Why I Love ‘This is Us’

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In case you don’t know, ‘This Is Us’ is a new television show on NBC.

Yes, I am writing about a TV show. But actually, I am not really writing about a television show. I am writing about what I always write about. Life as I see it.

‘This is Us’ is a program about family, community, connection and love.

Even if you don’t watch the show you can read this blog (though I would highly recommend you get on the bandwagon)

I love ‘This is Us’.  It touches me. It warms my heart. It often makes me cry.

The show premiered in the fall and I was hooked after the first episode. Some reviewers said it was sappy, and maybe a bit manipulative in terms of evoking emotion. Maybe there is some truth to that but even so, I do not really feel that way. I feel connected to the characters in this crazy kind of way. Like I know them. Maybe it is because parts of my own family and me are in some of these characters.

‘This is Us’ is a show about life. It reminds us that we all have a story.  One that starts when we are born and continues until we part. The way we were raised by our parents or others shapes us into who we are today. The show forces us to see our own scars and maybe even dysfunction but in a reflective way. Families are not perfect, just like life is not perfect. Many of us struggle through and hopefully learn and grow along the way. In the end, it is often our deep personal connections that cause us to grow, change and become a bit more accepting.

What is it about this show that has me thinking about it all the time? The more I struggle to figure out the reason why I feel the way I do, the more I realize how many others feel the same way. The show taps into emotions about our own lives, our childhood, our parents. The characters are easy to connect to as they remind us of our own families, our own relationships. As someone in their 50’s, I find myself often thinking back to my childhood and analyzing how certain interactions with my family and community have influenced my habits and behaviors.

I have been thinking about writing a blog about this for months but it wasn’t until this week’s episode that I made the decision to do so. I was in tears watching it and it brought up so much emotion, especially around my own experience with cancer and my own mother’s death. Also, the storyline tapped into my personal beliefs about illness, cancer and death.

Our society places such an emphasis on life, at any cost, and often people think of death as failure. This program has taken a different tact, by showing that death is part of life; life goes on after we are gone and we often have choices how we want to approach our fate. Making a decision to stop treatment and preserve our strength to enjoy our last days, though they may be cut shorter, is a choice and a valid one.

This show taps into emotions we may not even know we had or at least thought about. It comes at a time in our world where there is so much unrest and for some people a conscious disconnection from others because of differing and polarizing views. Maybe this is why some of us have found some calm in the storm of everyday life on Tuesday nights. “This is Us’ makes us think and explore where we have come from, where we want to go, who we want to be and maybe a chance to reconnect with what is most important to us.

We are This is Us.

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My Life as a Playlist

How often do you hear a song on the radio and you are immediately taken back to some place 5, 10 or even 40 years ago?

I remember feeling extra nostalgic a year or so ago – thinking and thinking about middle school and high school constantly and couldn’t figure out why. Was my life coming to an end? Was I depressed? I was worried I was dwelling so much on the past and then I realized that I had been exclusively listening to the 70’s and 80s channel on my satellite radio. Each song immediately took me back to some time, some memory.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to go back to those days but the memories seem so vivid, which often leaves me in a reflective state of mind.

Music is powerful. It has the ability to embed itself in our brain and connect us to many of our life events and experiences. We could all create our own playlists of songs that bring us back to our first love, our first of many things or just places we have been. Music can help us relax and encourages creativity. It can boost our mood. Walking and listening to music is very therapeutic for me. It also helps me focus and gather my thoughts. I generate ideas and much of my writing benefits from listening to certain tunes.

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Music speaks to us in many ways. My playlist has always been diverse. You will find almost every genre of music in my library. If I put my phone on shuffle you will hear everything from 70’s rock, disco, Broadway, alternative, jazz, classical, country to today’s top 40.  What do your playlists look like?

My own exception to using music to calm my anxiety and gather my thoughts was back when I was 25 and diagnosed with cancer. I never listened to music. Never. Years later I thought back wondering why. Maybe I was subconsciously worried it tapped in to my feelings and I was scared. Maybe I was protecting myself from associating my illness and memories with certain songs. Maybe nothing could cheer me up, I just don’t know. I find the power that music holds fascinating.

You know that exercise called Word Association? Try Music Association. Play a song and what do you associate it with?

I could do this with thousands of songs but here are just a few. (DISCLAIMER. This in not representative of music I regularly listen to but these are samples of songs immediately bring me back to a certain time.)

Don’t Fear The Reaper Blue Oyster Cult (my first 45 record. I am lying on the floor in my bedroom and am in 6th grade.)

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Dust in the Wind- Kansas (I am in 8th grade and the song is on when I hear a girl I go to school with is killed in a car accident. I haven’t listened to the song since.)

Reunited- Peaches and Herb (I am in high school and there is a teen disco we all go to on Saturday nights. I am hoping someone will ask me to dance this slow dance)

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 I Have Dreamed- The King and I- (I am a sophomore in high school and am in the chorus of the school musical. I had a crush on the guy singing this song and even though have seen other productions throughout my life the song always brings me back to sitting in the auditorium during rehearsals and hearing him sing.)

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Bye Bye Love- The Cars  (I am driving around town after I got my license. This song also brings me back to all those high school parties )

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Thriller- Michael Jackson (Hanging out in “Who’s On First” bar in Boston)

Turn it On Again-Genesis (I am at Cornell walking to class and thinking about life, school)

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It’s A Wonderful World -Louis Armstrong (I am dancing to our song at our wedding)

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My Heart Will Go On- Celine Dion (I am sitting in the movie theater with my physical therapist after my breast cancer surgery. There is a lot of emotion as I ponder my future and what has just happened to me)

I Gotta Feeling- The Black Eyed Peas (I am at my sons’ Bar Mitzvahs and dancing up a storm)

He Lives in You- The Lion King (I am sitting in my car listening to this song over and over again the day before my mother passes away. I use this song for inspiration to write her eulogy.)

Fun- Pitbull/Chris Brown (I hear this song and it just reminds me of my son because it seems like a song he would like. He loves to DJ when we are in the car. It boosts my mood)

We all have our songs. Maybe even dogs listen. When I used to watch my neighbor’s dog I would always think she forgot to turn off the radio.  “The music soothes Zeke while we are away,” my neighbor told me.

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We all have our playlists. Some are more diverse than others and they reflect our personalities in so many ways. Music touches us. Music moves us. Music inspires us. Everyone loves music. Music reminds of us of where we have been and is part of our life as we move forward.

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What is your life playlist?

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Posted in cancer, life, motivation | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Top 5 (Most Read) Blog Posts: 2016. A Year in Review.

It’s hard to believe another year has almost come to a close. The older I get, the faster the time seems to go and there seems to be no slowing down. I guess that is better than reporting that I spent the year sitting around watching the world go by.

I have enjoyed blogging on a variety of topics and am thrilled and touched to have had so many people, and mostly people I am connected with in some way, read my blogs. When you blog you tend to get caught up in how many followers you have and for me it has been  more about personal connection and have enjoyed hearing how things I have written about struck a cord and made some type of impact.  I didn’t expect my blog would provide me with an added bonus of reconnecting with people from my past and my blog has helped me to do that.

This year Life According to Somebody had just under 6000 views by 4200 visitors from 83 different countries.

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Each blog posts seems to connect with different people. For 2017 I hope to improve my blog by categorizing topics and potentially creating a spin off that is more focused on health issues.

A personal thank you for all those who have supported this blog and read, commented and shared articles.

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Keep sharing! Also, don’t forget you can sign up to follow my blog so you never miss a post as you may miss individual posts on Facebook.

 

And most importantly, I wish each one of you a very Happy and Healthy New Year! Cheers to 2017!

 

Here are the top 5 most read blogs of 2016

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My Baby is Home From College. Push and Pull.

https://lifeaccordingtosomebody.com/2016/01/19/my-baby-is-home-from-college-push-and-pull/

25 Life Lessons From a Two-Time #Cancer Survivor

https://lifeaccordingtosomebody.com/2016/07/26/25-life-lessons-from-a-two-time-cancersurvivor/

50 Something. And Still Missing Summer Camp

https://lifeaccordingtosomebody.com/2016/06/28/50-something-and-still-missing-summer-camp/

College Boys Are Home. Breathe.

https://lifeaccordingtosomebody.com/2016/06/07/college-boys-are-home-breathe/

TIE #5

Election Drama. Now What?

https://lifeaccordingtosomebody.com/2016/11/17/election-drama-now-what/

Boys Off To College. Part-time Empty Nester Rollercoaster Ride

https://lifeaccordingtosomebody.com/2016/08/26/boys-are-off-to-college-part-time-empty-nester-rollercoaster-ride/

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Posted in Resilience, year in review | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Election Drama. Now What?

Both before and after the election people approached me and said, “Wow, lots of material for your blog.” But I didn’t write. I couldn’t write about the election. I didn’t feel I wanted to take any type of political stand, publicly. I discussed politics with my immediate family and a few friends but the topic was so charged I felt it better to keep my thoughts private.

The more I saw on Facebook, people taking sides, the more I backed away. I am writing now because I believe it is the best way to handle what I am feeling and because it should be a logical article for a blog that gives a person’s perspective on a life event.

Like I said, before the election, I stayed away from a blog article and naively thought like everyone else soon enough it would all go away and I could quietly slip out of writing anything. Remember all those posts on FB saying:

“Can’t wait until this is all over. Time to move on.”

And then things got worse. And there was no moving on. So now here I am,  giving my two cents.

I have been feeling sick to my stomach and so saddened by the fallout. Rather than focusing on who won and who lost, I have been overwhelmed by the hate that is going around on all sides. This is not one party or another. It includes people from every side. It sickens me. People who are condemning bigotry are spewing hate at those they criticize. It is just awful.

This is what I learned on election night. There are a lot of people in pain in this country, enough people to create a movement and sound an alarm. Voting for a candidate was far from black and white. The issues and reasons for a vote were complicated.

I am a person who looks at all angles of an issue and it is clear to me that this vote signified how many people wanted their voices heard. Many of these people were quiet and didn’t express whom they would vote for because they didn’t want to be judged. I was quietly saying all along this could be a close race, even an upset because I was getting the sense that there were a lot of people out there not admitting who they were going to vote for. And I guess I was right.

And why were they silent? Because they were afraid they would be judged. And history has shown they were right.

I was brought up to respect people’s differences, to approach life with an open mind and to do my research before forming an opinion. I was taught tolerance, compassion and understanding and the importance of hearing multiple viewpoints, which often challenged my own. These are the values I wanted to pass on to my children. It was important they go to a college or a university which would open their minds, challenge their beliefs and create open and free dialogue.

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The Millenials have taken a hit in terms of how they have responded and honestly I agree with the criticism. Not that long ago I wrote a blog article about why it is important for our children to experience failure. I was worried they wouldn’t know what failure looked like and how to cope. Maybe my article was a premonition of what was to come. Comments in the last week like “feeling hopeless” are commonplace among young people. Feeling hopeless? Really?

Throughout Election Night and the days following, I spoke often to my sons. I was disheartened to hear my youngest talk about how people were crying all over campus and when he entered his first class of the day, his professor was crying as well. Rather than an open discussion and post-election analysis, the professor conducted the class based on her own emotion and asked the students to rebel. My son felt anyone with any other viewpoint would be “massacred”(so to speak) if they spoke a word to the contrary. What to me seems like such a wonderful learning experience has instead become a campus filled with students who are fearful, anxious and some who have been targeted and harassed.

What is happening?

“Why do people feel they have the right to tell me how to feel? How to vote? What should be important to me?” my son asked. He abruptly signed off all social media.

“What do I tell my children?” This appeared all over social media.

This is what I would tell my children.

Life is not always fair. We don’t always win. Throughout history, there have been winners and losers. It is the true test of our character what we do next, how we handle ourselves. Let us look beyond ourselves in order to understand what happened and move forward in a productive way.

Fight for what is important to you, by taking action. Roll up your sleeves and become part of something bigger than yourself to make a change. Spewing on social media is not taking action.

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Next week is Thanksgiving. A time for reflection and to give thanks for what we have. Our relationships with people are most precious and how we treat each other is really important. As we sit at the Thanksgiving table, with family members and friends lets try to keep the politics at bay.

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Blog Article “Why Our Kids Need To Experience Failure”

Are We Overparenting? Why Our Kids Need to Experience Failure.

 

 

 

Posted in Resilience | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

I Owe it To My Mother. Improving The Patient Experience.

I have been through a lot. Sometimes I feel like a walking medical experiment. Cancer twice, and the loss of my mother who also had cancer. Hundreds of appointments, blood tests, and procedures and enough radiation to light up the sky.

Please do not misunderstand, I am not complaining (ok sometimes I do complain of my aches and pains like anyone else) but this isn’t about that. I am lucky. I am living an active and normal life.

When I left my career to raise my children, I knew I needed to find a way to use my professional experience and health experience to do something to give back. I did some work volunteering for various cancer organizations but it wasn’t until my mother was diagnosed with cancer and passed away that I became passionate about taking my experience as well as hers and working to improve the patient experience. There were so many ways my mother’s experience could have been better if doctors had actually talked to her, listened to her and understood what was most important to her. She didn’t see things the way I did as her generation was taught “the doctor knows best” and not to question or explore alternatives. But the truth is we should question and shouldn’t feel guilty about asking the questions. After my mother’s death, I was pretty fired up and began to explore ways I could lend my voice and make a difference.

My blog has led me to do other writing and my first article was published this month in the Beryl Institute’s PXJ (Patient Experience) Journal. I talk about using Human Resource policies and procedures to improve the patient experience and I hope my observations and suggestions create a dialogue for reflection and maybe even change.

Here is the link to my article

Why human resources policies and practices are critical to improving the patient experience

 

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Resources:

Check out the Beryl Institute

http://www.theberylinstitute.org

Posted in cancer, patient centered care | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Doctor. Please Understand I Am A Person And Not Just Another Case.

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When you think about going to the doctor, what is one of your biggest pet peeves?

Waiting to be called? Having to fill out forms over and over? I could put together an extensive list but in the end what is most important to me is my relationship with my physician. It really gets under my skin when I hear a story of an interaction with a doctor that shows the patient was clearly not respected as a person. In a new era of healthcare, we are beginning to think of our care like any other product or service. We want the best.

So, if we want the best in care, why should we settle for a doctor who doesn’t give us what we consider to be the best level of care?

In the last few weeks, I have had two medical appointments with two new physicians. One was a wonderful experience and the other the exact opposite. My guess is anyone reading this has had the same experience at one time or another. Unfortunately, this is the state of healthcare these days, an inconsistent not always patient-centered medical experience.

My first appointment was with a surgeon who I went to see to address a late effect from past surgery for my breast cancer. He walked into the room and within seconds I felt his warmth, compassion and we made a personal connection. He listened to me, my concerns, feelings and we talked about various options. He was honest, sincere and validated my emotions. After the appointment, I processed all the information and was easily able to reach out to him with new questions and he responded quickly. I felt fortunate to have found him.

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Two weeks later I went to a different medical office to see a specialist about a pain I had in my arm from playing golf. I thought maybe I had tendonitis or golfer’s elbow. The physician entered the room and introduced himself and within a few minutes, I found him slightly abrasive. He was talking at me, did an exam and gave me his diagnosis, which was not tendonitis but a condition having to do with my muscle and my radial nerve (similar to carpal tunnel). Everything he explained lined up with my symptoms. The treatment included rest from the repetitive motion of golf and a wrist brace to wear at night.

As the appointment neared the end, the doctor told he wanted me to have an x-ray of my arm before I left. I pushed back. I told him I am concerned with radiation exposure and I like to ask the question every time an x -ray is recommended. My past history includes intensive radiation therapy and years of radiation from follow-up x-rays and scans. I wasn’t sure why an x-ray was needed in this case. At this point, he became agitated. He looked at me in disbelief that I would question him. He talked for the next 5 minutes about “standard of care” which I understand and appreciate; however, I realized, as he was talking he wasn’t listening to me and was not empathetic to my situation. He didn’t care what I was saying, at all.

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I began to defend myself and brought up another example of a time I pushed back on the x-ray and the physician said that actually there were other ways to determine a diagnosis without doing an x-ray. This new guy didn’t really care. I now felt like I was defending myself for asking the question and wanting to explore different options. The truth is I was a bit rattled as we had the exchange. Finally, I agreed to the x-ray. The x-ray was normal and showed nothing.

Protocols are in place to potentially rule other out other problems and the physician certainly doesn’t want to make an error in diagnosis. I get it. But the current diagnosis seemed pretty reasonable and I wonder if it made more sense to see if the treatment recommendations worked before taking things to the next step. Right or wrong, I was feeling remorse that I caved and more importantly I didn’t feel good about the whole thing.

I always tell people to advocate for themselves and not just accept recommendations because we don’t understand and assume the doctor knows better. Truth be told, it may be difficult to do so. But it shouldn’t be. If this doctor really listened to me and understood my concerns and fears he may have been able to address them differently. This type of example is exactly why I decided to volunteer my time to improving the patient experience. It all started back when my mother was ill and was treated in a similar way, as a case number and not a person. Writing helps me to gather my thoughts and share my experiences and my guess is we can all relate. As hard as it may be, we, as patients, need to demand respect and better care and I believe our voice will influence change.

 

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Posted in cancer, patient centered care, Resilience | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

One Scary Night Led Me To Finding My Purpose

This week I have a guest blogger. Nick is a college student and an aspiring writer and wanted to share his story of resilience. He is the son of a friend of mine who has also had her share of life’s challenges.

As I write on my blog, I have learned at an early age about the rollercoaster of life, it’s twists and turns and what it takes to pick yourself up after crisis and move forward in a positive way. Nick also has learned important life lessons at a young age that will serve him well as he moves through the uncertainty of life. I thank Nick for taking a risk and sharing his thoughts and his story.

 

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Has anything in your life ever caused you to feel some sort of guilt, shame, failure, pain, regret, or even questioning why? I have learned early on in my life that every day is a true gift that many of us take for granted. Not because we mean to, but because it’s the world we live in. We get caught up living our lives based on school, work, and other activities that we forget what we are living for until the day something drastic happens. One day you could wake up and possibly have your last cup of coffee that morning. That almost happened to me.

Now, I have always tried to live my life to the fullest, however, at times I get weak and fail. I am human and I am not perfect. I realize if I fall and pick myself up, I become stronger than I was before I had fallen. It was not until recently that I woke up and realized that this life is REAL and I am here right now, for some reason. I think because of the situation that I currently was in, I was determined to find “my purpose.”

On the night of December 14, 2015, my life changed in a blink of an eye. I was given the chance to wake up and receive many gifts and blessings from my angels that night. On the night of the 14th, I was in a 5 car collision. My car was in the middle of it all.

I do not remember a single thing from that accident. However, I feel like it’s a good thing that I do not. With no family in the state where I go to school, I was alone except for one friend that found out and came and stayed by my side that night. Doctors wrote in my medical notes that I was unconscious for approximately 8 hours.

Prior to my accident, I had a lot on my mind; final exams to finish and the anniversary of my Uncle Ricky’s passing.  Within that 8-hour time span, I had woken up twice, said the doctor and my friend. The two times I briefly woke, my friend said I screamed and cried out for my Uncle Ricky. Each time they said my blood pressure plummeted as I called out for my Uncle. I finally came back to consciousness on the 15th of December.

Sometimes I wish I could go back to the night of my accident, and many people ask why? Well, we all have our own beliefs, and theories but I believe I was with my Uncle the night of my accident. It took a while for me to put all the pieces that I experienced together. All the accident really did on the outside was leave marks on my body, bills to be paid, court dates to attend, and details to work out to purchase a new car. But on the inside, the accident left me with the question of why did this all have to happen to me? All I knew was that I felt some sort of peace and happiness while seeing this bright unexplainable light next to me that night. I do not recall seeing my Uncle’s face or even really hearing his voice, but I remember one thing. I remember him saying to me, “Go! It’s not your time Nicholas, you have to go back. You have a destination in life to fulfill and until that day, we will meet again.”

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It took a while to feel the darkness fade into light after my accident. With so many questions swirling through my mind with no answers, I knew it was up to me to find my so-called “purpose” like my Uncle had told me to do. All of us are struggling with something, we just may not know it, but we all have a beautiful “purpose” in life.

Since then, I have looked at life as a beautiful chance to become my author of my life. My accident has taught me patience and understanding that one day all of these events, good or bad, will end up being chapters in my life. Along with this journey, things will happen, roads get bumpy and we have to make adjustments. I know I’m not the only one who’s willing to walk by my side. Today, I am so proud to have received another chance back at school and I am working hard to receive my diploma and fulfill the story of my life.

Although the accident destroyed my vehicle, it did not destroy my faith. I pulled myself up while working two jobs all summer, spending time with my family, and began to discover many opportunities for me to start writing thoughts of my purpose on paper so that one day I will be able to get a story published to help others. I give thanks for the night of December 14, 2015.

Nick is a Junior, studying Psychology at Long Island University in Brookville, NY 

Posted in Resilience | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Are We Overparenting? Why Our Kids Need to Experience Failure.

The boys are off to college and classes are beginning this week. I am re-grouping and getting a handle on my new life at home without kids. And then the texts start rolling in and I am feeling incredibly anxious. My boys’ problems are quickly becoming my own. One son has faced early rejection from a something he had his heart set on. He sounds awful. The other is sending pictures of possible foot infection he self-diagnosed and treated incorrectly which caused more of a problem. I am sucked in and my first reaction is to try to fix everything.

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Ok, I am the worst at this. My job as a mother has always been to protect my children, teach them about life. Teach them how to approach problems and help solve them. I have made this my life’s work, really. The hard part is the balance part. Where to draw the line and stop helping so much. I want to fix it and make it all better even when they are grown, against my better judgment. “I will just show them the way and it will be a learning experience,” I tell myself.

I am a control freak and sometimes I go into overdrive. I want to do everything I can so my children do not experience pain or disappointment.

This is what modern parenting is all about, right???

It is about making sure our children are happy all the time. It is about becoming best friends with our kids and then they will love us even more. It is about protecting them from all the hurt and pain we have been through in our own struggles.  That’s our job, right?

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We want to be more involved parents than maybe our parents were and in our quest for improvement, we may have gone a bit too far to the other side. Who is feeling more anxiety about the problem? Me or my kid? I think it might be me….

I think what parenting is truly about is equipping our children with a tool set to help them become resilient, strong adults. If we fix everything it is tough for children to learn these skills. Life is filled with stress these days and maybe we should be teaching stress management at earlier ages so our children have practice and experience before leaving the home.

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When children are younger it seems easier to intervene and change outcomes that are not at first ideal. I watched people all around me constantly stepping in when a kid didn’t make the baseball team or didn’t get the teacher they wanted or a fair grade in a class. How about bringing forgotten homework to school? Guilty as charged.

Our generation is all about making our children feel special and able to accomplish anything.

On the one hand, it sounds like a healthy and good practice. On the other hand, it is not representative of life in general. Life is not fair and the best candidate doesn’t always get the job.

As our children turn into young adults and move into the college years we still seem to have influence that our parents didn’t really have. I still hear stories of parents intervening in college life and helicoptering over parts of the experience. Though I have let go of most the day-to-day, I still feel that pull sometimes to help set my children on the correct path and get more involved than I should.

I did grow up believing my parents could fix things for me. I thought they would always be there to make it all go away.

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My first exposure to failure was in 10th grade. I was always a good student and my parents’ expected me to get good grades. I remember thinking I could never fail a class because if I did, I would have to run away. Seriously. I had a whole plan mapped out. I would head off in the woods with my backpack filled with supplies and hide out, at least for a while. So, when I started Geometry class and found it really difficult, I started to get worried that I may actually have to implement my plan.  And then my first quarter grade was assigned and it was a 63, an F. I looked at the grade with such disbelief and fear. All of a sudden I was not so prepared to run away.

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To my surprise, my parents didn’t disown me and the world didn’t explode into flames.

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I didn’t have to run away.

What I did do was follow my parents’ orders to stay after school every day with the teacher until the end of the year. It was torture, especially because the teacher wasn’t the warm and fuzzy type guy. After such a painful failure of sorts, in my small world, I learned how to pick up myself and move forward. I ended up surprising everyone when I got a B+ on the final exam, which was a standardized state exam.

That same year, I experienced a second painful failure. I applied for a summer program at a prep school in New England. I had fantasies of a summer away from home, living like a college student in a dorm, meeting my first real boyfriend and taking courses like anthropology and going on an archeological dig. I had never been rejected from anything in my life until I got the rejection letter for this program. I was in such disbelief and was convinced my parents would fix it and I would go off on my archeological dig. They couldn’t and they didn’t. It was because of my geometry grade 1st semester that I failed to qualify.

Ironically, failure often opens doors.

At the last-minute I applied for a Leadership program at the YMCA camp I had attended for many summers and was accepted. The best thing that ever happened to me. I can say that both my boys did have rejections and missteps in their teenage years, neither they nor I could fix and though it pained me to watch,  opened new and potential better opportunities for both of them. Each time, I believed those outcomes would somehow make them stronger.

So, why are we so afraid of failure? Why are we resistant to let our children fail in some way? Why do we beat ourselves up so much if we aren’t perfect?

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It struck me when one of my sons was interviewing for a job and was asked to describe one of his biggest failures. What would young people say today?

Eventually, our children will be out on their own. For many, it is the first time they are not protected and experience the normal frustrations of life. They think something must be terribly wrong when things don’t go as planned.

It is not a surprise that anxiety has now surpassed depression as the most common mental health diagnosis among college students.  According to a recent study of more than 100,000 students nationwide by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State, more than half of students visiting campus clinics cite anxiety as a health concern. Is it because we didn’t allow them to experience failure before leaving the nest? Did we protect them too much?

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 If we want them to build character, confidence, strength and resilience, we need to let them face adversity and experience the pride that follows when they come out stronger on the other side.

It’s hard to see our children fall, but sometimes we have to. This is hard for me. Sometimes we have to ask ourselves whether getting involved  is in their best interest. Admittedly, I am working on this and find it difficult, very difficult not to get involved.

Failure helps us learn our way. It helps us readjust and often become better for it all. It helps us develop skills to get through life’s challenges. And there will be many.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Boys Are Off To College. Part-time Empty Nester Rollercoaster Ride

A year ago, I was filled with emotion. My youngest was going off to college and I was going to be an “empty nester.”  Or so I thought.

On the one hand, I was ready. Ready to do re-group and start a new chapter. I was sad to think that my life which revolved around my children was going to change and they wouldn’t need me anymore. Dinners would be quiet, the house would be empty and I would just have to accept the change. What I didn’t quite understand was that I was really going to be a part-time empty nester. At least for a while.

The boys left last summer and it felt strange, and then life was full of possibilities, activities and a new sort of freedom.

Just as I was getting used to my new life they came back. Came back for Thanksgiving, Christmas and then a 4 month summer break.

Hmmm. So lets really analyze this empty nester thing. With the comings and goings,  I am really only an empty nester for a little over a half of a year. On the one hand, it eases the pain of having the children move out for good to far away lands. On the other hand, it requires tremendous resilience and re-adjusting on our part. It is kind of tease. What life will be like down the road. But not yet. My guess is I will not be a true empty nester for some years. And by the time both boys permanently move out it will not feel so hard because it has been years in the making.

So, now here I am after just dropping my boys at school. I am feeling the exact same emotions I felt a year ago. I am sad. The house is eerily quiet. The fridge is mostly empty. My husband and I need to readjust and start to focus more on our life as a couple. As much as I thought life would change in one direction last year, I really didn’t understand the change.

I looked at what I wrote last year.  It feels like a repeat, a ground-hog day of sorts. My checklists remain the same. Some things I did last year, others I did not. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is not the same next summer.

groundhog-day-driving

BLOG AUGUST 2016

It doesn’t hit you until they are gone. Sure, we have been talking about it for a while, preparing in every way possible but it doesn’t hit you until the quiet takes over. The abruptness of it all is what is so hard. Until that time, you are going 100 mph, there is activity in the house, you are checking off all the boxes to get ready for college, shopping, packing and then going to school and setting up a new life. You say your goodbyes and that is when life abruptly changes, in a moment, when you return home and the house is seems so quiet and empty.

We have been alone before when our children went to camp for a month and eventually for the summer. The first few days were strange but then you get used to it. This time it is different because of what it represents. It is no longer a brief period of time when the house is quiet.

For 21 years, our life has revolved around the day-to-day activities of our children. That time has come to a close. Now they will return but as “visitors” rather than residents. At least that is what we are planning….

Their departure represents a new set of chapters and also reminds us of all the years that have actually passed while we were busy going to school events, sports practices, baseball, basketball, football games and countless other activities. We come up for air now and realize our youth is behind us. Children seem to make you feel younger, regardless of the number of candles on the cake. My husband and I look at each other as we walk through our sons’ college campus. We both are envious, wishing we could do it all over again, especially knowing what we do now. Our time has passed and we will live vicariously through our children.

Those who have been through the process of raising children will tell you, “It goes so fast.” I have to admit, there were many moments I wondered what they were talking about. Life with children has its ups and downs and there were certain moments where I would think of the trials and tribulations of the day, children in tow, thinking this is not going so fast.

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Life is busy thinking about what’s for dinner, where we need to be, what is next on the agenda. It is not until it comes to a sudden halt that I start reflecting, looking at all the family photos and realizing it went so fast. How did that happen? It is all a blur. Now what?

I reflect on what I observe around me. People raising children, micromanaging their every move. What they eat, what they say, what they wear, what they watch. Everything they do. We can be very controlling, so protective and we manage everything. And then one day all of that changes. They start eating junk food, swearing, engaging in friendships we may not approve of, drinking, smoking, having sex and we have to readjust. Those doctor’s appointments we religiously scheduled and held our children’s hand now turn into “I am sorry, he is 18 and we can’t discuss anything with you.”

We take control over the little things but realize that it is no longer about control. We have done everything we could to provide our children with the tools to leave the nest and it is now up to them to control their future. I think our adjustment is harder than that of my parents because they didn’t micromanage. They were often removed and let us grow up faster.

I need to let go. The worry will not go away but will change, as I will not know their every move. They will make their own choices. They will take risks that make me shudder. Each night I will say a prayer that they will stay safe.

Though our children may not make all the same choices we may make, the hope is that we have given them a tool box for making their own decisions. We are proud of who they have become and it is time to let them fly.

Still, I give my advice as my youngest heads out the door. That is the constant that will never change. Our support and advice.

imagesExplore and take advantage of all that is available to you

imagesTake a class in astronomy or art history because this is the time in your life you can do it

imagesTry a new club or sport because once you start working full-time this will be hard to do

imagesAlways be true to yourself. Step back and take a deep breath when the going gets tough and you feel pressure. Believe in yourself and know you are strong.

imagesYou have worked so hard to be given this new opportunity. Seize it. You start with a clean slate. You determine what you will do and who you will be.

I won’t miss:

bullet-css2The mess

bullet-css2Dirty dishes in the sink

bullet-css2Looking for a beer or any alcoholic drink or favorite food for that matter, and realizing it is all gone

bullet-css2The late nights waiting and worrying

bullet-css2The tv blaring in the middle of my house with some unappealing program

bullet-css2Not being able to find any of the car keys

bullet-css2Making a full course dinner to learn that they are going out with their friends

I will miss:

imagesThe smiles and humor

imagesThe conversations

imagesThe trips to the golf course, Maine and dining as a family

imagesThe companionship

imagesMy children, who have been my world and seemed to belong to me. Now they belong to themselves and to the world.

It is kind of like turning 50. You think about it for months and months, dreading the day. And then when the day passes you realize it isn’t so bad after all. A new energy takes over.

I will:

small-green-checkmarkClean my house

small-green-checkmarkOrganize their rooms

small-green-checkmarkStart making the food I like

small-green-checkmarkReconnect with friends

small-green-checkmarkTalk to my dogs even more than I do now

small-green-checkmarkTake control of my own life

small-green-checkmarkSign up for that Spanish class that I have been talking about but never did

small-green-checkmarkPlan some spontaneous trips

small-green-checkmarkDetermine my next chapter

As the days, go by I will ease into my new chapter a life without the chaos, the activity, my children.

unnamed

And just when I start to really get used to it, they will be back. And I will have to adjust all over again.

susanpolitz

 

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25 Life Lessons From a Two-Time #Cancersurvivor

 

life

 

1. Life is short. Don’t wait for the perfect moment to DO or SAY something important to you.

2. Death is not failure. It is part of life and the more we accept that fact the more we can live intentionally and without as much fear.

3. A simple act of kindness can make someone’s day and leave a lasting impression.

kindness

 

4. You have the ability to make an impact. Leave your mark. Share your experience, your knowledge with others.

 

5.“Hope” is powerful.

hope

 

6. If you don’t know what to say to someone in crisis, try saying “I don’t know what to say. But I want you to know I am thinking of you.”

 

7.You are stronger than you think. Trust me, you are.

 

8. Life is better with a dog

 

9. Trust your gut. Intuition is powerful.

 

10. It is important to take a “time-out”. Walking clears your head.

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11. People will surprise you. In time of crisis there will be those who disappear, and others you might not expect, who will be by your side. People cope differently.

12. There are no guarantees in life. Life isn’t fair. Don’t take things for granted. In a blink of an eye life as you know it can change. None of us are immune to life’s challenges.

13. Cancer sucks.

14. Learn how to say “no”. You don’t actually have to do (certain) things you don’t want to do. You don’t need to please everyone. Be thoughtful on how you want to spend your time.

15. A good friendship goes both ways. Some friendships grow with you, others do not. Nurture the relationships that are most important to you.

frienship

16. You don’t have as much control as you think. As hard as it may be not to worry, it really doesn’t change the outcome. Let go of what you cannot control and focus on what you can control.

17. Every one has a story and a journey. What you see superficially is usually not the full story.

18. In the end it is all about our relationships with each other. Remind yourself what is most important to you, ESPECIALLY on those days when everything seems to be going wrong and personalities and emotions are involved.

19. Get rid of stuff. All the stuff you ever owned may be important to you but probably not to anyone else. Just more to throw out in the end.

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20. It is so important to laugh.

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21. Life is full of curveballs. Expect the unexpected.

 

22. You don’t always have a choice in the cards you are dealt, but you do have a choice in how you will respond.

 

23. Breathe. Slow down. Find your “happy place” that soothes your soul.

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24. Stay true to yourself. Most of the time it doesn’t matter what people think and they don’t always care as much as you think they do.

 

25. Take time to live in the moment. Appreciate what you have today.

moment

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