Surviving Survivor’s guilt

Van-by Forrest cavale

Have you ever felt guilty about feeling guilty?

Example: We had an old Dodge van that we drove for years while raising our young family, frequently nursing it back to health. I was driving it late one night and instead of driving directly home, I pulled into a brightly lit gas station to fill up the tank.

I mindlessly filled the tank, climbed back into the driver’s seat and turned the ignition key. The van wouldn’t start. Not one cough or sputter. It was towed home and finally, deemed beyond repair. I felt guilty about that van; it was working fine until I stopped to put gas in it. I admit that the idea of me being the catalyst for its breakdown is illogical, and I shouldn’t feel that way. So-that means that I feel guilty because I feel, well, guilty for feeling needless guilt about the demise of an old green van.

Here is another truth—I have been struggling with “survivor’s guilt.” I’ve felt some relief from this recently due to some insights by Mike Verano, a licensed professional counselor and cancer survivor. The basis of my guilt also stems from cancer along with instinctive, protective desires.

I’m the eldest daughter in a large family. Growing up, I experienced a collection of medical events, the first being surgery at age two. By the time I was a young mother in my thirties, it was my personal assumption that I was the family “Medical Anomaly”.

The day my younger brother, a happily married new father, called to tell me that he had thyroid cancer I was stunned. My immediate reaction was guilt and sorrow. I was the big sister, I was the medical “weirdo” in the family–it should be me that had the cancer, not him. Our family was again struck with emotion when within a few years; my younger sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. Again, I felt that sense of wrong-ness, it was not in my script of life for my little sister to have cancer.

My guilt kept companionship with my worry and prayers for each of them as their years of remission and treatments passed like a roller coaster. Each of them had children to care for and jobs and life.

My brother’s cancer was in remission for a few years, but he died after a final medical struggle leaving a wife and four young children. My sister was a cancer Warrior, having years of pro-active health during remission and fighting strongly during seasons of metastatic cancer. She died after her second bout of Stage IV cancer. She was 54, a young grandma with her youngest child still in High School.

The month before my sister died, I had a tiny nodule of thyroid cancer removed. My own cancer diagnosis and the ease at which it was removed surprised me. I didn’t even need after surgery radiation treatment. And I felt the irony–my younger brother and sister each died after years of tremendous suffering and courageous living.

My awareness of having survivor guilt did not lessen its hold on me. When I read the post by Mike Verano at www.curetoday.com I felt my burden lighten.

He explains, “When the element of having done something wrong is added to the questioning of one’s survival, we end up with survivor’s guilt…When the question ‘Why did I get cancer?’ becomes ‘Why did I survive cancer, while others did not?’ the guilt reflex is turned on its head. What is there to feel guilty about? No offense has been committed, no moral code broken and no failure of duty took place…What purpose is served by calling into question the right to awaken to yet another day?”

Here is a three-step model for surviving survivor’s guilt that Verano uses with his clients:

“Step 1 is to name it: …By asking clients to give a name to the guilt trip they’re on, they’re released from feeling that it is the result of some personal character flaw.Step 2 is to claim it: Owning the times when we’re victimizing ourselves with the guilt experience is much easier than trying to ignore, resist and fight.Step 3 is to reframe it: … Once we cast a painful experience in a more positive light, we drain it of its power. Ultimately, survivor’s guilt arises from compassion for others and the desire to end suffering.”

Verano has even found the good side of survivor’s guilt. He points out, “In an attempt to scratch the guilt itch, many people go on to take on causes, donate to charities, seek cures, and, yes, even write blogs. As someone who experiences this phenomenon every time I show up at my oncologist’s office for my follow-up visits, my personal mantra is: ‘I survived cancer, and I’m guilty of wanting the same for others.’”

I know that my brother and sister would want me to live joyously. God is the scriptwriter of life, not me. I have survived cancer, and I’m guilty of wanting the same experience for others.

Here’s a link to the whole article–http://www.curetoday.com/community/mike-verano/2016/01/surviving-survivors-guilt-after-cancer

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thoughts Regarding Rainbows

Recently, while substitute teaching a First-grade class, I asked the little students what they knew about rainbows. Immediately many opinions were offered, most having to do with “rain” or “clouds.”

rainbow-flowers-field-1024x614-www.hdwallpaper.nu-rainbow-wallpapersOne 6-year-old stomped towards me to be heard above the hub-bub of voices. With eyes flashing and defiance in his voice he said, “Rainbows are made by leprechauns, and that Is A FACT!”

Another young voice piped up, “And Leprechauns have to have a pot of gold with them or else it won’t work because they use the gold to make the rainbow.”

I thanked them for their ideas and popped a science video regarding rainbows into the VHS player. (Yes, this school still has VHS players along with DVDs.)

A few days later, while having a Face Time conversation with my 5-year old grandson I thought again about the confident and defiant leprechaun proponent in the classroom. I wondered where my grandson stood on the subject of rainbows. I told him what the students had said regarding leprechauns and asked him what he thought.

My boisterous grandson burst out laughing and shouted, “Leprechauns aren’t REAL!” Then without taking a breath he exclaimed, “…but if leprechauns were real, you know what I’d do? I’d kick them in the booty and make them slide right off that rainbow onto the ground, Ha,ha,ha,!” He bounced out of my view, giggling with delight.

I’m smiling. Kids are funny. Maybe we should remember to let our inner child out now and then, to state our opinions with confidence even if they are unpopular, to laugh at the Ridiculous and to be creative when faced with unusual circumstances. And then, laugh with joy at our own cleverness. Hahaha!

=============

PHOTO CREDIT: I wish I could give proper credit to the person who took this gorgeous rainbow photo, however, I found it at http://www.hdwallpaper.nu/rainbow-wallpapers. The website states– “Please use these images for personal and educational purposes only, since we do not have any record of the original authors.”

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mental Music Mornings

Music flowed in my mind as I woke the other day; I hummed the song, intermittently belting out snatches of random lyrics—“…copper-bottomed tympanis and horse platoons, THUNdering, THUNDERING all along the square…!” It was the tune “Seventy-six Trombones” from The Music Man. Music in my mind is a daily occurrence. It’s like I have a playlist in my head that’s set to Shuffle. The music is just always there, as spontaneous as a sneeze. That particular morning the “trombones” song changed mid-verse from lyrics to humming while I inserted my contact lenses. I walked into the kitchen and suddenly found myself singing the “Hallelujah Chorus.”

Today I reflected on my unconscious habit of humming and singing. Ironically, I’m not a fan of speaking first thing in the morning. It takes such an effort to open my mouth and formulate words. Hmmm. Maybe that’s the key—I have so many songs deeply embedded in my subconscious that I don’t have to generate sentence’s or consider the grammaticism of my native English tongue. My mental music flows without thought…or rationality.

This works pretty well for me because my husband leaves for work while I am still groggy with morning haze and curled up in my blanket. I can’t think of an instance when there was an actual human in hearing distance when I’ve trumpeted out phrases of random songs. Now and then, our Great Dane doggie looks quizzically at me, but then carries on with her typical morning routine—slurping large, drippy swathes of water from her bowl.

This morning while preparing breakfast for myself, the song du jour was “Oklahoma”. I will clarify that these random songs rarely start at the beginning. This one started quietly in the middle of a chorus: “…and when we say——-“ (crescendo) “YIPPPPPPP! A-yip-I- odle-AYE!!!!!” (Super forte loud)—“We’re only saying you’re doing fine Oklahoma, Oklahoma, O.K.—-!”  I stopped myself before I had to actually spell ‘Oklahoma’, that is the next part of the song lyric. It’s just too hard to think about lengthy spelling early in the morning.

It is such a joyous feeling to sing “Hallelujah!” or “Yip-i-odle Aye!” first thing in the morning. Really, you should try it. Singing about “copper-bottomed” anything is just funny. It makes my mind giggle. Mental chuckling. Actual out-loud giggling takes too much morning effort.

I love that my mind is filled with Broadway music, childhood favorites, hymns and jazzy randomness. Superfluous music works well when the day is bright and filled with hopeful beginnings. However, sometimes I hear Billie Holiday or Lena Horne’s distinctive blues lyricism in my mind. Then it is usually evening and I’m tired or challenged by racing thoughts of a less brilliant type. In those moments I hum, or sing softly while considering what’s underpinning that mood. It could be that I didn’t take my “brain chemical pills” yet. Sometimes if its already evening I just give up and go to sleep, which is always a good solution. I know that I’ll always feel better in the morning when the random music rotation surprises me. What’s the music in your head?

Posted in Personal reflections | Leave a comment

Stick With Good Habits– Use Paper Clips

I vowed to drink 8 glasses of water per day; it was going to be my new habit. I filled 8 paper cups with water and lined them up on the kitchen counter. I made a continuous effort to drink from the cups throughout the day until I’d emptied them all. I tried this for a couple days and on one particularly busy day I realized it was barely noon and I only had three cups left to drink.

Whew, what a busy morning. I’d been so preoccupied with life that I didn’t even remember downing all that water. I smiled, imagining that this new habit was really kicking in.

“So, Mom…how’s the water-drinking thing going?” My teenage son strolled into the kitchen and smiled.

I was touched by his interest in my progress–until I looked into his twinkling eyes and saw his smile turn to a smirk. Suddenly, I KNEW.

“You’ve been pouring out my water cups?!” He thought it was hilarious. No wonder I didn’t remember drinking them…

The experience showed me that I need visual triggers to help with developing new habits. However, I also learned to be vigilant of saboteurs. Blogger James Clear highlighted a more subtle way to track habit-forming progress. He described the method used by new stock broker, Trent Dyrsmid who implemented paper clips as a visual cue.

“Every morning I would start with 120 paper clips in one jar and I would keep dialing the phone until I had moved them all to the second jar.” —Trent Dyrsmid

Within 18 months, Dyrsmid’s book of business grew to $5 million in assets. By age 24, he was making $75,000. Within a few years, outside firms began recruiting him because of his success and he landed a $200,000 job with another company. Read the whole post: How to Stick With Good Habits Every Day by Using the “Paper Clip Strategy” | James Clear.

I love this idea. I decided to be more “visual” with my vitamins and supplements. I purchased a daily pill container normally used for prescription medicines; it has a section for each day of the week. I made sure it was semi-opaque so that I can notice if the day’s section was empty or still full of pills.  TA-da! I’m finally consistent with Calcium and etc.

Posted in Habits-Motivation | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spiritual Light Takes Faith

Spiritual Light

Posted in Inspiring | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jazz Performance Can Make You Brave–as Long as You Show Up

2014 Sep 5 Singing Stormy Weather at Rhythm & Rye, Olympia Funny that it takes courage to do something enjoyable…This is me singing at an Open Mic night with excellent, professional jazz musicians.

Here’s how it works: Have lead sheets for the songs you want to sing. Walk across the room from your nice comfy chair where  you have been listening to the excellent musicians play jazz. Hover at the edge of the stage and catch the eye of the band leader at the end of their song. He announces that you’ll be singing.

You step up on the stage, trying not to trip on the mic and amp cords on the floor. (You experience the inner conflict between fear of dorkiness and the need to be confident.) You hand out sheet music to the musicians, grab the microphone and smile into the warm, sun-bright stage lights. The musicians begin to play and you feel peace as the music wraps comfortably around you. You breathe. And you sing.

I’ve done this several times in the past few months. The same venue. The same musicians. A happy outcome.

Yet, I still feel great resistance in preparing to go–choosing music, getting dressed, driving through the darkness, parking, walking in to the building. It still takes courage to walk across the floor to the stage. It is my “feel the insecurity and do it anyway” moment.

I love performing, so I choose to do this challenging thing. I know that this will make me a better performer–trying to bump beyond the boundaries of my comfort. Are you grappling with a bravery challenge??

Posted in Music career | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mike Tyson on Having a Plan

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.”-Mike Tyson.¹

This quote has a reality that I can identify with. Sometimes the unexpected  turnings of life can “pull the rug out from under you.” That experience leaves you sprawled on the floor, breathless.  And then, sometimes life just gives you a sharp “zing!” in the face.

It seems that getting punched in the face would leave you stock photo, Lindy Hop couplestunned. And dizzy and nauseated and you might even black out. Now that I think about it, that’s just what it felt like to me when, during a vigorous swing dance, my partner accidentally smacked me in the cheekbone while we attempted a spin. I actually saw gold sparkles before my eyes. Previously, I thought that was just a graphic effect that artists drew in cartoons of fights. At least I didn’t see little birdies singing.

Here is what I did when I got punched in the face–I had been having so much fun, the  song was still playing, my dear partner was sad and apologetic, so I gave a wobbly smile, sucked in air to lessen the nausea and willed myself to finish the dance.²

A family member once said, “Don’t you wish that sometimes you could punch Life in the face?!”

In what ways do you punch back at adversity?

Sometimes you need a  team of  people to help you fight back, or hold you up till the nausea and blackness ebb away. That’s a challenge too, right? — admitting you need help, and accepting it.  It’s always good to have  something to fall back on to cushion the “blow” when it comes. Sometimes there’s nothing you can immediately do except suck in air, pray and will yourself to finish the dance.


SOURCE:
–Quality and Training Manager at OnPath Business Solutions,LinkedIn.com article by the same title.
 
2. The music playing that night was “Sing, Sing, Sing ” Listen to the song here.   Watch a segment of the song played by the master musicians Gene Krupa, Benny Goodman and Harry James here .
 
Photo was found using image search; it has this URL-http://www.185kingst.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/swing-12.jpg I couldn’t locate the actual source of the photo.
 
Posted in Inspiring, Personal reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

P90X and Tony Horton–Changing Mind & Muscle

I’m reading a book by Tony Horton called The Big Picture. I picked it up when I noticed the author, “Hey, it’s that P90X guy…”

The only reason I was aware of him was because some of my adult kids had been trying to explain to me what the P90X program was and why they loved it and why they kept at it day after day even though sometimes, apparently, it made them vomit.

Sam flex, 2011I have incredibly intelligent, perceptive children; I was curious about this trainer that they liked so well. Additionally, I was stunned when I saw their “Before P90X” and “After” photos. They already looked healthy to me before starting the program, but now, after their consistent work, I recognize what “chiseled” means as an adverb to muscle. The photo I’ve attached to this post was a “Before” photo. I’d post the “After” but I didn’t get his permission yet. (I figured posting this pix was safe because he is disguised with the glasses and wig. Unless, of course you know our family. You probably don’t…??)

I’m typically not a fitness person. And yet, so far—I LOVE THIS BOOK. Tony Horton is an excellent, wise, entertaining writer and offers practical, doable “Laws” to change your life.

Here is a simple Law. Ponder it and recognize the depth of it:

“Do your best and  forget the rest.”

My take: Forget the negativity, forget the impossibility, forget those over-protective fearful voices in my head. Just do my best.


(P.S. On the topic of vomit, not that it’s really a topic per se; however, you need  to read Tony’s narrative of his ride in a fighter jet and how he relates that experience to life. Unless you’re generally a queazy person…, then you might want to skip that part.)

 

Posted in Books I Like, Inspiring | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Quit the Right Stuff at the Right Time.”

I invite you to read a great post by Whitney Johnson on her blog. There are so many wonderful things available to all of us to pursue and dream. It takes wisdom to know when to focus on one important thing, the best thing, rather than several good things. 2013_Boston_Marathon[1]

“It’s important to dream, and it’s important to know when to ditch a dream.

It would be wonderful to run a marathon.
But it would come at a cost.
At the cost of dreams I want more.

What are you willing to quit pursuing so that you can go after what you really want?”

(Source:–Whitney Johnson)

Photo by Aaron “tango” Tang

Link | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Gospel Gives Freedom

The Gospel Gives Freedom

I found this quote enlightening: “The gospel of Jesus Christ is not weight, it is wings.” It was part of a talk by Jean A. Stevens, First Counselor in the General Primary Presidency (World-wide religious organization for children of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). By following the teachings of Jesus Christ–loving people, being chaste, giving service, honoring God–life is so much lighter and happier. You have wings to soar higher. [I designed this art by using Canva.com, very fun experience]

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment