Time is Precious

I realized early in the cancer journeys with my mother, Maxine, and wife, Alyson, that time is precious and finite. Our time on this earth is fleeting, often said to go by at the “blink of an eye.”

These experiences caused me to reassess the value that I placed on time and what I really considered to be my priorities in life.

I was never one that felt the need to define my being with material things. I would never say something like “I live in a $450,000 house (which I don’t). Instead, I’d be more likely to say, “I live in a house that is warm and welcoming, and friends say feels comfortable to them.” One of my go-to sayings that I think captures this sentiment best is: “I want all my belongings to be able to fit in the back of my Ford pick-up truck.”

A new measure of happiness … time

But as I went through my cancer journeys, my priorities shifted. It was no longer about how much (or how little) stuff I had. Or how well liked I was. In this new world order, I found a different type of personal happiness and fulfillment; one that involves family and friends that have a similar appreciation of time and friendship. These relationships are very special because the people are authentic, comfortable in their own skin and “givers” (see prior blog post: A giver has got to know his/her limitations).

Now, I also try to focus on investing my time in activities that give me a real sense of joy and accomplishment. I seldom find myself in situations that are uncomfortable or “just not my deal.” Now that I understand just precious time is, I have learned that the word “no” is not a bad word. In fact, it often leads to a more enjoyable experience for all parties because each participant is committed and all-in.

And that led me to write the following poem. Have these questions in mind as you read it:
“How would your life and decisions change if you knew the end was near? Would you play it safe or take a risk and venture outside of your comfort zone?”

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Time is Precious…

How would your life change if you had but one year?
How would the news impact your hopes, dreams, and fears?

Would you invest more time in your current profession?
Or feel the need for greater purpose and expression?

Would you settle on a relationship long since grown stale?
Or seek a special bond you know will prevail?

Would you surround yourself with loyal friends from the past?
Or spend time with new acquaintances unlikely to last?

Time waits for no one and only you hold the key.
To unlock the door and set yourself free.

So live each day as if you had but a few.
And savor every moment like you are starting anew.

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Remember. Time is precious. Live every day to its fullest.

5 Stages of Grief

When you hear that cancer diagnosis, this is usually the start of the grief cycle for many people. It’s not full loss in terms of a death or permanent loss, but it’s still grief. It’s helpful, I think, to understand the five stages of grief to help you through your cancer battle. These can be helpful both to patients, but also to loved ones who are walking alongside on the journey.

Stage 1:  Denial & Isolation

Often when we get bad news, we simply want to hole up and not see anyone. We can be in a mode of simply wanting to ignore the problem.  When it comes to cancer, sometimes we don’t have the luxury of ignoring things and we must act fast. Either way, we may find ourselves wanting to isolate and separate ourselves from other loved ones.

Stage 2:  Anger

At some point, as we go through grief, we get to a point of feeling angry.  We have a low patience level for things and can get upset over anything – cancer-related or not. Anger may come out to any number of people, from family to the doctors, to God, to even the unsuspecting cashier at the store. 

Stage 3:  Bargaining

As anger wears off, we start trying to take control back and often that comes in the form of “if only” statements. We might say things like “if only we knew sooner,” or “if only we could get another opinion.” We start to bargain and evaluate the situation.

Stage 4:  Depression

Depression can come in terms of emotions related to practical needs, but it can also come out and show itself in a deeper, more quiet expression. Depression can be hard, but I think it’s the most expected emotion we expect ourselves to feel and what we expect out of others. It’s becoming more and more accepted to feel depression and it’s not a shameful emotion to walk through. When we realize, though, that our depression is lingering longer than just a season, we need to get help.

Stage 5:  Acceptance

Reaching the point of acceptance can be a true gift. We have more clarity about our situation at this stage and have a lot of power as a result. We can truly fight our cancer fight with everything we’ve got. 

Is any one stage of the cycle wrong to be in? How long does the cycle take? Can the order shake up? 

The more I dug into this topic, the more questions came up. Since I’m not a licensed counselor or therapist, I know that there may be other people who can speak into this more than I can. What I do know is that by voicing these stages, it gives us all freedom to walk through our battle with grace, knowing that it truly is a journey.  We sometimes have to walk through some hard seasons. Let’s do that together and realize that there are people walking through the grief cycle in all walks of life and in all kinds of grief. Let’s walk together. 

Know Your Limitations As A Giver

 

The inspiration for this blog came from the classic Clint Eastwood aka “Dirty Harry” line in Magnum Force “A man has got to know his limitations.” To me, this means that it is equally important to be self-aware of what we cannot do as well as what we can do. So why then is it important for givers to know their limitations? Because, the act of giving can be both a blessing and a curse for individuals wired this way. By understanding the tendencies associated with giving, individuals can better use this gift to help others without compromising their personal health or happiness.

Let’s step back for a moment and get some clarity on how I’m using the term giver. I believe certain individuals, I include myself in this group, are predisposed with an excessive giving gene. They are selfless individuals; that are generous with their time; and get real sense of joy and pleasure out of helping others. One of my less than flattering nicknames in high school, among my closest friends, was State Farm. You know the jingle “like a good neighbor, State Farm, is there.” They picked up on the fact that I was always helping someone with something. There was a lot of truth to this nickname and the irony of it is that it was both a compliment and a cut, or blessing and curse, as I previously mentioned.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know the many blessings associated with the act of giving but have you ever considered that there may also be pitfalls with over-giving? Givers tend to place a greater importance on the wants and needs of others over their own. This behavior, over time, can lead to a sense of frustration, resentment and even neglect. So, the million dollar question is how do givers insure that their giving is truly a blessing for others without also becoming a self-induced curse? 

For me, it took the loss of two loved ones, my mother Maxine and wife Alyson in 18 months, to grasp the stark reality that time is both precious and finite. I quickly came to the realization that time is a special commodity that must be protected and respected. I have become much more selective regarding how I spend my time and with whom do I give of my time. I now look forward to squeezing every minute out of each new day with my like-minded band of brothers. I feel very blessed to be surrounded by a special group of friends that place the same value on friendship, athletic competition, music and laughter and truly love life, as do I. They are truly the ultimate givers!

In my book, Know Your Enemy, the First Edition, I told the story about how blessed I felt to have the love and support of friends and family members during one of the most grueling periods in my life. Their genuine acts of kindness and compassion reinforced my belief in the goodness of others and the notion of having a greater purpose in life. I wrote the following poem to express my gratitude to this special group of individuals.

I would encourage readers of this blog to re-assess how you currently spend your time and with whom do you spend it. Remember, it’s never too late to change, but one must first be aware of and acknowledge a need to change before change can occur.


The Chosen Few

When a life-changing event, rocks your world to the core.

Who will help you up, as you pick yourself off the floor?

Consider yourself blessed, if your earthly sphere includes.

A special band of brothers, I refer to as -The Chosen Few.

No obstacle is too great, for this brotherhood to overcome.

And no quarter will they cede, until the final battle is won.

Of whom do I speak? Who are these chosen few?

They are a special band of brothers, and one of them, is you.

So in these words I Thank You, more than you will ever know.

And, if the need shall one day arise, I, too, will stand with you.

Looking for Direction? Follow the Signs.

Are you at a crossroads in life? Maybe you’re considering a move or a personal or professional change. Perhaps a major change has been thrust upon you such as the loss of a loved one or a recent health diagnosis. Regardless of the life challenge, choosing the right path going forward is not always crystal clear.

If you’re looking for direction, my advice to you is follow the signs. The signs I’m referring to can’t be found using Google Maps. These are signs that come to you in the form of feelings, dreams, nature, or in everyday life activities. Some people rely on an internal instinct, often referred to as a “gut feel” to make big decisions. Others are tuned into their dreams and can literally see the future play itself out like a movie in their subconscious at night. Still others may see something in nature that stops them in their tracks like a rainbow, cardinal, or hawk in an uncharacteristic setting. Lastly, individuals may hear a certain song on the radio, a message while reading a book, watching a TV show, or movie and feel like a message is being sent directly to them.

I had a special sign that came to me following my mother, Max’s, passing. My mom and I were very close and I was really struggling with the loss. On the day of her memorial service, I noticed a single shiny dime on our dining room carpet. Soon thereafter, I began to come across single dimes in my daily travels. I’d find a dime in my pants or jacket pocket, in my car on the driver-side floor mat, in the dryer, on the ground at the gas pump, etc. I was talking to a close friend about this experience and they sent me the following saying: “When you find a dime, stop and pick it up. A found dime is a sign from heaven that a loved one is thinking of you. It shows that you are on the right path in life and someone is always looking out for you.”

If you’re thinking maybe this guy was smoking something, there is more to this story. Fast forward two years and we are getting Max’s house ready for sale. In her attic, we found a box marked “Christmas items,” and in it were two Christmas card books of dimes. The one card cover read “Here’s A Sockful Of Dimes For A Fine Grandson,” given to me by Nan & Pap Evans ( Max’s parents) on my first Christmas. The other card cover read “Some Christmas Dimes For You” and was given to me by my mom and dad around the same time. I felt these cards were the missing piece to why I was finding single dimes everywhere and knowing this brought me a real sense of calm and inner peace. Now I know that when I find a dime, I have three special angels that are looking out for me.

If you pay attention to unique occurrences that arise in your daily life, you may also find a gift or message that you are seeking. The following little piece reinforces the notion and I hope it speaks to you:


Searching

 Searching for answers, nowhere to be found.

You know it doesn’t hurt sometimes, to stop and look around.

For those answers that we search, seem difficult to find,

But oftentimes those answers, lie way down deep inside.

In our hearts and in our minds, where the questions first arose

And the seeds of doubt were planted, complicating life’s winding road.

So why keep on searching; think back to where it all began.

Then you’ll come to the realization, that the answers were at hand.

 

Yours truly,
Frank