We lost a precious part of our family over the holiday season–Sarah, the 15-year old tabby cat I adopted from the Humane Society in 2001 along with her sister, Janie. It was only two days before that I’d learned that Sarah had both lymphoma and pancreatic cancer. It was as if once I knew, she let go to a rapid decline.
Losing Sarah was a heartbreak on its own. Yet seeing her sister Janie, who had been her companion since birth, grieving her own loss was another heartbreak, and one that came with an immense lesson. I had never before witnessed the depths of how animals can feel emotion.
I felt the vibe of Janie sobbing over the loss of her sister. I sadly watched as she walked from room to room looking for Sarah after she was gone. Suddenly my own loss became a lessor priority to easing the pain that Janie was experiencing from her loss. Doing whatever I could to help fill Janie’s void was great therapy.
I miss Sarah tremendously, yet I feel a greater sense of peace knowing that she is no longer hurting or suffering. I am one who believes we have an afterlife and while I certainly don’t have the answers to what happens after cats and people die, I can’t imagine that there would be no other opportunity for such a deep relationship to be reunited when we pass to the other side.
The bonds we build with our animals are deeper than the moments we will have to share with them. That’s why I have hope for a future reunion. For me, this vision itself brings comfort to my loss.
Six months ago a routine check-up with my doctor landed me on the scale and I was horrified seeing my weight results. I knew from how my pants were fitting that I’d gained some inches yet I had no idea that I had hit my heaviest weight ever. I moaned to the nurse who kindly told me that women had a tendency to gain weight after menopause and that I looked good. That wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to be lean and fit.
I was a fat kid all the way until I was 19, when one day I woke up and decided I didn’t want to be overweight anymore and set out to lose 40 pounds. So my thing with not wanting to be overweight has hung with me throughout my adult life.
After my visit to the doctor I started researching menopause and weight gain. I learned that while drops in estrogen do have an impact on weight gain, the bottom line is that how much you exercise also impacts how much weight you gain or lose. I was not willing to just settle on being a menopause weight gain statistic. The battle was on!
While I’d faithfully committed to a 3-4 times a week workout regime for 25 years, that frequency was no longer producing the results I wanted. I recognized that I needed to crank up the volume to drop the weight. Thankfully, with the help of my fiance who added 2-3 more workout sessions per week in the form of tennis, I dropped 12 pounds over the summer. And it was fun!
Little did I know that the best was yet to come. Late in the summer I discovered Pure Barre.
Pure Barre is described as ballet meets Pilates, neither of which I’d had much experience with. All of these years I have foolishly believed that my heart rate had to be riding high while I was sweating profusely to get a proper workout. Wrong!
The Pure Barre technique is designed to fatigue your muscles to the point of shaking and then stretch out to achieve long, lean muscles. I’m three months into it now with a changed body. Tomorrow I will complete the 20 classes in 30 days challenge. I am now fitting better in jeans I bought a dozen years ago than I did then. Over the course of the past month I’ve moved from wondering how I will endure the intense back-to-back workouts to realizing it could be my new routine.
Fight for what you want
The lesson I learned here was not to simply accept how life is playing out if it isn’t what you want. We can all change the course of destiny by taking steps to redirect the ship onto another course. Sometimes that might mean trying something completely new, but doesn’t that make the experience of life richer? And if you really want it badly, aren’t you okay with working hard for it?
Late last week I discovered a lump on the back of my 15-year old cat underneath her coat. I was shocked. I pet Sarah many times a day and the lump seemed to come out of nowhere. I’m almost always convinced that everything is going to be fine yet this worried me. I told my fiance what I discovered and he said that he had just noticed the same thing.
First thing the next morning I brushed Sarah’s coat with my fingers searching for the lump. It was still there but it seemed like the size had subsided. I let that be my reassurance that maybe it was just a bug bite and things were on their way to getting back to normal. I went through this process and thinking for three more days before I reckoned that the lump was still there and I better get it checked out.
This morning Dr. Eva took a sample from Sarah’s lump. Dr. Eva looked at the sample under a microscope and saw that there were many cells in it. My probing enabled me to learn that this meant it probably wasn’t a cyst or an abscess, but probably some kind of abnormal cell growth. The sample is off to a pathologist and I’ll know more in a day or two.
Like I said, I’m usually a very positive thinker yet having gone through the heartbreak of losing my last cat to lymphoma, I couldn’t help thinking about what I would do and feel if the news was not good.
I went about the business of my work for the remainder of the day with thoughts of Sarah flowing in and out of my mind. While considering the worst possible outcome–a malignant cancer–I found myself feeling frantic, like what will I be able to do to fix it–to get her healed?
Somehow later I was led to a different perspective that has given me a sense of peace. It is one that recognizes that Sarah arrived on this planet with her own journey to experience. However her life is to play out is her journey. My job as the person who has loved and cared for her for most of her life is to support her on her journey in all the best possible ways I can.
As someone who believes there is a purpose behind all that happens, I recognize there is a purpose in Sarah’s lump. Whatever happens is not about me and my life, but rather what is being called for her life. And I’m going to be right by her side however she needs my support.
I’ve been thinking about how I can apply this to my relationships with others — less emphasis on trying to make them better in whatever way I think they’d be happier to just giving support to the condition they’re in.
Tonight I learned that my 51-year-old cousin has colon cancer that has spread to her lymph nodes. She’s got a husband, two older kids and six months of chemo–I hear–in front of her. My cousin and I aren’t close friends but we share the bond of family and I love her. I pray that she will beat this incredible challenge and thrive.
I learned about my cousin’s condition on a phone call tonight with my mother. It reminded me of how vulnerable we all are, going about our lives thinking that we are free from harm–that something bad will never happen to us. I’m guilty of this big time and I know that this thinking gets in the way of me getting totally serious about taking total control of my life.
The Days are Numbered Mindset
I think that the biggest gift that we can all give ourselves is the constant realization that our days are numbered. I’m embarrassed by the fact that I am a native Californian who has never been to Yosemite. I’ve wanted to learn Spanish but I haven’t lifted a finger. There are so many other things that I’ve said I wanted to do that I haven’t followed through on. As I now feel the clock ticking, I see that everyday decisions make a difference in the quality of our lives.
Learning about my cousin has given me the desire to want to see her life dreams carried out. At the same time it has inspired me to focus on my own. What are they? What are yours?
I celebrated my 55th birthday three months ago. I didn’t expect the number itself to have the impact that it has. I think this particular birthday so far has been the one that has had me soul searching like no other.
Turning 55 has been a wake-up call that reminds me that there is an end to my life. I can’t continue to neglect thinking about what I want from my life because I realize now that the days I have to achieve it are numbered.
At first I responded to this revelation of 55 from a perspective of defeat. But as I sought the advice of others whose success I respected, I realized that it is never too late to fight the clock to get what you want. Just like I was in and out of college a number of times before I finally decided on a major that I stuck to, maybe I’m just someone who needs time to figure it out.
As I’ve been trying to sort this all out, the one thing that stands out is that it’s not going to get sorted out without my attention and energy. Giving my life up to chance isn’t going to work as I set my intentions on creating a more meaningful life experience.
My response to the wake-up call has brought a key benefit —
It has made me look at what I want from my personal and business life in a new light. After evaluating what I don’t like about things now, I’ve been able to put a clear new focus on what I’d like to accomplish immediately.
I feel very excited. Try it for yourself.
I happened across a news piece online the other day that featured a man who was my boss some twenty years ago. Come to find out he had recently been appointed the CEO of a major LA media organization. I was very happy to learn how my former boss had risen to such heights in his career and reached out to him via LinkedIn to tell him so.
I know this man as being the salt of the earth. And there was something about the period of time that we worked together in a New Hampshire division of a worldwide publishing company that feels like there is a bond there. Most of us were in our early 30’s. We took our jobs seriously yet there was a lot of camaraderie and fun. My boss was beginning to make a name for himself as a magazine publisher and I was his second in command who ran the finances and operations.
I wasn’t surprised that within a few hours my former boss responded with a kind note. I was very happy to hear from him and the way he sought an update made an impact that has lasted.
“What’s your story?” he asked.
While collecting my thoughts to answer his question it struck me that my story is not simply what I am doing today. Rather it is an evolution best described by a few key highlights that has led me to where I am today. Sometimes those highlights have been highs and sometimes they’ve been lows. Being able to now see my story as a journey helps put things in perspective.
I may want to feel more successful in my business today yet I have to acknowledge where I’ve come from to appreciate how much I have accomplished. And if I am able to look at my life as a story I can imagine how I’d like the story to play out and make the appropriate choices. I feel more in control.
What’s your story and how might you like to change it?
I spent this past weekend celebrating my fiancé’s belated birthday in San Francisco. Living within 10 miles of the city it’s not unusual for us to spend a night in town. Yet what was lusciously different for us this time was that we chose a completely different neighborhood in which to hang out. This time we stayed in Japantown.
I’m a native San Franciscan and have lived a majority of my life in the Bay Area, yet I’m embarrassed to say that I have never stepped foot in Japantown until this weekend. It reminded me of how getting out of my ruts always leads me to look at life with a fresh pair of eyes.
This weekend I realized how important it is to focus on what I have been able to create in my life instead of where I am lagging behind in where I want to be. It’s so easy for me to fall into the trap of thinking that my business isn’t doing this or that while totally losing sight of how blessed I am to have a business that enables me to spend every day working with my fiance and very best friend. My instincts tell me this will be far more important as I reflect back on my life at its end than my client list and annual revenues.
Thoughts Taking Form
Be careful what you ask for. I went to Maui for the first time in the summer of 2002 for a retreat with best-selling inspirational author Alan Cohen. One of the memorable exercises for me was describing to a partner what an ideal day would look like. I found myself sharing something that I’d never given deep thought to yet it felt right at the time. I shared that I’d love to have a business that my significant other was a part of. I was single at the time working in a corporate job and partnership had eluded me for several years. So this idea seemed like a pipe-dream that I never expected would come to fruition.
I met Dean five years later and when his business came to a fork I seized the opportunity to ask him to join me in mine.
This weekend I was reminded of how powerful it is to be aware of desires that you have that may not be a part of your daily consciousness. You have to be in touch with what you want before you can reach out to claim what you want when the opportunities present themselves.