Lessons Learned When It Wasn’t About Me

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t being said. The art of reading between the lines is a life long quest of the wise.”
― Shannon L. Alder
Flowers for Sis!

Flowers for Sis!

Almost everyone today has someone, or knows of someone, going through the experience of cancer or a life threatening illness. I am no different.

In 2009, my sister was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and my world turned upside down for a while.

When I was first told about the diagnosis, I went through a period of shock and disbelief, before anger and deep sadness took over. At the time, the question I asked was the same one many others have asked, “Why?”

Cancer is a word none of us want to hear.

But we do!

I had only been back in Canada for 5 months, after an absence of 26 years. During that time, I had lived and worked overseas and visited my family for a month of more, every couple of years. I do not believe it was a coincidence that I was pulled me back to my homeland at this particular time.

For over a year I felt the pull, but resisted. I did not think I was ready to return, the Divine had other plans.

After receiving the news, I travelled to the province where my sister lived. We had always been very close, and because of an age difference of 17 years, I often regarded her as a second mom.

My plan at the time was to stay for a month or two to give her and her family support.

Well, one month became two, two months became four, then the request. “Would you please stay with me?” my sister asked. How could I refuse?

It just so happened that my summer job had come to an end and I hadn’t yet found another position. This as well as several other considerations made my decision easy.

Yes, I would stay.

So began a two-year journey for my sister, my brother-in-law, their family, and myself. Over the next two years my brother-in-law and I became the primary caregivers; me during the day and him at night.

For me personally, it was a time of great compassion and self-awareness. For the first time in many, many years, I was completely focused on someone else instead of myself.

It was on this journey with my sister through the high and lows, the good and bad, and the happy and sad, that I had to reach into the depth of my soul. I can truly say this was the most difficult thing I had ever done. I often had to remind myself that God does not give us more than we can handle.

In the end, there was a silver lining hidden in this difficult journey.

It was only after my sister transitioned back to spirit that I saw the many gifts she had given me.

Gifts from my sister:

It was not about me.  There were several times at the beginning of our journey together when I would get upset, angry, or sad. My sister would look at me and ask, “Why are you so upset? Are you upset for me or yourself? If you are upset for me, don’t be? If you are upset for yourself, look inside to see why?” There was a lot of wisdom in these questions. I discovered that my emotions were about me, and for me.

Let go of the outcome. When you know your time is limited you look at each day differently. My sister and I laughed as much as we could. We found great hats and scarves for her. We went for car rides. Had pedi and manicures. Played with the grandkids. Had dinner for the family. We made each day count. We did not dwell on the outcome. What would be, would be! The journey we were sharing was more important than the destination.

Live Life Fully. None of us knows when, or if, illness or tragedy will arrive. Nor do we know when our time in this reality will end. Because of that, we should not wait to live. Why defer a dream? Why wait to do something special? Why wait to feel alive and vibrant? So many people wait for the right time or having enough money. For me living life fully means getting out my comfort zone and taking a few risks. What would it look like for you?

Don’t be afraid to love and express your love. I feel so blessed that I had two years to show and express my love for my sister. So many others are not given that chance. The love I express now for my family and dear ones is so much deeper than it was before. Who in your sphere needs to hear you say, ‘I love you?’

We come into the world with nothing and we leave with nothing. At the end of our earthly journey we leave as we came. We do not take our physical shell, our house, our clothes, our cars, our bank accounts, or our gadgets. We take nothing. I wonder why we spend so much time and energy gathering and protecting them. Could clutter be keeping you from enjoying your life?

In the end I knew that we are not our physical bodies, we are spirit. Yes, it is true, we are spirit having a physical experience. The spirit of my sister lives on in my memories. Since she departed I have had many moments where I think, “She would have liked this.” I think she would like the fact that I am sharing this with you.

I feel very honoured that my sister asked me to join her for this, her last journey. Through it all, there were two journeys, her’s and mine. Both profound!

Every trial that comes our way is an opportunity to grow and thrive. It is all in the way you look at it. You can either see it as a burden to endure or you can view it as an experience to discover new treasures within. It is all in our perception!

Do you grin and bear adversity, or do you look for the silver lining waiting to be uncovered?

Life is a journey comprising of experiences that are designed to help us grow. Live life to the fullest and with passion, enjoying what you find along the way.

Are you building walls saying NO? Ready for YES?

Are your thoughts creating wall and barriers preventing you from experiencing more of life?

Mine were!

Does this sound like you? A friend calls you up or texts with a suggestion to go out for lunch. You pause! Your mind is frantically searching for the right answer. Should I go, shouldn’t I? If I don’t go what excuse can I use? I have so much to do right now. I don’t know! I have to pick up the kids? The litany goes on.

I know this all too well. I went for a period when I built walls around myself and fended off almost all invitations, making up all sorts of reasons why I didn’t want to or I couldn’t. Often after I turned down an invitation I would spend hours thinking that maybe I was missing out, maybe I should have gone, why didn’t I say yes.

Ah, the thought games we play!

When I realized I sitting home alone far too often and was receiving fewer and fewer invitations even to me my excuses sounded lame. I decided ENOUGH.

I saw that it was only my thoughts stopping me from enjoying life, friends, family and new experiences.

I was thinking myself into a lonely secluded life surrounded by 4 walls and no new stimulus. Did I really want this? NO!

Once I knew that I had to change my thoughts in order to change my life I decided to start saying, “YES”. I did it in little steps. That was easy because I wasn’t getting very many invitations.

I accepted the first invitation that came my way. I went to a movie with a friend. More invitations came as I continued to say YES. To begin with I accepted all invitations just to practice saying Yes, then I became more selective.

When I did consider saying NO to an invitation, I would pay attention to the thoughts and feelings around the no. Why was I saying no? Was it something I really did not want to do or go to OR was I just building walls again?

Saying, “Yes” has brought back more joy, curiosity and people into my life. My life is richer from the giving and sharing that has ensued.

In our busy lives we don’t often realize that we have been constantly declining invitations and limiting our experience of life. It is so easy to fall into a rut of sameness. When you ask someone what they have been up to, how often to get the reply, “You know, same old same old.”
Is that your answer?

Perhaps it is time to turn that NO into a YES and see where it takes you. You might find that you have more energy, more joy, and yes, even more time to get things done.

Take the challenge and give yourself permission to say YES and see what happens.

Stop the runaway train and take time for yourself.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve spoken to several people who are going through a time that is especially hectic, challenging or demanding.

As a result, they’re emotionally and physically just DONE—yet finding themselves needing to dig down a bit deeper to find a bit more energy, compassion or patience for whatever life has brought.

It can often feel that life resembles a runaway train with no brakes. Just rushing on at amazing speed with no ability to stop.

But stop you must if want to be at your peak with clear thoughts, energy and creativity.

If you keep going at the speed of a runaway train you’re bound to crash. The stress of keeping up this pace will eventually show it’s self in some form of health issues. Stress is the #1 factor behind most illnesses today.

When you run out of fuel and come crashing down, who are you really helping?

Have you ever been on an airplane? As the flight attendant goes through the safety talk you’re reminded to “Put your own oxygen mask on first before helping your child or anyone else.” Why? If you aren’t safe how can you help another?

The same goes for you, getting sick only adds to the issues.

You might be thinking, “Yeah, sounds great but, where do I fit it in?” My answer would be, you plan it. If you don’t plan for some self-care time; it might be forced upon you.


What is self-care time?

Self-care is not selfish, it is the opposite. It is giving to yourself so that you can give to others.

It allows you time to reconnect with yourself and helps you to get your equilibrium back. It is a time to recharge your batteries, feed your spirit, and de-stress.

Having a plan to regain your equilibrium once a week is a wonderful gift for yourself.

Self-care is doing something that you love. Something that gets you to forget your to-do-list. Something you can get lost in.

It might be painting, drawing, walking, dancing, sewing, a martial arts practise. Anything that connects you to your authentic self. Where you transcend time and space for a while.

For me it is walking or sitting in Nature, anywhere! When life starts to speed up, I go for a walk by the river or in the park. In the winter when it is too cold to walk I attend a yoga class.

What is your self-care plan? How do you recharge and refuel your spirit?

If you don’t have one, could this be the moment to create one?