RE-GROUNDING

A single choice: will I live today? Really live?

Will today have meaning? Will I use my time wisely? Will I nourish my family, connect with my friends, and attend to my soul? Will I make a difference today?

Will I laugh, think and cry, as basketball coach Jim Valvano urged?

Valvano died of metastatic cancer just eight weeks after he taught just that during an Espy awards speech, where they tried to give him a time limit. HA! (PS. Take the 11 minutes to watch it if you haven’t already!)

Over the past year or two I’ve been busy with very important work – work that I believe will lead to meaningful change to those living with metastatic breast cancer. I am blessed to have had the opportunity to lead an organization in this work, to be a part of defining its future. I am grateful for the chance I had, for sharing it with leaders who care passionately about the work, and for the progress we have made. But serving as president of a growing non-profit has left time for little else. And so now I’m grateful for new opportunities on the horizon!

Stephen King’s quote from The Shawshank Redemption has been an imperative for me for since I first heard it, but never more so than since my metastatic diagnosis in 2011. I’m keenly aware of how short life is, and strive to make the most the days I am blessed to live. And I’ve learned that sometimes less is more…

Life is about change, about evolution. Life is about becoming. A teacher and rabbi of mine once told me that we only become more of ourselves as we age and/or face adversity. He’s probably right.

But despite the ever-present drive to do more, fix more, support more, take on more, change more, be more, I know that’s not necessarily “living.” I’ve had the last month or so to slow down, make more time for family and friends – and for me. It has allowed me to step back from my advocacy and look carefully how I spend my time, determining which projects I truly find life-affirming and which might be left to others.

So I stumbled upon this….

Some of these come more easily than others, but I’m going to look to it as a reminder of how I want to live – the choices I want to make. I’m using it as a reminder to reconnect with friends, to focus on my writing, to laugh, to think and to cry.

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NaBloPoMo 4: The Gift of Time

That coveted extra hour of sleep that comes each fall! I always have such high expectations. And like today, they are usually dashed. It was especially frustrating since the focus of my thinking between midnight and 2 AM, when I finally fell back asleep, was “at least I can sleep in…” Yeah, that didn’t happen.

We all want more time…more years in our life, more hours in our day. And it seems to me the more “convenient” our electronics make life, the more we try to cram in to each hour, and the more time we need. I am busier and with less “down time” than ever, and I know I’m not alone. I also know this probably isn’t good for me, or any of us. Demands are greater, attention spans are shorter and frustrations come more easily. Oh, but if we just had more hours in a day…

Judaism has the antidote for this. Our sabbath (Shabbat) begins at sundown on Friday, and we set the tone by lighting candles and reciting blessing for every-day things that we might otherwise take for granted. Once the candles are lit traditional limits our activities quite dramatically. Jewish law says that, just as God rested on the seventh day, we too must refrain from work. There are thousands of years of thought on what “work” means but here are some highlights: we can’t write, we can’t carry things (including money), we can’t create things and hardest of all in today’s electronic age – we can’t spark a flame. That means we can’t turn on a light, or a television; use a computer, or a cell phone. We can, however, read a book, visit with friends, play games with the kids, join our community in synagogue, go for long walks…

Of course not everyone (myself included) follows all of these rules, though many strive to. 

But here’s the great irony – you know that extra hour? In Judaism it comes every week. Shabbat is a 25-hour day, since it ends about an hour after sunset on Saturday. And while I may not be strictly observance of how I use this day of rest, the message that my extra hour goes here, when I should be tending to myself and my family, rather than when I am running errands or at the office.

So if YOU had an extra hour, and hour set apart, defined by different rules – an hour not about getting things done, but about slowing down and just being, how would you use it?

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