Have you ever spent an entire day analyzing the one thing that went wrong, instead of praising the hundreds of little things that went right? Do you feel like positivity is always something you are constantly chasing, instead of embracing?
If you answered, “Yes”, then let me reassure you, first and foremost, I’m right there with you and second, you are one hundred percent normal!
This pattern of negative self-absorption we are inclined to embrace seems as natural as breathing, but I am convinced that with dedicated mindfulness to think differently, it doesn’t have to be. For almost three years now, I have been training myself to get lost in the blessings and while it’s been one tough go, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.
The journey to recognize I needed to do this was not an easy one and in fact, a bit humbling, because it involved deflating an ego, I didn’t even know I had.
I began to see this aspect of my personality reveal itself during the first few weeks after my cancer diagnosis in early 2016. I’m a solution minded person. I don’t like unsolved problems. Resolution without solution, in my world, leaves too many carrots dangling. It didn’t take long after I started talking to cancer specialists to realize that cancer was not going to be a quick fix and no one, absolutely no one, was going to give me any guarantees.
Well my solution-oriented mind just wouldn’t accept that. So before work, after work and into the wee hours of the morning, I would click and scroll my way through negative LALA land (aka, the internet) to find a solution to my health issues that would prove all the experts wrong. My world didn’t have to change. Cancer did. That was all there was to it, period, end of story!
I was going to be the miracle of all miracles.
I began to feel resentful waiting around for test results. Didn’t the labs know I had cancer? Why were my doctors making me wait for things when I could be dying? How inconsiderate everyone was to keep acting like everything was normal, when my world was crumbling and falling apart.
For weeks, I aggressively gave the front page of my world over to negative thinking. My outward face to the public was a frozen mask of happiness, but inside I was truly frozen in a wasteland of negative thinking.
That is until one day, about a week before my surgery to remove my cancer tumor, I had an encounter with a woman standing in front of me in the check-out line at the grocery store that would change my life.
This woman was hard not to notice. She was very pale, completely bald and her cheeks were distorted like a chipmunk, the rest of her face completely round like the moon.
She was slowly loading all of her purchases onto the grocery conveyor. Each peach, one at a time. Each tomato, one at a time. The line behind me was two people long. The look of impatience on their faces was evident. The woman continued, one potato, two potato, three potato, four. I’m not trying to be funny, but I literally remember that children’s game popping into my head as she methodically stacked potatoes on the conveyor.
Was this woman a nut? Couldn’t she see the line was getting longer? Hurry it up! Hurry it up!
I turned around to look behind me again and now there were at least three more people in line.
I started to ask her if I could help her. She wobbly loaded a jug of ice tea onto the conveyor, turned to look at me and said:
“Before cancer, I would never have understood the blessing in a peach or a tomato or a banana. I would come to the grocery store and rush to load my cart, rush home and put it all away and I’m ashamed to admit, sometimes I would forget about the things I had bought, things I absolutely had to have in the moment, until I would find them rotting on the kitchen counter or spoiled in the refrigerator. You know how it is? But I don’t do that anymore. Each peach, each tomato, each banana is a blessing to me. I am lucky I can enjoy these things. Their different tastes and the smells (I remember she held a peach out for me to sniff), the ability to afford them and share them with my family. Before cancer I never understood the blessings in being able to pick up a jug of ice tea. I have bone cancer and the chemo makes me a little loopy, so I count out my fruit and veggies to make sure I have what I need and I am grateful for each thing. I hate that it makes you and all the others in line uncomfortable. But I decided it was time to let my ego go…the part of me that had to control everything and just accept the blessings.”
I honestly didn’t know what to say to her. How did she know what I was feeling inside, what I needed to hear that day, in that very moment? Was she psychic? I remember turning and looking at the man behind me and he had tears in his eyes. He reached over and squeezed my elbow and in almost a whisper he said, “My wife died last year of bone cancer.”
I blurted out, “I have breast cancer.” The cashier stood there, a young girl, and she said, “my grandma is doing chemo now.”
The woman reached over to grab my hand. “Train yourself to look for the blessings. It’s not easy, but maybe we were all meant to meet today so that we could bless each other. How cool is that?!”
It sounds so dramatic, but it really was just a conversation. Over in a matter of a couple minutes. But it was a couple minutes of clarity that was life changing for me.
I had to deflate my ego, the thing that was so huge it was blocking my ability to see the blessings in the every day and had been letting my cancer diagnosis control my life. My ego that had such a tight grip on my happiness that it was pushing negativity to the forefront. My ego that thought it knew best, knew better, knew more than the doctors and specialists and trained medical professionals who were charged with saving my life. My ego who sought out internet sites to verify my negativity and verify that “I was right!”
I had to deflate my ego that said I can fix all things. I can do it alone. I don’t need anyone.
But I do. I need the blessings.
My wonderful husband who understands my rollercoaster of emotions better than anyone, and still loves me going on thirty-five years together.
My two sons and my daughter who get my sense of humor, my quirky love of collecting chicken art and my drive to create, motivate and be the best I can be. They make me proud to be their mama every day of my life.
My parents, brother, brother and sisters in-law, aunts and uncles and cousins, niece and nephew whose love and support have touched my heart and who have made me hungry and curious to know more about my ancestry.
My diverse group of friends who challenge me to think, to ponder, to wonder, to laugh and have fun.
My animals who have shown me the face of unconditional love.
My Pastors and church family who have inspired me to move my faith from something I practice to something I live.
My medical team who believe in me, even when I do not believe in myself.
And especially the thousands of strangers I have met along the way, in person and in cyber-space, especially in the last three years, who’s kind words, wisdom, laughter and strength have sustained me in my darkest hours. Some have become dear friends and I am so very grateful for how they continue to bless my life.
Although I still have my negative days and still carry around a few pounds I’d like to get rid of, both literally and emotionally, the weight of negativity on my shoulders has been lightened.
The more I train myself to look for the blessings, my burden is less and less each day. I am happier, grateful and much more positive.
I hope you try it. What have you got to lose, except a few pounds of negativity?!
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