“You will never get everything in life but you will get enough.”
― Sanhita Baruah
My new beginning came one sunny day in June 2018. I was two weeks away from turning 38 and this was the day I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
You’ll hear, in detail, about my journey with cancer in Part 2: Losses; however, what’s important to know right away is that this was a very fearful and uncertain time. To control the flood of emotions running through me, I started reading, mostly at night. I tried to ease my fears that had built up during the day and were in full force by evening. Reading had always helped me to fall asleep naturally. Inspirational and motivational books were my choice. I received so much support from those words that I thought, “Why not read these stories in the morning to get my day off on the right foot? Why wait until bedtime? Why wouldn’t I want to feel inspired before I make my first cup of tea for the morning?”
I have always been more of a positive minded person, so affirmations and inspiration were not foreign concepts to me. Believing that positivity is a choice is something that gave me strength to get out of bed on the down days. Those were the tough days that I let cancer get the best of me. And I did have them. But how was I going to get those good days back? I had to tell myself that each day is a new beginning. But what can I do to make that happen? How do I want to start my day?
Do I roll out of bed and complain about the terrible sleep I got? Or that my back hurts? Or maybe I’m swearing and cursing because I’m running late that morning. Do I start my day in a frenzy over wrinkled pants, kids who missed the bus, or a packed lunch that I left in the fridge?
I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all had a morning or two just like this. Surely, we all have. One of those “just-want-to-climb-back-into-that-bed-as-fast-as-we-got-out” type of mornings, right?
So, here’s a challenge for you. Yes, it’s Chapter One and you’re already getting some homework. Instead of rolling out of bed, stay in bed. Yes, I’m encouraging you to stay in bed. Just for a moment. Stay in bed and recite a few affirmations. I am good enough, I am smart enough, and gosh darn it people like me….well, maybe not those exact words, but whatever your heart desires is just fine. It might sound a little goofy reading this, but give it a try. If you don’t have the interest in coming up with your own sayings, look online or take a trip to the library or the bookstore and get a book on daily affirmations or meditations. These brief statements can help you to gain the positive mindset that we all need. Keep this book at your bedside and before you hop out and start your day, read one or two pages. If books aren’t your thing (which is probably unlikely if you’re reading this), check out a daily affirmation and meditation app.
I began reciting daily affirmations shortly after my cancer diagnosis. This was something completely new for me. Nonetheless, it was a way to focus on each new day with a positivity and mindfulness, in spite of the negativity and fear that was surrounding me at the time. For example, below is a motivational quote that I would read to myself in the morning. I’ve read this one often, especially when I haven’t woken up thinking that life was a blessing.
“A beautiful day begins with a beautiful mindset. When you wake up, take a second to think about what a privilege it is to simply be alive and healthy. The moment you start acting like life is a blessing, I assure you it will start to feel like one.” - unknown
If affirmations aren’t your jam, just list off, in your head or out loud, one or two things that you’re grateful for that morning. Maybe you’re grateful it’s a Friday (aren’t we all?), or grateful for a new friend you met this past week or maybe it’s as simple as being grateful for the bed you sleep in. I can almost guarantee you that your mood will change and you will have started off your morning off with a positivity to carry throughout the day.
For me, positivity is a choice. When I am positive, good things happen.
Good and Bad
Good and bad. Kind of like my book, right?
Lessons, losses, and blessings. The good and the bad.
Here is another way to acknowledge each day as a new beginning. My family has a simple nightly ritual that we practice at the dinner table. It’s called “Good and Bad.” We go around the table, usually one of the kids goes first, and we each share one good thing and one bad thing about the day.
Charlie’s good today was he won his video game; his bad was he got itchy hair down his back during his haircut, so he jumped around like he had ants in his pants. Julia’s good was that Grandma Pat got the Old Maid card during their game; her bad was that the French toast I made for dinner tasted too much like eggs.
This is a meaningful and fun dinnertime routine. Not only is it a great conversation starter, it also reminds us that there is always something good in every day. Of course, sometimes it’s just a funny story about a neighbor, friend, or another kid at school. It can be light-hearted, deep, or somewhere in between.
Furthermore, when we discuss the bad, and there is always a bit of bad in every day, we can talk about how we would respond to that situation. Maybe your bad is that someone didn’t say thank you when you held the door open for them. (Remember, I’m a mid western Wisconsin girl, so holding the door, waving, and general pleasantries are just part of our DNA here.) It could be that you didn’t get a project finished at work that had a deadline? Maybe your car was low on gas and you didn’t have time to fill it up today. No matter what happens, know that it’s okay that there is bad in your day.
What happens when you acknowledge and analyze the bad? Do you feel more in control of the situation when you mention it out loud and consider other ways you could have reacted? Oftentimes you can’t change a bad that happens, but you can change how you respond to it. Good times come and go. Bad times come and go. Considering this, I think we should allow ourselves to learn from both ends of the spectrum. What if we look at the bad as a positive? For example, let’s say you’re running late and you get caught at a red light. You’re angry because now you’ll be even later. But then you see that at the next intersection, there’s a car accident. Maybe if you had made the light, you’d be in the accident, too.
Your situation doesn’t seem so terrible now, does it? I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes:
“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond.”
More times than not, the kids will have more than one good or bad thing to discuss in between bites of lima beans. Now, that I’m thinking/typing, maybe we should rename our ritual Good, Bad, Good. Two goods and a bad. The sandwich cookie. Why have I never thought of this? Anyway, on the occasional days that we don’t sit down together, usually one of them will remind us at the end of the night, “Hey, we forgot to do Good and Bad for the day!” I should mention that I’m fully aware that family sit-down dinners aren’t always feasible. A Good and Bad discussion can be done in the car on the way to soccer practice, while your kids are in the bath, or as you tuck them in for the night. And here’s another great thing, this isn’t just for the kids! Mark and I have had our Good and Bad conversations without Charlie and Julia.
My cancer diagnosis has made a few appearances on the nightly Bad. I try to remind myself every day that life is what we make of it. It’s a combination of good and bad. The truth is, if life was completely perfect, we would never change or grow.
My friend Amy shared a special nightly routine that she practices with her kids before bed. As they lay in bed, the kids recite: 1. Something to be thankful for 2. A special prayer for someone; and 3. Something about you that makes you feel proud. I love this because you lay your head down at the end of the night with a grateful heart, a generous spirit to pray for others, and the confidence and pride in yourself.
WHAT IS YOUR “GOOD AND BAD” FOR TODAY?