Friday, March 29, 2013

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

I have been pretty vocal about my role in my own healing process. The more I experience and the more I read of other’s experiences, I become progressively more convinced that this is true. I don’t think it’s rocket science to grasp that some stress is good to get us to move outside of our comfort zones and toward something positive; too much stress, of course, produces some definite negative consequences. In my case, I got high blood pressure, acid reflux, and I was just plain unhappy. I’m beginning to wonder that as a result of the years I was in such an unhappy place, the leukemia I’m experiencing now was my body’s ultimate rebellion or outright surrender. There is certainly some conjecture about that, of course, but again, I can't help but wonder.  I came across this as I was reading this morning:

Increasingly, in the medical press, articles are being published about the high cost of the negative emotions.  Cancer, in particular, has been connected to intensive states of grief or anger or fear. It makes little sense to suppose that emotions exact only penalties and confer no benefits … creativity, the will to live, hope, faith, and love have biochemical significance and contribute strongly to healing and to well-being.  The positive emotions are life-giving experiences.
          - Norman Cousins, Anatomy of an Illness

Since moving home to Utah, working at a job I really enjoy and where I am appreciated, being around family, living in a place where I’m more acclimated, I’ve found myself much happier and aside from the obvious, healthier.  I haven’t required high blood pressure medication and haven’t experienced the chronic acid reflux that has plagued me for many years. My response to the chemotherapy has been  very good and from everything I’ve been told, my prognosis is also optimistic. In short, I have a positive outlook and I have much to be grateful for, things I’ve also been pretty vocal about. But it does bear repeating.

And it bears repeating for all of us, seriously. While there are some who look forward to another incarnation and others who hope in an afterlife, the fact of the matter is that this life we’re living here and now is the only one we can truly be certain. No one, to the best of my knowledge, has come back with a slide show of the hereafter! The point being is simply that living a life, a full life, now is not just a part of the fabled “American Dream,” but rather something we need to pursue. It’s part of our physical as well as mental health. It's even constitutional!

Being around people that build you up rather than sucking the life out of you, finding the vocation that fulfills you rather than bleeding your soul, and participating in activities that make you feel complete are things that are imperative, not just things we should tick off on a bucket list. They have to be part of our daily lives. True, we all have circumstances that may prevent us from making immediate changes, but if you’ve surrendered to an existence of habit and becoming comfortably numb on the weekends to deaden the dread of the workaday week, what kind of life is that? I’ve written before that “normal” should never be the goal, but rather you have to redefine normal to be exciting and revitalizing. You can do that, right? And again, don’t wait until you’re lying flat on your back and unable to make the changes in your life necessary to be happy. Do it today!

A good friend of mine owns a number of day spas in the TwinCities. Her attitude toward business has made her not only a successful businesswoman, it has made her an absolute delight to be around.  Suffice it to say, the attitude and success are inextricably entwined.  Her corporatecreed is, “…knowing that right thoughts and right efforts ultimately bringabout the right results.” It’s that kind of attitude I have adopted personally and if I’m ever even a fraction as successful as she is, I’ll be very well off.

But her success isn’t surprising at all considering her corporate credo and neither is the accelerated healing because of a personal attitude that mirrors that positive outlook. It’s the kind of thinking that any of us can adopt for any reason for any occasion in spite of any negative circumstance. Sure, there’s reality and I’m not some Pollyanna and I have no desire to be a martyr, but neither will I be a prisoner to negativity…and I hope you won’t either.

I had a good conversation with a guy named Dennis today. At the suggestion of the hospital social worker, he stopped by during my first round of chemo to fill me in on some of his experiences when he was in Seattle for his bone marrow transplant a few years back. He stopped in for purely social reasons today and it was good to see that he’s doing well and thriving and maintaining that edge of attitude that keeps us both smiling. Even though he's in his 60s, he typically wears a t-shirt that brings a grin.  It gives me all the more hope that not only will I be OK, I will thrive when I’m through my treatment. I recognize, too, that the road ahead of me is not going to be an easy one. In fact, it’ll be damned hard and involve a lot of discomfort and sickness, the likes of which I’ve never seen and wouldn’t wish on anyone, but it’s a road I can walk and complete. It’s also one that I will be able to help someone else down at some point, someone who will need a bit of help to take the next step.

As always, I thank you all for helping me take the next step and be positive throughout this rather long and tedious journey. As the button my friends and high school classmates, Jeff & Jane gave me on my table in front of me says, “No one fights alone.” I believe that!

Now, for something completely different. Fair warning, if you’re at all sensitive to religious sensibilities, you may not want to click on the video.  Monty Python’s Life of Brian is a parody and not for everyone. I don’t want to offend, but the words to the song, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life are what I’m smiling at today. I’m a die-hard Python fan…so with that disclaimer, I offer my deepest admiration and genuine gratitude to all of you who walk along with me...and if you enjoy Monty Python, sing it with me!

Be well, stay strong, and of course, much love to you all! J