BuiltaLife

Offering hope to those on the path behind me

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What is holding you back from your calling?

I have mentioned to a few close friends that I have felt the calling to be a speaker and a writer. I mean, come on, as Elton John sings “I’m still standing after all this time, Picking up the pieces of my life…” But I’ve never really felt the time was right. Maybe it was fear, maybe it was not having the qualifications. Maybe it was something else altogether.

A couple of weeks ago I signed up for a book discussion group. We are reading It’s Not Supposed to be This Way by Lysa Terkeurst. The book has been on my GoodReads Want to Read list for a long time. In fact, it had been on there so long that I didn’t even remember that I had the Audible version so when I signed up for the group, I got the hardback book and the study guide.

I have heard of Lysa through some of the podcasts that I listen to and even some friends had mentioned her name and the book (which is why it was on my Want to Read list). But I did not know anything about her story. What I did know was the title of the book resonated with me.

She is right, I thought. It’s Not Supposed to be This Way.

Certainly, if someone asked me 25, 20, 15, 10, or even 5 years ago what I imagined my life would look like in 2020, never in a million years, would I have described what my life looks like right now. To be honest, I have had to make adjustments in a lot of areas in my life. But looking back over it, as Garth Brooks sings so well, ” Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance.”

Coffee on the deck at the beach
A fabulous way to start any beach vacation. Coffee, blue skies, and a view for days.

I will admit I still need to go back and read some chapters I skipped (I had an unexpected opportunity to sit on a beach for a week and relax and missed 2 of the book club meetings, but you would have made that choice too most likely).

This week, instead of playing catch up, I jumped right into the chapters we were going to discuss. I had errands and an appointment on Friday so I listened to chapter 7 via the Audible version I had purchased a long time ago. I really had no idea what would be in those chapters.

As I backed out of my driveway I heard Lysa say “Every syllable of the last chapter is true.” Hmm, ok, I will have to go back to that and read it I thought.

I continued listening while driving down the toll road on the way to my appointment at Texas Oncology. Treatment for Metastatic Breast Cancer doesn’t stop for a pandemic, so I was headed for my monthly blood work, treatment, and appointment with the nurse practitioner.

“The ink hadn’t even dried from the last chapter when the need for another mammogram turned to the need for a biopsy. Everyone, including my doctor, assured me there was little reason for concern.”

Lysa Terkeurst

Seriously? Was I listening to my story or hers? I wasn’t sure at the moment. It sounded so familiar. I won’t spoil chapter 7 for you any further, but let me say I could have written a chapter very much like the one I was listening to if I had written my story in 2003.

As most of the people I know living with cancer can attest, cancer muggles (a term I have adopted after reading it on Twitter to refer to someone who has not had cancer) will say things like “Everything happens for a reason” or “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle” when they are trying to comfort a newly diagnosed friend. Honestly, I think they say that because it makes them feel better, speaking from my own experience it does NOT help the person staring down the road of chemo and radiation.

I don’t subscribe to the “everything happens for a reason” philosophy. I do, however, believe that we can turn our pains and scars into something that is helpful to others (which can then be mistakenly identified by those on the outside as a justification for the “everything happens for a reason” comments).

I often find myself wondering “Now What? Am I supposed to take these lessons and share them with others? And if so, how?” Or in more simplistic terms…What is my new calling?

Monday night the group watched the video and delved into the study guide that accompanies Lysa’s book for Chapters 7 and 8 (or Session 4 in the study guide). For the first time, I was beginning to understand why I have not pushed forward on this calling that has been lurking in the back of my mind.

In Chapter 8 (Letting Go of What’s Holding Me Back), the author walked through a passage from Psalm 51. Written by David, his words go through a progression of Confession, Cleansing, Creating and Calling.

As I sat and listened to Lysa’s discussion the proverbial light bulb started to light up. Although I had been going through these steps in my own way over the past year, it finally made sense why I

  • recently reached out to someone to say if she “needed a motivational speaker to talk about resilience, let me know” (and why I might have taken several deep breaths when she said “I might just take you up on that.”
  • reached out to another person to ask for help in “pulling together a talk about resilience from a true getting up and speaking perspective.”
  • finally “allowed” myself to sign up for a Writing Workshop that has been on my list (yes, I like lists – my Enneagram 1 wing showing) for several months.

The calling has been in the back of my mind for a long time, but I needed to process and walk through these other steps first.

The confession – Although she was talking about sin, I don’t believe that sin caused my cancer, or my husband’s cancer. But sin also means a separation from God, which means that I had been angry with the pains I had been through and had kept God at arm’s length for a long time. I hadn’t abandoned God, and I didn’t thing God had abandoned me, but there was a distance in our relationship. Several books, therapy sessions, and lunches/happy hours with friends has helped me to understand that God is still in my corner and is waiting for me to reclaim the relationship.

The cleansing – For me, this has mostly been tied up in grief. Allowing myself to fully experience the stages – and being ok with them not being in any kind of order (that 1 wing again) – recognizing them when they happen and allowing the feelings to process. Unfortunately, there is not a timeline for processing grief. And when you continue to see friends die from a disease that you have been living with for 10 years, the process can begin all over again.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me
Grant me a willing spirit

The creating – In grief terms, this has been reaching a level of acceptance. It has taken me a long time to accept what my new life looks like. I have asked God to help me accept and love who and where I am. A new creation based on the ashes of the past. And I’m grateful He has had the patience to show me how to love the person I have become.

The calling – I am placing this in God’s hands. Now that I am ready to listen and heed the calling, I feel certain, God will put the people in my path that will lead and guide me to wherever this calling is taking me.

What is holding you back from pursuing what God is calling you to do?

Maybe It’s Not Supposed to be This Way. Maybe, just maybe, if we embrace it, life can be better once we get to the other side.

What I learned creating an online dating profile…

Recently I set up an online dating profile. It was an attempt to entertain a friend who was dying from metastatic breast cancer. She was outgoing and full of life, and she had been suggesting, in her own unique way, that I should put myself back out there.

I didn’t take it seriously but I shared some stories and pictures with her and a couple of other metastatic friends (wow there are some interesting people on dating sites). She passed away not long after that.

I kept the dating profile up and was intrigued (in more of a research kind of way than an “ohh, he would be nice to date” kind of way) by the kind of men my profile was attracting. 

I ended up deleting the profile after about a week.

A couple of weeks ago I decided maybe it was worth trying again and one of my daughters “helped” me create a new profile. I will be honest, I have not found anyone that I am ready to date but I have found that reading other people’s profiles and then swiping left (or right on occasion) is more entertaining than spending the evening scrolling Facebook. 

What I learned about myself (and others) through online dating:

  • I’m not sure I’m ready to date (or if I will ever be ready to date);
  • There really is someone out there for everyone or every type; and
  • Creating a dating profile is one of the best ways to figure out who you really are. Not necessarily for finding a date. It is a way to tell your story.

Since I haven’t “dated” in 30 years, this was a completely new experience. I never used an online dating site before and it is rather intimidating.

How much do you put on a profile and how much of your story do you tell? Everyone is different, there are some that will post one picture and 3 lines of “description” – if you can even call it that – and others will write a book.

Not many men write “seeking a widow who is living with metastatic breast cancer” in their profile. In fact, about 80% (yes, I made that number up) want a woman who is physically fit, loves to bike ride, goes hiking and/or dancing every weekend, and “takes care of themselves mentally and physically”.

For those who follow my story, I thought about writing “likes short walks on flat surfaces” on my profile but since I have been working out and increasing my distance on walks I decided to let it go (although it still gets a good laugh in my circle of friends).

So how much of my story do I share? After reading what these men really want, I started to delete the online dating app. I mean, I am happy with where I am in my life; I have good friends and 2 great kids.

Will I keep swiping left/right or will I delete the app? Only time will tell. But after 4 years (yes, tomorrow, July 24th will be four years since J.R. passed away), I believe if you don’t have a story to tell by the time you are in your 50’s (yeah, I’m not embarrassed to say I am 54 years old) have you really lived? I’m going to own my story.

Like everyone who has Disney+ I recently watched Hamilton. The last song in the musical is “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” 

Our stories, or our experiences, are those things that have shaped us into who we are right now, as well as allows us to grow into who we are becoming. 

In order to love who you are you cannot hate the experiences that have shaped you - Andrea Dykstra

A friend sent me this quote from  Andrea Dykstra this week and it completely resonated with me. “In order to love who you are you cannot hate the experiences that have shaped you.”

If you have ever lost a loved one, you can relate to how that experience can shape you. I have moved beyond the anger phase of grief, at least mostly – there are still a few triggers that bring that anger to the surface but I have finally allowed myself to feel the anger then move forward again. I have found that if I try to bury the anger it just tends to linger longer (probably true in a lot of situations). 

We each have a story. Some are more interesting than others. And it may have taken me a few years, some therapy, and finally listening to what God has been telling me, but I have reached a place where I can Love who I am because I do not hate the experiences that have gotten me here. 

During this pandemic, I shared my story with my church family, and recently I was asked to share my story with another group. God has been nudging me to tell my story (well nudging may not be a strong enough word, but you get the picture).

As I think about the lyrics from Hamilton, I want to be the one to tell my story. I am the only one with the unique perspective of having lived every part of it. My story is still being written but that makes it that much more interesting.

I may not find someone on a dating site who is looking for a widow living with metastatic breast cancer, but I am comfortable owning my story and telling it to others.

Who is going to tell your story?

“And when you’re gone, who remembers your name?

Who keeps your flame?

Who tells your story?

Who tells your story?

Who tells your story?”

Goodbye Ann…Another friend lost to Metastatic Breast Cancer

Beth, Cathy, Ann and KIm attending Art Bra Austin 2019
L to R: Beth, Cathy, Ann and, Kim at the BCRC Art Bra Austin 2019 Fundraiser

This week I learned a new term. Anticipatory Grief. You may have already determined that anticipatory grief occurs while a loved one is still alive, but their death is imminent. 

This would have been helpful information 4 years ago as we watched JR and my dad both slip away. It certainly helps me understand the anger I had during June and July 2016. 

I learned the term this week while attending an online Breast Cancer conference hosted by Living Beyond Breast Cancer. There was a session called “Coping with Collective Grief” and the speaker, Kelly Grosklags, spoke about this “new to me” term. 

It helped me understand my feelings this week (as well as those feelings from 4 years ago). You see, today we lost another to Metastatic Breast Cancer. A beautiful, fun, brilliant, witty woman gone too soon.

I met Ann while attending a support group for women with metastatic breast cancer at the Breast Cancer Resource Center.  She was everything I am not: outspoken and loud. Not in an obnoxious way.

She had a sharp wit and a sense of humor that you couldn’t help but love. After going to meetings for a few months I became friends with Ann, Beth, and Cathy. Sometimes we would go to lunch after a meeting, go out for drinks or just sit out on my patio and enjoy a beverage and snacks (pre-Covid). 

I loved talking with Ann, she had stories that could make your belly hurt from laughing. Or she could bring you to tears. 

We have known this day was coming ever since she decided her body was tired from treatments. But until last Tuesday I was still in denial. I had seen her a couple of times since March (on Zoom calls) and she was holding her own. 

But when the text came last week to come see her it seemed urgent. When we arrived she was in bed, no energy to get up and the spark in her eyes, while still there was just a little dimmer. 

Thankfully we were able to see her while she was still coherent enough to recognize us and even engage for a bit. And for that, I will be forever grateful. 

Having watched JR go through the process of dying, I knew when I left that her time here was short. And I was glad I had dropped what I was doing to go spend a few hours with Ann and my other “bosom buddies” Later that week we received an update on her caringbridge site that she was not receiving any more visitors and she was sleeping most of the time. 

This week I have been anxious every time I open my email. Anticipating the final journal entry. Today, it came.

You will be missed, Ann. I’m so glad I got to know you, even if it was through this damn thing we call metastatic breast cancer

Imposter Syndrome – Is my story worth telling?

Every time someone suggests I should tell my story, I develop a case of Imposter Syndrome.

One definition of imposter syndrome states:

The imposter syndrome is a psychological term referring to a pattern of behavior where people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud.

psychology today

I thought I was supposed to “share my story” by writing. That is how this blog started. But I had no idea what I was doing (and I still don’t), or how to best go about sharing my story. I wasn’t even sure anyone really wanted to hear or read it other than the few friends who kept encouraging me.

My story never seemed like something that was really worth sharing, in my opinion. In fact, I felt like a fraud, or an imposter, every time it was suggested.

Recently, I was asked by one of my pastors if I would share my story of resilience (you can click here to watch the interview).

He was preaching on resilience and thought of me (“No one asks for resilience” he said in his sermon. I’m not sure it is a good thing I’m the first person someone thinks of when they hear the word resilient). I agreed, not really sure what would come of it. He was thinking it would be a 5 minute Q&A after his sermon.

During this time of the pandemic, Wednesday is the new Sunday at our church. At least it is for the filming staff and pastors. That is the day they record the service for the upcoming Sunday. So on Wednesday morning, using social distancing, Will (the pastor) and I sat in our Family Life Center, and he asked me questions and I answered him, telling my story, while trying to ignore the bright lights, microphones, and video cameras.

The lights, cameras, and microphones must have given me amnesia because afterward, I could not tell you what I said or if it was even coherent. I walked away thinking if they decided not to use it, no big deal.

As Sunday morning approached, I was anxious and nervous and apprehensive. The imposter talked me out of watching the video that morning.

The imposter’s voice kept asking me: What did I say in the interview? What if it didn’t make any sense? Who wanted to hear it anyway?

Sunday afternoon I received a couple of text messages. At first, the messages were from close friends. Those that have been there through the trials and have encouraged me all along to share my story.

Although I appreciated the messages of encouragement, I discounted them. They were from my cheerleaders, the ones who are still standing at the finish line after everyone else has given up and gone home.

Then I started getting messages from other friends. Friends I haven’t talked to in a while, but still know some of my story and have been in the trenches with me a time or two. They thanked me for being willing to open up, be vulnerable, and share my story.

As the day progressed (and I still hadn’t been able to bring myself to watch the interview), I got more messages. Some from people I hadn’t talked to in years, others from people that I have never met. They were all grateful that I had shared my story.

The voice in my began to change “Maybe my story is worth sharing?”

Perhaps the most limiting part of dealing with imposter syndrome is that it can limit our courage to go after new opportunities, explore potential areas of interest, and put ourselves out there in a meaningful way. 

psychology today

By sharing this blog and sitting down having the discussion (on video) with my pastor, I am trying to overcome that Imposter Syndrome by not letting it limit my courage to put myself out there in a meaningful way.

It is still a struggle. And I’m sure it will be for a long time. But if I don’t tell the story, who will?

What I learned about myself watching a MasterClass on Chess

Yesterday I was feeling like the walls were closing in on me. Anyone else feeling that way these days?

It was a dreary day at my house, threatening rain all day and chilly (at least chilly compared to what it had been earlier in the week – in Texas, you never really know what the weather will be – Yesterday the high was in the low 60’s, today it is going to be 88).

Tired of reading, Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime/Cable TV, and the puzzle that had been sitting on my table for a week (or more), it felt like the walls were closing in.

From past experiences, when that feeling comes over me, I know I need to do something productive.

I put on my walking shoes, grabbed the dog’s leash and we headed to the mailboxes to get out of the house. My mailbox is a community mailbox area, so a walk to the mailbox can be as short as half a mile roundtrip or I can find another way home and make it as long as I want.

Before I headed out the door on my walk, I did what most people would do, I reached out to Social Media and asked what others are doing to keep their sanity. While on my walk, my friends did not disappoint with coming up with ideas. Here are just a few of their suggestions:

  • Learn to play a musical instrument
  • Learn to crochet
  • Color
  • Take a walk
  • Organize family photos
  • Learn to cook a new dish
  • Listen to audiobooks
  • Take a drive through the country
  • Play online games such as Words with Friends
  • Watch Ted Talks (here is one of my favorites)
  • Paint the house
  • Video or audio record family stories for kids/grandkids to enjoy later
  • Learn Morse Code (.-.. — .-.. you can go here to decipher this code)
  • Take a MasterClass

Since I already have a MasterClass subscription, I turned to the online learning website and decided to try something new. I found Garry Kasparov’s class on Chess.

I’ve never really been a chess player, so to speak. I know the names of the pieces and how they can each move (at least I used to, it has been a while since I played). Learning something new would be a good use of this time.

I was expecting to learn from one of the greatest chess players, about chess. But I learned so much more.

Sitting on my back porch, thinking about life and this “new normal” people keep talking about (but that is an entirely different blog post) I listened to Garry speak about the fundamentals of chess.

When it registered what Garry said in the first sentence of the second video I had to go back and replay it several times to let it sink in.

“I like an old chess saying. Tactics is knowing what to do when there is something to do. While strategy is knowing what to do when there is nothing to do.”

GArry kasparov

Let that sink in for a minute. Read it again if you need to. It made me pause and think about how true this rings in life as well.

I have developed a lot of tactics over the past several years for dealing with life. Like going for a walk when the walls are closing in or taking an online class to learn something new.

These are tactics. Tactics that get me through the next hour or two. And that I can pull out again when I need them.

As I continued to listen and ponder “what is my strategy? Do I even have a strategy?” he slipped another nugget out.

“Unless you know who you are, it is difficult to know the best strategy.”

garry kasparov

While he was talking about chess, I could not help but think about the life application. In order to have a strategy in the game of life, you must first know who you are, or perhaps you must know who you want to become.

Currently, I am working on discovering who I am. It is like meeting a new friend and finding out who they are.

My life has changed in many ways over the past several years. Who I was is no longer who I am. And yet, I now have the chance to become who I was always meant to be. Kim.

This is my new strategy in life. Maybe I will even discover some new tactics along the way.

Chess anyone?

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