Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.

Ashley Smith

Friday, April 18, 2014

Cultivating Compassion

I've not felt very bloggy lately... I am not sure why.  It may have something to do with an office full of teenagers every work day.  Or the sunnyish spring time weather which makes me lust for outside and fresh air and horse hair.  Or perhaps the fact that, beginning with this month, we are trying to cram in every activity that chemotherapy prevented us from doing last year.

On that note, it was almost exactly one year ago that I started my cancer treatment journey.  I remember this not because I am good with dates, but because every year at the end of April we go to Madras Oregon for the Small Farmers Journal Auction.  And last year we took the "big rig" right into downtown Spokane to meet our surgical oncologist for the first time.  Of course, we had made the appointment to coincide with our already scheduled trip!

Imagine negotiating this bad boy down the narrow one way streets of Spokane!  Luckily my husband is a professional.
Time is very interesting to me.  Cancer, cancer treatment, surgery and recovery seem like a lifetime ago and just yesterday.  Now that my body is all healed and recovered, I have been trying to deal with the emotional trauma.  I have always believed that pent up emotion leads to physical ailment.  That was a hard pill to swallow (no pun about illness intended!) when I was diagnosed with cancer.  It became apparent to me that some emotional work needed to be done.  After surrendering to the idea that I could no longer depend on my body to ward off every illness, I also had to surrender to the idea that I couldn't just tough out any emotional situation with good thoughts and a smile.  Stuffing down one's emotion is not a permanent solution... 

I have always been a weeper- ask my husband.  I cry at Kleenex commercials.  But I became increasingly irritated with my inability to talk about anything I was passionate about without bursting into tears.  So I began counseling.  And luckily my therapist uses EMDR.  You should click the link and read about it.  Really, I'll wait.

Isn't it fascinating?  It is like magic.  Even though she explained it, I don't really understand how it works.  I just know that it does.  And to be clear- I don't have anything I would call severe trauma (even though my therapist told me that comparing traumas is like trying to compare apples and boxer shorts :) ) just things that have happened throughout my life that have left me with feelings of being worthless, unlovable, powerless.  She and I go back and revisit these incidents and then process through them with my adult eyes and wisdom.  It is incredibly powerful.  And freeing.  I can't overemphasize that part. At the end of each session, I feel so light and full of joy it is kind of hard to describe.

Anyway, I tell you all of this because yesterday I came up with a pretty big breakthrough.  It is really a game changer, if I can keep hold of it.  Hang onto your hats, because I am going to share it with you:

I feel better when I treat other people in my life with compassion rather than judgement.

There it is.  That's it.  I have to say it feels more impressive than it looks.

Here's the thing- My first reaction is to judge.  It is easy and makes me feel oh so superior.  Well, fleetingly superior.  But it doesn't help me to learn or grow.  When I judge, what I am saying is "I have the corner market on the truth." But really, do I?  Who am I to say that my truth is the only truth.  If I interact with compassion, with empathy, knowing that everyone is struggling with something, I can come away with a soft and open heart, a prerequisite for growth and learning.  Isn't that awesome?

Since my cancer treatment and the resulting changes to my physical body, I have become keenly aware that the person I am is more important that how I look.  In that vein, I am Cultivating Compassion.  Oh, and setting boundaries.  Just because I understand your struggle doesn't mean I am jumping into the swill with you.  However, I will stand on the bank and cheer!

And since this has been a pretty photo-deficient post, I will leave you with this super cute photo of my horse and me at a Rother Horsemanship clinic!!  

Happy Weekend!!