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Posts Tagged ‘help’

So as I wrote these I thought how cliché and dippy some of them are. I erased them all and started over multiple times. But they kept reappearing on the screen. Because even if they are dippy and cliché, they are true. They are the things that I’ve finally learned and come to know as true, and they help me every day in my quest for a happy life…

21. Do what makes you happy. Not because someone told you to. Not because it will make you money. Just do something because you love it. If you’re passionate about something, everything else will follow.

22. Happiness is contagious. It’s hard not to smile back. Make someone else smile today. It’ll make you happy. It’s a fabulous circle!

23. You know what else can make you happy? Running. I never would’ve believed it, but once I tried it, I found it’s true. That whole endorphin thing, I guess. I actually always think I hate running when I start out, but once I get going my mood totally improves, and after I always feel better than when I started.

24. Music. Another thing that can totally change your mood. (And why is it that you can always remember the words to songs, even (especially) the ones you can’t stand???)

25. Travel. Explore. Discover. Whether it’s by the Mediterranean Sea, the streets of San Francisco or the mountains of New Hampshire, you’ll find new aspects of you along the way.

26. Be yourself. Don’t try to be anyone else. You’ll never succeed and it’s not worth your time or energy. Love yourself as you are. But…

27. Know that if you are not happy with yourself, you are the one person who can change things. You have control over you. Don’t waste your time being miserable.

28. And don’t waste your time with people who don’t treat you the way you deserve to be treated. If they make you cry more than smile, it’s a clue that you should get out. (It took me way too long to realize that one. Please trust me on this one and if that sounds like your relationship, get out now!)

29. In fact, don’t waste any time. Your time. Other people’s time. Nothing is more precious.

30. Guilt is a wasted emotion. If you feel guilty, do something about it. Change it. Or get over it.

31. Your parents probably do know best. And they will always worry about you, know matter how old you are. And when you become a parent, the worry will never end. It just comes with the job.

32.  Every day is another chance to start something new. Or start over. It can be whatever you want it to be.

33. Don’t let anyone else put you down, discourage you or tell you that you can’t do or be something. Usually they are the ones with the issue.

34. Encourage others. Boost them up. Help them find their way and thrive. It takes nothing away from you – you both win.

35. Spend time talking with your elders. Learn their stories. They are your stories, too, and they’ll be lost if you don’t listen… and spend time with the younger people in your lives, too. They can benefit from your experiences, and you can learn a lot from them, too – like how to relax and play! (Something I’m always trying to learn – the relax part…)

36. Learn the art of compromise. I’m trying. It’s something I’m still learning, but what I do know is that you can’t have everything your way all the time. And that’s ok.

37. Everything happens for a reason. We may not always understand it, but the reason usually becomes clear later on. (I’ve often thought that maybe the reason I got cancer was to help raise awareness and save others. So do your self checks people!!!)

38. Say thank you. Be grateful. Appreciate everyone who is there for you, helps you, loves you. Thank you are two words you can never say too much.

39. Pray. No matter where you are, what time it is or what’s happening around you, you can pray. It’s one thing that always helps make me feel better. And the other…

40. Deep breaths. Breathe. Just breathe.

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Ever since my birthday, I’ve been thinking about what to say in this blog about turning 40. Finally, last week, after the idea kept coming back to me, I decided to write “40 Things I’ve Learned in 40 Years.” I wrote 30 of them, decided that it was much too long for one blog entry, and split it into two parts. I was about to publish it when I decided I’d better write all 40 (both parts) before publishing one of them in case something that came at the end would fit better at the beginning, or vice versa. (You writer friends know what I mean!) Since at that point it was well past midnight on a work night, I pressed save and closed the laptop.Fast forward to the next day after work. It was my first night in a long time that I got to just go home after work (at a normal hour) and actually have a few hours to do whatever I wanted (rare, precious time). I decided what I most wanted was to go through the bags of gifts from my birthday and write thank you cards. (Kristen, you’ve taught me well.) More than anything, I love the thought put into the cards and gifts from my dear friends and family. And amongst them all, I found a letter that I hadn’t seen in the craziness of the party. I opened it and laughed out loud! It was from Vanessa: a list of things she’s learned since she turned 40! I figured it would be similar to the list I was making, but was surprised to find that it’s not. In fact, the things I’ve learned in my barely 40 years hardly overlap with the things she’s learned since turning 40. I thanked Vanessa profusely for sharing her wisdom and asked if I could include it here – and she said yes. Thank you, Vanessa! Enjoy all! (And I’ll share my 40 things later this week…)

February 3, 2014

Happy Birthday, Amy!

Hi there,

I’ve been thinking about what to buy you for your birthday for some time now. I thought about donating to causes and non-profit organizations in your name. I thought of milestone pieces of jewelry. I thought of kitschy-mementos to honor your birth year. They were all good, but they all rang hollow. Besides, what do you buy for the person who has everything? I mean, turning 40 is huge.

That’s when I knew what I would get you. Turning 40 is a distinct rite of passage. If you’re a woman, that journey is colored with complexities, shaded by doubt and confronted by bold dreams. I wish someone had told me that instead of texting me an unimpressive nursery rhymed, rhetorical “Lordy, Lordy, looks who’s 40” message.

So my friend, even though I’m only six months ahead, here’s what I’ve learned since turning 40:

  1. Life is just beginning; it’s not a cliché. Long before I heard Oprah bellow to her audience about turning 40 and hearing celebrity guests like the late Nora Ephron talk about using scarves to cover “your aging neck”, I never understood what the fear was all about. We’re fortunate to be alive at this time. Yes, the glass ceiling has cracked a bit and salaries of professional women have shown marginal increase, but our generation is not judged as failures if we’re not draped on some dashing Prince Charming’s arm by a certain “magical age”. No, women like us are leading the way. We may not have all gone on an 83-day-long cross-country-trip across the U.S., but we’re living by the rules we set for ourselves.  Sometimes there are stops and detours in that journey. When cancer threw you a curve ball, you stared that sucker down and kicked it in the groin—grinding in your stiletto for good measure. You have your whole life ahead of you. A life that’s yours to do what you want, and pursue your dreams and goals.
  2. It’s OK to rid yourself of toxic people. The key to enjoying the next 40+ years is peace. You can’t get peace if your life is full of toxic parasites who inject negativity and depression into your world. We all have them. They masquerade as fun friends, rational-thinking relatives and the occasional acquaintances maligning you with misguided, misinformed missives of mayhem. One of my friends at church reminded me I told her to be careful about who she allowed to “speak into [her] life” years ago.  It’s still true today and it’s a creed I live by now. Hurt and hurting people flock to those with similar experiences and/or those who seem to have it all together. That’s understandable, but it’s exhausting when those individuals drain their sorrows into your generous heart and are too caught up with their own needs to discern when you need an ear. I’ve learned to let them go. I need to be surrounded by people of like mind and attitude who know that friendship is a two-way street. One shouldn’t be forced into caring. Instead, true friends care and are there without being asked because they value precious people.
  3. I’m a big girl and can make my own decisions. For the longest while I felt like I needed to poll those around me, or get the opinion of those whom I respected, to help my decision making. As I’ve gotten older and my outlook has changed, I’ve come to the realization that no one will live with those decisions, but me. What galled me was people’s need to frequently correct and critique my decisions when they didn’t line up with what they would have done. I’m empowered now to kindly, and if need be, curtly thank them for their opinion and reinforce that as an adult I’m entitled to make my own decisions and choices. I may decide to revisit an old relationship or venture into something completely atypical from what my personality dictates. If my decisions come with mistakes, bring it. I’m a big girl and I can handle it.
  4. Turning 40 is empowering! Do you remember how you were in every past decade of your life? Did uncertainty and doubt overshadow decisions you made? Perhaps you found yourself subconsciously acting a certain way to fit in with friends, or saying particular things to impress peers or and even dressing to please a crush or a boyfriend? One of the many great things about turning 40 is you no longer feel pressured to do those things. I frequently hear myself saying, “I’m at an age and stage in my life where I don’t feel I need to (fill in the blank).” It is so liberating.
  5. Even though I’ve accomplished a lot, I still want to do more. Like me, you’ve done more personally and professionally than many people you know. If others were to view our dossiers, our lives would look successful, glamorous and extremely well-traveled. And that’s understandable, but I still feel as though there’s more to do. I still feel unfulfilled in some areas. For a while I listened to others who told me I “was too hard” on myself. Then I realized that I’m not hard on myself. There are things I want (or need) to do. And that’s OK. I’m constantly looking to expand my horizon and conquer new things. We shouldn’t feel guilty about wanting more from life.
  6. Put God first. I don’t consider myself religious, but I have a personal relationship with God. I pray or talk to Him as much as I can. I even have “date nights”. I know. It sounds hokey. Basically, I block off an evening, prepare a fantastic meal, key up some worship music on my MP3 or laptop and spend my evening listening to music, reading my Bible and pouring out my heart to Him. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I yell. Sometimes I’m quiet. Whatever I do, I am always deeply satisfied after. You’ll find your own way, I’m sure. But who better to pour out my hopes, dreams and fears to but the One who made me? I couldn’t have made it as far as I have without Him and I tell all my friends the same. Put Him first and you’ll never regret it.

I’m sure you’ll receive numerous gifts and well-wishes. You’ll be surrounded by those you love and who love you just as much. When everybody’s gone and you’re left with your thoughts, I hope you’ll find these observations useful.  Like I mentioned before, we are alive in a time in history where the world is literally at our fingertips. All you have to do is pick up your phone or tablet and you will instantly have access to review opportunities and dreams before you pursue them. You’ll chart your own course, make your own rules, and live your own dreams. So happy birthday, my dear, the best is yet to come!

– Vanessa

With Vanessa at my 40th birthday party.

With Vanessa at my 40th birthday party.

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It’s not easy taking it easy. It’s never been something I’m good at. So while my chest hurts, that pain is more bearable than trying to stay still.

Surgery went really well on Wednesday. Dr. H was able to go in the same old scars and he was able to avoid drains. I was very relieved to wake up and learn both of those facts. I got to choose my painkillers, so picked those that impact my mind the least (can’t stand being fuzzy from medications), and went home that afternoon with one overarching order: to do absolutely nothing for at least one week.

I’m not supposed to lift my arms, have to keep them by my side, and am supposed to just rest, staying on the couch or in bed. Then after the first week or two, I can start getting up and slowly doing stuff again. The line that most made me smirk? “No lifting more than 10 pounds for one month.” I think my purse weighs at least 10 pounds! It’s a good thing most of my holiday shopping is done…

So I’m doing my best but am already going a tiny bit stir crazy. I so appreciate that my mom is here, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry – but it is so hard to watch someone do those things in your home, and not get up and help at all! I’m taking deep breaths, though, and trying to stay as still as I can…

I was allowed to take a shower for the first time today and that was good, except it’s really hard to wash your hair without raising your arms… but at least it wasn’t the psychological shock that showering for the first time after the last surgery was. I knew what to expect this time, and I know how much better it will get over time.

For now I’m just very thankful to feel somewhat normal again. Yes, my chest is sore and achy, but it is no longer hard as a rock. (And yes, I admit to poking myself several times and smiling at them being squishy once again!)

So while it is definitely not easy taking it easy, I also don’t want to mess up Dr. H’s handywork, or cause myself any more pain than I’m already in. So I will do my best to follow doctor’s orders and continue to rest… I see lots more movies, books and possibly some online retail therapy in my future…

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“All you can change is yourself, but sometimes that changes everything.” – Anonymous

The past two weeks I’ve been beat up, beat down, sucked in, worn out, and had more extreme highs and lows than a rollercoaster  – definitely felt the whiplash. Worst of all, it did such a job on my self-worth that I didn’t even feel like or recognize myself. I felt helpless and lost. (And dumb and unattractive and naïve and…) And I just went with all of it. Let it happen. I was at the mercy of the people and circumstances around me. And I was seriously worried that I’d never be me again – I didn’t know how to get the strong, independent, positive woman back.

“Time heals what reason cannot.” – Anonymous

I know it was not a very long time (although it felt like years) but somehow, I’ve snapped back. I feel like me again. I don’t know if it was time, telling my story (see below), the tattoo (also below), the Red Sox going to the World Series (woo hoo!!!) or what, but somehow this morning I woke up for the first time like “I’ve got this.” I can take my life back. And I’m going to.

“When writing the story of your life, don’t let anyone else hold the pen.” -Harley Davidson

I love that quote! It’s so true. Take control. Be you. Don’t let anyone else dictate your happiness, make you feel like you’re not good enough or think that there is anything you can’t do. (And don’t ever try to ‘fix’ someone else’s life – especially if they don’t want to be helped.) I used to know (and live by) that, and now I’m going to again. To be honest, I’m a little ticked off that this happened during the month of pink, when there were so many events with such great people, but then again, maybe it was keeping busy and doing all the events and seeing everyone that helped me snap back so quickly?

This has been a whirlwind of a Breast Cancer month:

  • Started at the end of September with the Komen walk, followed by the incredible Runway for Recovery event, and then the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides for Breast Cancer walk – all of which I already blogged about.
  • Last weekend the fun continued in Providence at the Gloria Gemma Flames of Hope run/walk. Alicia pulled together a team, including her fellow Rhode Island Charity pageant queens, their families and my friend Abby. In addition to all of us walking in the 5k, Alicia even ran the Pink Pump Palooza 50 yard dash in heels!
  • Friday mom joined me for Dana-Farber’s Breast Cancer in Young Women Forum. Because of how I’ve been feeling, I couldn’t even focus or make myself really think through what I was going to say until that morning. I’ve been in such a fog, I really didn’t want to do anything except what I had to. Luckily, I knew I had to do this, so that morning, mom and I left early, went to Dunkin Donuts and thought for a few minutes over tea. Then I told her, “Ok, I’ve got it. The most important thing is to have 1-3 main points. Here’s mine: You’ll hear lots of stories today – that’s the best part of days like today. But the most important thing to remember is it’s all about you. Everyone is different. Some things work for one person, but not another. You are unique: do what’s right for you.” And then, thinking through my story and all that happened since March 2012, I came to my second point: “It doesn’t matter if you’re married, single, have children or live alone – surround yourself with people who love you, who make you happy. That’s what got me through – all the incredibly loving and supportive people I’m so lucky to have in my life. And let them help you – it will help them through it, too.” (See, Tina, I do listen sometimes…) And the talk – and the day – went well… and I started to feel a little more like me…

photo (24)

  • Friday night, while not breast cancer-related, I went to Salem with friends from our running team, to experience some of the haunted happenings. I know that just spending time with these friends who inspire me with their marathon runs and overall kindness and determination in life helped me feel more like me again…

halloween

  • And finally, Saturday night was one of my favorite nights of the year: the Nashua Harley-Davidson Fashion Show and Live Auction Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Benefit. As you’ll see in the pictures below, Nick, Alicia, Vic and I all had a blast! Robin Dixon, of Nashua Harley-Davidson, is such an amazing supporter of the American Cancer Society and makes the event even bigger and better each year! In addition to winning things in the raffle and auction (and losing a few things like my TV, darn it!), we had fun with people asking to wear Alicia’s crown, the great food and… my first tattoo! Not only did I do one, but Nick also got a pink ribbon – his with wings…

So I’m not sure what actually did it, but somehow, thank God, I am me again. I love my life, am so blessed by all the fabulous people in it, and I will not let myself get lost so easily ever again.

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20130929-152648.jpg This morning I ran the Susan G. Komen MA Race for the Cure along the very foggy South Boston waterfront, at much too early in the morning for a Sunday. Maybe it was the overcast weather, maybe it was the early morning (you know I’m not a morning person), maybe it was the fact that I was there alone, but the day definitely got to me.

I love the breast cancer events – there are always interesting, strong, inspiring women, a shared mission, electric energy, and a lot of pink. So I thought I’d be ok, going alone. I just figured I’d run instead of walk, since I always prefer to run alone, at my own pace. But there was all the build up before: the survivor parade, pictures and dancing warm up. And it seemed everyone had someone there – family member, friend, significant other. I seemed to be the lone loner – although that’s probably not true. Survivor sisters that we are, women around me soon adopted me. “How many years,” one woman asked. “Oh she’s a newbie,” chimed in another, “just look at her new hair! Love the curls!”

Soon I was on my own again as all went back to their loved ones. The bell went off, I put my standard starting song (Fastest Girl in Town by Miranda Lambert, of course) on my iPod and off I went. I tried to focus on the music, but more watched the interesting mixture of survivors and supporters. The little boy with pink knee socks running with his mom, the big teams in their matching uniforms, the moms running while pushing strollers. And then I heard my name and a friendly face! Pat, one of the first people to share his cancer experience with me and to help me see that a positive attitude can beat cancer any day, was walking on the other side of the road. We exchanged waves and big smiles in the seconds that our path’s crossed, and then he was gone. And all of the sudden the tears started flowing and I couldn’t catch my breath. Breathing while running is actually my biggest challenge, so the crying definitely didn’t help. Seeing Pat was such a high point – but then the reality set in. Yes, you can be completely alone in a sea of people. Even friendly, happy, supportive people.

So I guess the lesson I learned is that I just shouldn’t go to these things alone. I go to breakfast alone, the movies alone, shopping alone, but not this. Some things you just need your own team for – even if it’s a team of one friend! Luckily, there are others joining me for all the rest of the Breast Cancer Awareness Month events – and hopefully even more of you will join in. You know my motto: the more the merrier! So check out the dates and events on the right and let me know if you can join us for any – the Nashua Harley benefit is a great night out, and so worth the drive!

Oh – and I should mention that even with the crying bout, I ran my new personal 5k record: 37:10, 11:58 pace. Slow, I know, but fast for me, as I’m typically a 13 minute mile. I think it was all the positive energy surrounding me, and wanting to finish strong, since the bright pink shirt I was wearing said “survivor.”

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We live in a genuinely good world. People want to help each other. They care. I truly believe this. What, you don’t agree? Just look around!

I’ve spent the last hour watching the stories of Oklahoma. The caring, courage and strength shown by everyone from those teachers who did all they could to protect the students huddled with them in the bathrooms to the strangers rushing to the sites just to help anyone they could is awe-inspiring. Then The Voice opened with a somber message for Oklahoma, followed by a special tribute performance by Blake Shelton (who is from Oklahoma) and Miranda Lambert, with the words “To help disaster victims, please donate at redcross.org or call 1-800 HELP NOW” across the bottom of the screen.

oklahoma

I have loved ones in Oklahoma, family and friends I immediately worried about as soon as I heard what was happening, so I posted a message on Facebook. Now the site is flooded with pictures, status updates and prayers for all those in Oklahoma – and I know many of those who posted don’t personally know a soul in the state of Oklahoma. But they care.

On my way home tonight I got a call from my oldest Goddaughter. She was bursting with excitement over her day. She is a sophomore in high school and is involved with Best Buddies, a program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They participated in the Special Olympics today and, as if that wasn’t excitement enough, the Franklin Police Department gave them a formal escort back to the school (“Just like celebrities!” she gushed) and then practically the entire school was outside to welcome them back and congratulate the Best Buddies. That’s just nice.

And people don’t just support each other verbally – they open their wallets, too. More than $30 million has been raised so far for One Fund Boston, to help the families of those killed and most seriously injured in the bombings at the Boston Marathon, barely a month ago. $30 million. That’s amazing.

But money can’t buy everything. Dana-Farber recently interviewed me for one of their publications. (This is the blog written based on the full article.) They wanted to know why I agreed to donate tissue. For me, it was a no brainer. Why in the world would I say no? Working for Genzyme, I know the importance of research and clinical trials. I was going to be in surgery anyway, so why not let them take a little more, so hopefully it will lead to improved treatments or even a cure. It won’t hurt me and could help others. Take extra tissue, extra blood, whatever can help!

None of this is unusual. This is every day life. People are genuinely good. They want to help. Don’t let the bad overshadow the good. See the sun through the clouds. Be the change you want to see in the world – lead the way and lend a helping hand (or tissue) when you can. You never know whose life it could someday save: yours, your son’s or your future grandchild’s …

 

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The following is a guest blog written by my dear cousin Tara, because she knew I just couldn’t tonight. Thank you, T…

A year ago, exactly, Amy asked me to guest blog on AmysAmerica.com. She asked me to write for her the day that she had her surgery, knowing she wouldn’t be up to it that night. I felt a wash of things. Honored she would ask me to write here, a place where she shares her own thoughts, advises, and inspires so many people. Terrified, that something would go wrong in surgery, that it would be worse than we feared. Angry, that at 38 and 39, somehow our lives had taken this unbelievably wrong turn and the girls that grew up pretending to be happy, secure (wealthy… famous…fabulous) adults, found ourselves a little off course, a little scared, and facing challenges we wouldn’t have even known to imagine.

Well, we did it. You did it, Amy. You not only survived the year – a LONG year of surgery and treatments – you did it with courage, with style, with grace, and not just a little tenacity and fervor. 

I woke up and texted Amy this morning: That no matter what happened today, it had to be better than last year. And then, finally, a new month, new us, the more organized, more empowered, don’t f*** with us versions. 

And we laughed. 

And tonight when she texted on her way home from a long day at work, to go home to do more work, to get up to get in early for another long day tomorrow (Because that’s what she does. Well. And loves it), I offered to write again. Not, at the time, realizing that it had been exactly a year ago that I did so. And it just felt right. Because that’s what you do for the people you love, right? You step in, you take a little something off their full plate, anything to share the burden. 

A few weeks ago, I ran the marathon (almost). And I had a bunch of amazing family and friends either there in person or in spirit. And in frustration, adrenaline, and maybe some post-run dopamine influence, I signed up to run the NJ marathon this weekend. I just did it. And when I told Amy, she didn’t ask why, she didn’t tell me I was crazy, she simply asked “want me to book the hotel room?” And I cried (because I’m still pretty emotional over the whole marathon disaster) and texted back “really??? you want to come to NJ” and she wrote “(rolling my eyes) do you really think I’d let you finish your first marathon without being there?” (yeah, I’m crying now, too.)

I guess my long-winded, one year out, post surgery anniversary blog point is this. Things happen every day that we couldn’t have imagined a year before, a day before, an hour before, even. Terrible, horrific things, beautiful, mind-blowing, life-affirming things. We just don’t know. And that’s a lot of chaos and uncertainty. But with luck, you find a few people to ride the crazy roller coaster with and make the best of the worst and better of the best times with. I count myself incredibly fortunate to have some of the best. You at the forefront, Amy Lee. 

I am so very, deeply, to the core, thankful that this chapter is ending. That a new one starts now, that every day you remind me to take the lessons from the past and then file it away, plan for the remarkable things we have yet to achieve, but live in the present and be thankful in this moment.  

Here’s to May 1.

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