Step Forward in 2019

Over the past year since I’ve been on Twitter, I’ve often used the hashtag #stepforwardfromcancer. That phrase came to me when I was planning a group for breast cancer survivors. I was using my Life Coaching knowledge to help those participants move toward a better place in their lives. When I remembered back to my treatment, I thought of how the meaning of ‘stepping forward’ was relative to where I was in the process. (You could substitute another illness, #stepforwardfrom_____ if it stopped you in your tracks and changed your life).

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path up Mt Constitution overlooking Puget Sound, Washington State

In the early days when decisions needed to be made about my cancer treatment, a step forward could be making a choice that gave me more control: whether to take an aggressive approach, what location I’d go to for my infusions, what time each day to have my radiation appointment. When I was further along and feeling the impact of treatment, stepping forward could be pushing myself a little harder to get out of bed and walk outside. Sometimes it was choosing to participate in activities in spite of my nausea, taking my aide of a ‘nausea cocktail’ of cranberry juice and Diet Sprite on crushed ice. And once I was done with treatment, stepping forward was about moving toward the things that I’d put on hold, trying to let go of the fear of the cancer returning in order to enjoy life.

Sometimes with my hashtag I’ll go further and add #stepforwardfromcancer or whatever holds you back. While a physical illness is an obvious block to moving forward in the way we’d planned, sometimes the things that hold us back are not visible. For me one of those things is feeling inadequate, doubting myself. I’ve experienced this in various areas of my life, but the one that comes to mind that I’ve learned most about over the years is having the confidence to take solo journeys.

Taking solo journeys started by accident when I had that serendipitous trip to Sedona, Arizona in spring of 2001—right after I finished my 8 months of cancer treatment. I had the chance to travel for a few days between 2 business trips out West—but I had to do that alone. At first, I thought, “How can I go by myself to an unfamiliar place so far away?” That seemed like something other women might have the confidence to do, but not me. Taking those first awkward steps was rewarded by discovering the freedom of time alone without the distractions of fellow travelers. For me, it was a time of spiritual renewal in the presence of God, and eventually, after years of journeys, helped me to discover more of myself.

Each year when I approached planning that journey, I dealt with some level of doubt: Why are you going to that destination instead of another? How are you going to fit in with that group of people? Will you have the physical ability to carry out your plan?

What I’ve found is that those voices of doubt sound pretty familiar over time. They pick on the same vulnerable spots where they know they’ll get a reaction out of me, those areas of pride that will quickly defend themselves when they’re accused. By taking risks and not letting that thing hold you back, whatever it is for you, the more times you do it anyway, the more routine, the less of a hold it has on you.

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At the top of Mt Constitution, Washington State

So now, as we’re into the first week of 2019, I hope that you can start this new year by stepping forward from whatever has had a grip on you, whether it’s a physical illness or an emotional thorn in your side that keeps you from living the life you desire. Each small step leads to another to make the journey down your path the best it can be.

 Blessings to You!

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What about You?

Are there physical or emotional things that you need to #stepforwardfrom in 2019?

What first step will you take? Are there supports that would help you?

Related Post

Sedona: A Serendipitous Journey

 

 

 

 

Manna

I thanked my friend for the “Thinking of You” card she’d sent, the one in my mailbox on top of the stack of bills.  “Oh, that ole thing?  I’m sorry it wasn’t a better one but it was what I had.”  I knew why she’d said that; the card was a bit faded and the fold was partially torn, like the paper had become brittle over time, reminding me of one of the cards stored in my Grandma’s drawer for future use.  But my friend didn’t know that it was more than a card to me.  It was manna.

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I’d received it the day before my chemo.  When I was rushing out of the house to get to my appointment, I put the card in the book that I’d read to help me through the three-hour infusion.  I read for a while, then took out the card and studied the design and reread her handwritten note.  Over my eight months of treatment, I would do the same thing with cards from others.  Afterwards, I stored them in a satchel.  If I ever doubted that others’ cared about me, I’d take the satchel down from my closet shelf and marvel at the numbers of colorful cards with thoughtful notes of encouragement.  Those cards had nourished me through my ‘wilderness journey.’

One night in December, before I was diagnosed with breast cancer the following June, I was up in the early morning hours, having a hard time sleeping.  I was at my mother’s and got out of bed to sit in her family room.  Next to the recliner, there was a bookshelf with Mama’s Bible.  I thumbed through it with no particular scripture in mind and stopped at Exodus Chapter 16.  I read the story of the traveling Israelites receiving “bread from heaven” in the form of manna—a white substance, like coriander seed, that covered the ground like frost in the early morning, providing just enough for one day’s sustenance.  With Christmas approaching, it would have felt more appropriate to be reading about the journey of Mary and Joseph.  It’s odd to land on this chapter, I thought.  But later that year when I was going through cancer, that sleepless night when I’d read about manna came back to me.

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I remembered my takeaway from that chapter –that God supplied their needs, one day at a time.  When I went through treatment, there were so many times that I felt that same provision.  Not only from cards but meals, presents, and phone calls at just the right moment.  Like manna, it was an efficient economy of just what I needed for that moment on that day.  Like the Israelites, I couldn’t look to the next day, but instead needed to just rely on God for that “daily bread.”

Now, I know the importance of just an ‘ole card.’  I’ve made a point of telling my sons, who’ve grown up in the age of emails and text messages, that sometimes you need tangible evidence of someone’s care, something you can hold in your hands.  It really takes so little time and effort to be the manna for someone.  And if it’s time you’re worried about, you can always buy those cards in bulk and store them away.

Because when it all comes down to it, it’s the thought that counts.

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How about You?

When have you received manna in your life?

In what ways have you provided manna for others?

The Things People Say

I can remember the scene like it was yesterday.  The three of us sharing the office at The Research Company.  Tara had seen a former co-worker who’d just started cancer treatment.  She said to Beth, the other woman in our office, “I can’t believe she’s worried about her weight.  She’s just lucky to be alive.”  Beth nodded in agreement and I felt the sting of that comment.  Don’t they see me, I thought, feeling the words puncture my heart.

Later, I wished I’d spoken up, even shouted, “It’s not just about being alive.  She wants to really live.”  Of course the woman was grateful to be alive.  But she also wanted to live her life fully, like cancer hadn’t changed anything.  Did Tara and Beth forget that I’d just been through eight months of treatment?  Hadn’t they seen me live through the embarrassment of losing my hair and gaining weight on the steroids?  How could they be so insensitive?

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Now I see the image of the birds, the two on the right, looking out, ignoring the white-faced bird.  Maybe this is like people; flying in for a moment, chirping, then flying away, never looking beside them to see the other birds on the wire.  I’ve heard fellow cancer survivors, people with disabilities, recipients of racial slurs– to name a few, have the same reaction to thoughtless words, insensitive comments that made them feel invisible.

I wasn’t totally surprised at the women at The Research Company.  I’d seen that same insensitivity in other situations.  But I was surprised months before that with a comment by a woman I’d previously worked with in the school system.  I visited her when I was going through chemo.  Another woman whom I’d worked with joined us.  I told them about my treatment, and they saw me for the first time in my wig.

“Well what do you do when you and your husband have sex?” the first woman asked.  “Put a bag over your head?”

I was shocked at what she thought was humorous, listening to her chuckle, and trying to come up with a response.  Later, when I had my wits about me, I felt like saying, “He’s never been that unkind.”

How could she make such a heartless comment?  I knew from those years of working with her that she wasn’t like that.  Did she, like others, say stupid things when they were trying to just say something to break the silence when they were uncomfortable?

Insensitive comments are the ones we remember.  These two have stayed with me for seventeen years.  But if I’m honest, sometimes I’ve been guilty of the same thing.  I get caught up in trying to make my point, or be humorous, or in some way impress others and I don’t think before I speak.

I’ve chirped off words without looking beside me to see the others on the wire.

One day, when I was working in my yard with my brother-in-law, we talked about how to forgive others when they’ve said or done things that were hurtful.

“We forgive because we need to be forgiven, too.  We all have feet of clay,” he said, the counsel that had been offered to him now multiplied to me.  The image of clay feet, of my own humanness, stayed with me.

The challenge is to slow down and notice those in my presence, to imagine how life is for that person.  When I listen to how they are experiencing life, without putting my own value judgments on what they’re saying, then I really see them.  Out of that, I can respond in a manner that supports instead of hurts, saying things that will bring blessing instead of curse.

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Walking with fellow Breast Cancer Survivor and Friend, Mary

What about you?
Have you carried hurtful responses that you either received or directed at someone?
How can you forgive yourself or the other person?
How can you be gentle with yourself, knowing that you have feet of clay?