I dragged myself out this weekend, even though I didn’t really feel like it but because I had promised I would be there and I don’t like letting people down. I was tired and, if I am honest, feeling a little sorry for myself because my treatment isn’t working! A friend asked me to dance and said I was ‘quiet’ which isn’t like me when I am out! He reminded me that I needed to celebrate the small things and not concentrate on the things I can’t change. After all I had lots of supportive friends, was alive, could go out, could dance, was still beautiful (flattery of course, which made me laugh) and had all my hair (at the moment). He was right of course, I’m still standing!
We often let our problems get on top of us and blow things out of proportion; life isn’t fair and it never will be. Sure, I have been dealt a bad hand now, I didn’t plan to get cancer but you have to deal with the cards you are dealt the best way you can, circumstances don’t render you helpless and ‘folding’ doesn’t help. OK, enough of the Poker references, and I don’t even play Poker! Perhaps Maya put it better:
You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them. (Maya Angelou, 2008)
Perhaps we need to commit to changing the way we look at the ‘problems’ of life, sometimes we cannot get ‘rid’ of them, we need to see them as ‘experiences’ or opportunities to grow and learn. I know that isn’t always easy but I am trying to see my cancer as a learning experience, just as I saw child birth or buying a house as learning experiences. I’m an academic so researching and becoming more informed about Myeloma has helped me get to grips with my condition and feel more in control of my treatment and how I move forward.
It’s important to remember that we aren’t the only one with problems, other people’s problems might be as bad as ours, probably even worse; we never know what goes on behind closed doors or behind the smile. My friend also told me that being in the fire service had taught him not to ‘sweat the small stuff’ as he was constantly reminded of the horrors that some people go through; the recent Grenfell tower fire in London immediately springs to mind.
This got me thinking that we need to give ourselves permission to celebrate the little things. If we focus our minds on what is enjoyable, nourishing and comforting rather than concentrating on what’s infuriating, disappointing or wounding we can learn to appreciate the small things that often get overlooked or taken for granted. Now it’s not going to stop negative things happening but it may stop us attaching too much emphasis to them when they do.
I guess this is all about gratitude, of which there has been some recent research. Some people keep gratitude journals or photo collages. Studies have found that those that do just that experience greater wellbeing, are more positive, have a more optimistic view of life, are more likely to help others and apparently, are more likely to exercise! I’m not sure about the exercise bit other than if you feel better about yourself you may be more likely to exercise, which in turn increase endorphins which in turn makes you feel good and hence more likely to repeat the experience.
Practising gratitude may indeed help us to connect with others and strengthen the relationships and friendship bonds we already have, which can only serve to enable us to feel more positive about ourselves. Positivity breeds positivity. Positive thinking apparently increases our psychological wellbeing, builds emotional resilience and has also been linked to good physical health and better immune functioning, now those of us with Myeloma need some of that!
Learning how to appreciate the little things in life is just one way to increase those positive emotions. So here is my list of the little, and some not so little, things I need to not only be grateful for but celebrate!
- My eyelashes are back!! I lost the upper lashes on my right eye and the lower ones were sparse, due to the radiotherapy I had for the Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in April. I was told they may never grow back but this weekend they were long enough to put mascara on. Whoop, whoop!
- My children that give me hugs, smiles and laughter still even though they are grown up
- My husband -even though, or perhaps because of the fact he has just run the lawn mower over my Passion flower in the garden that I only put in this year!
- Lots of amazing friends who have been very supportive
- A roof over my head that is paid for
- I still have my hair (at least for the time being until I have the high dose chemo and stem cell transplant)
- Facebook to keep me connected with my friends and cheer me up with funny videos
- Chocolate! How could I live without this one!
- Sleep! Believe me you appreciate a good night’s sleep when the steroids they pump you full of keep you awake
- Central heating – I hate being cold
- Sun on your skin
- Internet shopping- means I can still shop when I feel ill!
- Nail varnish
- My coffee machine, decent coffee can make anything bearable
- Strangers who hold the door open for you and smile
- The receptionist in the haematology unit who has remembered my name (because I’m there so often!)
- Being treated to lunch or brunch
- Basil and Oregano, my favourite herbs
- Careers I’ve had and the friends I’ve made along the way
- The cards, cakes, flowers, presents and visits I have had since I have been diagnosed
- My son and daughter’s best mates who have also been round to see me or taken me out
- Macmillan UK and Myeloma UK and the fact that I’m grateful I was diagnosed with this now and not 20 years ago, as the prognosis wouldn’t have been good!
One important thing that I have noticed since I was diagnosed and have not worked is how much more I appreciate time. Time, especially time for myself and to be with friends and family was a rare commodity, I now have lots more of it and it has focused my mind on how important it is to have time just to ‘be’, time to do what I want to do and time to spend with friends and family. It is only now that I realise the importance of ‘quality’ time so let that be a lesson to you all!