Gratitude

 Everything is a gift of the universe — even joy, anger, jealousy, frustration, or separateness. Everything is perfect either for our growth or our enjoyment.  ~Ken Keyes, Jr.

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When the night sounds linger into day.

When all is still.

When the hydrangea bursts forth, covering the path.

When the blueberries are ripe, sweet.

When a glance, no words, says it all.

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It’s there, through the cracks.

If you start to think the problem is “out there,” stop yourself. That thought is the problem. ~Stephen Covey

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I don’t know Stephen Covey although he’s certainly famous enough. But I do know his words. Know them as an imprint on my soul.

For sometimes it doesn’t work out.

Whatever it is; it can be elusive and often downright impossible. And it’s in the not-working-out where the beauty lies.

It’s in the cracks on the facade, the slivers in the pavement, the tears in the fabric.

What beauty there is in the not-working-out, allowing for whatever is to be to be present.

To be noticed.

To be honored.

And, yes, even to be celebrated.

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Growth

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.  ~Albert Camus

And it grows.

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And grows.

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And grows some more.

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And, truly. . .

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It’s all that matters.

 

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Wanting it.

It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want – oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!  ~Mark Twain

AlliumI don’t think it needs to be spring fever. I think it can be summer fever, too.

Hell, why can’t it be winter fever if that feels right?

What’s important, I think, is knowing that you want it. And maybe – just maybe – you don’t even yet know what it is.  And that’s okay. It’s okay to not know, and it’s okay to be in the dark.

I can hardly believe I actually wrote that last line.

Okay to not know?

Yes, okay.

 

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Will, skill, and a heaping dose of caring.

Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them: A desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.  ~Muhammed Ali 

Locals will know the Ride for Roswell. It’s a giant fundraising event, centered around riding bicycles – from a 3-mile family route to an over 100-mile one – on a Saturday in June. It is 8,000 riders strong.

And it’s tomorrow.

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In the years I’ve ridden – with my children, family, friends, clients, and my firm – I’ve held onto a sense of gratitude and wonder, actually, for what a profound event this is. It supports research and patient care at one of the nation’s few comprehensive cancer centers, which fortunately happens to be in my figurative backyard.

It’s a day of wonder because it’s a celebration above all other things. Celebrating life. Celebrating change. Celebrating progress.

This year’s Ride means something else, something more, because I’ve now had first-hand experience at Roswell and so the researchers and surgeons, the anesthesiologists and residents, the fellows and nurses, the caregivers and schedulers, the door-openers and room service deliverers, the T-E-A-M, are more than theoretical helpers.

They’re now real to me. Real in that I know their names. Know about their families. Know where they vacation. Have shared laughs and Valentine’s Day cookies.

Have been cut up and put back together by them.

They are people who work hard. Who remain cheerful amidst pain and sadness and schedules that are non-stop. Who accommodate. Who try.

They are people who care. I think that’s it, actually. Peel back the layers – and there are many, of course, because humans are complicated – but just peel ‘em back and at their core, they are people who care.

I believe they care deeply about their craft, their scientific and intellectual challenges, being precise, being careful, and being thoughtful. They care deeply in a meaningful way about those for whom they care.

And so, we Ride.

And we celebrate.

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On the eve.

“Anticipating pain was like enduring it twice. Why not anticipate pleasure instead?”  -Robin Hobb, Renegade’s Magic

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Although I only recently read this passage, the concept is oh-so-familiar to me.  I think about it a lot, in fact.

I think about it when there’s something coming down the pike that I know won’t be terribly fun (read: I’m dreading it).

So now I think: so what? What’s the worst that can happen?

Well, it might not work out. I may feel embarrassed. Others could look down on my effort, or on me for that matter.

I. could. fail.

And then I ask again: so what?  It’s in that second {so what?} where I think the truth, the soul center, lies.

Because if you truly and deeply can say that the so what? doesn’t matter anymore, then there’s peace. And positivity.

 

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Begin now. Even if just a little. . .

“Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand and melting like a snowflake.”     -Francis Bacon

IMG_7526Start a little. Start a lot.

Begin a little. Begin a lot.

Read the book. Drink the wine. Take the walk. Hold the hand.

Take the step.

{Maybe even the jump.}

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My 25-things list: truly, what doesn’t matter.

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Today I turned 51. Holy cow; I’m on the downside of a century. How did that happen?

But when I really think about it, today there was a profound difference. Even though the number seems hard to comprehend, I didn’t mind it a bit. Not a whit. No scintilla of concern about aging. Nada, as my high school Spanish teacher used to say.

The last 50 years, even when I feigned excitement, there was this teeny tiny bit of chagrin about growing older. Truth: sometimes it was a lot of chagrin, often like CHAGRIN    (yep, I remember 30 well).

But not any more.

And there was something else. I was bestowed with some waiting-around time today that allowed me to consider what used to matter to me and what doesn’t freaking matter a bit, anymore.

My 25 Things (that truly don’t matter) List

1. the asshole who cut me off

2. likewise, the grampy moving at a snail’s pace ahead of me

3. rain creating bad-hair days

4. missing the elevator

5. hair color, eye color, skin color

6. the “right” vehicle

7. the “right” home

8. perfectly-behaved children

9. poochy bellies

10. being handed coffee instead of tea at the Tim Horton’s drive-thru

11. piles of laundry

12. a dirty sink

13. weeds

14. not having a husband

15. not having a dad

16. people who don’t hold the door when they know I’m behind them

17. thighs: mine, not yours

18. legos underfoot

19. eye rolls

20. pubescent attitudes: theirs, not mine

21. generalizations about single moms

22. fire and brimstone

23. running late

24. the imperfect downward facing dog

25. cell phone batteries

Are these unimportant? No, not quite. Some – even many – remain important. . . but do they matter? Like in 10 years, will they matter? The answer for me is no, they won’t.

How do I know this for sure? Well, I just think about not being here, not being earthside, and ask myself “would I care about this in the final analysis?” And the answer for me is a quietly confident “no, not a bit.”

What about you? What would you include on your list?

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Stiff upper lip or denial? Or something else?

Don’t make the pain pretty with the theory of gratitude; be hurt, be pissed, be furious, be weak. Be where it’s ugly and uncomfortable — without adding sweetener to it.

Spare yourself the karmic explanations, the family of origin connections, the “it’s all good” bullshit. -Danielle LaPorte

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I read this and paused.

For me, these last few months have been a lot about gratitude. Call it what you may, but I know I’ve been fortunate. Feel it with every breath I take.

Escaping the oncoming train with a moment left.

Lucky.

Blessed.

And so it caused me to pause and wonder whether all the gratitude I’d been feeling and expressing was bullshit.

A failure to truly accept the hand I’d been dealt.

Hmm.

I thought about it for a while, tussled with it. It was agitating. Time and time again I came back here to write.

And found myself without words.

Because what if I’ve been delusional? What if all the serendipity, the breathtaking coincidences that served me so well, were just that – simple coincidences?

What if my positive attitude was a figment of my imagination?

What if?  What if, indeed.

I don’t believe in coincidences, and I know myself well enough to be certain that when I’m angry or when I’m frustrated and furious I feel every damn bit of it.

And that’s not how I’ve felt, at least not about this. I’m human, after all, and there certainly have been events and developments that have made me sad and angry and hurt these last several months. But they haven’t been about my diagnosis; rather, they’ve been in spite of my diagnosis.

So, I decided, despite the unpredictable twists and turns I’ve faced, I’m so incredibly grateful. I think we, as humans, can feel deep gratitude even in the face of those tangles that mess up our well-laid plans.

And I don’t believe that’s foolish or naive.  Tangles can be beautiful too.

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Sharing the bad news – My Messy Beautiful

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And so it was, that mid-November diagnosis of breast cancer.

The numbness. The terror. The oh-fuck-what-do-I-tell-my-girls?

Because at 10 and 13, they didn’t deserve to have their world rocked. And it certainly wasn’t in a good rock-it-out kind of way.

You see, in the beginning, it was me, and then it was We.

We, first formed when the soulful 9-month old was placed in my arms in a hotel in the south of China. And then we became we squared, I thought, when in the capital of China’s zestiest province, an equally-beautiful 8-month old was handed to me.

Through the years, then, we became We Three.

Almost 13 years after first becoming a family, it became my responsibility to share the breast cancer news. To my thinking, it meant shaking the foundation on which my family was built.

When you have to share bad news with those you love most – and they happen to be kids – just what is there to do?

I considered them above all and armed myself with information, the kind that a kid could understand. No Internet stories. Facts. Age-appropriate ones. And although I may have felt in a tailspin, this was about them. It decidedly was not. about. me. Not one bit.

Them, their thoughts, their feelings, their world.

Of course I reluctantly was on the mainstage, but it wasn’t their role to be supporting players. Quite the contrary; it was my job to support them. Just like always. Nothing had changed in that regard. No cancer diagnosis was going to get in the way.

And so I took a deep breath and did the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Harder than burying grandparents. Harder by far than arguing a case before a jury. Harder than delivering a eulogy. Harder even than saying goodbye to a long-ago marriage.

Deep breath hard, I tell you.

It made me empathize with those who choose to not tell. Because the brutality (really, the plain horror) of being their only parent and having to say those words to each of my girls took my breath away. In some ways I was waiting for an earth tremble, a storm, biting hail – something, anything.

Weren’t the heavens heaving as much as my chest?

And yet, we got through it. Each handled it in her own way.

There were some tears.

There were questions, even curiosity (complete with diagrams) at what the surgery would entail.

They accepted this piece of news that had so terrified me to share. They understood the treatment plan that I explained. They acknowledged that it would be a bump in the road of our family, and yet, we remained We Three.

Through it all, even on the crappy days of recovery and especially on the You-Are-Cured! day, my girls and I, we were – we are - We Three.

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I’m delighted to be participating in the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — to learn more and join us, click here.

And for more about Momastery and Glennon Melton’s memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, click here. It’s inspiration personified; you won’t be disappointed. I promise.

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