Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cheers to Life

Yesterday I had to run an errand at the little post office I like to frequent. It is tiny, quaint, and run by a woman who is as good as gold; friendly, helpful, and kind, she is a wonderful woman and I go out of my way to throw my business her way. During my stop today I inquired about her as I usually do. She confided that her health was ailing and a lot was going on. I was disheartened and incredibly shocked.

This woman, I found out yesterday, is my age, thirty-eight. Our lives have played out differently. She has a child who is finishing high school and moving on to higher education while my oldest is eight. She is a single mom and I am married for the better part of my life (18 years). She is hard working and has had as many as three jobs at once, not including “mommy”; working in a pharmacy of a local grocery store, the post office, and as a police officer in a dangerous town in New Jersey. Currently she is a policewoman and postal worker. When I prompted her to tell what was wrong medically she relayed that she contracted MRSA from a recent hospital stay after emergency surgery. While treating that they found she also has Lupus and then they found a lump they were concerned was a tumor. So many problems for a woman who should be in the prime of her life! She is my age and yet she is facing major medical crisis, and, facing them alone (no spouse) and with a son who is still dependant upon her for love and support. I asked her if she handles stress well (before all of the diagnosis) and she replied, “No, I’m always stressed about everything.” This saddened me for her. I left things by telling her I would pray for her and would continue to send my best thoughts and wishes.

This story is sad and scary. But, unfortunately, it is akin to many others. Whether cancer or heart disease or any of the myriad other illnesses, lethal or otherwise, that can affect one, getting a diagnosis of that magnitude is traumatizing. A person’s true metal is called upon as well as the strength of their support system. It is a fact most people never think about until thrust into the situation against their will.

My focus today is on self. If you, like me, are relatively healthy, are living a comfortable if not lavish life, and can simply be at peace with yourself, you are all the better for it. All too often stress is the thread of undoing in one’s life. Not handling stress in a healthful way – exercise, diet, venting, or simply saying “no” when one’s plate is too full – can be detrimental to your health in the short and long term. Internalizing stress has been shown to eat away from the inside out. Instead of choosing to keep stress, learn to let it go.

My oldest son is a worrier. He gets that from me and I get it from my dad. But I’m learning that the worry I invite into my mind is usually far worse than the reality that occurs. When I face my worries straight on they dissolve and are most manageable. I’m trying to teach this to my son before life’s worries increase so he has the proper tools in place – confidence, coping skills, wherewithal – to tackle any obstacle or worry that he encounters. Worry, a type of stress, or stress-inducer, is truly a useless emotion that only hurts the worrier. It does not offer solution; it merely leaves you mired in the problem.

Living a healthy life is important; living a good life is, too. We never know when our time has come. Life is indeed short. I’m learning to never waste a moment. Fighting is pointless, but clearing the air and talking about disagreements is vital. Worry is pointless, but dealing with tasks is important and letting go of things we cannot control is necessary. Surrounding yourself with people who love and value you must be a priority. Enjoying life is the key. Find joy in every day. Appreciate the here and now, dig in deep with your passions, and don’t let fear, frustration, worry, and hopelessness color your world. Embrace your life, your family, and your work. Live the best way you can and, instead of choosing to see the dark side of everything, look to the positive; it may just save your life.