Math, birthdays & kindness…

I’m not sure what age it happened, but somewhere along the way, my age became irrelevant. Of course it was exciting to become a teenager, then sweet 16, then 18 & then 21. Turning 30 was a big deal but I thought I would have been done having kids instead of just starting. 40 seemed like a big deal but I wasn’t sure why. Should I be having a mid-life crisis? Am I only living to be 80? Why don’t I feel like a grown up at 40? This week I turn 46. It’s an odd year that requires me to do math when I think about how old I am. I can guarantee each age has been nothing like I imagined it would be.

I didn’t think I’d be married at 21. I didn’t think I’d change jobs after 40, have cancer at 41 or move at 43. I didn’t think I’d have a hobby farm and 7 chickens at 46. The saying, “you’re only as old as you feel?”… some days I feel 16, and some days I feel 60. Some days it feels like life is zooming by me and I’m missing it. Other days, it seems like Groundhog Day. As I was trying to think about ways to celebrate my birthday, a few ideas crossed my mind. 1) 46 acts of kindness 2) 46 things I’m thankful for 3) 46 things I want to do in the next year. It is Thanksgiving week, but I think I’ll pick kindness. I’m not sure if I will get that many done before my birthday, but I can for sure complete them before Christmas.

46 (not so random) acts of kindness. I like it. Maybe I will count #1 as going back home to get my husbands sinus medicine. We can do acts of kindness to our loved ones as well as friends and strangers. I’ll make a list and report back in December. I encourage you to do some random (or planned) acts of kindness this holiday season also. You don’t have to do 46… just do one or 100 – whatever feels right for you. I know we can for sure use some more kindness in the world, so any amount (above 0) is good.

Wishing you peace on your journey of enough. Regardless of your age, may you take the time to share some kindness. It could make someone’s day and it will likely come back to you in an unexpected way.

Just a chapter…

Have you seen the phrase, “Don’t judge a story by the chapter you walked in on”? Sometimes we get stuck re-reading the same chapter. Even the painful ones are difficult to put down… we somehow feel comfortable with their pattern.

I was recently cleaning out some papers and organizing a filing cabinet (& a tote that has been sitting in our room with miscellaneous things since we moved). I came across this red notebook. The edges are worn and the color on the front is even wearing off. That’s because it traveled with me for every Dr appointment for 6 months or more. This was my “cancer notebook.” A notebook, in my opinion, is key for anyone going through a medical crisis of any kind. The nurses and doctors rush in and out, telling you all kinds of facts and stats and test names and results… it’s overwhelming. It helps to write it down. This book wasn’t my journal. It was my project list. My to-do, to-ask, next step master list. It’s not a large book. I glanced through it while I was cleaning and wondered what to do with it.

It’s just a chapter. It’s not my whole story. It’s not my whole life. It’s a significant, yet small period of time. I couldn’t throw it. Not because I wanted to hang on to that chapter, but because I don’t have a great memory, so when I need to refer to it, at least I’ll have it. When a cousin or relative asks about my testing or what grade the tumor was, that info may have faded from my memory. There are a few things I’m not willing to part with yet and this is one of them. I did give a bunch of shirts and jewelry to a newly diagnosed lady. I didn’t know her but I wanted to pay it forward. I needed to release some of that also. It’s a chapter whose page is ready to turn.

I’m approaching my 5 year (from diagnosis) anniversary. December 9th. My random Tuesday. As I get closer to the anniversary, I feel more at peace with letting go. It was certainly a big part of my story, but I’m happy to begin new chapters. Do you have something you re-read in your story? Is it something that no longer serves you? Can you set it down and walk away? Can you turn the page and start something new? It’s not easy. The familiar is comforting, safe and not as scary. You can do it though. I can do it too. I will still remember it because I have physical scars, but I can start a new chapter. This one is going to be great!

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. May you have the courage to turn the page when you need to. You don’t need to erase it, but you also don’t need to keep re-reading. Share a blank notebook with someone… you might be helping them with their new chapter.

Quick question (from an introvert’s perspective)…

Quick question? Have you ever asked an introvert a “quick question?” Did you see the immediate fear and shock in their eyes or did they hide it well? (Because it was there either way). It’s one of the things I used to think was wrong with me… I don’t like to be put on the spot. I don’t like spontaneous questions. The more I learned about introverts and about myself, the more I realized I’m not alone. “Why is it a big deal?” (You may ask if you are not introverted). Because we like to be prepared. We like to give accurate, thoughtful answers. We like to research and investigate and plan and prepare our answers. Sometimes we go too far, I know I do. We keep searching for the perfect answer. We like to be experts, knowledgeable and sound intelligent, and we certainly don’t want to be wrong.

I can probably recount some of these “on the spot” quick questions and my fumbling, unintelligent or snappy response. Why? Why would I remember those things? I’m not alone. Several people do this. We replay the conversation over and over and over… thinking of the perfect thing we should have said. On a few occasions, I became aware of my frustration and asked if I could email a response later. On a few occasions also, the person asking didn’t leave. They just sat on my desk and waited for me to give my answers.

Aloof, cool, disinterested, snobby, snappy, uninvolved, alone… common adjectives for introverts. We like to process things internally. We take too long to come up with an answer. We cringe when the phone rings if it’s something that could be communicated with an email. Yet, we will talk for hours to the people we feel safe with … the people who get us. Many of us like animals because they unconditionally love us. (And they never question us) I’ve been in training meetings where they said we need to adapt to the other person’s preference, but what that does is make us very uncomfortable. It makes us want to withdraw and retreat.

I don’t have a solution to this, because I don’t need to fix introverts. If you are one, you are still enough. You are always enough. Even when someone else thinks you don’t fit in, that’s ok. There is nothing wrong with you. You don’t need to conform to the mainstream. I’ve been coached to be something other than me, and I think it’s not necessary. I’m ok as I am. You are too. Introvert or not.

I wish you peace on your journey of enough. If someone asks you a quick question, just take a deep breath. You’ll be ok. If you’re the one asking and you get a “deer in the headlights” look, just give them a minute. They just want to give you a good answer.

The right words…

Fall is a time of loss. Trees lose their leaves, the grass stops growing in the upper Midwest and we lose daylight hours. As the mornings turn crisp and frosty, the evenings get dark more quickly, and before we know it, the sun will be going down at 4:30.

This fall has been a time of loss and remembrance for many people also… an anniversary of loss for a friend’s son & nephew, a cousin’s husband, a friend’s stillborn baby, my mother-in-law and many others. Birthdays and anniversaries come and go. A friend recently lost her best friend, leaving behind a husband and two kids. I struggle to find the right words. I’m a “fixer”… I like to make things better. I’m not able to fix the holes in their hearts. I am fortunate enough to have both living parents, spouse, children, siblings and friends. The right thing to say to me might not be comforting to them. Eloquent sentences in my head turn into just “I’m sorry for your loss.” This isn’t like the trees shedding their leaves for the winter. Their person isn’t returning.

I feel a sense of aching for them. I think about all of the “what if’s” and “should have been’s”… wishing I could change the story. It’s not my place and I don’t have the power. I believe we will see our loved ones again, but it doesn’t make it easier when we wish we could hug them or talk to them one more time.

Psalm 23 is a comforting verse to me:

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. 3He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for the sake of His name. 4Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,a I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

A friend who I met at a survivor retreat found out she had weeks to live. Over the last month, friends and family from all over have come to visit. What an awesome and amazing outpouring of love. She has outlived their timeline and has had some wonderful company. They aren’t waiting for her funeral or death, they are celebrating every day she is alive. Wow.

I may not have the right words, but I will reach out anyway. I wish you peace on your journey of enough. If you are going through a season of loss and remembering, hold on. I wish I could find the perfect thing to say to comfort you. Just know that you are enough. Your grief journey is uniquely yours. You cannot do it wrong. Honor those you’ve lost, live your life, find peace and joy again.