Friday, May 3, 2013

Thrive Not Survive

Thrive Not Survive.  Three small English words.  What do they mean to you?  I would love to hear from people with their description of what these three words mean.  

Since I do not yet have access to your experiences I wish to share the ones that I am most familiar with; mine.

In 1991 My beloved Papa died of a nasty virulent form of cancer.  A few months later my husband almost died from a hideous infection after surgery.  Then in the fall, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, and the day before Christmas Eve I learned that I had Breast Cancer.

Is there ANYTHING blessed, positive or affirming in these experiences?  I read voraciously everything I could get my hands on about surviving the hardest challenges that life can hand you.  I wasn't discouraged....I was way beyond discouragement.  I was lying in bed shaking from fright worst than that.

One blessing (though it did NOT seem like a blessing at the time) was that I simply did not have time to lie down in bed and bawl like a baby. I did not have time to follow my heart and curl into fetal position in my bed and quit life.  I had two children, and a big, "husky" (his description of himself) husband.  I had a full time job (more like a time and a half job) Nyle was attending Law School full-time and working part-time (Even with that nasty life threatening infection).  Did I mention that we had two, brilliant, beautiful, daughters 2 and 1/2 years and 5 years old?  YUP, the blessing was that I simply did NOT have time to give up, or curl up, I instead had to keep moving, keep moving, keep moving.

Why was that a blessing?  Because I am prone to "over" think each and every situation in life.  I didn't have time to think very much.  I just had every single minute of every day filled to capacity with the needs of life.

The unfortunate thing that I have discovered as I walk along through life is that the fears and fires of life refuse to be ignored permanently.  If you can not or will not address them in the daytime they will bite you in the bottom HARD in the night.  

There is a popular song right now that chants, "What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger."  I think they should add a simple word..."What Doesn't Kill You CAN Make You Stronger."  The reality is that it can also turn you into a pile of burned out ashes.

At this point are any of you questioning, "Where is the THRIVE part in all of this?"  Be patient I promise, it's coming.

I had stage I breast Cancer.  It was found in two diverse locations in my left breast.  So research and asking doctors advice, and lots and lots of prayer later, I determined to have two lumpectomies, and 25 radiation treatments.  (I simply can not call it RADIATION THERAPY.  It helped save my life but it's far from THERAPEUTIC).

If you are wondering why everything is now in Italics it's because my smarter than me computer randomly switched and I can't figure out how to switch back.  I can give you bold or underline text, but normal seems to be beyond my abilities.

Back to the story.  One day as I was slogging back from radiation I was so discouraged I could barely breathe.  In addition I was miserable!  If anyone tells you that radiation is no big deal THEY ARE LYING!  It was an enormous deal especially with Fibromyalgia that overreacts to every physical causation.

I was in the Waiting Room, waiting to chat with the good doctor.  There was the most frail old man you can imagine.  It was obvious that he was terminal.  I was amazed that he still could speak coherently or think his body was so obviously ravaged by the disease.  He had an enormous grin on his face.  I found that reaction counterintuitive given our common situation.

He said cheerfuly to grim faced me, "You know every day above ground is a cause for celebration."  Now if someone out on the street that was healthy, and was not facing every difficulty life could hand them had said that I would have been tempted to smack them (I'm generally non-violent but that situation would have stretched my non-violent limits!)

Coming from this man the words had impact and value.

Those simple words triggered a huge change in my outlook on life.  I had been clinging to living with the barest of fingernail tips...starting to drop off the "Hang in there," mindset.

Was it actually possible to "Celebrate every day above ground," even when those days were fraught with the worst of life's uncertainty?  Would it make me delusional to still hear the joy of a bird's call in the morning?  Was it right to feel radiant happiness after a nap to discover my precious daughters had tucked themselves in around me, framing me like a family photo?

One of the radiation technicians loaned me a book.  The name and author is long gone to history.  One of the points made in that book is embedded in my soul.  It spoke of our tendency in life to go up and down as life's circumstances arrive.  The point of this book was that it is up to us to determine that we will be happy, even joyous NO MATTER WHAT LIFE HANDS US!  The idea was revolutionary to me. I could be happy by choice?  I did not have to let the uncertainties and fear of my current life setting paralyze me with fear?  I could learn to "Thrive" instead of merely clinging to life "Surviving?"

As the years have come and gone with trouble AND joy I have been ever so grateful for those incredibly difficult lessons learned.  In case anyone doesn't understand I am NOT saying that THRIVING instead of SURVIVING is EASY!  It's actually quite difficult.  It's not a denial of difficulties.  It's honestly assessing those difficulties and choosing to squeeze happiness out of them.  It's a conscious choice, and often over and over, and over again the choice must be made.

The song, "What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger," is correct if that one word is added, "What Doesn't Kill You CAN Make You Stronger."  Remember it's a choice...your choice to find joy even when it's hidden deeply amidst the hardest circumstances that life can hand you.            

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