Do you recognize a “God Moment”?

I was privileged to have a radio interview on an ABC affiliate in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Ruth Bachman interview on Problems and Solutions with Cathy Blythe

The next day I received an online order for my book, Growing Through the Narrow Spots, from a person in Albert Lea, MN.  I happily filled the order and mailed it off.  Within a week I received this lovely testimonial:

Ruth, I just wanted to say thank you so very much for your inspirational story. Totally a God moment that I was in my car one morning and heard you on the radio. I am never in my car at that time of the day. I have just received your book and when I opened it you had signed it to me!

You see my husband just passed away 6 months ago and I am struggling through many narrow spots and reading grief books. Looking for answers and anything to take away the emotional pain … as you stated in your book. Then here I hear about your book… something to read for me! and for my journey through and beyond cancer!!
You have touched my soul and I just want to say thank you again for sharing your story and your inspiration. I have found that your book hits home for both my grief and my wellness of living on without my soul mate and the father of our three children. Who knows maybe the next God moment will bring us to the same place at the same time.

You have touched my heavy heart and for that I thank you.
Blessings,

I have often found myself looking at moments like the one described here as coincidence, happenstance, synchronicity and yes, sometimes I say “That was a God touch.”  Ascribing significance to a seemingly random event may not be an activity you dabble in, but I find that it reminds me to be more present in the moment; recognizing the beauty in a person, place or thing that catches my attention.  In response, I may pause, smile,  “hmm,” or  lift up a prayer of gratitude.  Whatever the circumstance, I know I am always better for having taken the time to relish what has transpired.  I would welcome a God Moment that might bring me together with this reader.

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What narrow spots are you facing?

Ruth in the Hourglass

 

I describe cancer as the narrow spot in an hourglass. I am the sand passing from the top, through the narrow spot and coming to rest in the bottom chamber. Life is full of narrow spots, not all labelled cancer. They represent change and loss. I can go kicking and screaming through the narrow spot, but I will go! After arriving at the bottom, I can stick my head in the sand and pretend nothing has happened or I can keep my head up and look around to see possibilities in my sand’s new arrangement. As a result of the passage, the sand is refined and redefined. I am able to sift through to find interior resources not previously noticed and/or called upon. The secret is not to fight the passage, but to courageously embrace and accept “what is.”

Narrow spots are tools that provide us with life lessons that lead us to compassion and wisdom. Poet Stephen Levine wrote: “There is a grace approaching/,,,It is an insistent grace that draws us/to the edge and beckons us surrender/safe territory and enter our enormity.” Cancer is a narrow spot that has forced me to leave safe territory and look at life with a different perspective, not once, but twice. It has proven to be a very powerful and proficient teacher. I have learned that self care is not a selfish act. The cornerstone of self care is being present: slowing down, breathing deeply and listening to my heart; gently and honestly facing limitations, and either learning to do something a new way, asking for help or graciously deciding to stop and not do that thing.

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A New Experience

I was invited to write the Foreword for an upcoming book, written by fellow cancer survivor, Ute Buehler.  Our cancer journeys are dramatically different, hence our stories are as well.  My Point of View for this piece is to be “an unwilling expert,” encouraging readers to share their stories  and discover life resources by reading other’s.  Here is my first Foreword.  The book will be available mid 2014.  I will keep you posted.

Unfortunately, we all know something about cancer. It is a rare person whose life has not been touched by cancer, either as a patient, family member, friend, or caregiver.  Statistics tell us that one in three women, and one in two men, will be diagnosed with some type of cancer in their lifetime. Cancer is either the number one or number two cause of death in the United States, depending on where you live.  In Minnesota, it is number one.  I live in Minnesota, but I didn’t die.  I am a cancer survivor.  I describe cancer as the narrow spot in an hourglass.  I am the sand that has traveled from the top, through the tight spot, to the bottom—the same sand, but now arranged differently.

The broadest definition of a cancer survivor is a person living with and beyond cancer, from the time of diagnosis onward to the end of life. So what are we to do with the statistical reality of occurrence and our somewhat misguided belief that we will be the one who is spared?  Name it.  Talk about it.  And gather resources.

Our lives are unique journeys, with twists and turns that teach us lessons along the way.  When we pay attention during our narrow spots, we gather resources and methods of navigation we can use when the hourglass is overturned again. Stories are essential to our nature and survival, helping us to make sense of our lives, and keeping us in contact with others.  Wholeheartedly sharing stories, as a teller or a listener, strengthens resilience, which is an integral part of health, as well as wellness and the capacity to heal 

We cannot control what will happen in our lives, but we can control what we bring along with us on the journey.  Start collecting resources.  Other people’s stories bring us perspective on our own, and show ways to navigate we can access when needed.  Not as a comparison, but rather they provide us with the ability to look at the same thing from a different angle, and develop a new relationship with it.   

My cancer story began with a soft, non-painful lump on my left wrist, followed by the diagnosis of Soft Tissue Sarcoma. This led to the amputation on my dominant hand and forearm.  I cannot hide it, nor do I want to. I have learned to accept, adapt, and accommodate. There is nothing I cannot do with patience, persistence, and grace.  I’ve learned asking someone for help is a gift to them as well as myself—and I get to choose when not to do something.  I share my story out of strong sense of gratitude for excellent medical care, and for a lifetime of paying attention, and building resources.  

This book is one woman’s story of her journey with cancer. May it be a resource to others who, while having a different experience than what is described here, will see there is always possibility when one goes through a narrow spot with patience, persistence, faith, and intention.  There is authentic inspiration in the realization that if someone else has been through it, and survived to tell the story, there is also hope for us.  This story, along with yours and mine, will continue to evolve. 

– Ruth Bachman, Author of Growing Through the Narrow Spots

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What are you waiting for?

#3 March 2014 Contact.004We all have the resources we need to face our narrow spots.  Ask for help.  Spend time slowing down and breathing deeply.  Listen to our heart.  There may not always be an apparent answer to the question.  Patience, while living the questions, is challenging and well worth the effort to be present in whatever situation we find ourselves.  As Rilke said, “Live the questions now.  Perhaps someday far in the future you will live your way into the answers.”

 

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Growing Through the Narrow Spots: An Interview

Growing Through the Narrow Spots

Ruth Bachman interview on Problems and Solutions with Cathy Blythe

This is an interview that I enjoyed doing with Cathy Blythe in Lincoln, NE.  I am grateful for this opportunity and for Cathy’s kind comments and recommendation of my book.  Listen in.

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Is there effort in transformation?

#2 February 2014 Contact.002

 

I just got my newsletter from Sacred Ground, a community of spiritual directors and seekers in St. Paul, MN.  The opening letter from Michele, the Executive Director, is about change – a subject with which I am very familiar.  The essays inside are a collection of reflections on transformation – may be a coincidence, may not be.  I chose the above as my quote to share for the month of February.

I have received a couple of thoughtful responses to my monthly message:

“Beautifully said. Although I am not sure that we were ready and willing at the time when transformation presented itself.  But…..with time transformation did hold on our lives and we were forever changed.  Thank you for making me pause for a moment to reflect today.” Leslie from Nevada

“What a good reminder for me today!  Be receptive, don’t push the waters. Thanks.” Mary Lou from St. Paul

What caught my attention about Richard Rohr’s statement, the reason I selected it for this month’s mailing, was the dichotomy between receiving a gift (does it really require no effort?) and setting the intention of being open and willing (putting forth effort?) to accept, accommodate and acknowledge it.  I have long admired and found inspiration in Rainer Marie Rilke’s quote “Do not seek the answers that cannot be given you…The point is to live everything.  Live the questions now.  And perhaps someday, far in the future, you will live you way into the answers.”  Living with questions requires patience – a kind and gentle relationship with yourself and the challenges or circumstances that have brought about the questions.  Is that effort?

One of my favorite speech titles is: “Change is Inevitable.  Transformation is Intentional.”  Intention is sometimes forcing the issue, pushing the waters, and/or creating a plan and timetable to achieve an end result.  Intention, in this case, is the desire and freedom to envision possibilities for moving forward.  The willingness to say, “Yes, this has happened.  And now what?”

I believe that when we pay attention and are present – staying awake to life with a spirit of abundance rather than scarcity – the potential for transformation is around every corner.  Grace is always present, it has nothing to do with our worthiness, only our presence.

 

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Ignite Minneapolis

I do not know how I received information about the November event, but I did.  Not being a shy person, I did not hesitate to send in a proposal to be a speaker.  That is where the adventure begins.

I am a public speaker. I have always been a person who gets a certain thrill and satisfaction being up in front of a group people sharing something – an original idea or information of someone else’s design.  It is one of my outstanding attributes.  Please do not misunderstand.  I have not always been successful in my effort to share this talent.  However, the purpose of this post is not to belabor my numerous failures.  On the contrary, it is to share what I consider to be a remarkable success.

Ignite Minneapolis talks are hard.  Each speaker – no mater what the topic – gets 5 minutes and 20 slides, that auto-advance, to enlighten an audience that wants you to succeed. The fast pace is tricky.  It is more than a little nerve-wracking, and so worth the effort.

My topic was easy: the inevitability of change and what is required to navigate it.  It is a message I have shared often in the last 10 years.  It is my way of giving back for successful cancer treatment that has allowed me to be alive 10 years after diagnosis.  The structure and environment of Ignite Minneapolis were not at all easy, however.  But I did it.

The slides were not overly challenging either.  I have numerous images that I have used to support my message.  They are available and ready for selection.  A wise friend and mentor in this project suggested that the images be “general” in relation to what I was saying – not timed to coincide with a specific thought or phrase.  That was very wise counsel, indeed.

The most demanding aspect of this engagement was memorizing what I was going to say – and knowing that there was no wiggle room – 5 minutes and out came the hook.  So here is a link to my effort to spark the interest of an audience of 700 strangers (I knew only one person in the house!) to grow through the narrow spots of life.

As you view this video, please bear in mind that I did not realize that I was in the dark – the light of the projector was in my eyes and I thought it was a spot light!  I will do better next time – and I do hope there will be a next time!

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A Chance Meeting

Ruth and Kristin Skating

At this time 11 years ago, I was a 54 year old woman in apparent good health.  I had purchased myself new ice skates  (the first since high school) and was enjoying skating on the lake behind our home.  [I am pictured here with my god-daughter, Kristen who is now 20.]  I had loved skating as a child.  I could be found at the rink a block from our house in St. Paul everyday after school, in the evening and/or on the weekends.  It was a particular pleasure when Mr. Parker (the father of my 1st grade boyfriend) would bring his record player and speakers and we would skate to music, perhaps even holding hands with a boy!  I was on the “performance squad” for hockey at Central High School in the 60’s.  As an adult, there was a period of time when I went to the indoor hockey rink in Eden Prairie during the school day to skate in circles (to music in my headphones, of course) as part of my exercise program.  I have always loved skating.  I still have my skates, but I do not use them often.

At the time this photo was taken I had noticed a small, non-painful lump on the inside of my left wrist.  I had fallen – hard – on the ice a few times and thought it was an injury resulting from those falls.  I was curious, inquiring of most anyone I was with, “What do you think this is?”  No one had an answer.  I finally went to the doctor and the rest, as they say, is history.

The reason I am writing about this is not the anniversary of the appearance of this lump.  It is because of a chance encounter with a young woman whom I had met after that time, almost 11 years ago now, at an amputee golf tournament.

There was a 5 year old little girl at the tournament, a friend of Pat Cooper, one of my amputee mentors.  Tory (the girl) was/is a triple amputee as the result of a lawn mower accident when she was 4 years old.   She was/is missing her right arm below the elbow and both legs below the knees.  I remember her spirit that day – she was as happy as any other 4 year old I have known, playing and interacting with all of the amputees in the room – part of the club.

My chance encounter with this girl from my past was at a theater in Chanhassen.  I was taking my 2 1/2 year old granddaughter to  Frozen, her first experience with a movie in a theater. (There is a story worth telling about that experience too!)  I arrived early so that Tatum could feel comfortable with the surroundings – so early that there was no one else there for the 11:55 a.m. showing.  Tatum was immediately drawn to the video games.  I reminded her that we were there to see a movie and not play games  After paying for my ticket (I did not know Tatum would be free!), I noticed the ticket sales person had a prosthetic right hand.  I lifted my remaining left limb and asked, “How did you lose your hand?”  She answered, “A lawn mower accident, when I was a child.  I have two prosthetic legs, too.”  We then shared conversation about prosthetic devices: the fact that less than 15% of amputees use one regularly; the fact that myo-electric devices are quite fancy, but not all they are cracked up to be; and that the value of a prosthetic device is functionality.  Tory wears the same type of device she wore as a 4 year old – and it works for her.

After purchasing delicious theater popcorn (only canola oil and salt!) and lemonade, Tatum and I went into the theater and enjoyed the movie very much.  I had seen it previously with my older granddaughter, Amy, so I could assure her that all would be well when things looked questionable.  It was a memorable moment of grand-parenting.

Upon leaving the theater, many more people were arriving to see movies at the theater.  As I passed by the front counter I asked the girl who had taken my money her name.  She answered, “Tory.”  I asked, “Did you know a golfer named Pat Cooper?”  “Yes,” she answered with a big smile on her face.  “So did I,” I said.  “ I met you 10+ years ago at an amputee golf tournament at Hazeltine in Chaska.”  “Yep,” she replied.  “I was there.”

I smiled and left the theater with Tatum.  It was nap time.  I will go back to that theater at every opportunity, on the outside chance that I will see Tory and remember those memories from the summer of 2003 when I was a new amputee – and she was already 1 year into the practice.

On the day of my surgery, June 13, 2003, Pat Cooper re-entered treatment for a re-occurance of her sarcoma – 15 years after her above the elbow amputation.  Pat died on August 9, 2004, a remarkable woman, a true friend.

Ruth and Pat Cooper

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Gratitude

Growing Through the Narrow Spots

I am so grateful to Linda Hunt for her generous and thoughtful response to my book.  When you write something – and put it out there in the universe – it is gratifying to learn that the message is meaningful and carries the intention of the project authentically.

Here is a blog post from Linda Hunt that made my day.

http://pilgrimagethroughloss.com/growing-through-the-narrow-spots/

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What are you looking forward to in 2014?

#1 January 2014 Contact.001

 

Here we are two weeks into the new year.  What do you need to accept?  What possibilities are you seeing and longing for?  How do you plan to embrace what is and move forward?

For some time I have believed that approaching the inevitability of change with the attitude of  “Yes, this has happened.  And now what?” is the key to being present in the “now” and setting the intention of moving forward – no matter how slowly, and surely.  I recently read a mediation about about the word “And”.  It was in a post from Richard Rohr, a Franciscan monk.  I enclose it here as food for thought.  Try reading this a few times a day, for more than one day.  You may be surprised how it creates an avenue for accommodating acceptance and possibility.

The Shining Word “And”
“And” teaches us to say yes
“And” allows us to be both-and
“And” teaches us to be patient and long-suffering
“And” is willing to wait for insight and integration
“And” does not divide the field of the moment
“And” helps us to live in the always imperfect now
“And” keeps us inclusive and compassionate toward everything
“And” demands that our contemplation become action
“And” insists that our action is also contemplative
“And” is the mystery of paradox in all things
“And” is the way of mercy
“And” makes daily, practical love possible

Adapted from The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See by Richard Rohr

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