Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Survival Lessons

On a recent trip to the library, (Have I mentioned how much I love going to the library?) I found a book by Alice Hoffman called Survival Lessons. I liked the brief synopsis on the book flap and it was a small book so I figured I would bring it home and see what it was all about. I like small books - silly little admission, I know, but it's true.

From the book flap - Survival Lessons provides a road map of how to reclaim your life from this day forward, with ways to reenvision everything - from relationships with friends and family to the way you see yourself. As Alice Hoffman says, "In many ways I wrote Survival Lessons to remind myself of the beauty of life, something that's all too easy to overlook during the crisis of illness or loss. I forgot that our lives are made up of equal parts of sorrow and joy, and that it is impossible to have one without the other. I wrote to remind myself that despite everything that was happening to me, there were still choices I could make." Wise, gentle and wry, Alice Hoffman teaches all of us how to choose what matters most.

Of course, I was reminded of my kanswer journey - of the lessons I learned about sorrow and happiness, beauty and baldness, laughter and tears, and how to choose hope, joy, and peace in the face of surgery, chemo, and hot flashes.

We do not always have a choice about what happens to us, but we always have a choice about how we will respond to what happens to us. And every time we choose bitterness, anger, complaining, and resentment, we also get to change our minds - and choose joy, forgiveness, acceptance, and to take deep breaths until all that stuff passes.

When I found myself battling fear, wrestling with doubts about how strong I didn't think I was,
when I find myself battling fear now, wrestling with doubts about how strong I still don't feel,
when I find myself dealing with jealousy, worry, disappointment,
I knew then and I know now that I have a choice.
I have many choices.

Here's what I found on the page between the Preface and the first chapter.
"There is always a before and an after.
My advice, travel light.
Choose only what you need most to see you through."

Before and after the doubt,
before and after the apprehension,
before and after the angst,
before and after the pain,
before and after every step I take,
I can choose what I will carry into the next phase of my journey.

Alice Hoffman's book reminded me - and reminds all of us - of some of the things that we get to choose even in the face of breast kanswer - which she also battled. Here are a few of the lessons she included in her list of lively little book -

* Choose your heroes - she described a friend about who battled kanswer this way: "She, herself, remained the same beautiful person she'd always been, with or without hair. You could take one look at her face and know she understood joy. In a last card to me, she wrote: Life is beautiful, just very unfair."

May that be said of more of us - that one look at our faces will reveal that we understand joy.
May more of us accept the truth of her final statement - life is so very beautiful, and so very unfair.

* Choose to enjoy yourself - "Start by eating chocolate," she suggests. "In fact, if you can, eat whatever you want. Any time. Any place. Cook your dream dinner."

Certainly that suggestion won't sit well with some people for very good reasons, but there is definitely a lot to be said for choosing to eat things we love and love what we eat. For choosing to enjoy our meals, our friendships, our conversations, our bodies, our relationships, the beauty of spring, and even the wildness of the weather. I choose to be grateful. I choose to be joyfull.

* About friends, she writes this - "If people aren't there for you now, when you really need them, they never will be, and it's time to move on. You'll be amazed by how many new friends you have in the after. They'll be the ones who aren't afraid of sorrow, who know we can't avoid it. The best we can do is face it together."

The first part of that description is sad, but true. Some folks that used to be good friends, that used to regularly check in with me, stopped doing so when I got sick. I am sorry to have lost contact with them. I wish them well. I wish them peace.

The good news is that I have many old friends and a few new ones that I met during the darkest time of my life who have flooded my life with light and laughter. Friends who aren't afraid of my tears or their own. Friends who are committed to facing their own battles bravely and willing to walk alongside me as I face my own with whatever bravery I can muster.

Enjoying life day by day, hour by hour,
spending time with friends, talking and looking up to my heroes,
eating chocolate every now and then, drinking tea and kombucha and fresh juices,
doing yoga, lifting weights, going for long, meditative walks
reading, journaling, sewing, painting, baking,
spending time in solitude and silence and prayer,
being honest with myself about how I'm feeling, what I need, and what I want,
asking for help, for support, for forgiveness, for a hug, and for time with my loved ones,
reclaiming every aspect of my life and also giving it over more fully to God,
these are a few of joys I have chosen and the lessons I have learned.

PS. I choose more than survival. I choose to thrive.

1 comment:

emerald said...

Loved reading ur post very good