There is always, always, always something to be thankful for. Why should we only focus on all that we have to be thankful for in November, during traditional Thanksgiving celebrations? I am absolutely all about Thanksgiving in April this year! That’s right, all those turkeys and honey-baked hams should be very, very afraid. I have been obsessed recently with how to help all of us battle fear more effectively and one thing I know is that gratitude is an awesome tool for fighting fear. How can you be full of fear when you are too busy being grateful? Let me step back for a moment and explain two things, 1) why I am all about gratitude and 2) where on earth I have been for the past month or so.
My odyssey began with me spending a night in the emergency room in early February. While the amazing doctors were able to rule out what we all thought was going on, they found something on a CT scan that they weren’t looking for, and it ‘required’ follow-up. Cue the slightly creepy music.
I won’t bore you with all the gory details but what followed was a haze of visits with my doctor, a couple appointments with a specialist, and more blood tests than the casts of Vampire Diaries, True Blood, and Being Human could ever hope for. All of this medical mayhem resulted in a consultation with one of the top surgeons in the state, whose office happens to be inside the Duke Cancer Institute. Gulp. Do you think I might have had a little fear trying to rear its head? Heck yeah.
Can You Hate Something Beautiful?
It doesn’t have to make any sense, but the Duke Cancer Institute is really impressive, I mean drop-dead gorgeous and I hated that. It boasts beautiful architecture, well-trained, attentive volunteers, state-of-the-art everything. That should have inspired confidence, but it didn’t. Because I didn’t want to be there with those awesome people and the fact that it was so beautiful meant that a lot of people had been really ill and donated tons of money to build that center. And the beautiful surroundings made me nervous and sad.
I didn’t want to think about all the people who had to spend lots of time there, which is why they made it so pretty and fixed up all those host stations full of juice and snacks. I was afraid I would have to spend more time there and I did not want to. I was ready to punch everything in the throat. Now, remember that fear usually has its roots in lies or the unknown. My situation was chock-full of the unknown because all the tests were doing a great job of ruling out what was NOT going on with me, but none of them were telling me what WAS happening. And my shortness of breath was getting much better, but it wasn’t going away and I really need to breathe freely to be my most powerful. Breathless women don’t take up as much space as I want and need to.
So after looking at lots of scary pictures of my insides and praying so hard I thought my brain would leap out of my head, I was scheduled for a surgical biopsy to get some answers. Now, just for context here, from the time I went to the emergency room to the date of my surgery—was less than a month. Exactly 26 days. What?! That’s barely enough time to change my mind 100 times. Now while it is amazing that things could have moved so quickly, on the other hand, I spent 26 long days (and longer nights) not knowing what was going on inside my body. One of my best qualities is my vivid imagination, but in this case, it was really not that helpful.
I had to constantly remind myself of the tools available to help me manage all the fear or I would have completely lost my mind. My hair is already turning gray so fast I can hardly keep up with my “Gray Be Gone” spray, (It would help if my Walgreens would stock more of the Brown/Black color instead of all that blonde and red inventory! But I digress…) and I blame my Cruella Deville streak on fear. And global warming.
God Is a Funny Dude
It’s funny, or one of those God-touched life moments, that this medical situation coincided with my creating a new tool called, Punch Fear in the Throat: Never let fear stop you again. (More on that soon, I promise!) So many of you have said that you wanted to hear more about conquering fear, so I was cooking up a fabulous product that would shine a light on the real root of fear, talk about how to recognize it when it shows up masquerading as something else, provide great ideas for handling fear in all aspects of your life, etc. Shut up, right?! And just when I’m working on this, I have one of the most crazy fear-challenging periods of my life. Coincidence? I think not!
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If you ask for a bigger stage, bigger battles will show up. I don’t like it, but I understand it. So let me end the suspense and share that I do not have cancer. Yes! I have so much to be thankful for, hence the Honey Baked Ham thoughts in April. And I do not have a bunch of other equally scary stuff. In fact, I think I have been tested for every conceivable disease known to the esteemed physicians at Duke University Hospital. And I totally have a girl crush on my surgeon because she’s brilliant, and stylish, and sassy and wonderful, and I hope I never see her again. I’m quite content to admire her from a distance. Do I have all of the answers I want? Nope. But I have a lot of answers, and I can handle what I know and work on learning the rest.
So for a few weeks, besides practicing patience, my greatest challenge has been recovering from surgery and getting my feet back underneath me, literally and figuratively. And I have been dutifully following my doctor’s instructions so I wouldn’t sound all breathless when it was time to record again. My go-to tool during this period has been to stay completely, ridiculously, unrelentingly focused on all that I have to be thankful for. So, here, in no particular order, is some of that stuff.
What I’m Thankful For
- I am thankful for a great job with amazing, loving, supportive co-workers and good health insurance. I have definitely not always had these things before and I have felt that pain, so I don’t take either of them for granted. If I start telling you how awesome they were (think flowers, prayers, and iTunes gift cards so I could buy stuff to amuse myself during recovery), I will get all emotional and this is a happy post.
- I am thankful that powerful pain medications exist. And I’m super thankful that I no longer need to take them.
- I am thankful for family and friends who knew about the medical drama and did not behave the way I expected them to. Huh? Yes, I’m glad about that and this is why. Our lives are so full and it’s really hard to figure out where to cut stuff (or people) out so that we can focus our time. So these folks who responded differently than I wanted them to, or differently than I have treated them in the past, have given me a gift by freeing up resources. I am not mad at any of them, but I also don’t have to worry about guilt or waste energy to sustain relationships that don’t really serve me moving forward. (Hope that doesn’t sound harsh, I should have warned you this is a Big Girl Panties day…)
- I am thankful for Sara Bareilles, and the song, Brave. Man! When I was planning a career in music, I don’t remember anything that lovely ever coming out of me. I wonder if she has any idea how impactful she is. Maybe I’ll figure out a way to tell her. Any ideas?
- I am thankful that my immediate family and circle of friends kicks so much booty. There are simply not enough words to describe how my mother, brother, and sister stood-in-the-gap over the last couple months. They don’t think I noticed them swallowing their own fears so that I wouldn’t take them on also, but I saw it. I am struck by the fact that many people don’t have similar support. I’m incredibly blessed.
- I am thankful for my vivid imagination and my active mind. I had some of the most fascinating ideas occur to me at the most random times leading up to my surgery, while I was in the ICU, waiting for the valet to bring the car so I could go home, etc. It’s hard to describe, but it’s like my mind went into overdrive to keep me focused on what I could do so that I would leave the rest to someone else.
- I am thankful for my new scars because they are a visual reminder of how amazing God is and that I matter to Him.
- I am thankful for my DVR full of silly, mindless television shows to keep me company during recovery. I’m not going to tell you some of the stuff I watched because you wouldn’t believe me.
- I am thankful for Candy Crush. Before you laugh, it wasn’t me playing the game! While I was stunned when the addiction erupted, I am grateful that my mom had something she was so passionate about to fill her hours (and days!) as she spent way too much time in waiting rooms. And she now has her own iPad mini on which to crush the candy. Because the iPhone screen was just too small. Uh huh. I will just let that marinate, while I keep it moving.
- I am thankful for Pharell and the song, Happy. I cannot get enough of it! It is now my ringtone and its magical properties never fail to lift my spirits. I can’t believe it didn’t win an Oscar for song of the year, but I will just assume that is because people feared its brilliance. Picture this, I’m in the surgical prep area and I’m making the anesthesiologist and prep nurse get their groove on to a little ‘Happy’ before they try to jab me with yet another IV. It was epic.
- OK, I am going to wind this up by saying that I’m grateful for all of you who visit and read and comment and email me and give me a second thought. Oh, and for football, popcorn, laughter, a desire to work out again, working from home, pictures of puppies on Pinterest so I get the cute without the responsibility, Italian ices, pretzel sandwich rolls, and Sudoku.
Let’s Focus People
I recently pointed out that it’s mighty hard to focus on two things at the same time, so I suggested that we choose to focus on the wonderful things that are happening. I am reiterating that, but when it comes to fighting fear I suggest that we focus specifically on the wonderful things that we are grateful for. Focus without interruption on what you have to be thankful for and watch the fear run like a soccer player trying to prepare for the World Cup.
What have you been afraid of recently and how did you punch it in the throat? Let me know in the comments below.