Tag Archives: cancer

The Calm During The Storm

The last few days have been strange. I went on a date that ended horribly. A man from my hometown was assaulted and later died. I visited a woman I know in hospital who was badly injured in an accident. And a client of mine passed away. She was a really lovely 36-year-old woman who is leaving behind a loving family, including three small girls.

What I’ve realised over these past few days is how much I’ve changed, how different my reactions are, and how grateful I am.

On Saturday night, I thought enough of myself to leave the date. I didn’t take it personally. And on the dark, wet drive home, I comforted myself with my favourite songs. It was good to find out what this man was like after only two dates and I was glad to get home safe.

Last night, after meditating, I stretched pleasurably and felt grateful to be able to move, unlike my friend in hospital.

And this evening, after attending my client’s funeral, I participate in a Mega Mix fitness class. The music is loud and fast and the instructor is fit in every sense of the word. We jump and squat and plank and it’s all a bit manic.

I have a sudden urge to burst out laughing. I feel so happy to be alive and healthy and able-bodied.

I feel lucky to have great friends and family, a business that I love, and a car that can whisk me towards dates and adventures and crazy fitness classes.

And most of all, I’m grateful for how far I’ve come. For how deeply I can appreciate this moment. For how present I am. For how much I love myself. For how centred I feel.

And for how I trust that everything is unfolding perfectly and for my highest good. I am exactly where I’m supposed to be.

So I hop and skip and sweat and eye up the fit fitness instructor. And I breathe.

benefits of gratitude and meditation

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Life.

Yesterday morning, I walked. The wind stirred the leaves, mimicking a melody of foaming sea to shore.

Yesterday evening, I received very sad news that had me sobbing.

Last night, I worked at the laptop. My housemate came in and out of the room, making welcome conversation.

This morning, I panted on a gym floor.

This evening, I made dinner for a couple of family members in need.

Now, I put on my favourite tunes and hike up the speakers. For just a few moments, the sun escapes from behind the stubborn clouds and beams directly on to my smiling face.

And I dance.

To Let It Be

I turned to my friend and announced: “Resistance is what causes most of our suffering.”

This was off the back of a weekend spent in bed, sick and alone, while the sun shone, radio DJs played dance music to prepare us all for a fun Saturday night out, and my Facebook friends posted pictures of forest walks and ice creams in Dun Laoghaire.

I knew I was feeling sorry for myself. And I knew I had a lot to be thankful for. I wasn’t battling cancer. I hadn’t lost my home to a hurricane. And I wasn’t counting pennies to see if I’d be able to put food on the table.

But I was sick. And the weekend blazed sunnily through the windows. And there were no more dark chocolate covered rice cakes in the house.

And I was face-slappingly, heartbreakingly alone.

The thing is, I could have asked for help. In fact, one friend asked me if I needed anything. I replied honestly that I didn’t. There was nothing that I needed. And I didn’t want anyone to have to cancel their plans for me. I wanted people to be with me because they wanted to be there.

So I spent two days at home alone. Between sleeping, blowing my nose and weeping over my aloneness, I delved into Cheryl Strayed’s wonderful book Wild.

Cheryl had gone through some really tough times. Her father was abusive and her mother died of cancer. After Cheryl’s marriage broke down due to her infidelities and use of heroin, Cheryl took on an extraordinary journey in order to become the woman her mother saw in her. Cheryl hiked over a thousand miles alone on the epic Pacific Crest Trail.

“I felt more alone than anyone in the whole wide world,” Cheryl admitted. Later, she reasoned: “Maybe I was more alone than anyone in the whole wide world. Maybe that was okay.”

I lay in bed reading but it felt like I joined Cheryl as she sweated up mountains, grew blisters, lost toenails, and crossed paths with deer, bears and rattlesnakes. I walked alongside her as she raged into the wilderness, carrying a giant rucksack which she aptly named Monster. 

Before Cheryl set off on this amazing trek, somebody told her that the father’s job is to teach his children how to be warriors, “to give them the confidence to get on the horse and ride into battle when it’s necessary to do so.” She said that if you don’t get that from your father, you have to teach yourself. This woman predicted:

“There will come a time when you’ll need to get on your horse and ride into battle and you’re going to hesitate. You’re going to falter. To heal the wound your father made, you’re going to have to get on that horse and ride into battle like a warrior.”

I could relate to the burden Cheryl bent beneath. As she emptied a lifetime of sadness and anger into the wild, I too allowed myself to heal and release. And when Cheryl didn’t think she could go any further, I championed her as she walked on anyway. Her strength and determination humbled me as she completed a miraculous journey back to self. Cheryl finished her memoir with the words:

“How wild it was, to let it be.”

How wild it would be, to let everything be as it is. Without trying to change it. Without resisting what is. Without wishing things were different. Without wondering and worrying, regretting and replaying.

So this evening, I turned to my friend and said:

“Resistance is what causes most of our suffering.” 

And she retorted:

“Thinking is what causes most of our suffering.”

She went on to describe her morning. How she had spent time sweeping up leaves. My friend, like all of us, has plenty to think about, but she didn’t think. She swept.

She watched the leaves swirling in the wind. She felt the brush in her hands. And she listened to the sound of the bristles as she swept.

Tonight in bed, I notice that I am curled up tight, thinking. It hits me that I’ve probably spent most of my life thinking. Not living. Not experiencing. Not being. I’ve spent most of my life in my head. Thinking.

This is my life, I realise. And I want to be present to it. So I resolve to climb out of my head and into my heart. To be in my body. To feel. To experience. To live. To be present. To be open. To simply be.

A vision of my friend sweeping leaves floats into my consciousness. I relax into the bed. I can almost hear the bristles flicking onto the pathway, as the leaves dance in disobedience.

How wild it would be, to let it be.

weheartit.com

weheartit.com

Attitude of Gratitude

The other day, I was complaining about how long it takes to blow-dry my hair. My mother informed me that, when she was a child, she had to towel-dry hers. I felt grateful for the invention of hair dryers. A couple of my friends then told me that they wish they had thick hair like mine. Again, I had to be grateful for what I was lucky enough to have.

This quote comes to mind: “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”

Gratitude is something I practice every single day. It instantly lifts my mood and brings enjoyment to all the little (and the big) things that I have in my wonderful life.

I would like to own my own house some day but, right now, I give gratitude for the lovely little flat I’m living in. It’s cosy and central and I have it all to myself.

Yesterday, I met a woman who has been through cancer twice. She lifted her shirt to show us the scars from her double mastectomy. A wave of gratitude and admiration for this brave woman enveloped me.

She spoke of the fun she used to have with the fellow patients in the hospital. She remembered how the nurses would bring her tea and toast at 2am if she couldn’t sleep. “They didn’t have to do that,” she added. In the face of such a huge challenge, this lady was still able to express gratitude. She is an inspiration.

If you’re experiencing dissatisfaction, envy, frustration or a feeling of lack, try replacing it with gratitude. Think of a few things that are grateful for today. What you focus upon multiplies. And soon, you’ll marvel at the sheer abundance in your life.

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Alive

On Sunday, I put my back out at the gym. For the rest of the day, I was in a considerable amount of pain and could hardly move. I felt rather sorry for myself as I lay in bed. I was cranky and bored. I realised that I don’t make a very good patient. In fact, I am incredibly impatient because I want to get better quickly so that I can do all the things I had planned.

Last night, I went to see The Sessions in The Riverbank Arts Centre. The movie is based on a man with polio who was mostly paralysed from the neck down. He was a poet and a journalist with a great sense of humour. Despite his predicament, he was able to reach out to experience life and love.

This morning, I sipped a soy latte in the Keadeen Hotel while a large group of deaf people laughed and signed excitedly beside me. They were full of fun and togetherness.

And I just watched a clip from The Saturday Night Show with 16-year-old Donal Walsh who is terminally ill with cancer. This brave, inspiring young man spoke out about suicide and how he is grateful for every extra day he has to live. He hopes that his death will make people appreciate life more. He is sad to be leaving behind all the beautiful things of this world. Since his prognosis, he has given up school, travelled, and raised over €50,000 for Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin.

It was as though I was being constantly reminded of how lucky I am and how I need to put things into perspective. A healthy or seemingly perfect life may not be as rich as the lives  of some of these so-called dying or disabled people. If you are able to open yourself to love, able to share and enjoy the wonderful moments of life with family and friends, able to laugh and learn and experience, and able to really live life, then you are truly blessed. It is then that you are really alive.

alive-cute-girl-life-life-truth-Favim.com-432554

The unexpected: balding eyeballs and sheep poo

This was taken before...

Everything finally seems to be in order. You’re feeling great, you’ve discovered your passions, and found your niche in life. You’re enjoying yourself and living in the now. You’re perfectly content with your partner or your single status, and you’re more at ease with life and they way you live it.

You’re moving along at a steady, comfortable pace when suddenly, some unforeseen circumstance throws a pothole in your path and gives you a serious jolt. And everything you’ve learned and implemented whooshes out the door. You instantly morph back into that stressed out, negative, completely un-zen like creature you’d been trying so desperately to shake off.

The unexpected can surprise you in any form- a death, a job loss, a life-threatening illness. Even the less serious but equally unexpected things can shake you to your core.

I was finally feeling good about myself. I had let go of control and was starting to enjoy life and love myself. Until one day recently, as I cleaned my flat, I managed to get bleach in my eye (I never claimed to be the sharpest tool in the shed). And just like that, half my eye lashes vanished. I felt as though I’d lost my femininity and charm. I might as well give up on finding a man, I thought dismally. I’d pass by the mirror and burst into tears at the sight of my freakishly bald eye.

“I can hardly notice when you wear eye liner,”  a close friend tried to mollify me.

“But I can’t wear eye liner all the time. What if I want to have a shower with someone?” I blubbered.

“You don’t even have a boyfriend.”

Yeah, thanks for that. After a couple of days of feeling sorry for myself, I decided that this must have happened to teach me a lesson. There was still clearly a certain amount of shallowness lurking within me. I still had a terrible time allowing others to see my imperfections. I still believed I had to look good to be liked, loved, and wanted. I thought I had become more enlightened but I still had a way to go. I promised to never again complain about my short, straight lashes. I thanked my disappearing lashes for teaching me more about myself. And I felt grateful for what I had and also for what I didn’t have (alopecia or cancer, for example).

With every lesson learned, the universe will test you. Which brings me to today. I had a couple of hours off before work, so I borrowed my aunt’s car and drove out to the plains of the Curragh. I felt good about how I was dealing with things and interacting with life. I marvelled at the blue blue sky, lifted my face to the sun, observed the grazing sheep, photographed the trees, and lost myself in the music pounding from my iPod. Until I realised I’d lost the key to my aunt’s car.

I flew straight from the present moment into a tornado of panic, worry, self-flagellation, and an endless string of curse words. I was propelled into a near future where I was walking the streets, freezing and starving and in desperate need of a shower. I no longer noticed the sun, sky, trees or sheep. And my music annoyed me so much that I had to switch it off.

All I had on me was a camera, an iPod, and a hankie. And the Curragh was unusually devoid of people. My options were to wave my hankie in the air, while taking multiple photographs with the flash on, and blasting The Beatles’ “Help” on full volume. Or I could retrace my steps as best as I could remember.

Unfortunately, I was searching for a single black key that happened to look very much like the sheep droppings that carpeted the vast plains of the Curragh. I eventually came across a chap in army attire, who told me he wasn’t allowed carry a mobile phone. I just had to laugh.

So, armed with my sense of humour, the seeds of a lesson that had to be watered, and the makings of a relatively humorous and thought-provoking blog post, I made my way back to Newbridge town. My aunt wasn’t at home so I called into her neighbour, a woman I had done a course with about a year ago. What was it her name was? Maureen? Unexpectedly, a strange man answered the door. He looked red-faced and hostile. I was thrown.

“Is Maureen there?”

“Maureen who?”

“That might not even be her name. I took the car. It’s not mine. The key’s in the Curragh. There’s so much sheep poo…” I babbled.

“Who are you looking for?” Silence. “Do you have her name? What’s her number?” Eh… “What do you want?” Oh God! “Do you want to use my phone to call this Maureen character?”

“Yes!” I finally managed to splutter.

“Okay, come in. My wife Pauline will be down in a minute.”

“Pauline!” I shrieked. “That’s her name! I’m Sharon,” I muttered, relieved that something was starting to make sense.

With that, Pauline sauntered in.

“Siobhán!” she called me. And her husband snorted.

And so, after telling my aunt the embarrassing news, I sat back with a cup of tea and a choccie biccie and listened to this couple’s tales of travel in South America. When my aunt returned and we rescued her car with the spare key, I enjoyed a long, hot shower.

The car key is still missing but I’ve gained some insight as to how I function. I’m happy with myself and with life so long as it’s running smoothly. It’s easy to be fully aware and appreciative of the present moment when everything is going the way you want. But when life happens, when you come across an unexpected fork in your journey, it is then that you need to take a moment to be still before deciding which route to take. The unexpected is what we call life. According to John Lennon:

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

So, the next time a  volcanic ash cloud or snow storm disrupts your travel plans, a shocking event occurs, or you receive some bad news, you miss the bus, your friend cancels on you last-minute, your eye lashes fall out, or you lose your aunt’s car key in a sea of sheep poo, here’s what to do:

  1. Release control
  2. Go with the flow
  3. Believe that everything happens for a reason
  4. Observe what unfolds instead
  5. Unleash your sense of humour
  6. Accept the situation
  7. Check out what lesson you’ve been sent
  8. Learn from it
  9. Move on