Independence Day Rewrite

Independence Day

I was seven years old when my parents divorced and my mother went from being a housewife to the main provider in the home while battling her first stage III diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Disease, a lymphoma.

I got a clear message from my mother at that time, not sure if it was said, or simply implied, or both, but she was determined that her three girls would not be dependent on anyone, they would be independent women! Even after she remarried, her theme was clear and consistent, you will learn all the skills and capabilities you need to not be reliant on anyone.

True to form, when I got my license, like any teenager, I was anxious to take the car out and feel my newfound freedom. My mother had no problem with that, but of course, I first had to demonstrate that I could remove and replace a flat tire if need be.

This is one of the many examples of the teachings that I received. Being raised to be independent has some great freedoms with it; I know I can do anything I need to do to get where I want to be. Unfortunately, I can no longer change a tire, because of those darn air guns that put the lug nuts on so tightly I don’t have even enough weight to jump on a crossbar to get them off! That said, I am rarely left stranded in a situation because I was raised to rely on myself to figure it out and get it done.

The other message that I never quite picked up on clearly enough at the time was that in life you’ll get further by building a team and asking for help, or even just comfort when needed. While battling her illnesses over the years, my mother had regular trips into the city for radiation, chemotherapy and numerous appointments. She was often too weak or tired to cook or maintain the home and of course there was the time spent in the hospital, complicated by single parenthood and what to do with the kids!

Everyone that knew my mother recognized her as a force! She was well known in our community as a “get it done” and independent woman. She was smart, driven and capable, however these traits did not stop her from accepting kind gestures of meals being prepared, driving trips into the city or even carpooling so us kids could get to where we needed. It took years for me to recognize this skill is not only important in life, but makes the journey better.

Let’s face it, the human race was not meant to exist alone. We are community-based creatures with need for connection and interaction. So many people are trying to “do it on their own” this relates to everything from work to entrepreneurship to life’s trials and celebrations.

It took me such a long time to figure out how to reach out for help, accept or invite assistance with anything I was trying to do – even when it was just trying to survive! All this has taken even longer to put it into practice, and let’s face it, I am still working on it, but I am convinced inter-dependence is the one of the keys to happiness.

As wonderful as independence is, our lives are more fully lived when we have connection and inter-dependence. The feeling one gets when they help someone is a gift we give to each other. The distance we can go when we work together is much further than what we can cover alone.

I’m not saying not to develop your own talents and skills, nor am I saying rely on others for everything. What I am saying is that you don’t have to know it all, do it all and manage it all alone.

I encourage you this month to look at what you want to accomplish over the upcoming month, and see where you might reach out for assistance or develop a team. One of the beautiful benefits I see each day as a coach is what can be accomplished together.

I know there are amazing dreams, big goals and everyday tasks that are on your plate, I wonder how much easier, faster and enjoyable they will be when you stop trying to do it all yourself and ask for someone to join your efforts.

 

10 things I learned running my 1st marathon

I had the most fabulous opportunity to spend a weekend with a dear friend who had recently been declared cancer free.  He gathered a group of the most inspirational and beautiful spirited people to create Team Choose Joy and together we ran the Austin Marathon raising funds for LiveStrong.

I’m always looking for reasons to celebrate, and being declared cancer-free is one of the most celebratory occasions I can imagine!  Often people gather and celebrate a life once it has passed; so rarely do we celebrate a life being lived.  It was wonderful to be able to celebrate Sean’s successful treatment and the all the effort and energy he put towards his treatment and ultimate triumph over the disease.  The amazing people running in support of Sean were all living strong and wonderfully fulfilling and purposeful lives and many, I later found out, are fighting their own battles – but nothing was stopping them.

I have learned so much from runners, they never cease to amaze me, and once again, I learned a tremendous amount as I tackled this new goal with many more experienced runners by my side.

Here are a few lessons I learned along the route of my first marathon:

  1. Just show up – making the commitment to be there – ready or not is the most important part.
  2. Just keep moving.  Start out with a goal time and pace if you wish, but no matter what, keep moving in the direction of your goal.  Eventually you will get there; maybe not as you expected but you will arrive at the destination as long as you don’t stop.
  3. Be open to the unexpected.  Plan for your race, however be open to new obstacles that you didn’t anticipate.  Throughout the course there are many variables and some are out of your control, do not let the unexpected throw off your race.
  4. Enjoy the encouragement and feedback from people along the way.  You will have to dig deep at some point and you will likely need their voice in your head to help pull you through those times.
  5. You can do almost anything you think you can do.  Remember though, if you let your confidence fade, you can also talk yourself out of what you are truly capable of accomplishing. This works for or against you, the choice is yours and it will make or break your results.
  6. Enjoy the process.  It might be your first or your 100th time doing this but each time will have something unique about it.  Be open to experiencing each time to its fullest.
  7. Rally the troops!  If you do things with a group of likeminded people the joy will exponentially raise (remember this goes for negativity too!)
  8. Trust the original idea, not the current discomfort.  Remember during times of doubt, at one time, you thought this would be a good idea.
  9. To every uphill there is a downhill and the trick is to manage your pace as best you can through both.  Also remember, sometimes the biggest uphill is right before you reach your goal!
  10. Above all, smile.  People are watching you and even as you struggle, you might be inspiring someone.

We each have our own battles along this road, but we are all running this race.  I encourage you to just show up each day and move forward at whatever pace you choose with joy and passion for the length of your course.

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The Gift of Cancer

My mother has battled cancer four times in her lifetime.  In my opinion, those experiences make her somewhat of an expert by default.

I was six years old when my mother first contracted Hodgkin’s Disease, a lymphoma.  Like most people, she had never heard of this before, nor had she understood that the lump she had in her neck for an extended period of time was something to be concerned about until my pediatrician noticed it during my visit and implored her to visit her doctor.  Stage III was her diagnosis when they finally began treatment (there are only four stages).

The first lesson that was drilled into my head from that experience was that early detection is EVERYTHING! Please take note.

My mother survived the first cancer, it was tough and she was terrified, but she made it through with the support of so many people who came rushing to assist her. She went on to battle two more cancers and had one major battle with bacterial meningitis.  All in all, my mother is pretty much my expert on catastrophic illness and resilience.  She often used to talk to new cancer patients, and others about the “gift of cancer” in which she wholeheartedly believed.

The idea of illness being a gift is that a patient, and those who love them, get the opportunity to re-evaluate their lives and the time they have or don’t have in this physical form.  I have grown up and developed my own mantra, “our tomorrows are not guaranteed.”  I use that as a touchstone when making big decisions, and sometimes small ones too.  Being raised by someone whose life was so tenuous left quite an impression on me.

I encourage you to live each day as if it was precious, the gift that it truly is.  It is so easy to get caught up in the to do lists of living, and although those things are indeed important however, how well the dust bunnies in the dining room were addressed is not what most people are remembered for.  Touch those around you, give of your precious time, forgive and release that which weighs you down.  If you don’t want to bring it with you, get rid of it, if you will miss it when it/them or you are gone, spend time with it/them!  Those are truly the things that make a thriving life.

My mother died 23 years after her first catastrophic illness, she succumbed to the last cancer.  Although her life was rarely easy or care free, I never got the sense that she left here leaving anything unsaid or unfelt.  My wish is that we all are able to leave in this type of peace.

What is your touchstone or reminder to live your life fully?

Here is to living as if we were dying!

-E