The Spontaneity Fight

I’ve worked so hard to build a beautiful life for my husband and kids, dedicating myself to creating a home environment that is warm and inviting and welcoming to all. 

I’ve spent years crafting a career that I felt was worthy and purposeful, going above and beyond in my education so that I modeled for my children the benefits of a lifetime invested in continuous learning and self-improvement.  For thirty years, I have been a dedicated volunteer in my church and community, devoted to sharing Jesus message of shalom and inclusion and helping all those in need.    I have cultivated friendships I treasure and enjoyed travel, dining and cultural and sporting experiences with my husband, family and friends.  

It has been a good life, a happy life, a positive life by all accounts that I’ve had a large hand in creating.

But a small, barely detectible, cancer tumor in my right breast forced me to reckon with the fact that no matter how hard I try, I am never going to be 100 percent the architect of my own destiny.

Why?  Because life, by its’ very nature is spontaneous, and we humans spend a whole lot of time trying to figure out ways to sabotage that spontaneity.  Without thinking, we all work tirelessly to reign spontaneity in, so that we can control it, manipulate it for our own purposes, and get angry at it for disrupting our plans.   I am a master at it.

I love to fight with spontaneity.

How dare you trample on my life’s blue print!  It’s my life spontaneity, not yours!!!

In my own defense, it is not that I am closed to spontaneity.  Far from it.  A lot of people tell me I adapt well to changes and can catch a curve ball better than most.  I like “different” and enjoy the mix of planned and unplanned in my life so spontaneity isn’t such a foreign concept.

But that being said, going off-script can still bring on a case of the tummy butterflies.  It sometimes seems unnatural, against the grain of how I was conditioned by this world to view a well-planned, orderly life.

I guess it would be understandable if that logic was applicable only to something as serious as cancer.  But truth be told, despite wanting to embrace the “idea” of spontaneity, I can only take impromptu “go with the flow” for so long before I am rounding up the cattle and putting them back in the pen.   Spontaneity scares the hell out of me because the world doesn’t like it.    No wandering little doggies running roughshod over our master plan.

I am wired by this world to take all of the loose ends of life and create some semblance of order and balance I can comfortably live with.  When the pendulum swings too far out of the norm, I’m anxious.  When the pendulum stops swinging, I’m anxious.  It’s hard to find a happy medium in the spontaneity game when all we do is fight it.

I am not alone in this. Embracing spontaneity sounds great and all, but if social media has anything to say about it, spontaneity is just a buzz word for flaky, unmotivated, undisciplined chaos?

At least that’s what we are force fed to believe.   Oh, not necessarily by our parents or even by anyone related to us, but everything from schools, to employers, to just about every aspect of marketing in this world leads us to believe that success is akin to having our lives planned out, every “I” dotted and “t” crossed, and failure is akin to leaving life up to chance. 

We pack our lives so full of “must do’s” that there is no time for discovery, possibilities, opportunities.  We have forgotten that while spontaneity can bring on such things as cancer, it can also bring the cure, in the form of unexpected blessings, things we never imagined.

Cancer showed up spontaneously one February in my life and I discovered that my constant mapping and remapping of my life plan was not a match for good ol’ spontaneous cancer.  If I was going to beat this disease, oh not physically beat it, the medical professionals were on top of that, but emotionally beat it, I was going to have to rewire my mind to think differently about what it means to be absorbed with controlling my life path and leaving nothing to chance.   

I had to think of spontaneity in new and different ways.  I had to stop fighting it and do two specific things:

Accept that Spontaneity doesn’t just happen without a lot of hard work

While I was going through a boatload of pencil lead crafting my life plan, I never once thought about how spontaneity would fit into my narrative.  The blanks on my calendar made me nervous, less self-important, less everything.  So, I filled them in.  That is why spontaneity requires a lot of hard work.  Hard work because we are hard wired to over plan, over schedule.    Open spaces on a calendar equals vulnerability.  Vulnerability equals the possibility of failure and well, as I said earlier, failure isn’t a popular choice these days.   But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The reality is that spontaneity isn’t calendar driven.  It doesn’t wait around for those days when we have nothing to do.  In fact, more often than not, it shows up when we are at our busiest.

Because the funny thing about spontaneity is that when it doesn’t work out, somehow, someone or something comes into our lives spontaneously to help us through it.    You and I both know it’s true.  The internet knows it’s true and it’s why we all scour and search for those feel good stories everyday where we can click “like” because deep- down we really want to believe.  Maybe that’s a God thing, some sort of divine intervention or better yet, maybe it doesn’t need a label.  But I can tell you people keep coming into my life spontaneously over and over again that make a difference and I’m betting it’s happening to you too!

Getting Real with Spontaneity

I didn’t have to do anything to “get cancer.”  One day I didn’t have it and the next day I did.  It was the reality of my world.  A spontaneous blotch and initially I fought it.

I fought it with everything I had emotionally.  I had unrealistic expectations about spontaneity being only good things, and suddenly waking up one day with cancer fueled my anger and frustration and disappointment in all things impromptu.  For those initial first months, it was like being on a never-ending emotional treadmill and I was losing steam.

Fighting spontaneity took over my life.  I closed myself off from everyone.  Went internal, self- absorbed with my own importance and control.  My behavior was stifling my ability to move forward, to take new paths, and caused me to spend an inordinate amount of time wallowing in my problems and in a lot of ways, gaslighting new opportunities.   

But after a bit, I grew sick of my own self-importance.  I became curious if the pendulum of my life only swung one way. Negative!  My calendar was full, but my life was not.

What if, I opened myself up to being blessed spontaneously in a positive way?  What if, I had no idea in what form or from whom those blessings would come, but I would remain open to it?

It was time to take the boxing gloves off and let spontaneity have its’ way with my life.

As a start, I focused my energy and attention on people, places and things that brought me joy.   I made a conscious effort to not make plans, but be open to plans, spontaneous plans.  I had to push aside the fear that something would go wrong.   I had a lot of blanks on my calendar.

Literally, over-night, so many doors opened for me.   Invitations to do all sorts of things just materialized.  Impromptu fun with friends, trying new restaurants with my hubby, opening the front door to a neighbor with an extra loaf of the best fresh baked bread I’ve ever had.     

On impulse I booked a vacation to Texas, a place my husband and I had never been, to attend HGTV’s, Chip and Joanna Gaines, “Silobration” in Waco.  It turned out to be one of the best unscripted vacations my husband and I have ever had and was a beautiful reminder that one of the things that drew us to each other back in college was our mutual love for unplanned adventure.  Without much thought, I agreed to visit an Indian Mission in Oaks, Oklahoma with an acquaintance from church and this morphed into a beautiful friendship between us that I will always treasure and a new opportunity for me to make a difference in the lives of children half way across the country.

Again, and again, I challenged myself to see both sides of the spontaneity coin.  Bad stuff was going to happen, but good stuff was happening too…a whole lotta good stuff.  I had to keep my heart open and stay out of the boxing ring.

I began to meet people, almost daily, in my cancer journey that inspired me.  People who helped me see the best in me and who seemed overjoyed that I was in their life.  I wrote a poem to my radiation team as a thank you for their kindness and it now hangs on the wall of the radiation center.  I opened up about my cancer with family, friends, my church, not in a Debbie Downer kind of way, but in sharing all of the positive, unplanned things that kept happening to me spontaneously despite my health issues.

It was as if spontaneity was a fuel that was propelling me forward.  Past all of the angst of surgery after surgery.  Past all of the negative side effects and uncomfortable days.  Opportunity after opportunity to be blessed.   

Sunday, Father’s Day, was my three- year anniversary of my bi-lateral mastectomy.  It could have been a depressing day, a reminder of all I had spontaneously lost.   Instead, I went out and played an impromptu game of frisbee golf with my family and damn, my muscles are sore as hell, but I didn’t suck at it.  Not at all.

So, I’ve decided to permanently hang up my boxing gloves and make peace with spontaneity.  It is welcome in my life.

Fribee Golf Fun

The fight is over. 

I have won. You can too!

PositivelyAnne

All Are Welcome to like and follow my blog either here or on Facebook. I also have an Instagram where I post daily positive photo reminders.

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Practicing Intentional Kindness

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No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.  -Aesop

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, like so many of you ( or those you love), cancer figures prominently in my life story.  Specifically breast cancer,  but there were also a host of other medical issues that came about as a direct result of my cancer treatment (I will share some of that in later posts).  To sum it up, I became intimately acquainted with hospitals and medical professionals pretty quickly after finding that first lump and the next fifteen-month journey literally flipped my world on its head.  Now heading into my 2nd year post drama, looking back on that time, I consider it a gift.  For it was during those long months of struggle that I came to understand how important it is to live my life as positively as I can and to do that, I had to not only follow my doctors’ instructions for self-care, but I had to equip myself with a “Positivity Toolkit” to help me navigate my new world post cancer.  

One of the first tools I added to my “Positivity Toolkit” was to practice intentional kindness.

Prior to cancer, I would say it’s a pretty fair assessment that I felt pretty adept at being kind.  Kind with my family, kind with my friends, kind at work, kind at church, kind, kind, kind!  Yep, kindness was a natural part of my personality and I just never questioned it as being anything I needed to work on; let alone understand that the brand of kindness I was practicing wasn’t always leaving me feeling warm and fuzzy. 

In fact, looking back on my life pre-cancer, my brand of kindness actually caused me a whole lot of personal daily stress…maybe even downright misery. 

Didn’t my husband know I was just being “kind” when I said that?

My employee didn’t appreciate the raise I gave them…why do I bother being kind?

I do laundry all day and all I get for my kindness is more clothes on the floor?

 Yep, I was kind alright.   But the kind of “kind” I was practicing had a price to pay. 

I was fully expecting others to be kind back.

Well, isn’t that the way life is supposed to go?  I’m kind to you, you’re kind to me?  Seems logical right? And for over fifty years I lived my life with those expectations. Then during one of my hospital stays, I saw kindness modeled in an entirely different way (intentional kindness)by a graveyard shift nurse, and I began to understand the importance of making a change in my practiced brand of kindness.    Let me explain.

Hospitals are scary places, period!  I spent enough time in them over the past couple of years to feel pretty comfortable saying that no one goes to the hospital (except for hospital employees and volunteers) with the intent of doing anything other than getting the hell out of there as quickly as possible!  My observation is that in our vulnerability, as patients who have no choice but to lie prostrate, in a hospital bed, beholden to the wims of our disease and our bodies response to the remedy, many patients feel it’s also their inalienable right to morph into Satan and unleash every obnoxious, miserable and all around crabby thing that could ever be said to anybody on the nursing staff. 

Well nurses are trained caregivers, right?    It’s their job to take care of us in all of our crab- fueled glory.  It’s what they are paid to do!!!  That being said, it was shocking to me how many people in the waiting areas, in the ER, in the bed next to mine, in the hospital rooms lining floor after floor after floor, would treat the nurses as if they were the person responsible for them being in the hospital in the first place. 

  “Get me my water!”  “I don’t want to do what you are telling me!”  “You fix me right now or I’ll do something to you!” “Who made this pudding sh**, you?”  “Our family hates you!!!” 

I heard all of these things and much more coming from my fellow patients and even some of their family members.  Now you might be thinking , well people are hurting, a bit of nastiness is to be expected.   Maybe.  But what I saw and heard was this systemic spewing of “negativity”  that knew no bounds.  Nothing was off limits for people to say to their fellow human being, let alone their caregiver.   It made me feel sad and ashamed.

 “Had I ever said anything that nasty to someone trying to be kind to me?”

One particularly late night, I was attempting to sleep after back to back emergency surgeries and I could hear this man verbally tearing into a nurse down the hall.  

“You get your damn behind out of my room, you witch.”  “I do not want you near me!” In response I heard a very calm voice say, “Oh I’m so sorry you are hurting there sweetie..I know it’s hard.  Get some rest and I’ll check on you in a bit.”   Then I heard something crash…maybe a chair…I don’t know.  But it was scary.   I hunkered down in my bed and pulling the covers over my head a million things ran through my mind, but the biggest was: Why would anyone in their right mind become a nurse?  She was just trying to be kind.  She was just doing her freakin job! 

Just then the door to my hospital room opened and this nurse walked in, her face lined with the years and I had no doubt it was the same nurse who the man was yelling at.  I peered skeptically out at her from the safety of the covers over my head.

“Hey there sweetie”, she said very softly. ” I’m sorry.  I’m sorry he’s so loud.  He’s upset and hurting and well, I’m sorry.  How are you doing my dear?”

 “Huh, sorry?”  “YOU ARE SORRY, WHY? (I think I was actually yelling at her)  That guy treated you so poorly, you were just being kind to him and he treated you like crap…you deserve better!” 

Taking my hand, in her careworn one, the nurse sat on the edge of my bed and said something that would change my life.  She said, “Yes, I do deserve better.  But I learned a long time ago that kindness is not what you get, it’s what you give.” 

And there, there in that hospital room, with a crazy guy screaming down the hall, was my introduction to practicing intentional kindness.   Plop…right there in my lap! 

To practice intentional kindness is to give kindness freely and openly, without attaching conditions or expectations that it will be returned.    Powerful stuff!!!

Wow, it’s hard to do.  It really is.  I stumble often.  But the more I practice intentional kindness, I find that kindness is not something I need others to see in me, but something that is living and breathing in my own mirror.  I no longer wear a “kindness” façade with expectations and objectives that no one can live up to.   I am kind because it pleases me! 

So this week, I encourage you to take a look at your own kindness meter and practice intentional kindness with me. 

Together we can do this, one positive step at a time!  PositivelyAnne

If you like my site, please click like so that it moves up the blog foodchain and others can find me.  I figure the more positive souls out there the better, right?!!!  Also, feel free to share briefly your thoughts on kindness and how it’s impacted your life.

All photos and images are my own, except where noted.

With what lens do you view life?

Positivity not Negativity equals a blessed life!

Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.

Dennis P. Kimbro

I have always been about “a good story”, having had a passion for the written word, in all its forms, since the 2nd grade when my teacher handed me an empty book cover and told me to fill it with words.   But despite my desk bulging with folders brimming with tales of adventure and passion, my own personal writing has mostly been a private journey until now.

After I was diagnosed with breast cancer and the treatment left me temporarily unable to sit at a computer for any length of time, I grabbed my camera (nothing fancy, just my iPhone) and started taking pictures.  Through the lens, I could see so many things that literally made me smile.   The inner sanctum of a flower, a tree branch reaching towards the heavens, a solitary cloud wafting across an azure blue sky.   I felt happy, free, filled with positivity looking at these images.   Suddenly words and images merged together in my mind and I began to think:

“What if, the lens by which I choose to view my life and the way I choose to approach each and every day could have a positive impact not only on my own health and well-being, but potentially on the happiness of everyone I come in contact with.”

That’s where the idea of sharing my writing and photography to inspire others to choose to live life positively comes into play and what my blog, PositivelyAnne, is all about.  Each week, I plan to share with my readers a photo I have taken, captioned with my own message of positivity, along with one of my favorite positivity quotes and my reflections on life.

Trust me, the journey to viewing life more positively won’t be an easy one  Like myself, so many struggle with depression, health issues, personal life challenges and at times, it’s almost impossible to see through the filter of negativity these struggles bring to our daily lives.   But I want you to try with me.   Start small…one positive thing in your day.  Maybe it will be my blog page!  But do not stop searching for it.  

Together we can do this, one positive step at a time! PositivelyAnne

If you like my site, please click like so that it moves up the blog foodchain and others can find me.  I figure the more positive souls out there the better, right?!!!  Also, feel free to share briefly your thoughts on positivity and how it’s impacted your life.  

All photos and images are my own, except where noted.