There’s always something to appreciate if you think about it. Even on dark, gloomy mornings, the fact that you woke up to see it, is a blessing. Life is something to be thankful for, and as tough as it may seem now, things change and the road levels off.
I find my own life goes more smoothly if I focus on gratitude at least once a day. Before going to bed is an excellent time to be reflective of the day just lived. I know, some days you’d like to forget. We all have those days. Bad things often happen to make room for new opportunities and growth.
If you can’t find the silver lining in that day, then look around at the people in your life. No doubt many of them love you more than you will ever realize. Love is always something to be grateful for. If there are no friends or loved-ones there, it’s an invitation to step outside your comfort zone—join a group or get involved in a charity or church group. Reach out to a neighbor, co-worker or a stranger who needs help. There are plenty of them around.
Some people keep a gratitude journal. While that doesn’t work for all (me included), it’s easy enough to say outloud five things (events, people, objects, feelings, etc.) you are grateful for each day. Be sure to actually feel the gratitude as you think about each one. Can’t do five? Start with three.
We frequently take people and things for granted. Remember to search for the joy in whatever and whoever is in your life. As the saying goes, tomorrow is promised to no one. Make the best of each day and remember that the more you appreciate your life and the people in it, the easier it will be for more good things to come your way.
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Coping with the C-Word
Shirley P. Sorbello, MSW
“The biopsy results showed cancer cells,” Dr. Wilson said to me matter-of-factly. I glazed over upon hearing those words, that took me to a level of reality where I had never ventured.
“Oh, no,” I said, thinking at the same time this couldn’t be happening to me. No one ever believes it could happen to them. People think that somehow it’s everyone else who gets cancer.
At least one in three people in the United States will hear this diagnosis at some time in their lives. Even though advances in early detection and treatment have lessened cancer’s effect as a death sentence, a diagnosis of cancer can still rock anyone’s world as it did mine.
Here are some tips that might help you or a loved-one cope more effectively.
Share Your Diagnosis with Those People Closest to You: It’s normal to feel shock, numbness and denial at first. While you are trying to get your bearings, you need to share some information with people who love you. It’s important for you to feel their love and support as you begin to navigate through this crisis.
Although it can be extremely helpful to talk about your feelings, be cautious about sharing this information with everyone. You may get some unwanted advice and hear horror stories as well. Be aware that not everyone will react to your news in a similar way. If it’s not the reaction you were expecting or hoping for, it probably says more about their hang-ups than how they feel about you. Don’t be hurt or discouraged by it. You will find that most people will offer a listening ear and physical support. You may even be lucky enough to have a friend who went through what you are going through. His or her input can be extremely reassuring. If you have any serious questions or concerns, don’t ask your friends, ask your doctor.
Remember, however, that while interacting with others can be helpful, you are your own strongest support. If you can’t talk about it, perhaps you can write about your thoughts or feelings in a notebook or journal.
Make Necessary Appointments: Whether you need to see an oncologist, surgeon, radiologist, or need more testing, don’t wait to do it. Sometimes it takes a while to get an appointment. Procrastination can increase your anxiety. Looking back, you will be glad you didn’t delay. Follow your gut feelings when it comes to getting a second opinion or making decisions about treatment. Something inside of you knows what is best for you.
Take someone with you when you first go to a surgeon or oncologist. That way, you won’t feel as alone as I did when a bald patient came out of the office shaking her head. I could only imagine the scary news she must have received, and then I worried more about what I was going to hear about myself.
Be Kind to Yourself: It’s important to nurture and take care of yourself at this time. Do the things that make you feel happy. Go for that massage you’ve been wanting, see a movie you’ve been thinking about, or buy a new purse or book that will perk up your spirits. Get your sleep, eat healthy and spend more time with people you enjoy being with. Remember it’s your turn now to put yourself first.
Continue with Your Normal Routine: Doing normal things keeps you from obsessing or worrying about what’s ahead for you. As much as possible, adhere to your regular schedule or go ahead with any special plans you have. I had been looking forward to a short trip before I was diagnosed. I choose to go through with it even though it meant I didn’t return until the day before my surgery. Looking back, I am glad that I went, as it helped to occupy my time with enjoyable moments. I undoubtedly went into surgery with a more relaxed, positive attitude than I would have if I had been sitting at home worrying.
Stay in the Present Moment: As much as possible, refrain from “what if’s.” Take one day at a time. Tomorrow is promised to no one. Worrying about things that may never happen is useless and will stress you out.
Seek Spiritual Comfort: If you are religiously or spiritually inclined, you may find comfort in speaking with your priest, pastor or a friend who shares your spiritual perspective. If your present spiritual perspective does not seem to be serving you adequately, perhaps it’s time to explore some new avenues. Visit your local bookstore and see what attracts your attention.
Both meditation and guided imagery are spiritually-related practices that are excellent for your health. If you’ve never meditated before, this is probably not the time to begin as it does require practice and concentration. If you have meditated before, then you might benefit from returning to a regular practice. With guided imagery, you need only to sit back, relax and listen to a calming voice on a CD or the internet that leads you on a healing journey of images and positive feelings. I found that listening to guided healing imagery on the internet prior to my surgery helped me stay calmer and more centered than I would have otherwise been.
It’s Okay to be Afraid: It is normal to feel some degree of fear or anxiety when facing a diagnosis of cancer. It’s okay to cry. Acknowledge your feelings, for they are genuinely your own, but don’t neglect to look for that pillar of strength that resides inside of you. You’ve been through tough times in the past. What sustained you then? It’s still there. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and you will feel your strength deep inside. I promise you it’s there.
Think Positive Thoughts: People with the most positive outlooks generally do better with cancer treatment and recovery. Think about your life. What are you thankful for? Perhaps it’s a relationship, your children or your career. Being thankful for the good things in your life has been shown to decrease depression and elevate mood. Make a habit of thinking of everything you are thankful for and feeling a sense of appreciation about it at least once a day.
Affirmations can be helpful too. They are positive statements about “what is.” Look into your mirror in the morning and at nighttime, and say a few times out loud something positive like, “I am radiantly healthy and cancer free.” Or, make up something that is meaningful to you. The important thing to remember is to speak as if it is already happening now, not as a future event.
Creative visualization is another useful tool. Sit down, relax and take a few deep breaths. Close your eyes and picture yourself healthy and doing well in life. Imagine a neighbor saying to you, “You look well,” and you replying with a smile, “I feel great.” Picture a visit to your doctor. He is saying, “You are doing really well. I am really pleased with your test results. Keep up the good work.” Feel the joy!
Most importantly, use this whole experience to look at where you are in your life. What matters to you? What is working and not working? What is it time to let go of? What haven’t you done, that you’ve wanted to do? This glimpse of your own mortality can lead you to a richer, more fulfilling life…one that you truly value and love.
It’s time for introverts to stop feeling like they should be more like them…extroverts, that is. It seems like there are many more of them than us, or at least it did when I was growing up. I was encouraged to be more outgoing, speak up and, “for heaven’s sake, raise your hand more in class.” Research is now showing that there are differences in brain chemistry and in the way these so-called personalities respond to stimuli and recharge energy. Extroverts are energized by being around others while introverts thrive when they are alone or spending limited time with a close friend. Too many people, loud noise or constant activity drains their energy. However, there is no such thing as a one-hundred percent introvert or extrovert; the majority of people fall somewhere in between.
Introverts, give yourself permission to be you—the deep thinker, the intellectual, the writer, the poet, the artist or silent creator who looks at the world from a place deep inside yourself. If you are happy in your world, don’t allow others’ expectations to be forced upon you. They may perceive your quiet tendencies as uncaring, rude or stuck-up. That’s their stuff, not yours (unless you really are). The only reason that some people may call you out is because of their own emotional response to you. They worry that you are judging, or thinking badly of them, and that makes them feel uncomfortable.
Parents and educators, teach your children, introverts or otherwise, to love and accept themselves as they are. A little person who is made to feel “less than” will waste years trying to measure up. Sadly, some go on feeling defensive about themselves their whole lives. Those who learn to appreciate themselves as children are more likely to embrace their full potential as adults if they build upon a solid foundation that celebrates their special talents and uniqueness.
Introversion has graced us with many brilliant and talented people, i.e. Bill Gates, Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, Albert Einstein and even, Christina Aguilera. It’s okay to be quiet—some of us need our silence and thrive within it. Don’t make us try to fit into a mold. That’s the quickest way to destroy our spirit.
The older I get, the less emotional baggage I want to carry with me, so at this point in life I have learned to pick my battles carefully and let go of those I no longer want to own. I have realized that some “injustices” need to be released because holding on to them is simply doing me harm, physically and emotionally. I value my own well-being more. It also helps me to remember that forgiveness does not mean that you have to forget.
In addition, my slowly-acquired awareness that the “injustice” says more about the perpetrator than about me, has allowed me to move on. Do I really want to “sink” to their level? Neither am I so quick now to “perceive” an injustice and attribute intention to another. I don’t really know what is going on in their head…perhaps it’s just my perception and they never intended it the way I took it.
I trust in my belief that God (the universe) is ultimately fair so why would I waste my time plotting some type of revenge? It will be dealt with in its own time and place. I am happier to live peacefully by focusing on the positives in life.
When we look forward to a peaceful night of rest, our sleep may be invaded by thoughts, feelings and experiences that appear in dreams. Is there meaning here for us? Based on my experience, I believe that to a certain extent, there is.
Several years ago I studied a little about dreams and even kept a dream diary. I also remember attending a seminar about dream interpretation. The most important point I learned at the seminar was that the way a dream makes you feel is the most important factor in interpretation. Also, dreams can have universal symbols or themes but the way something like a bird, or snow, makes you feel determines its specific significance for you. For example, a dog can be a symbol of unconditional love to one person or fear to another who was bitten as a child.
I stopped keeping the dream diary after I had noticed two patterns – nonsense and themes. I also decided that if a dream was important enough I would still remember it the next day and not need to write it down in the middle of the night or even as soon as I woke. Many of my dreams made absolutely no sense and seemed to contain vague references to a person, place or thing I saw or thought about during the previous day. Basically these dreams were filled with meaningless activity. Other dreams had themes such as being lost or repeatedly looking for a person that I was unsuccessfully trying to contact in reality. I did find some relevance in them as they related to my life, and began to focus on any related emotional issues.
Repeated dreams with the same theme are a different matter; they send us a strong message although it may be difficult to decipher. The theme dream continues until we figure it out. Even today I occasionally dream I’m in school and have forgotten to attend classes or do the homework. This is unsettling to me as a former conscientious student. I am very relieved when I wake and remember that my school days are behind me. In this case, I believe that these dreams may be reflective of my fear of not doing well or not pushing myself to learn enough. Either way, they send a message of fear and insecurity. Perhaps that’s something I still need to work on.
Another theme for me involves tidal waves. For a number of years I dreamt that I would look behind me and see a high wall of water approaching or that I was swept away in a tidal wave. I am happy to say that I rarely have these dreams now. I believe that the feeling there was one of being overwhelmed; at that time in my life I no doubt was.
There also seem to be “direct message” dreams where we are being told by someone that we have cancer or another condition. This happened to me several years ago. The first couple of times I disregarded it as just a fear-based dream as it’s not uncommon to fear getting cancer although it wasn’t a thought I had dwelt upon. After a third or fourth dream, I actually was diagnosed with cancer. These dreams had occurred over the previous two-year period. If you receive a message like this at least three times, I would check it out just to be safe. I believe that message such as this can be sent from our higher self, spirit guide or angel when we are meant to act upon it.
I rarely have terrifying dreams although I have experienced a few that I have been happy to wake up from. I think that in this case it is unresolved emotion from experiences in the past or present that need our attention. I believe that dreams can bring a certain degree of healing through emotional release. Repeated dreams of terror, however, need some additional healing techniques such as by journaling or seeing a therapist.
Some people may experience precognitive dreams which reveal a future event. I did have a repeated dream that described an event in a very general sense that did finally occur. Other dreams that I had hoped were precognitive, never materialized, at least not yet!
My favorite type of dream is what I call a “love” dream. This is where someone either alive or dead comes to you and embraces you in a way that makes you feel more love in your heart than you normally experience in your everyday life. My own thought is that it is communication on the soul level either with one who has passed on or with someone who is alive, but physically separated from you. It’s their way of letting us know they are thinking about us in a very loving way. I had this experience with my mother a couple of months after she passed. I have also experienced it with people who I care about and from whom I’m physically separated, either by distance or circumstances.
To a certain extent, it seems as though dreams will always be somewhat of a mystery. Good or bad, though, they can send us clues to make our reality a better, happier place to live. We have only to respect and listen.
What messages do you receive in your dreams? I’d love for you to share.
On a dark, dreary day I am finding myself more focused than usual. Obviously for me, it’s a good time to concentrate on writing something, anything, and to tell my inner critic to step aside.
How do you feel about cold, rainy days? Perhaps if you are a writer, you love them for their creative potential. To me, there is something soothing and nurturing about them as if Mother Nature is bathing the world with a comforting blessing. I find myself being introspective and more in touch with my feelings than usual.
If you go to work or school, you may hate going out in them like I used to. It’s particularly uncomfortable getting wet when it’s cold. Maybe you like school or your job so much, that it doesn’t matter? That’s truly a gift when you do, not to mention a plus for your physical and mental health.
Maybe you like to stay in bed and pull the covers over your head? Listening to Karen Carpenter sing “Rainy Days and Mondays” goes well with that. What a loss to the world that great voice was.
This is the first of a number of brief, light topics I will be throwing out for discussion. I haven’t felt as connected to my blog in the last year as I did earlier on; I’m changing that by taking time to listen to the ideas that float through my mind and not being so quick to dismiss them. I hope you’ll join in.
So, I’d truly like to know how you feel about dark, cold rainy days. What’s you favorite thing to do when you have a choice?
Photo Credit: Copyright: Georgii Dolgykh 123rf Photos
I’m starting a new feature on my blog which I’m calling “Photo Friday.” Each Friday, at least for the next few weeks, I will publish a photo. Perhaps a photo that speaks to the heart will help us all to begin to unwind from the week’s busy activities. For those of us who are writers, an inspirational photo can inspire creativity. I know that when I look at something beautiful, I become more expressive and imaginative. Of course, what speaks to my heart, and what speaks to yours, may be very different, but we’ll see how it goes. Enjoy your weekend!
Madeira Beach, Florida Copyright 2010 Shirley Sorbello
Sixty plus years into my life, I can now look back and realize there are certain things I wish I’d been aware of earlier.
For example, I know now that everyone does not see the world in the same way. Each person has their own filter—a combination of genetics and life experiences—that they view the world through. If you respect their differences as you do your own, your life will have fewer, futile conflicts.
Don’t get into a relationship expecting to change the other person to live up to your dreams. The best thing you can do for another is accept them just the way they are and support them in being the best person they can be. If you can’t accept them with all their perceived imperfections, get out of the relationship. It takes a lot for someone to change. More importantly, the person has to see the need and have the desire to do so. Most people don’t.
The best thing you can do for yourself and others is to learn to accept and love yourself. Do it in a way that celebrates your uniqueness, not in a superior way, but in a manner that respects others’ differences as equal to your own. If you can do this, others will never see you as “needy,” nor will you cling to a relationship that is not in your best interests. This usually takes a bit of time; some people never get to this point. It begins by realizing that you are perfect just the way you are. You don’t need anyone else to validate that.
Hang with people who uplift and support you. Let go of those who drag you down on a regular basis. Life is too short to spend time with those who drain your energy.
Don’t be too quick to judge. There is no way to know what someone is going through in their life. Appearances can be deceiving, and assumptions can lead you down the wrong pathway.
It’s okay if a relationship doesn’t last. I’ve come to view them as learning experiences, the toughest ones, in fact. Many teachers pass through our lives. When the lesson is learned, the teacher moves on. Be thankful for the time you had with someone you loved; breathe a sigh of relief when the person you didn’t get along with is no longer there.
Lastly, the most important one: it’s really okay if it rains on your birthday. Life is not perfect, but it does provide wonderful opportunities for growth. Put up your umbrella and make it the best day possible, always.
Too often children are taught not to cry. “Be tough; don’t cry. You’re okay.” Maybe their feelings are hurt or they are afraid. Appropriate validation of his or her feelings and reassurance is essential for healthy emotional development. However, if those feelings are ignored or pushed aside repeatedly, it may teach the child to feel insignificant and to build protective walls. This can manifest in an older child or adult as overweight issues or addictive escapes into drugs, spending, alcohol, sex or even work.
It truly takes courage for an adult to melt down those walls and allow feelings of human vulnerability. It requires being honest with yourself and others about who you really are; it short, it requires acknowledging and becoming your authentic self. To fully feel unspoken pain and accept it, is a catalyst for healing. In some cases, this may require the assistance of a therapist. Perhaps the comforting ear of a close friend or loving family member may suffice. At the very least, journaling is a wonderful outlet to release those secret feelings.
Truly experiencing joy requires knowledge and acceptance of the darkest recesses of your sadness and disappointments. If you are unable to be fully open to all of life’s experiences, you are depriving yourself of meaningful relationships and your deepest joys. Vulnerability is not weakness; it takes strength to be vulnerable in the face of your sorrows or shame. Weakness is not allowing yourself access to the full spectrum of human emotions. Truly, vulnerability is a precious gift that you give to yourself because only those who live with it can fully embrace all the beauty and joys life has to offer.