Friday’s Focus—Our Dash

Changes changes
The planets are aligning
Our stars are falling,
The winter full moon
shines a light for the storm coming home.

Passages and endings make way for new beginnings, yes, but couldn’t there yet, just be one more day? For some, a death is expected while for others, it’s not. Either way, it’s a part of the bigger cycle but who cares about the bigger cycle when all you want is that one more day?

It makes us stop and snaps us out of where we are. I’ve written before about how a death can make us take stock of where we are in our living, and where we think we’ve been, but I’ve found that with each passing, the snap is fresh and the restocking feels brand-new. When my mother passed away, my life shifted in ways I could never have foreseen except by first-hand experience. It’s still so new to me and I keep sifting through my mental attic and basement; shuffling, sorting, tagging, boxing, and working through old habits, memories, thoughts, and baggage that don’t serve me any more and so I don’t want them around. It’s a process, for sure, and one with a capital “P”.

Then came news of the deaths of several musicians and actors. All well-known, all larger than life, suddenly a headline with a new date added to the end of a dash. It was shock after shock for many people. The papers reported most of the causes were from long-term illnesses so it’s safe to say that their passing was more of a surprise for us than for them, but no less devastating. Grief doesn’t care how famous you are.

David Bowie and Glenn Frey’s deaths hit me the hardest. I felt sucker punched. They were the soundtrack to anyone growing up in the Seventies. Pick any song by either of them and guaranteed there is a memory curled and wrapped around it. It was the theme to boyfriends, first loves, summer nights, great friends and days filled with the innocence of blue jeans, long hair and the freedom of a full tank of gas in that first car you bought with your own money. It was about taking the world by the balls and we were innocent and hopeful enough to think we could. No matter what, it was all going to be alright. Their voices, their music was inspired and inspiring.

“People don’t run out of dreams, they just run out of time” sang Frey in “River of Dreams.” It really is all about that dash in the middle and what you do with it. The death of loved ones and creative giants like those we’ve recently lost grabs us and shakes us and challenges us to look at ourselves and our dashes. Their music and movies are a reminder of our younger selves and who we wanted to be, who we could be. Not like them necessarily, but the best of us.

“What will be left of all the fearing and wanting associated with your problematic life situation that every day takes up most of your attention? A dash, one or two inches long, between the date of birth and date of death on your gravestone.” ― Eckhart Tolle

Last night I stood outside under the light of the moon, and stared, in awe, at the alignment of the planets and I couldn’t help but feel the smallness of my humanity under God’s dome.  I will do this again tonight, and then, when the snowflakes begin to fall ushering in this Winter’s first fury, I will come inside, sit by the fire, hug my loved one, and pay attention to my dash.

Will you?

#takingitdeeper
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Friday’s Focus—Taking It Down a Notch

You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please everyone all of the time. —John Lydgate

One day, when I was very young, I went over to a friend’s house after school. We were playing outside when two sisters from the apartment next door came over to play, too. They were more her friends then mine, but when I met them once or twice before, we all got along fine. On this particular day though, I still don’t know what exactly happened, but all of a sudden, there were whispers behind cupped hands, and the sisters were looking me up and down. Pretty soon, words were exchanged and adding to my confusion, the friend I was originally playing with, turned against me and joined them as they made fun of me and now mocked me outright. Confused, shocked, hurt, and in tears, I rode my bicycle home and in between sobs told my mother what happened. I can still remember what she told me: “Honey, it’s not nice, and it’s not fair, but there will always be someone who doesn’t like you.”

Unfortunately, such behavior is not regulated to the whims of children and playgrounds. Even as adults, I’ve seen how you don’t even have to do anything for someone to find a problem with you. It can be the color of your skin, the style of clothes that you wear, even the kind of dog you have. You could be breathing too hard, laughing too loud, scraping the fork too loudly against a plate (yes, I’ve actually heard these).

As a basic tenet of decent humanity, we are asked to hold our fellow beings in love and light. We can all do that on our best days, but can we also do that on our worst days? It’s easy to find the goodness in people and situations when life is going your way, but what happens on those days when things aren’t going so smoothly or there’s always something in the way of you doing what you need to? Suddenly that deep love toward your neighbor has turned into shallow, ego-driven, back-biting judgement:

The cashier yesterday who was so sweet to ask about your sister’s illness, today is a busy body who can’t mind her own business.

The bank teller who was so efficient and succinct is now cold and unfriendly.

The gas station attendant who was full of jokes last week and humorous observations, now just talks too much and doesn’t know when to shut up.

Why does she have to wear that?
Why does he have to walk like that?
Why are they in our neighborhood?
She shouldn’t; he should but no, not them; they shouldn’t be doing…

It’s amazing how we have become a society of tearing apart our own fabric of being by micro-moralizing and pitting our individual preferences and beliefs onto the person or group next to us. I’m afraid that this level of dislike and distrust has become so ingrained in our psyche that our judgements against friends and strangers, alike, is now rooted in our subconscious to the point that we don’t even realize we are doing it anymore.

We criticize and judge groups and organizations for finding fault with everyone that is not of part of them, but what we don’t see are how we are those groups when we judge those in our own circles. We’re becoming numb to the lack of respect in the differences that make up all that we are as individuals and societies. I personally know that there are pockets of people who hold spaces of unconditional love, peace, and grace and are working toward unification and healing rather than tearing apart and destroying each other, and in this, I take great hope and inspiration from them. But it’s not enough. We need more than just pockets.

I also believe that it’s the media’s perpetuation of granting attention to these squeaky wheels that has helped facilitate the hate, disdain, and repugnancy of differences into a level of micro-moralizing that has reached epic proportions. Taking it deeper and looking back through history, there have always been separatists whose actions were, and are, rooted in fear and ego. As long as humans have existed with each other there has always been fighting and warring, but there has also been peace and amiability and fairness. I think that at this time in our history, human beings have tipped the scales of acceptance versus dissension and not in a good way. Everyone is screaming for their right to individuality and there’s nothing wrong with that but I think it’s gone too far.

We need to find ways to bring out the best in each other not the worst. It’s not too late. Yet.

#takingitdeeper

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Fresh Pages

I don’t know about anyone else’s house, but in mine, there is one “master” calendar that hangs on the wall in the kitchen and is the repository for everything and anything that happens under this roof—planned and unplanned but noted once it happened.

At the end of each year, somewhere between Christmas and New Year’s, I take it down from it’s hallowed space on the cork board and with a brand-new calendar in tow, I make myself comfortable in a corner of the house and begin the obligatory transfer of family and friends’ birthdays, anniversaries, and any other milestone moments.

I typically start with a quick scan of the month copying events I already know by rote, but I check anyway to make sure I got the correct date. Then, I take a second, closer look at any days that had comments written inside. In any given month, I find my way around the maze of oil changes, dentist appointments, and miscellaneous call-backs that needed to be made. Sometimes there are stretches for months, where there is something written in each day with appointments and activities, that by the time I get to August, I need to sit back and take a few minutes’ break and stretch from the intense inch by inch scrutiny.

As I decipher my shorthand and scribbles, the memories of each event come rushing back: That emergency mechanic appointment I had to squeeze in before our vacation (“but it’s a new car, darnnit!”); the phone call we received when we found out our granddaughter was born; the reminder that we need to order wood again for the winter (and scratching our heads swearing we just did that); my 30 year high school reunion (!!); classes starting, classes ending; a retreat one weekend and a weekend in Upstate the next; and it goes on.

Transferring those dates on the calendar is like reading a diary of my family’s life from the year, which is what a calendar can be I suppose. It’s this recording of the daily and monthly minutiae of our life that is the fabric of memories, some good, some bad, and some bittersweet.

A few years ago, the big build-up was my husband’s health. Looking over that calendar year as I transferred dates, I relived the memory of his chemotherapy treatments whenever I came across his oncologist’s name every few weeks with the appointment time scrawled underneath. We then began to add the countdown to his last treatment, until finally, happily, added to the calendar in block letters: “Cancer Free”.

This year’s focus, as I looked back, was my mother and her health and I could see the intensity of the changes reflected about mid-year when the doctor appointments increased. I began to make notes on the calendar of her falls and hospital visits; then came the closing date of her apartment she lived in for the past 15 years followed by scrawled names of appointments with facilities, social workers, and nurses. And then, finally, the date she entered Hospice and a mere three days later, the day she passed.

Every year, every month, has its own story. Some have a theme that runs through the year and others are just pinpoints of hours or days of unrelated events. As the years have passed, I’ve become more selective over which milestones I carry over to the blank spaces of the new calendar. Of course not every event gets transferred but I think this year has been an especially bittersweet reflection as we added the joyful event of the birth of our first granddaughter, and then the sad, but inevitable date of the passing of my mother.

January is already beginning to fill up, and that’s okay. It’s even good. Because isn’t that what it’s about? It’s those moments in between that keeps us smiling, keeps us loving, and keeps us moving on…..to fresh pages.

#takingitdeeper

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Friday’s Focus—Not Just for Today

Last night, I sat in the dark with nothing but a candle lit and the Christmas tree lights on.

I squinted and the lights looked like colored stars that might otherwise have shined out into the night.

Each ornament a memory, a celebration of a time and a place. Christmas cards with holiday greetings and blessings of the new year hang nearby, a reminder of friends near and far.

The smell of the pine mixed with the scent of the candle filled my senses, and I could hear the carols from a radio in another room. I felt surrounded by the spirit of Christmas and the true celebration of its tidings of peace and joy.

This year, the greatest gift I could have gotten was seeing the generosity, compassion, love, and appreciation in people as my mother’s health declined and finally ended.

To witness genuine nurturing between two people whose only thing in common is that they are sharing the same space under one roof for a few hours, was a testament, to me, of how much you can love and take care of a stranger. Eye color, skin color, religion, and ethnicity gets stripped away until all that is left are the two hearts, which beat the same.

I think it was especially poignant this year because my mother’s passing was on the eve of Christmas eve, and my focus was simply on caring for her. No holiday department store sale could touch me.

My Christmas gift from God, if you will, was seeing and being reminded of our deep capacity to love and care for one another, with no attachments, no “What’s in it for me,” kind of thing.

I plan to take this gift and do my best to share it with friends and family and strangers alike, throughout the coming year, and not let it stop at Christmas or with my mother’s passing.

The ultimate pay it forward, if you will.

Won’t you share it with me?

#takingitdeeper

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Friday’s Focus—There Is This

What is in between but touch?
A gentle stroke, skin whispering to skin.
A firm hold, fingers intertwined.
An embrace that suspends you in time.
Fingertips, lips. arms, bodies.

It all comes down to touch.

It’s between the lovers in the darkest hours before morning.
It’s between a parent and a newborn babe.
It’s between the living and the dying.
It’s between two friends, two strangers, two human beings.

It’s this.
All this.
In our deepest human experience,
when no words can convey…

there is touch….

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#takingitdeeper

Friday’s Focus—And How Will You?

Your pen can write a love letter or a scathing hate note.

Your pencil can render a beautiful sketch or be used as a weapon.

Your hand can gently caress or slap a face.

Your mouth can utter sweet nothings or spew hateful accusations.

Your foot can take a step forward or kick someone when they are down.

Your words can raise someone’s spirits or tear someone down.

Your whisper can be a secret or a prayer.

Your heart can love immeasurably or shut down, shut out, and beat itself to death out of fear and anxiety.

A glass of wine can be used to unwind or be the first of many toward inebriation.

A locked door can keep you safe or it can be your prison.

And it goes on…

We all have choices. What will you choose?

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#takingitdeeper

Friday’s Focus—Knowing Nothing

They say, in life, you never stop learning. I remember my father even telling me that as a kid. I can’t imagine going through my days in a stagnant haze of knowledge that doesn’t change, and sometimes (it seems) life gives you a crash course on learning where it’s sink or swim, kiddo; let’s see what ya got kind of thing. When that happens, you can run but you can’t hide. There is no amount of distraction/destruction of your choice and, there is no sandbox deep enough to keep your head buried in, to keep up a denial for very long. Lately it seems as if there are problems and glitches everywhere, and it’s not just me feeling this way. So many people I talk to have been having their share of issues, trials, and personal crises.

For many people, dealing with now daily stresses has become one hour at a time instead of one day at a time. My husband and I have a running quip: “What do you know?” “I know nothing.” No one has all the answers though many think they do. When I say, “I know nothing,” I mean it as an open, palms-up approach to things that keeps me spiritually honest and humanly humble. In the grand scheme of things, the things that really matter, I really don’t know anything, but I’ve learned and what I see is a lot:

Flowers will still grow through cracks in a sidewalk.

Nothing lasts forever but plastic bags and roaches.

Reactions and anger are really fueled by fear.

There are good people still around and sometimes in the most unlikeliest places and guises.

Standing up for yourself and what you believe in takes a certain amount of courage that we must each learn to cultivate in ourselves. No one else can do it for you–nor should they.

It still matters to be nice.

Every star in the sky and every drop of water in the oceans yields in own mysteries that will take lifetimes to discover but is fascinating to behold in the meantime.

We have have become dehumanized in taking care of each other.

It’s okay to cry.

It’s okay to be angry.

We can’t forget that there are actually flesh and blood people with names and personalities behind each set of paperwork on a desk and every screen name.

Sometimes all it takes is one good cup of coffee to hit that re-set button.

Sometimes strangers are kinder than the people we know.

It’s always on the days you’re running late that either (a) you spill your coffee [on you]; (b) your kids tell you (of course mentioning it for the first time) that their school project is due that day; (c) your pet had an “accident” in the house (and you stepped in it); (d) you forgot your password to your computer and now it’s locked you out; (e) all of the above.

What have you learned today?

#takingitdeeper

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Friday’s Focus—Living Dirty

“Addictions are an attempt to cope with intolerable states. The meager lives we are asked to live, in which we are often reduced to ‘earning a living,’ are themselves intolerable. We are meant to have a more sensuous, imaginative, and creative existence.” –Francis Weller, in “The Geography of Sorrow,”  written by Tim McKee from The Sun, October 2015

This quote comes from an interview with Francis Weller, a California psychologist and author of  The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief from an article my brother recently sent me.  Zoltan texted me last week letting me know to expect something in the mail he thought I’d be interested in. Whatever magazines or newspapers he’s sent in the past have always been interesting and so I looked forward to getting this one. When the big brown envelope finally arrived, I eagerly ripped it open and settled in for the read.  And then I read it again, and then once more. Each time, I kept circling back to that quote.

I love, no I crave, the idea of a more sensuous, imaginative and creative existence. Who wouldn’t? I don’t want to wait until I am old to wear purple with that red hat. Shake it up, shake it down, and shake it out. Boogie through your day. Wouldn’t it be great if it was that easy? For some it may be, but for others, like me, not so, at least not all the time. From experiences in my personal life to those I know around me, I’m no stranger to the irresistible pull of addictions used to numb, move on, and make each day—hell, each hour, palpable. The trip up is that it can get too comfortable being swaddled with a habit that digs its way deeper each day until you forget that you’re really only sleepwalking. You’re not really awake, you’re not really feeling, you’re not really living.

I feel that we’ve become numbed by the barrage of violence that daily fills our senses. Add to that feelings of  discomfort about our personal lives, however deeply unconscious they may be, and we’ve created the perfect cocktail of addictions waiting to happen. We need to get dirty and live our lives as if our life depended on it. Because it does. The period of gestation to when we wake up to our lives can be a long time coming for some, but when we decide to emerge through the other side, to living juicy, is up to us.

I don’t think that we’ve forgotten how to but we’ve certainly  become afraid of letting loose and living in the passion and the dirt because we have the car insurance, health insurance, the kids’ education and so on. So many of us have built up a life of what we were told we should have and so we wanted it by default but as the scales of intolerance and numbness tip, some people find a way to heed the siren’s call and throw off the mask. But it isn’t easy. It’s scary. And when we choose that moment to do it, to rip off our own masks, we need to be able to grieve for the loss of who we were, or more aptly, who we thought we were.

Unless there is a blatant loss of a life is no time to grieve or feel sorrow for what is going on inside us and around us. Even with the loss of a loved one, we’re only given a short time to process it before being required to pick up the pieces again and be back at our desks on Monday morning. We don’t allow time to process not just loss, but all that is making up the fabric of our lives  and I’m  not sure we know how to anymore.

Alternating messages of  “Coming up at 11, the latest on the attacks in [fill in your choice of country, town, state, neighborhood]”  immediately followed by a commercial for a new Lincoln Continental or the Super Sale Days at Macy’s comes at a rate faster than anyone can consciously register. The amount of time we’re given a chance to digest is only as long as a soundbyte.

How do you even start to grab the edges of that mask? Notice anything you read or hear that brings you up short; That grabs your attention and makes you come back. There are some whispering memes that are alarm clocks trying to get through the cocoon we’ve wrapped ourselves in. Listen for it and don’t hit the snooze button. Experiencing loss is a part of life, which no one is immune to. Loss constitutes more than the physical death of someone you know. Loss is missed opportunity, personality, a past place or a regret. Without allowing ourselves to grieve over a loss, it will never go away but will only bury itself deeper until we are lying in our own trough of despair and what I call, “Eeyorness” of how our days have become. (Eeyore, the Winnie the Pooh character was always gloomy, depressed, and  a woe is me. The only thing bright about him is the pink bow on his tail!)

Find something to remind you of the spark and make time for yourself to grieve and even wallow, just for a little while, in whatever sorrow you’re carrying.  I hope you find the inspiration, the red velvet and lemonade, in that space and wake up to the siren call of the life you were meant to live.

#takingitdeeper

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Friday’s Focus—What’s Eating You? Our Habits Have Become a Bad Habit

Two and half hours of my life I’ll never get back. That’s what happened last week taking my mother to the cardiologist. The waiting room was about the size of my home (yes I live in a small house but bigger than a tiny house!). Scattered throughout the room were brown leather sofas and chairs. The leather furniture certainly raised an eyebrow and the large flat-screen TV mounted in the corner of the room raised the other one. What made my draw drop, however, was that the movie Patriot Games starring Harrison Ford was on. I knew I was in trouble if a doctor was playing full-length feature movies in his waiting room.

Disconcerting as all that was, what made it worse for me was during the entire two plus hours spent in the waiting room, the people who were there had changed but the number of available seats had not. As soon as someone got called in to see the doctor, someone new walked through the front door. I started to wonder if there was a line in the hallway and a neon sign blinking “Next” as soon as there was an empty seat in the doctor’s “theater.”

I’ve never seen so many people gathered in a waiting room before. Without much else to do, I looked around and became riveted by what I saw. Regardless of size, sex, or color, it was clear that these people were not healthy. For some, it was their pallor that gave them away; for others it was the slow shuffle as they were bent over their walker; and others it was just their body shape and overall demeanor. I felt like I was looking at a slice of America and what I saw really disturbed me. We are not a healthy nation.

There’s a constant debate over food and whether it’s organic versus local versus GMO versus cold-pressed versus hydroponic versus whatever else you want it to be. The micro-splitting of what’s coming from where and what may have been in the raindrop that fell on it as it grew is becoming exhausting, and to be honest, a little boring. Of course, I care about the food I eat and the naturalness of it but as the same arguments rage on, I think we are going too far in the wrong direction—we are overly concerned and obsessed over what’s in our foods and the type of foods we put in our bodies rather than what we do with our bodies once the food is in there.

We are a health-obsessed nation and yet our health is still declining because we are a nation not on the move. We are still a sedentary bunch in our cars, our jobs, our evening television watching. Many of us are not eating from our stomachs anymore—we’re eating from our heads and our emotions. I love food as much as the next person, but I think we’ve made food a pastime. Eating is no longer something we do because we’re hungry but it is something we do when we’re bored, upset, angry, happy, celebrating or saying good-bye. Eating has become an event.

We can eat as healthy as we want but if we don’t use our bodies for even the token minimally suggested 30 minutes a day, our sedentariness can be just as deadly as if you ate a full-on “I don’t care what’s it in, just give me more” meal. I really believe it’s this static lifestyle that has become the larger contributing factor to standing room only specialist waiting rooms. If what I saw was only in a cardiologist’s office, I can’t help but wonder how often this scene is replayed in the waiting rooms of  gastrointestinal,  pulmonary, and rheumatology doctor offices.

Our bodies seem to be morphing into softer, rounder shapes than ever before. Look around and you can see how the average person’s body shape has changed. Even people who are not overweight have a changed shape—shoulders are little rounded, neck is bent forward, posture is stooped. There’s more accumulation of softness around the belly area than ever before for both men and women.

The fact that our habits are killing us is nothing new. Being with all those people in the waiting room that day, and hearing the coughs, the wheezes, the heavy breathing I knew that the cardiologists behind those closed doors are going to take their vitals, ask them how they’re doing and refill a prescription. To have a waiting room full of people who are sick due to colds, the flu, or some other kind of virus or malady is one thing but to have a waiting room full of patients who are clearly ill and some who have trouble walking let alone breathing, be there due to preventable issues was unsettling.

Yes, I am generalizing here. I don’t know the history of each person that was sitting there and yes, there are circumstances unique to each individual but I simply do not believe that every one of those people’s issues started out as life-threatening. Cardiovascular diseases can be controlled and prevented. Not everything can be blamed on genetics. It’s the combination of what we do and what we don’t do that is so deadly—food, cigarettes, sitting. This combo is lethal but also preventable. Believe me, today’s Focus is a result of my own struggles and observations—in my life I’ve smoked, drank, eaten when I’m not hungry, and chosen parking spaces closest to the store because I didn’t feel like walking far. Been there and done all that, so believe me when I say I’m not here pointing my finger without knowing full well that there are three fingers pointing right back at me!

The preventability of illness and general malaise never seemed as apparent as it did from that afternoon in the waiting room. Yes, those were two and half hours of my life I will never get back, but I have also spent two and half hours in front of the computer; in my car; watching television that I will never get back either. What about that time? Does that loss of time make it less offensive because I was doing something I enjoyed? Was it only because I was in a place that was not the result of something from my own pleasure did I feel resentment about?

We live at the whim of our own hand and we are becoming victims of our own lifestyle. But to say we’re victims indicates that we have no choice, that our unhealthiness was put upon us by outside forces and to some that may be true—up to a point, but it’s not true for all.

We can read as many diet books and articles on health as we want and it’s terribly easy to say that we will eat better and move more but somehow we always end up starting tomorrow. It took a lot of tomorrow’s for all those people at the cardiologist’s office to get to where they were that day. Don’t wait.

Today’s Friday Focus is about letting today be your tomorrow and changing the full-length movie showings in doctor waiting rooms to 60-second sound bytes instead.

#takingitdeeper

Doctor Doctor, Give Me the News–I Have a Bad Attitude

I have to say that though I understand, I don’t like the way some people wear their illnesses like a badge of honor. Having been diagnosed with an illness does not give someone carte blanche to be rude, brash, nor arrogant. Some people give off a sense of entitlement that somehow came along with their doctor’s prescription for treatment. A perfect example of this is a woman I met yesterday.

She was having her eighth and final chemotherapy treatment before going into surgery next month. From the moment she sat down in the waiting room and well into her treatment she did not stop talking about her illness, how she was going to cut people from her life because since being diagnosed they didn’t ask how she was doing. She even admitted that she stopped speaking to her son because he did not ask her soon enough (for her opinion) how she was feeling. They are still not speaking to this day. And yet, she kept saying what a happy person she is and has been through the entire treatment. She even went so far as to say, “I don’t like people who are not happy. What have they got to be unhappy about? I have cancer and I’m a happy person.” I bit my lip when I heard that and refused to look up from my iPad to even give any sort of acknowledgment to one of the most outrageous statements I’ve ever heard.

I believe that illnesses happen to not only get our attention to something that has gone remiss in the body, but also, sometimes, it is the universe’s way of forcing a redirect of our life. I’ve known people who hide behind their illnesses and use them as a way to get what they want from other people, via sympathy, or attention, and get out of doing things they don’t want to do. Maybe having a diagnosis and an illness is giving them a voice for the first time in their lives or perhaps, it is giving them justification for stepping back and away from jobs, people, friends, family–sometimes life itself. I get that. But my problem are with those people who feel entitled to bully because they wear the cape of cancer, or arthritis, or whatever.

While I admired this woman’s resiliency and her can-do attitude, she made me angry and sorry for her at the same time. Her energy of “Look at me and what I’m going through” was invasive and filled the room. Sometimes an illness is a wake up call for someone to find their own voice or empowerment, and sometimes people miss the message. I remember when I had cervical cancer many years ago, a month after I was diagnosed with anorexia. Feeling brazen, with both barrels loaded, early on, I was almost daring people and circumstances to contradict me because I was harboring feelings of “Oh yeah? Well I have cancer and anorexia, so I can do and say what I want. What are you going to do about it?” As shocked as I was to feel those things within myself, I quickly reigned them in and shook them off because they were ugly feelings of entitlement that I knew didn’t belong and definitely wasn’t who I really was. Thankfully with incredible support, I got over it—the illnesses and the attitude!

I applaud everyone who has beaten an illness or is fighting against one and I am sorry that people have to suffer, but it’s when people use that suffering or illness and turn it to a dishonest crutch or battering ram, I can’t help but feel sorry for them because people like that will never truly heal and are missing the whole point of what an illness can really teach them.