“Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” — Marie Curie
There are days when this beast of a disease lays me low, but those days are the exception not the rule. Most often I am able to think clearly about my situation and not let fear cloud my judgment. Finding ways to fear less helps me to stay strong. The best days are those when I am surrounded by friends and bolstered by their support.
A few weeks ago I joined the American Cancer Society Relay for Life in San Carlos, California. The event was a big slice of Americana. Boy Scouts in full regalia flanked the stage, along with firemen from the San Carlos Fire Department. A little girl, 8 or 9 years old, sang the national anthem, then the mayor of San Carlos led us in the Pledge of Allegiance before welcoming the cancer “survivors,” including me.
After the welcome ceremony we began the relay, with teams walking in shifts over the next 24 hours. Team FearLess was sponsored by MarkLogic, a database company at which, until recently, I was vice president of communications. Because of my health, I had to leave a job I loved. Strolling the lush green course under a Bay Area blue sky, catching up on company gossip and personal news, I was struck by how much I miss seeing these people every day and how many of these colleagues I now count as friends.
When I was first diagnosed in January, I wasn’t sure how to tell my coworkers. A friend proposed that I avoid specific detail and just say I’d be out on medical leave. But I thought, no, they’ll think I’m having liposuction or some problem with my lady parts, and people will be too embarrassed to ask how I am.
I wanted to call it what it is. I have cancer. Metastatic lung cancer. And no, it’s not from smoking.
Throughout my illness my colleagues rallied around me. They organized a meal caravan, delivering dinner to our home several nights a week. The human resources team was invaluable in helping me navigate the insurance and disability labyrinth. I received a steady stream of calls, emails and visits letting me know that I was missed and not forgotten. I was even given a subscription to People magazine, possibly the best gift I’ve ever received. And just weeks after learning of my diagnosis, the company signed on as a platinum sponsor for this American Cancer Society Relay for Life, raising thousands of dollars and showing up in force to walk around the clock.
Organizations will always talk about how they value their employees and put people first. I feel fortunate to have been part of a work family where they truly walk that talk. Their ongoing kindness and support helps me to fear less.
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Now she’s learning to calm her mind through the practice of meditation. Baron told HuffPost Live’s Nancy Redd that taking a few minutes for herself each day has made her realize how often she was simply going through the motions.
“We numb ourselves a little too much,” Baron said. “We numb ourselves with busy, we numb ourselves with food, we numb ourselves with alcohol and a whole bunch of other stuff, and we don’t take the time we need in life to really just slow down and enjoy it.”
Meditation can be particularly helpful for people with stressful jobs, according to Mary Cunningham, a meditation guide and business strategist.
“I like to use [meditation] with entrepreneurs and business people and anyone else who just feels like they’re going in a constant state of go, go, go,” she said on HuffPost Live. “The moment you take a step back to realize that you can put things together and synthesize information in your own life in a better way … you start to access other parts of your brain that are really going on autopilot.”
Catch the full conversation on HuffPost Live HERE.
Once we really check into what it takes to be happy with ourselves, we can really illuminate that light in our relationships, too.
Personally, I used to have a high ideal as to what it took for me to be happy on my own, let alone wanting to meet someone who was supposed to make me feel good.
Bit by bit, as I moseyed on the journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance, I found the perfect idea of myself and a partner-to-be based on a some sort of Greek myth.
It was disconcerting to turn the attention inward, rather than continue focusing outward in the hope of someone filling up emptiness that clearly wasn’t meant for him.
I decided to appreciate things as they were and find my own happiness in that moment. I developed a connection with how short life is and for me to not spend my time, feeling sorry for the relationships I endured and the ones I couldn’t achieve.
As I started this new love affair with myself, dating me… digging me in fits and starts, it became more consistent over time. Things finally were groovy when it came to my expectations, my desires and what I believed a real (not the fiction that once took space in my head) relationship could offer me.
I learned the how to in love, as I also knew love was at the basis for well-being.
Here’s a brief glimpse of what I’ve found makes for a genuinely good relationship.
1. Jump back and kiss ourselves
Besides finding someone else we want to kiss, being good with ourselves and finding a partner who is fairly good with themselves leads to lots of kissing!
Ditching all of our items on the negative self-checklist isn’t necessary, but acknowledge that they exist. Accept, don’t judge and when we want to judge, allow the urge to pass. It helps nothing and no one to criticize or make our partner feel bad for who they are… remember the goal is love, not assassination.
Focusing on the whole allows for each individual to grow within themselves and within the relationship.
2. Comfort in the skin
Two people who are comfy, cozy in their skin together can play on the same team.
Confidence and being true to who we are can keep the little demons in their place. When insecurities arise, having the confidence to admit it and not fear rejection is huge. Also, having the confidence to not expect our partner to fix it and practicing mindfulness score a major bonus!
Sounds boring to some, but really… wouldn’t we want to have our best friend by our side as we go through this life?
The one we can play and laugh with, explore, be silly, love, share, support and optimally, treat each other with that deep regard, the respect and kindness we each deserve?
It’s what gets us through those times of walking on a tight wire.
4. Pull the weeds (aka expectations)
True happiness means we’re not relying on someone else to make our day.
It doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t do something to make us feel a sense of appreciation, excitement or passion…. it means, that we’re okay whether they’re lighting our fire or something else has their focus. Each of our worlds doesn’t revolve around what each does or doesn’t do for the other. It’s realistic; it’s not based on a fantasy of how one’s partner is supposed to act and be. It gives freedom so both of us can give and receive fully without expectations.
There’s no pushing or forcing one’s agenda on the other, because we don’t need them to be our bandaid.
5. Zesty passion
Oooo Laa Laa! Yummy stuff!
Not only do two people who aren’t beating their partner up with their baggage have more passion for each other, but they also share a zesty passion for life!
Life becomes a sexy, sensual exploration whether it’s in the bedroom, or trying new things, which can lead us to our dreams. This type of zest is what keeps us young, looking to learn, finding the dark hidden spaces to not be so scary and we get to share it with our best friend!
How much fun can we have in this lifetime?
This list is handy, whether we’re single or in a relationship; we can begin today to create those things in our life.
Awareness can shift our perception to open us to creating more possibilities within our relationships!
(First published on elephant journal)
Photo credit: MikeBaird