I drew the essence card of Celebrate. Hmmmm?
It was scheduled to be a relaxing day. I wasn't in the mood to celebrate, but my day had other plans. I decided to wear sparkling earrings to get me in the mood.
Attending my Artist Way class at 11 a.m., I was greeted by the usual hugs and welcoming greetings. The hugs seemed tighter and greetings more heart felt.
A painting I had commissioned was delivered and it was incredibly beautiful. We all celebrated my acquisition and the talent of the artist, who we all consider a personal friend. Then, we had a lively Skype chat with a classmate, who joins us from Italy. She had sent little remembrances to us from her visit to Morocco. We literally squealed with delight at our tiny colorful spoon. We tried to hang them from our noses, pretended they were Harry Potter wands, and high-fived each other by touching all the spoons together in the center of the table. Incredible joy filled the whole room. Later, I arranged for a framing of a picture from one of the artists in our group as a gift for a long time friend.
My second meeting of the day was my Dementia Caregiver Support Group. I hadn't been able to attend for some time, but just being able to suggest a plan of action for a new caregiver was a gift from me to her.
Reflect on the little gifts.... There's a Celebration going on!
Blog #2 Team Building
Cancer is like Football? Let’s see what a game looks like:
Coach = Oncologist
Football = Cancer
Quarterback = YOU
Team Players = Nurses, Lab Techs, Radiologists, Tumor Board, Surgeon, Pharmacists, and don’t forget the Receptionist!
Goal Post = Survival (with or without cancer)
Your job as the quarterback is getting the football through the goal post. To do that, you and all the members of your team need to be working TOGETHER towards the goal line.
Notice… You the quarterback are on this team. This is critical. You MUST be active in winning the game. No sitting on the sidelines. Drinking beer and eating popcorn. Obviously you are right in the middle of the game, but how are you participating. You’re not allowed to sit passively on the bench and watch while the rest of the team works for the win. You, too, must get involved actively to make the score.
Let’s look at your training. Have you been exercising lately? Have you been eating healthy…. Greens and veggies? Are you aware of your body’s needs and its complaints? Have you been actively seeing doctors and dentists for regular appointments? Do you question your doctor for more information? How’s all that been working for you?
If you are going to play this game and you haven’t been in training, now is the time. Playing the cancer game is rigorous, requires endurance, and takes commitment to win. The outcome is so much more positive when the players are prepared, willing to take on the challenge, and have a winning attitude. In fact, any coach needs players with all of the above qualities.
If you expect your team to help and support you on your game days, you have to be just as committed to your success as they are. You will need a positive attitude to take on the challenge. You will need to keep your body as strong as you can. Envision crossing the in to the End Zone and scoring a successful survival. TOUCHDOWN!!
Cancer changes you. Sometimes that change is physical; a surgery, a scar, a burn, an altered appearance, lack of hair. You may look different. Sometimes the change is in perception. As a Survivor, the world looks different, too. Suddenly, the colors and shapes of the natural world are clearer, more prevalent and astounding. I don’t think the world ever looked this amazing before I had cancer. I am in awe of clouds, stars, blooming and non-blooming plants. The colors of sunrises and sunsets stop me in my tracks and nearly bring me to my knees in Gratitude.
People are friendlier or I am. Gratitude makes me see the world through eyes that only wish the best for my fellow man. The guy in the wheelchair wearing a SEAHAWKS sweatshirt gets a “GO HAWKS!” from me. The elderly lady in WalMart holding the blouse to her chest gets a “That color looks great on you!” I wake up in the morning asking for the opportunity to make someone laugh or smile each day. When they do, I know my purpose is complete.