Tag Archives: Connection

Human AND HUMBLED

For Them Not Much Has Changed!

Writing seems more important than ever to me right now.

All that is happening is humbling and reminds how human I am – we all are.

By the global standard I am very fortunate right now and have my needs met, supplies in my home, a place to walk easily into the woods with little or no contact or concern about unconsciously putting anyone at risk. I don’t have any symptoms. I am healthy. I have a partner to play with and fight with. I have two awesome dogs, Rosie and ZuZu that remind that life is always in the moment and really not much has changed.

Sure my illusion of what lies ahead and how my busy actions will ensure I’ll be okay has been cracked.

I must admit there is an odd familiarity to me of long ago when I was facing my cancers and dealing with all of the various ways in which my life and my reality cracked and was forever broken.

What does seem different now is that back then I did feel very alone. Today it is as though the earth has shaken the foundations of us human beings – this is NOT just one woman’s world being rattled.

Human kind seems to be at the forefront of this event. My dogs – well there world isn’t very different than two months ago. The horses are simply doing what the horses do. The tress and most of nature is carrying on.

We human beings are going through a significant reality check. Yes, there is the virus – which may or may not be the worse ever. We know it does have an impact and for some a deadly one. We also know that we don’t really know when or if we have been exposed. It’s a bit of a hidden traveler.

Then there’s the impact of the global markets and shake-up for businesses big and small. The closing of shops, sporting events, colleges, schools and even Broadway! The critical demand on our healthcare system and for those without paid leave – well life is indeed crumbling.

It’s hard to read the headlines. It’s odd to think toilet paper really is the biggest resource we are focused on losing.

We are scrambling and yet there are also some moments where our heart beats and speak louder than our fears and stories.

May be this is a time for us human beings to recalibrate. To pause, breath and re-member we are not the almighty most powerful living beings on this plant earth.

We are quite vulnerable. It is time to remember that and find our hearts. I honestly don’t think science or money is what will get us through this. May be at some point we’ll have answers to what we have been through – but that comes later.

Years ago cancer stripped away my pretense and so much of my armor. With absolutely nothing to lose I found my desire to connect, to reach out. I discovered when I cry or another cries, someone can be there to hear and hold. Not fix. Just witness and let it be known my pain, my rage and my tears matter. So do yours! That was the most healing offering! It wasn’t chemotherapy or Psychotherapy – neuroscience or religion. it was human hearts and kindness. It wasn’t answers it was someone simply witnessing and believing in me.

I did rebuild my life and in many ways I believe I have held on to what is most important – though these days – this virus – this request to socially distance – the fear and uncertainty – presents me with just how the armor can come back.

The foundation has been cracked yet again. The stories aren’t there to hold on to. I honestly don’t know what to believe.

Maybe that is okay. Breath. Have faith. Look to my four-legged friends and open my heart. Be kind to my neighbor – next door and across the globe. Tap into my vulnerability. That is where we can find peace and connection. At least in the moment and that may indeed be all there ever is and will be.

Getting To Clarity & Connection

I am spending the day in the house. I woke up this morning running a fever. As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I am not one that likes to rest and recover, I tend to overdo.  But I really want to kick this cold/flu, or whatever it is, out of my system. So I am willing to spend a day inside. I hope CrisMarie will be willing to pick up some Rice Dream for me when she heads out. I don’t have much of an appetite but Ice (Rice) Dream sounds wonderful!

I have a book to read, papers to work on, my computer and a variety of beverages sitting on my bedside table. I am working on a newsletter article about Pat Lencioni’s book, Naked Consulting. Basically the book is all about being real and authentic—and that is why I love it. I don’t want to give away the newsletter by writing too much about the book, but I think it’s a great read. Of course the title is a bit provocative. We sent a copy to an HR friend and she said this book would be an HR nightmare. There’s no doubt Pat probably was hoping for that type of reaction. 

While the title may be potentially an HR nightmare, the subject matter really isn’t an HR issue.  HR departments have simply become the enforcers of programs, guidelines, and policies, set up to overcome longstanding prejudices and ignorance about the differences between people and power. I’ve never thought that laws and policy were a very effective solution for relational dynamics. Sometimes laws give a certain amount of comfort, defining for someone the parameters of certain types of behavior that are either bad or wrong. This can confirm a person’s opinion, but it doesn’t necessarily create a significant change in attitude. People might learn to say the right words but it is unlikely to really change their views and may even create more distance.

So what is the solution? I think the best way to create a shift in attitude and behavior is by learning to understand the impact certain behaviors have on others. Instead of counting on a policy to ensure that inappropriate language is not used in the workplace, I have to speak up whenever I see it happening.  Not just when it happens to me but, even more importantly, as an accountability measure when I see someone I work with saying or doing something to someone else that I find offensive. Not to make them wrong, but to be real and authentic and in the moment is when I believe real change can happen.

When I have done this—I have been surprised by the results. Often I have either learned something very valuable about the person I was speaking to, which in turn influenced my position. Or they were curious about my reaction and we had an dialogue that I would later discover had a positive impact on them.  Of course this does not ensure change or agreement, but when it comes to relationships, that is not really the most important outcome. The most important outcome is clarity and connection by way of authentic and real conversation.

Saluting A Comrade

In just a few days we’ll be back into the thick of our work.  We have client work that fills the next two weeks.  In some ways this is a good thing.  For CrisMarie it will give her something to focus on as she continues to integrate the information that her brother is gone.  For me it’ s a way to quit thinking so much about cancer.

Tom in many ways was more of a ‘brother in arms’ to me than a brother-in-law.  I never fought in a war, but over the years I have worked with many folks who did and they often spoke of the unique relationship they had with anyone else who served.  For me, there is something similar with the folks who cross my path while dealing with cancer.  It goes way back to my own fight and the people who were in the oncology department at the same time I was.  Really, the first comrade I remember was the other woman who was in the Life, Death & Transitions workshop with me along with 90 other folks who were health-care providers for cancer patients.  The workshop was run by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who was an expert in the field on death & dying.  I went because I was told I was dying and really had no clue how to do that at 24 and thought the workshop might help.  The other woman was fighting breast cancer and  had been for a while, much like a long term, multiple-tour veteran.  She  had a very strict routine and belief system.  I don’t think she liked me very much because I was not really ‘strong’.  I wasn’t doing everything by the book.  Of course, I did not know there was a book, but she had a very clear intent and was not going to give the cancer one ounce of  negative energy.  No tears, no anger.  I was a bit more undisciplined, and I sort wished she would cry because I could feel the pain she carried under the surface.  Still, I respected her choice – how she fought.

There have been many more folks since then.  I have sat and talked, cried, screamed and raged with many comrades.  I still am a bit undisciplined in my approach to cancer.  I am not one to believe it’s all about being positive or about fighting the good fight.  I think the cancer fight is quite unique.  There is a bond we share, but there isn’t a common play book that wins the war.

Even after twenty years, as I sat with Tom and he looked to me for some sort of answers, I knew I had none.  There is no right way to deal with cancer.  Just like there isn’t a right way to deal with living through a war.  It’s a bloody fight and many people die.

There are lots of lessons learned from studying veterans.  Though each war seems different, there are the common links.  I think it is like that with cancer.  There are different types of cancer, fast growing cell types, slow growing, very invasive and more contained types.  There are many ways of fighting a war – on the ground, in the air, on the water or even gorilla style.  Same with cancer – there’s chemo, radiation, surgery, transplants and also the alternative style which may be more like gorilla style – not as organized or as obvious.  There’s a mindset that is required to fight cancer.  People are uncomfortable talking about cancer – particularly about the obvious closeness of death.  Much like wars – we don’t like to talk about the ugly reality of a war zone.

But really, for me, one of the hardest parts is when a comrade dies.  My heart aches.  I feel survivor quilt. I question my recovery and I rage against the crazy cancer process.

My war was many, many years ago and yet when I am with another cancer comrade I am right back there in the fight.  That’s why I am glad I’ll soon be back at my other job.  I don’t like the pain of reliving the past.  Of course, I will do it all again if I believe it can help one comrade in their fight against cancer.  Much like we all wish for a world without wars, I wish for a world without cancer.  Oddly, I think war and cancer are way too much alike.  Wars are simply men and women fighting each other over different beliefs and stories that are so deeply ingrained and compartmentalized that the the human connection has been lost.  Cancer is just my cells fighting against each other having lost the connecting link – communication has broken down.

Today isn’t about solving the bigger communication issue.  Though that is the very reason I do the work I do.  No, today still about saluting a comrade.  Today is also about crying for all the lives lost to this dirty, rotten war called cancer.  Tomorrow will be the day to move on and get back to work doing my little part to help improve the way people communicate.   May be someday that will make a difference by helping stop a war on any one of the many fronts we keep fighting them.

My Purpose: To Connect

I have signed up for a six week class on Powering Up My Life.  I did this because I am in a transition and I thought the class might be helpful in creating more focus and direction during this period.  The first assignment was relatively easy for me.  This week’s question seems much harder.  The first part of the assignment is to define my life purpose.  I am a big believer in having a vision, dream or beacon, so you might think the question would be easy for me.  But no, quite the opposite.  I find myself struggling.  The simple answer to the question is:  to connect.  Though I ask myself is that a purpose?  Is it noble? Is it directional?  Is it too simple?

When I was dying the thing that stirred up the desire in me to stay engaged was witnessing and watching people connect.  I had the opportunity to be a part of a group at The Haven, a personal & professional development center.  We started a group of strangers but after five days I’d say the 23 other participants in the group knew me better then anyone else ever had in my life.  We had each in our own way opened up to each other through sharing emotions, stories, judgments and intentions.  The leaders were the models and I must say I was so amazed I found myself wanting to do whatever it took to be able to make contact and connect to the world around me in the authentic, real way they did.  Twenty-five years later that still motivates me, finding ways to connect to the people around me.  Creating bridges between differences and expanding my own experience through being open and curious about someone else.

Some people want to travel the globe and see the physical world.  I don’t mind traveling and do enjoy seeing foreign lands yet that is not nearly as exciting to be as being in a room full of strangers and traveling together through people’s hopes, fears, joys, tears and stories.  Being in a circle of people as they revel themselves and engage in an open, direct way with each other transforms me.  My world grows exponentially and I believe I travel further then I could ever travel via train, plane or automobile.

I think it was Jesus who said “whenever two or more are gathered in my name – God is present”.  I think that means whenever two or more are gathered and are open and curious about each other they tap into source, God, chi, universal energy, whatever you might call it.

My purpose is creating and experiencing that connection.