It Really is Your Choice

Since the article appeared in the Mpls StarTribune, I have had the pleasure – yes, pleasure – of receiving several emails from people who found it interesting, profound, inspirational and meaningful. One woman described her experience of having a child with a disfiguring result of cancer treatment, a man tells of his wife’s unhealthy response to amputation by returning to a life as an alcoholic, and a long-time cancer survivor wrote of understanding the value of building a strong and sizable community of people to support you in your cancer journey. There are several others – all stories of value and distinction, because they belong to the person telling them.

Each life journey is a unique one. It is a mistake and even unhelpful, to compare one person’s journey with another’s – all are different and worthy, and one is not more important or profound than another. Here is my disclaimer: I speak with the voice of authority – but have none, save my life experience. My comments are only from my perspective – informed by my experience of not just going through, but faithfully growing through life’s narrow spots – cancer and all.

One of the things I would change in the article is the phrase, “instead of mourning her physical loss”. I did mourn, and I continue to grieve. I know I wrote this before, but it warrants repeating. Grieving is essential to any loss – and I suffered a great loss! Everyday I am confronted with something that is two-handed. Everyday I am given the opportunity to learn to do that thing a new way, to ask for help or to decide, gracefully, never to do that thing again! If we do not grieve a loss all the way to the end, it will wait for us. It won’t just dissipate and disappear. I still have what I describe as “grieving days”, when I borrow trouble and feel guilty about living life so fully. It is on those days that I patiently remind myself that I was given the opportunity to choose life and was successful in achieving that goal for yet another day, and I move on – sometimes slowly, not always gracefully.

When confronted with challenging life experiences, over at least the last 35 years, I have sought aid from therapists and healing practitioners. I have followed their advice to name it, speak of it and gather information; learning that life’s narrow spots affect all 5 dimensions of life: physical, emotional, cognitive, spiritual and behavioral. I have participated in retreats and workshops on a variety of themes; and taken courses in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Meditation, Yoga, and Finding Purpose in Life. I have read numerous books on a variety of topics, by a wide range of writers, not all found on the self help shelf of the bookstore! Most importantly, I strive to pay attention! Every bump and every blessing has informed what I have learned and who I am. I do not claim to have the answers. I have, however, spent time slowing down, breathing deeply, listening to my heart and have discovered that the universe moves. I get used to the new arrangement in my sand, and the hourglass is upended again.

The important message is – Choose Life!

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