We all have the conversation about living a life with no regrets but how many of us actually put that into action? It’s a noble thought and for many the mighty force that puts us in motion is a diagnosis with a life-altering diagnosis. Postponement is not one of the tenets of most people’s lives. It’s not something we put on our resume as the highlight of our qualifications and yet most of us perfect this life strategy.
At a recent lecture by Dean Sobel, the curator of the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver, he spoke about the life Clyfford Still led including how is life ended. He was an Abstract Expressionist Painter hanging with some of the most well known artists like Jackson Pollock, Willem and Elaine de Kooning as examples. He had enormous success both in the art world and in his teaching of art to young impressionable artists.
Clyfford Still left the public eye and took his art with him in the mid-1960’s. He went and he secluded himself and painted the entire time. Mr. Sobel said that 94% of the work remains from his lifetime as an artist yet most of it was never seen. In 1979 Clyfford Still was given a huge honor and a huge solo exhibition. It had been about 16 years that he had not been part of the active art community and now comes the pinnacle of his recognition. Clyfford Still died the middle of 1980 from cancer.
If he knew that he was going to become ill would he have held up in his home all those years? If he knew that there would be one last hurrah would he have tried to create smaller opportunities? I don’t know the answer to that but I can ask you “what are you waiting for?” It’s cliche to ask “is there something you want to do before you die?” and that’s not even the question I want an answer to. I want to know what will get your to stop the postponement game and take an action today. It might be something simple, but if it means something to you that’s all that counts.
We have a tendency to think about life in terms of “If Only”. My hope for you is that you begin making a shift to a new question, the question is “What Next?” Let me know how you’re doing with this shift, I’d love to be able to support you in your journey.
I did something that I haven’t done in about 10 years…I went to synagogue on Saturday morning. Wish I could give you a reason or an epiphany or an invitation but no burning bush or flash of light. When I arrived it really did feel like coming home. There was a comfort and a familiarity that made me relax and off to the chapel for services.
The services were not only for the Sabbath but a young man was having his Bar Mitzvah. He had a theme based on a Mitzvah project or charity project that he needed to complete before becoming an adult in the faith. He chose to raise money for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Tennessee. The hospital provides free medical care to children with cancer. He raised approximately $2000, not an easy thing to accomplish. The theme for his speech was about the “Heroes” among us.
At the luncheon he spoke about each table being a tribute to a hero. Those he was honoring included: Lance Armstrong; Bono, Michael Jordan, Daniel Pearl and Danny Thomas just to name a few. What he spoke about and what his parents and the Rabbi commented on was the idea that a hero is someone who brings their best to the table without hesitation. It’s about those who have conviction in their beliefs and have an unwavering sense of self.
As we walk this world as pilgrims I hope these are things you will remember. When facing your illness feeling empowered to take steps that you believe will give your relief or aid in your healing is paramount to your well-being. Knowing what it takes to live each day to the fullest and still choosing to get out of bed in the morning makes you a hero. Recruiting a team of supporters who will be your cheerleader, coach, emotional and sometimes physical support makes you a leader.
I could spend the rest of the day writing about your heroic actions but in the end they have to be acknowledged by you. You’re the one who has to have the belief that you have a say about the direction of your care. You’re the one who has to tune into your body and allow your intuitive abilities to lead you back to the doctor when you’re not satisfied with the progress.
We all have heroes, those we look up to or want to emulate. If that’s what you need to acknowledge the hero within just look at people like Lance Armstrong with his cancer battle, Michael J. Fox and his voice for Parkinson’s Research, Montel Williams and his work to keep those with Multiple Sclerosis healthy and their bodies moving and don’t forget Mattie Stepanek who even with Muscular Dystrophy touched the world with his poetry and each time he made a public appearance people would rethink their own limitations and set the bar higher for themselves.
Identify those things you have in common with some of the “celebrities” I’ve mentioned. I guarantee that you will find those same qualities in you…now make the world aware of those superhero powers.
Being rational is something I work at in my daily practice. I am sometimes knocked off center when something hurts my heart and I immediately react as I did in my previous entry about the President and his recent veto. When I have some time to digest how I feel about what happened and the man who evoked such emotion from me I realize that the greatest thing I can do is to make a big internal shift.
When I allow myself to get in touch with the core issue, then I can make more soulful decisions about how to reply to the situation. Don’t get me wrong I still believe his decision was wrong but when it comes down to it I’m not really angry at him. Instead I’ve made a conscious shift and this shift is much more productive for my psyche.
The shift is from anger to sadness and pity. I have a deep sadness that someone is so self-consumed that they can’t see the bigger picture. It saddens me that in our great age of technology individuals feel they have the right or authority to tie the hands of those who have the talent, intelligence and will to devise new strategies in the sciences. I feel pity because the real measure of a person’s character is their ability to see beyond themselves.
We are all connected and not understanding or believing that evokes pity for the individual who is wrapped up in their little box. When I make the conscious shift to sadness and pity I am able to be clearer about my options. I am more eloquent in sharing my thoughts and feelings. Most of all when I shift from anger I am not burning energy by spinning my wheels. The shift gives me focus and direction to continue my pilgrim’s journey.
It’s not a secret that I am not a big fan of the current President’s administration. It’s not a surprise that working in the field of psychosocial healthcare for twenty years I have some pretty strong opinions about science, technology and the possibilities for eradicating disease. That’s why I was and still am gravely disappointed that the President isn’t able to see beyond the tip of his nose.
When the President vetoed this weeks bill for expanded funding for stem cell research I felt like he was and is playing God with people’s lives. Who gives him the right to decide who will live and who will die based on the limited funding for advances in treatment. If a member of his family was faced with a health crisis would he still stand by his decision?
Why is it that the President has the authority to overrule the hundreds of thousands of millions of people in this country who could benefit from the research outcomes that need funding? Are we so weak that we can’t raise our voices and have a louder voice than one man? Are we really willing to roll over and literally play dead?
I hope that we hold him accountable for the sentences he’s imposed on those with life-altering illness that would benefit from the research dollars. I hope that he is burdened with denying Americans the chance at hope of new treatments to save lives.
When you’re diagnosed with a life-altering health challenge the first things they should warn you about is not the treatment and side effects, but the amount of time you’ll be sitting in waiting rooms. Hopefully your medical provider has streamlined their operation so that things become fairly systematic.
However, there is more than one waiting room. There’s the physical waiting room in the doctor’s office or hospital and then there’s the emotional and spiritual waiting room that keeps us boxed in. This waiting room is filled with anticipation and anxiety because it’s filled with the unknown. It’s a place where time drags on and the longer that happens the more out of control we often feel.
What will it take for you as a pilgrim to escape the waiting room? How will you level of confidence in your decision making process need to rise before you get out of the waiting room. How much will you need to turn up the volume on your voice so that you’re best interest is served before you get to leave the waiting room.
The waiting room breeds indecision and uncertainty. If you’re on a pilgrimage toward health then you can’t just be sitting in the car, you have to be driving the car. Leaving the waiting room is about eliminating hesitance and setting good boundaries. It’s about personal responsibility both in belief and actions for how you will partner with your providers on this journey.
Remember there are only a few magazines to distract you in the waiting room so think about writing your own reading material and put it into action!
I used to be the type of person that unless I was so sick that I couldn’t get out of bed I would go to work. I felt if I were miserable why stay home when I could be more infectious with my misery than with the bacteria I was playing host to. Looking back I don’t believe that I was in my right mind because any person of reasonable intelligence would usually stay fifty paces away from me so I was still without company.
Actually the truth is I thought I was being brave. I know that sounds peculiar but I figured that I could tough it out and be an example for those working with me or for me. I must confess that was the biggest mistake I could have made. I wish I could go back and tattoo on my forhead “Take Care of Yourself ” by doing that you’re also taking care of us. I guess what I’m saying is that with any illness you’ll have good days and not-so-good days. Cherish the good days and be kind to yourself on the not-so-good days.
You don’t win any awards for pushing yourself beyond your limits. It may work in the Tour-De-France, but when it comes to your health gentle kindness is the best medicine you can prescribe for yourself (unless you’re a doctor than you prescribe whatever you want).
It’s clear that misery doesn’t love company, or rather, company doesn’t love misery. You’ll have more people backing you when you take care of yourself so you can have more good days and it will leave your company in a better position to support you in the not-so-good days if you don’t exhaust them by mistreating yourself.
I was listening, inadvertently, to two women talking. One was receiving treatment for cancer and the other was the spouse of someone receiving treatment. They were engaged in a lively discussion…I thought that was encouraging.
Both women were older, but the older of the two made a bold statement. She said that her father instilled in them that you always need to have a positive outlook otherwise how can you attract good. Her father was ahead of his time given all the recent talk about the “law of attraction”. The other women seemed discouraged and didn’t have that belief system…she seemed to be getting by.
Ever wonder what messages are part of your family legacy? I don’t think we often consider our “values lineage” or “tribal beliefs”. It’s not until we face a huge challenge that we revert to these primal familial strongholds. Being able to identify them and utilize these beliefs like the women whose father encourage thinking positive may not have been a daily practice, but I believe it is now.
My hope for the other woman is that a seed is planted about the power of having faith and looking for hope around every corner. These are the times that I believe is serendipity. Were these two women destined to meet so that one could impart wisdom to the other? Did the discouraged woman in her heart make a universal call for hope? We’ll never know but these two women created a sacred space to discuss some of life’s big challenges and I was a witness to the process.
I talk to a lot of people and the one thing that everyone has in common is that they all know someone that has a health issue. Obviously there is a continuum, but we are able to adjust our sympathy and empathy so that it matches both the person in our life’s energy and the situation at hand.
It just so happens that I was watching “Sex and the City”, the TBS cleaned up version, and it was the episode where Samantha is facing her breast cancer but her friend Carrie is in denial about what could be the death of her friend. Toward the end of the episode once Carrie has denial-ed herself to the max she has lunch with Samantha and finally Samantha grabs Carrie’s hand and asks “Please let me talk about what I’m afraid of”. It was a straight forward request and one that brought everyone to a halt and made me think about the big question fo many…”Who can handle your pain?”
When facing a life-altering health diagnosis finding people who aren’t fearful of you or the illness is crucial to you having a voice. Your voice is your reality and hopefully others want to be a part of that reality. It’s the only reality we have.
There are people out there who you may not know yet who can hold the pain. Some may be professionals like those in health-care who lend support, education and hope. Others are volunteers who are able to make that heart connection and aren’t fearful of emotion. Find those that will share your reality to move you closer to your personal goals and definition of living with quality in your life.
There are plenty of opportunities for the media to give us their opinion on where they believe the public should focus their attention. If that’s the case then I’m worried because I picked up the newest issue of Newsweek magazine and I am starting to see a theme. Over the course of the past eight weeks they have had three cover stories that have a theme…”How I live with Cancer”, “The New War on Pain”, and “Caregiving and Alzheimer’s”.
Illness and the fallout from illness seems to be on the mind’s of Newsweek’s editors. Is that their perception of the world or are these the true concerns we should be focusing on in our lives. Is health and quality of life the primary place our energy and dollars should be focused on so we get results.
When I see this type of trend I am called to speak. As pilgrims it’s our duty to share our concerns with decision makers, like the politicians, who really are under our employ. If Newsweek is simply reflecting the feedback from the community why can’t policy makers see and hear the same feedback. As someone who supports individuals and families with life-altering health issues I see it all the time and yet there are times I feel like I walk the journey alone.
It is my hope that the trends will change, but that’s not likely any time soon. That being the case, I hope you take notice of the trends related to health that show up in your mailbox, on your television and radion, in everyday conversation with family and friends and then decide the path you’ll walk.
Following the media is not necessarily the best thing for your health. Having worked in the psychoneuroimmunology field for twenty years I’m well aware of the mind-body-spirit connection and am fascinated at the power the mind plays in health. What I don’t understand is when people try and play “can you top this ” with their health.
How did our health become so politicized? I mean I understand the importance of funding for research, but to does that mean that we have to create an illness hierarchy? Do we wind up creating a system like in poker where a particular illness trumps another illness?
I listened to an interview with Michael Moore, the controversial filmmaker, about his new film “Sicko”. He was showing how those who served after 9/11 and are now suffering from lung ailments are not receiving as good care as the prisoners we have in Guantanamo Bay. I don’t understand how that could happen, but it’s true.
As pilgrims our voices have to be heard. We walk a journey together and it’s important that those in decision making positions understand and hear our voices loudly so that nonprofits providing care for uninsured women with breast cancer can become a thing of the past.
No one should feel that their illness isn’t “bad enough”. Compassion for those facing life-altering diagnoses will serve as a healthy dose of immune booster, it’s better than taking a spoon full of sugar to help the medicine go down.