It is natural, as parents, to focus on caring for our children. We find ourselves so focused on our loved ones that we often fail to do things for ourselves. It’s starts from the first day we bring them home from the hospital. We learn to function without sleep, skip meals, watch kids movies instead of our own, eat chicken strips instead of lobster, and we do everything within our power to see them experience, succeed, and soar. We do it without the blink of an eye. We willingly do it with our heart. We do it, without realizing it’s happening.
When Brittany was diagnosed, I behaved in much the same manner. I functioned without sleep, I skipped meals, I ate what she could eat, I did everything within my power to be with her, to comfort her, to help her, to support her, to love her. I did my best.
Despite doing my best, I struggle with self doubt. What if I had done this? What if I had said that? The thoughts circle through my mind and I can find myself in a negative space.
I gave myself the gift of 8 weeks of mindfulness classes. It was a New Year’s gift of self-care in 2017.
One thing I learned is that we often tell ourselves negative stories. Maybe it started in childhood, or school, or a relationship… but the story is repeating in our brain.
” I’ll never … I can’t … why me?… bad luck follows me … I’m not good at … I’m always tired… I will never reach my dream … I don’t have dreams anymore… life is too hard … I’ll never love again… I’m stuck in this job, relationship, town … I’ll never feel true joy again because … “
These stories are like a broken record. Almost all of us have some version of this broken record playing intermittently in our minds. It is not unusual or odd. Sometimes, we aren’t even aware of the thoughts because they’ve been there so long.
I can do it.
Now, if I catch myself thinking anything remotely like this … I interrupt the thought and say – “Just because I thought that doesn’t mean it is true. Thoughts come and go. My story isn’t over.”
My story can have a happy ending – even as I accept the permanency of my grief over the loss of Brittany. Grief is a gift as well as a burden. Someone asked me how many times a week I think of Brittany. It would be easier to count how many times an hour. It may sound odd but I don’t think there has been one waking hour that I haven’t thought of Britt since she left this world, actually since she was born.
However, many of my thoughts are joyous. I wouldn’t trade the pain linked with memories because the joy outweighs the pain in the long run.
Smile through the tears.
If right now…or tomorrow… or next week, something happens to make you think your story is sad, hopeless, hard or boring … remember to tell yourself, “This is not how my story ends. Just because a thought floats through my mind. doesn’t make it true.”
In my mindfulness course, I saw how fully Brittany embraced this knowledge. She was always two steps ahead. Brittany took control of her earth story’s ending. Brain cancer would kill her, but she had a great deal to say about the last chapters of her life. When she read of how the disease would progress, she looked Death in the eye and said, “No, that is not how my story will end.” And it wasn’t.
This is NOT how my story will end.
May the next page in your story be a wild and precious moment. Savor something simple. The smell of rain. A new flower. A bite of fruit. The sun on your face. The breeze against your skin. A hug from a friend. Your story is still unfolding.