This post is dedicated to Heather. Heather is an 8-year survivor of mesothelioma - a rare cancer caused by asbestos exposure. When she was diagnosed, she had just given birth to her little girl, and was told she had 15 months to live. She beat the odds, and is currently one of few long-term survivors. Heather is asking bloggers to write a post about what they are thankful for.
So this post is for Heather, my friends, family and readers who are facing death and staring it down and living life’s sweetness.
Warning: while this post might sound morbid, please read on it’s actually about life…
I am turning 40 this year, and despite what mainstream media, family and friends say about getting old - I’m actually rejoicing it. There are a number of reasons why:
• My Dad only got to 39 (many of his family never reached 40 including his brothers, his parent and his grandparents.) I’m one of the lucky McLeod’s.
• I work in a cancer field where I see people fight for an extra day each day.
• I am privileged and lucky to have good health (mental/physical), some comforts in life and people who love me, so my existence isn’t based on survival alone.
• My neighbour died last week from a freak accident, just like that. I know life can change in an instant. I understand that life is precious, and that you only get one trip around. I try really hard to live my life with this philosophy.
That doesn't mean I’m not human and don’t have moments of why me? I would be lying if I said I never fell into the great trap of self-pity. What I try hard to practice is being aware of that trap and all its trimmings. I try to focus on changing my thinking before I get there. I loved that old saying that I use to hear my Grandmother say “No point complaining, nobody is listening anyway.”
Here are few things that keep me on track and more aware:
• Having experienced severe depression and anxiety means I learnt a lot about myself and the way I think. I realised I had some control over some of my thinking and behaviours, but not all of them. I learnt I could ask for help, and that this wasn’t a weakness.
• I have learnt to be responsible when communicating with others. Others don’t get me, because of the way I’m communicating.
• I have learnt I can’t control everything, and certainly could not control to the point where my family had absolute safety.
• I try not to let fear invade and rule me all the time.
• I look to people who inspire me and try to implement their wisdom into my life.
• I don’t take relationships and people for granted, including the relationship with myself.
• Control – I can only influence my children not control them. (I remind myself of this daily)
• I have learnt the skill of breaking things down into small chunks, and trying not to want everything to happen at once.
• I am learning that I can’t change others; only my responses to others. (A tough one for me, ask my partner.)
• I try hard not just to survive, but to thrive each day.
What I still struggle with: (Yes that’s right I’m not perfect, oh bugger!)
• Doing a Mandela and letting go of hurt and being forgiving.
• Not obsessing over negative energy and negative people who don’t share my philosophy for life. I can only change the way I respond. Me not them.
• Not beating myself up over small things or being tough on myself for not fitting in to mainstream ideas and values.
• Not being controlling, especially when PMT comes around.
• Not letting death and cancer take over my world and thinking, even though it can seem like it surrounds me sometimes.
• Not engaging in bad news online. Too much bad news reading isn’t good for me, and gets in the way of me seeing things clearly.
• Patience, patience, patience…
• Not stressing over money and security for the future.
• Learning to be in the moment, and knowing when I’m not.
I recently told a few people I was thinking about getting another tattoo for my 40th birthday this year. Yeah yeah a bit of a cliché I know, but hear me out. The tattoo I want is the words Memento Vivere which is a Latin Italian phrase that draws from the knowledge of the more well-known statement, "memento mori.” The translation of "Memento Vivere" means "remember that you will live" or a "reminder of life."
My interpretation of that is remember to live. Of course remembering to live doesn’t look as fancy as the Latin word, so diffidently going with Latin for style.
It’s so easy to slip into that mindset of thinking we will go on forever, and one day we will do the things we love, or tell those we care for we love them or love ourselves; but we don’t know how long we have. There may not be a one day - there might just be now. I know this sounds morbid, but we can reframe this and see life as an opportunity and a chance to have a go.