Finding Inner Strength

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Author Unknown

 

I spent some time recently visiting my mother who is battling cancer for the second time. She has Multiple Myeloma which is cancer of the blood plasma cells within the bone marrow.  It is an incurable cancer which means that chemotherapy and other treatments can force it into remission but in most cases it comes back after 3-5 years of remission and you begin your fight again.  Over time all of the treatments and the Myeloma eventually lead to dissolving of the bones, weakened immunity and difficulty fighting infections.

While I would never say that anything associated with cancer is easy,  I will say that I found it easier to help my mom stay motivated and hopeful the first time around.  The first time around, when she was first diagnosed and went through chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, she stayed in the fight.  She stayed hopeful and ready to win and get back to living life.  She fearlessly downed handfuls of medication and hooked up weekly to various IV concoctions which promised to save her life.  After her stem cell transplant; after the dramatic weight and hair loss; I watched new life begin.  Her hair grew back, she no longer required thyroid and blood pressure medications.  It was as if someone had hit the reset button on her life and for the first time since I’ve known her, she dove headfirst into living.  She opened up to trying new experiences and living with full appreciation of the gift of life.  It was remarkable to watch.

Here we are 4 year later, she is now 73 and the cancer is back.  This second time around is proving to be much more emotional and much harder to keep her spirits up.  One morning, on my recent visit to Missouri, over early morning coffee, she tells me that she just doesn’t see the point of going through with the treatment anymore knowing that she’ll likely have to do it again, later down the road, if pneumonia doesn’t take her first and that she just didn’t know if she can continue.  I could see the defeat in her eyes and felt a darkened energy fall over the room.  I honestly didn’t know what to say.  What she was saying, wasn’t wrong.  In all likelihood, if she reaches remission again, the cancer will be back at some point down the road.  How do you help someone find the hope they need to keep going?

In that moment, I felt useless to say or do anything that would help boost her spirits and get her back in the fight.  I wanted so badly to say something helpful but I had nothing.  I wanted so badly to be her rock but I scanned my brain for something motivational and inspiring to say and came up empty.  Instead I gave her a hug, told her that I loved her and hoped she would continue her treatment because I still desperately needed my Mama and then I went out for a walk.  As I was walking, I received an email from a friend.  My friend’s email said, “ I saw this and thought of you.”  She sent me the following quote, “Sometimes the strength within you is not a big fiery flame for all to see, it is just a tiny spark that whispers ever so softly, ‘you got this. Keep going’.”

It was exactly the words I needed to hear; exactly the words I needed to share with my mother and exactly the words I need to share with you and anyone who is struggling to face overwhelming challenges.  The strength we need is within each one of us.  It may not always be big and fiery.  It may not always be enough to move the mountain from our path but it could be just the right amount we need in the moment…a spark, a whisper of courage, that keeps us moving and helps us go around or over or through the mountain.

When I returned from my walk, I shared the words with my mother.  That tiny spark of encouragement was just the right amount she needed to keep going.  She continues her cancer fight today (and most Thursdays) with another chemotherapy treatment.  I wish I could bottle up all my inner strength and courage and share it in one of her IV bags.  Of course, I can’t do that so I do what I can.  I share inspiring words (when they come to me), I give her hugs (a virtual one, today) and hope that my little whispers of strength will be just the right amount to keep her going.

 

 

Fearless

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One of the benefits of keeping a consistent yoga practice is that it opens up my creative pathways.  More often than not, I feel inspired and creatively charged after an hour on the mat.  Many times I have found this creative energy to be a useful tool for processing my “stuff.”  By “stuff”, I’m referring to the big, beautiful, shit-storms of life we all face. You know what I’m talking about…the health scares, the aging parents, the crumbling relationships, etc.  I’ve been facing a number of struggles in my life this year and while yoga is always a favorite tool for processing my stuff, this year my processing process has returned to a former love, the “pen” or more realistically the keyboard (pen just sounds sexier than keyboard, don’t you think?) to reflect on and process the tough stuff through writing.

Recently I had the opportunity to spend a week at the beach.  One lazy afternoon as I sat staring out at the ocean, I started trying to make sense of some of the struggles I’ve been facing this year.  As I sat there my kids were wading out into the ocean with boogie boards.  The water was a little rough that day and they were getting knocked around by the waves and couldn’t get on their boards.  Not being that familiar with the ocean and currents, etc. they were clearly intimidated and a bit fearful of being tossed about.  They were about to call it quits and come out of the water when I encouraged them to not let their fear of the waves ruin their experience.  I told them that once they made it past the wave break, they would be able to get on the boards without getting knocked off and then riding the waves would be fun.  I encouraged them to be fearless.

The word “fearless” has been my word/theme for the year.  I’m kind of a word-nerd, by the way.  When I was a kid, I would actually sit and read the dictionary.  There must have been a book shortage at the local library or perhaps I was just a really, REALLY, weird kid.  Seriously though, instead of setting new year’s resolutions at the start of a year, I typically adopt a word or phrase that I use as a theme for the year.  2017 is supposed to be my year of being fearless.  Sounds good, doesn’t it?  FEARLESS!  When I chose fearless as my word this year I had no idea how much I would be challenged to put that word into play.  More than once this year, I’ve questioned whether I shouldn’t have chosen “margaritas on the beach” as my word/theme for the year.  What was I thinking picking fearless as my word?  Silly little girl.

As I sat on the beach thinking about this word “fearless” and processing through my junk, I started kicking around some thoughts and came up with the following poem.  You should know that I am not a poet.  I repeat…I am NOT a poet.  However I go where the creative energy takes me and this time it took me into the ocean and the world of poetry. And, since April is National Poetry Month, I wanted to share it with you.

While I’m still processing through my stuff, I’m challenging myself to see these struggles more as life-gifts and less shit-storm.  I’m trying to see that these challenges are really for my benefit and that they are teaching me and helping me to become the person I need to be to reach my goals in the next season of life.  I wake up each day and encourage myself to be fearless in the face of these challenges.   I tell myself that if I stay fearless, once I make it past the wave break, it’ll be fun.

I’ll bet that you, too, are facing challenges in 2017.  What are your challenges teaching you?  Are they helping you become a better version of yourself?  How can your struggles help you reach your goals?  What would happen if you chose to be fearless?

 

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The Fearless Mermaid

When I close my eyes as I sit by the sea, a fearless mermaid is the me that I see.

When the sun shines bright I lay on the rocks, soaking up the heat. I am not afraid to be seen.

When my shoulders turn pink from the warm sun, I dive into the water and swim with the sharks. I am not afraid of the sharks.

When the sea turns choppy and the clouds roll in, I ride the waves of the storm. I am not afraid of the storm.

When the ships come near and the sailors shout, I smile and wave. They’re curious about me and me about them. I am not afraid of the sailors.

When the moon rises high and casts its soft glow, I survey my heart and that’s when I know that the fearless mermaid is the me I must show.