Did you make New Year’s resolutions? I didn’t. Not new ones, anyway. Instead, I simply reminded myself of the decisions I made a few years ago, after Stu passed away.
At the time, I was asked what advice I might have for someone facing a similar situation. I hesitated. I’m no expert at cancer care-giving, and I’m certainly not a grief counselor. But I did, ultimately, come up with what I call five “dos” — five ways of living that I make a conscious effort to maintain all year, and then recommit to at the New Year. They’re not the typical lose weight, get more exercise variety type resolutions; but rather an approach to living a life of joy that grew out of the painful preparation for my husband’s death.
I share these five “dos” (and a do-over I’ve since added because really, everyone deserves at least one do-over!), now, at the start of 2016, only with the hope of giving hope and helping someone else find the courage and strength to believe that, while life as they know it is over, the road they’re embarking on can be beautiful, hopeful and happy. Life can still be filled with sunny days, love and yes, laughter.
You know the expression “Sometimes you’ve just gotta laugh?” My feeling is, most of the time, if not all of the time, would be better.
The Five “Dos”
1. Love. Never miss the chance to tell someone you love them. Your mom, your kids, your spouse, the hair stylist who fixed the dye job you thought you could do yourself, the friend who de-skunked your dog so you wouldn’t come home to it after a long day at the hospital. Life is short. If you love someone, tell them.
2. Listen. The little voice telling you to buy the shoes and the bag, get the jet black manicure and learn to ride a horse? That’s the one to listen to. You can always take the shoes and the bag back, the polish will last ten days, tops, and as long as the little voice isn’t suggesting your ride bareback (and if it is, I suggest you stop putting Bailey’s in your breakfast coffee), go for it.
3. Leap. Maybe you’ve always wanted to see the Amalfi coast or try stand-up comedy. Maybe you’re itching to ditch your corporate gig to run a tiki bar or write the great American novel. It doesn’t matter what you want to do, just that you do it. Don’t wait for the time to be right, for someone else to give you permission or for all the pieces to be in place. The stars will never be a hundred percent aligned so leap, as the saying goes, and build your wings on the way down.
4. Let go. Anger, guilt, resentment, perfectionism, and shame are all crippling, soul-sucking emotions. Forgive others. Forgive yourself. And for Pete’s sake, stop trying to be perfect. Flaws are the new black. Pass it on.
5. Laugh. If you can’t fix it, kill it, cure it or eradicate it from the face of the earth, you can laugh at it. And you should. People who laugh a lot tend to live longer. Laughter helps and heals. It makes the whole “life’s a bitch” thing more bearable. Trust me on this.
And One Do-over…
Not laughing, loving, listening, leaping and letting go sooner. It took my husband’s illness and subsequent death to make me realize how little time we really have, and how crucial it is to be present and thankful for each moment. I don’t regret not getting to this point sooner (particularly since regret is one of those aforementioned soul-sucking, crippling emotions I urge all of us to kiss off). I’m just happy to be here now.
Love it! If we could even do 3 out of 5 on a daily basis, we could increase our own (and others) happiness exponentially’
I try to take little leaps every day (because I’m a big chicken!) and tell people I truly love that I truly do love them.
Thank you so much for your note.
I love your thoughts and will keep it in my mind. I have been dealing with a lot of close personal friends dying and both my parents and husband parents are dead. Thanks for the 5 thoughts to keep in focus.
Best wishes in 2016 and I will do my best in positive thinking for this year and try to laugh.
I am so very sorry for all of your losses. One thing I kept in mind when Stu passed was how he didn’t want cancer to claim me and the boys, too. He wanted us to live, really live, and so that’s what I aim for, in his memory, every day. Get up, dress up, and show up. That’s what your loved ones would want.
Thank you so much for your note.
Thanks for the words of wisdom. I’m dealing with a mother who has dementia, and I’ve just retired after over 33 years in the government. There are so many things that need to be done, but I need to learn to take things a day at a time and to not be so hard on myself if something doesn’t get done immediately. Unless the house is on fire, of course.
Indeed, it is critical to call 911 if the house is on fire! But you are right to take it easy on yourself and take things one day, one step at a time, Sheila. You might also want to contact your local Hospice. Often times they can cover for you (called “respite care”) a few hours a week so you can get a break. They’re also frequently covered by the patient’s insurance. Yay! You’ve got a beautiful attitude and your mom is lucky to have you.
Thanks for your note. I’ll be thinking of you.
You share the words I need to hear. I have a son in rehab with dual diagnosis of mental and addiction disorders. I have been the enabler, the default person, the fixer and I can’t do it anymore. He is in a good facility and being shown the way to live a good life.
My resolution is “Let It Go”
This year is going to be more about taking care of myself, stop worrying so much and live the 5 + the do over !!
Good for you, Coni! I read something recently that struck a chord with me and I think will do the same for you: “You shouldn’t have to set yourself on fire to keep everyone else warm.” The other thing I always recall is how, on an airplane, they tell you to put your oxygen mask on first, and then assist others. You have to take care of YOU. I’m so happy to hear you plan to do just that!
Thank you for writing!
Any personal loss is tragic, be it a beloved pet or a best friend of 50 years to dementia. When I last was with “her” her wasn’t there; then for a brief minute she returned to say “we had fun didn’t we?” And I could respond with a resounding “YES, we did”! Thank God for that moment as she died shortly afterwards. She was my childhood and adult best friend. Fortunately, she was an amazing artist and I am surrounded by her works of beauty, all as varied and beautiful as she was. I miss her terribly but celebrate our friendship every time I see white and yellow daisies; our favorite flower.
I thank you for your words that have enabled me to write and say this personal feeling.
Hugs to you
Hugs to you, too, Nancy. Thank you for sharing your story with me. What a beautiful friendship you had. May you be forever surrounded by white and yellow daisies!