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5 Important Lessons on Being Grounded

On Monday, I discussed a postponed beach trip, but why I’m keeping my bags packed anyway.  (I’m hopeful that this weekend I’ll get there).  But, it put traveling and road trips on my mind.  I’ve had a few instances where a flight was grounded and a trip turned, unexpectedly, into an extended or overnight trip.  When making alternate arrangements and thinking about the time I was losing, I was irked and irritated by being grounded.

I’ve hated being grounded.  I’m impatient.  As a reconstructionist™, having dealt with the physical, spiritual, emotional and financial devastation that comes with life-threatening illness and life devastating events, I am always eager for an uncomfortable or bad situation to quickly change.  I’m always looking for positive change.

I’ve been grounded a number of times, by flight cancellations, and by my late mother disciplining a young mischievous daughter (me).  I’ve also been grounded by a job layoff, business opportunities that failed and relationships that fell apart.  When I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, I was grounded by the physically, spiritually, emotionally and financially debilitating effects of treatment.  Each situation triggered anger, irritation and impatience.  A forced delay in my plans has never been good.  Or has it?

grounded-airplane

The irony is that while being grounded seems a waste of time, it can actually be a gift of time.   As I reflect now on life’s delays and plan changes, I realize that being grounded is sometimes the ultimate gift of more time to rest, plan, prepare, and perfect; to be fully ready to take advantage when my best opportunity arises.  It’s my choice how I use my time when I’m grounded.  I’ve started moving from bemoaning the situation to better managing the time to be fully prepared for an opportunity to fly.

A quick Google search provides the definitions of grounded:

  • a parent refusing to allow a child to go out socially as punishment
  • to prohibit or prevent (a pilot or aircraft) from flying
  • a person who understands what’s important in life

When a parent grounds a child it is the parent’s experience and wisdom guiding them to deter the child’s unwanted or bad behavior.  It is a push for more positive behavior and outcomes.  When a plane is grounded, it is the experience and wisdom of the pilots, air traffic controllers, mechanics, and aviation experts who make the decision to delay the flight.  When a person is described as grounded, it is their experience and wisdom that enables them to focus on what’s important in life.  A person who is grounded can prioritize those investments of time, energy and attention that will yield the most rewarding outcomes.

When I think back on the groundings of my youth with clarity and perspective, I realize that these distraction free periods actually enabled me to be a better student.  Without the distractions of the telephone (landline in my day), parties and other outings, my focus was more intense and there was a palpable difference between being a good student and dedicating time to being a great student.  It helped add a measure of discipline to my young life that I was lacking.

study-books-and-learning

And, as someone who has had my share of hours watching an airport monitor change from a flight delay to a flight cancellation, I’ve got experience being grounded in airports.  Often viewed as a waste of my time, when I again reflect with my hindsight 20/20 vision and a more mature perspective, I realize that my time was better spent focusing on how to be productive and make great use of the time while I was grounded versus focusing on what I was missing.  Just like a mechanic who is called to fix the plane, it can be my opportunity to focus on and make my own repairs and improvements.  The mechanics use this grounded time to put the plane in a better position to have a safe flight at a great altitude.  Maybe being grounded is a sign that I’m not (yet) ready to fly.

For sure, being grounded is a time to think really hard about what’s led me to this place and where I’m trying to go.  At times, it’s definitely meant that I’m burnt out.  Maybe I’ve used too much time, attention and energy on things outside of myself.  Maybe I need some physical or mental rest.  I need to refuel.  Maybe I just need time to stop neglecting my needs and focus on me.  Life’s distractions can find a way of pushing us away from our needs.  We can stop nurturing ourselves in constant haste to get from here to there and back again.

relaxing-woman-at-beach

Finally, by being grounded, I can become more grounded.  Without distractions, with a focus on making better use of my time, with a focus on me, I can prioritize and truly zero in on those things that are important in life, those things that will help me get off the ground when my time is right.

Sometimes, no maturity or perspective can change the fact that being grounded can suck, especially when there seems to be no rhyme or reason why.  We don’t deserve bad things to happen to us.  I’m just learning to change my approach to how I use the time.  When it appears that there are no introspective moments that provide clarity, this may be the clear sign that it is simply just time to rest and recharge.

I’m reconstructing life after breast cancer and these lessons are much clearer to me now.  Each time I’m grounded, I have to be more attune to the chance to make the best use of my time.   The 5 important lessons I’ve learned from being grounded are:

  1. Being grounded provides an opportunity to change a behavior
  2. Being grounded provides an opportunity to focus on making (personal) improvements and working toward excellence
  3. Being grounded provides an opportunity to rest and refuel
  4. Being grounded provides an opportunity to nurture myself
  5. My changes that come from being grounded allow me to live a life that is in step with what’s valuable and important to me

At the very least, I owe it to myself when I’m grounded to be reflective and introspective to determine how to best use and manage my downtime.  During chemo, I couldn’t walk a city block without extreme fatigue.  I needed rest to heal.  Now, post treatment, I’m a distance runner who has completed a half marathon and three 10 mile races.  I hated being laid off, but found it a beautiful time to spend more time at school with my small children.  I was able to attend daytime school events and presentations, sit at school performances without a laptop in tow and a cell phone in my ear, half listening to a work conference call.  And surely one of my prayers when I was diagnosed with breast cancer was having the opportunity to watch my children grow up.  With this gift of time, I was able to do so with far less interruption from the seemingly never ending call of the corporate world.  I was able to move away from the early morning, late afternoon meetings, the stressful deadlines and the unreasonable demands of my corporate grind.  I’ve transitioned to writing, speaking, and coaching; things that I love and that provide such fulfillment and joy that I wouldn’t have been able to do while sitting in my cubicle.

As adults, we are no longer under our parents’ watch and constant care.  But, God and life have a way of redirecting us, grounding us, when we would otherwise be going in the wrong direction.  I didn’t get to the beach last weekend, but got the opportunity to spend some wonderful days with my family and friends that truly fed my soul.  When a business opportunity doesn’t come to fruition (yet), when a financial investment doesn’t show great reward (yet), when a personal opportunity doesn’t yield positive results (yet) and I’m grounded, I have to remember that it may be a sign that I need to rest and then put in more work, more planning, more preparation in order for me to be ready to take flight and soar!

airplane-takeoff

Melanie A. Nix – Triple negative breast cancer survivor.  Resilience Coach, Reconstructionist™ and Health and Wellness Advocate.  Always striving to color outside of the lines when defining my new normal.

Keeping My Bags Packed

***NOTE:  I send my thoughts and a special prayer to all, including my father, who were near, in the path of and/or impacted by Hurricane Hermine.***

Last week, I counted down the days until our family’s annual pre-Labor Day beach trip which is a quick two hour drive from our home.  For our family, the beach is such a fun place.  We love riding the waves, making sand sculptures and, for me, meditating and being at a place of serenity.  Somehow the sun seems brighter reflecting off of the ocean and the rays of the sun seem warmer when my feet are in the sand.  The waves washing up on shore sounds like beautiful music to me.  I packed our bags and watched the weather forecasts, tracking Hurricane Hermine.

Last Friday, the day before departure, I was still optimistic that the weather would hold up.  Although the forecast for beach day was cloudy and in the mid-70s, rain and wind and the onset of the storm were forecasted to hold off until late afternoon.  By then, we’d have spent a few hours at the beach, walked the water’s edge, meditated by the waves and gotten some sweets from our favorite candy store.

Friday night, the forecast changed with rain and the strong winds expected much earlier in the day.  I still held out some, although fading, hope.  I had filled my gas tank and had already packed the car.  I was ready for an early morning departure with little to do except get in the car and go.

I went to sleep hoping and praying that the forecast might change, as forecasts tend to do even over short periods. I was hoping the storm would lose its strength by morning.  When I awoke, the forecast was much the same as the night before.  I tried to get accurate and up to the minute information and thought I might go to the beach later in the day; still hopeful.  As I got the detailed information, it was clear that the storm was too strong and meteorologists urged beachgoers to make alternate plans.

It was evident that the weather wouldn’t be conducive for the beach any day during the long weekend.  This marked the first time in some years that we would miss Labor Day by the water.  I unpacked the car, but I left my packed bags in the corner of my office and chose not to unpack them.  I want to be ready.  The forecast for this coming weekend calls for good beach weather.  Whatever routine we planned to return to this weekend, will be changed if the weekend weather forecast remains the same.  I’m not unpacking my bags because I want to be ready to jump right into the car and make the trip this weekend.  The storm may delay me, but it won’t stop me.

I’ve had many storms in my life; cancer has been the most consistent and biggest storm including my mother’s breast cancer diagnosis, her recurrences and death from metastatic breast cancer; my aunt’s breast cancer and ovarian cancer diagnoses, her recurrences and death from metastatic ovarian cancer; my own triple negative breast cancer diagnosis when my children were four years old and 19 months old.  Throughout my life, I’ve learned that you generally won’t know when a storm will come, when it will end, and the strength and intensity of the storm.  Because I’ll never know when storms will come and go, when they will begin or end and how many storms there will be in my life, I’m leaving my bags packed, always ready and prepared for the end of the storm and always chasing the sun!

Melanie A. Nix – Triple negative breast cancer survivor.  Resilience Coach, Reconstructionist™ and Health and Wellness Advocate.  Always striving to color outside of the lines when defining my new normal.

A Change in My Surroundings – Part 4 – Inspirational Books Around Me

A few blogs ago, we discussed how a change in your surroundings can replace negative reminders and provide instant gratification.  One of the items on the list was having a music player or iPod speaker to have uplifting music at your fingertips and we provided a list in A Change in My Surroundings – Part 2.  An item on the list was having Bible verses, poems, calming passages posted or framed in your surroundings and we provided a list in A Change in My Surroundings – Part 3.  Another item on the list was uplifting books of hope, faith, courage and peace.  I said that I would share some in a future blog.  Here are a few:

  1. The Bible
  2. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
  3. The Prophet by Khalil Gibran
  4. Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss
  5. The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life by Dr. Bruce H. Wilkinson
  6. The Power of Hope The One Essential of Life and Love by Maurice Lamm
  7. Hope Happens! words of encouragement for times of change by Catherine DeVrye
  8. Be Happy 170 ways to transform your day by Patrick Lindsay
  9. Now Is the Time 170 Ways to Seize the Moment by Patrick Lindsay
  10. Inner Simplicity by Elaine St. James

This is not an exhaustive list, but a few to consider.  Please let me know which you like and others that should be added to the list.

Melanie A. Nix – Triple negative breast cancer survivor.  Resilience Coach, Reconstructionist™ and Health and Wellness Advocate.  Always striving to color outside of the lines when defining my new normal.

A Change in My Surroundings – Part 3 – Inspirational Passages Around Me

A few blogs ago, we discussed how a change in your surroundings can replace negative reminders and provide instant gratification.  One of the items on the list was having a music player or iPod speaker to have uplifting music at your fingertips and we provided a list in A Change in My Surroundings – Part 2.  Another item on the list was having Bible verses, poems, calming passages posted or framed in your surroundings.  I said that I would share some in a future blog.  Here are a few:

  1. Psalm 23 in The Bible
  2. The Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr
  3. “Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann
  4. “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley
  5. “What It Takes to be Number One” by Vince Lombardi
  6. Prayer of Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 in The Bible
  7. “If” by Rudyard Kipling
  8. “A Bag of Tools” by R. Lee Sharpe
  9. “Don’t Quit” sometimes credited as anonymous and other times credited to Edgar A. Guest
  10. Write your own inspirational, motivational and uplifting words to keep close by

This is not an exhaustive list, but a few to consider.  Please let me know which you like and others that should be added to the list.

Melanie A. Nix – Triple negative breast cancer survivor.  Resilience Coach, Reconstructionist™ and Health and Wellness Advocate.  Always striving to color outside of the lines when defining my new normal.

Olympic Lessons for Reconstruction

As the sun sets on the 2016 Olympics in Rio and we turn our sights to Tokyo 2020, I’d like to reflect on the last 2+ weeks of intense competition and sportsmanship.  I strongly believe in the Role Model In the Mirror and also find value of lessons from others who are the best at what they do – winners!  Those who have tried, failed, and tried again.  Their tenacity and unwavering dedication and commitment provide some useful nuggets especially as a breast cancer survivor undergoing life reconstruction, adjusting to the new normal, and seeking the very best today and in the future.

I love the back stories of athletes that document their beginnings, their struggles, and everything in between that leads them to the Olympics.  I’m sure you’ve got your favorites, but here are a few of mine:

  • Simone Biles – this 19 year old won four gold medals and a bronze medal dominating women’s gymnastics in her first Olympics.
  • Katie Ledecky – this 19 year old won four gold medals and a bronze medal in some races that weren’t even close.
  • Simone Manuel – this 20 year old won two gold medals and two bronze medals where, in some races, she didn’t seem favored to even get a medal
  • Helen Maroulis – this 24 year old became the first American woman to win a wrestling gold medal. She beat a seemingly invincible opponent and was guided by her mantra “Christ is in me, I am enough.”
  • Allyson Felix – this 34 year old won two gold medals and a silver medal. After a failed baton pass, a challenge and another qualifying run, she won a relay gold medal.  She is the only female track and field athlete to win six gold medals and is tied as the most decorated female track and field athlete with a total of nine medals.
  • Michael Phelps – this 31 year old won five gold medals and one silver medal. He is now the most decorated Olympian with 28 medals.
  • Usain Bolt – this 30 year old (29 during his Olympic runs) completed a triple triple in Rio by winning three gold medals in three Olympics.
  • Claressa Shields – this 21 year old is the first U.S. boxer to win back to back gold medals.
  • Kristin Armstrong – this 42 year old mother won gold (before her 43rd birthday), managing some difficult weather and a bloody nose, in the Olympic cycling time trial; her third consecutive gold.
  • USA Women’s Water Polo team – the team wins a back to back gold medal with Ashleigh Johnson as the first African American goalie on a U.S. water polo team and a coach who lost a brother just prior to the Olympics.
  • Jillion Potter – This 30 year old battled cancer to become a Rugby sevens Olympian.

There are so many other history making and incredible stories, but these are a few that are top of my mind.  Some of the lessons, some of the thread of these stories, are certainly applicable to reconstruction and adjusting to the new normal:

  • See it, Believe it – The athletes visualized and or wrote down their dreams of being great, winning, becoming an Olympian
  • Never settle – The athletes didn’t settle, even launching challenges when, at first blush, it seemed they had no chance of moving forward or winning.
  • Keep going – Obstacles and setbacks didn’t prevent them from trying again and again.
  • No easy path – There were no quick and easy paths; many had to change course in order to move forward and become better.
  • Discomfort can bring forth growth – Many had to leave comfortable situations and surroundings in order to become the best.
  • No shortcuts – There are no shortcuts to a phenomenal outcome; each put in consistent hard work and prioritized their training, research and preparation
  • No excuses – they didn’t use life circumstances, injuries and setbacks as an excuse for not striving for and being their best.

I am always inspired by the Role Model In The Mirror.  These stories and lessons provide some additional inspiration.  As we rebuild, as we adjust to the new normal, remember that there can be many gold medal moments.

Melanie A. Nix – Triple negative breast cancer survivor.  Resilience Coach, Reconstructionist™ and Health and Wellness Advocate.  Always striving to color outside of the lines when defining my new normal.

In Sickness and Health – With Gratitude to Caregivers and Co-survivors

My husband, Ray, was very excited for us to exchange traditional vows at our wedding 15 years ago.  Little did we know that seven years into our marriage we would live the vows “in sickness and in health” when I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer.  On that fall morning in 2008 when I received my diagnosis, he morphed from husband and friend to caregiver and co-survivor.

Caregiver and co-survivor is an often overlooked, but can be a soul saving role.  My husband and I went from celebrating a second honeymoon on a trip to the Caribbean to making life saving and life changing decisions.  Somehow, I thought any serious sickness might come, if at all, when we had great grandkids and were much older.  At 40 and 38, Ray and I, with a 4 year old son and 19 month old daughter, were thrust into new roles.  Ray was the man who provided a shoulder to cry on and prayed for me when my faith was shaken; he was by my side through multiple hospital stays with my bilateral mastectomy, prophylactic oophorectomy and reconstruction and 16 cycles of chemotherapy.  He spent over 12 months as medical researcher, hospital taxi, hospital companion, doctor’s appointment taxi, doctor’s appointment companion, drain tube drainer and bandage changer, and reconstruction cheerleader.  He was the first to compliment me on my chemo bald head and the first to share my excitement when wiry strands of grey hair started to grow back.  He was so attentive at doctor’s appointments; taking notes on how to bandage and care for my bruised body.  And, he seemed to have many elixirs to care for my bruised soul.  He praised me and exalted me.

Through nights of nausea, days of intense pain and exhaustion, sadness, anxiety, hopelessness and despair, I had a steadfast champion and nurturer.  To the man who loved me back to life, to my soulmate who became my soul savior, in sickness and in health.  My gratitude.  My love.

To every caregiver, every co-survivor, every friend who cared and loved through the valleys and walked with you and helped you climb mountains.  May life give back to you all that you have given to those you have believed in and nurtured.

Melanie A. Nix – Triple negative breast cancer survivor.  Resilience Coach, Reconstructionist™ and Health and Wellness Advocate.  Always striving to color outside of the lines when defining my new normal.

A Change in My Surroundings – Part 2 – Inspirational Music Around Me

Last week, we discussed how a change in your surroundings can replace negative reminders and provide instant gratification.  One of the first items on the list was having a music player or iPod speaker in your surroundings to have uplifting music at your fingertips. I said that I would share some uplifting tunes on my playlist in a future blog.  Here are a few

  1. Rise Up – Andra Day
  2. Just Do You – India.Arie
  3. Roar – Katy Perry
  4. I Trust You – James Fortune & FIYA
  5. Coming Out of the Dark – Gloria Estefan
  6. Fly Like a Bird – Mariah Carey
  7. I Didn’t Know My Own Strength – Whitney Houston
  8. Never Stop – Brand New Heavies
  9. This Is It – Kenny Loggins
  10. Seattle – Mary Mary
  11. Beautiful – Christina Aguilera
  12. Survivor – Destiny’s Child
  13. When I’m Back on My Feet Again – Michael Bolton
  14. The Living Proof – Mary J. Blige
  15. Fight Song – Rachel Platten
  16. Brave – Sara Bareilles
  17. Rise – Katy Perry
  18. My Wish – Rascal Flatts
  19. Through the Storm – Yolanda Adams
  20. Conqueror – Estelle

This is not an exhaustive list, but a few to get you started. Some are songs that I listed to when I wake up, some I listen to when I’m working out; all have helped motivate and inspire me to be amazing in my new normal.  These songs are definitely part of my “soundtrack”.  I hope they prove uplifting for you, too.  Please let me know which ones you like and others that should be added to the list.

Melanie A. Nix – Triple negative breast cancer survivor.  Resilience Coach, Reconstructionist™ and Health and Wellness Advocate.  Always striving to color outside of the lines when defining my new normal.

 

A Change in My Surroundings

Who you are surrounded by matters (more discussion on this in a future blog).  What you are surrounded by matters as well.  My house holds great memories, but it is also where I lived when I was diagnosed with and battled triple negative breast cancer.  And, I’d like to rid myself of some of these reminders.

There’s no spigot of money, but there are some relatively low cost things that I can do to surround myself by some beautiful and uplifting things that replace negative reminders and provide instant gratification.  Items of beauty and positivity can be a constant source of encouragement, motivation and inspiration.  Here are a few:

  1. Music player or iPod speaker – uplifting music at your fingertips. (I will share some uplifting tunes on my playlist in a future blog).
  2. Bible verses, poems, calming passages posted or framed (I will share a few that I like and that have been motivational for me in a future blog).
  3. Piece(s) of art – preferably one that you create. Watercolor, drawing, sculpture, framed puzzle can all be therapeutic as well as become pieces of art.
  4. Color throughout. Paint can be a quick, easy and relatively inexpensive project, especially if you tackle an accent wall; an accent wall should be the wall that you look at first thing in the morning and last thing before you go to sleep.  You can also add some colorful curtains, pillows or throws (remnants from most fabric and craft stores are sold at discounts and could be a good source for creating some of these pieces).
  5. Uplifting books of hope, faith, and courage. (I’ll share a few that I like and that have been motivational for me in a future blog).
  6. Flowers – if not allergic, a few fresh flowers from the supermarket are not too expensive. If you have allergies, the synthetic flower market has really evolved and they have some that look like the real deal.
  7. A vase filled with colorful marbles or accents.
  8. A vision board (definitely would love to discuss this in a future blog) or a picture of your serenity place (the beach, the woods, a mountain).
  9. Scented candle if not allergic or some fragrance that is tolerable. Plus, the candle market has evolved and some are also actually like works of art.
  10. Pictures of you and your support team that will reinforce the full force that you’ve got behind you.

This is not an exercise in interior design or a makeover, but more a spruce up to help infuse more positivity and uplifting things in your every day.  If you don’t have the time, energy or finances to begin these changes, they are great suggestions to provide to your support team when they ask “How can I help?” “What can I do?” “What do you want?”  You can provide your list and invite their assistance to help you infuse your surroundings with positive reminders and beauty.

Please send pictures and updates of any ideas that you incorporate in your surroundings and also any additional ideas that you have to add to the list.

Melanie A. Nix – Triple negative breast cancer survivor.  Resilience Coach, Reconstructionist™ and Health and Wellness Advocate.  Always striving to color outside of the lines when defining my new normal.

I Don’t Want to Land on My Feet

I’ve fallen many times.  My mother’s death from breast cancer knocked me down, off my feet.  My triple negative breast cancer diagnosis knocked me down, off my feet.  Growing up, I always heard the platitude that things are good if you land on your feet.  I’m going to remove this phrase from my vocabulary.  I DON’T, I never want to land on my feet again.  I want to fly, high!

Melanie A. Nix – Triple negative breast cancer survivor.  Resilience Coach, Reconstructionist™ and Health and Wellness Advocate.  Always striving to color outside of the lines when defining my new normal.

Putting the Puzzle Together

Stuck in that place where your life is like a 1,000+ piece puzzle and you just don’t know how to solve it?  As a Reconstructionist™, I’m often consumed with how to put things together to solve this puzzle of rebuilding life after a breast cancer diagnosis, a life threatening illness, a life changing or catastrophic event.

My daughter loves puzzles and my late mother loved puzzles.  I’ve seen each spend hours or just a few minutes to quickly solve a puzzle depending on the type, the color variations, and the sizes and shapes of the pieces.  There are so many ways to solve a puzzle.  I remember my mother would start by picking out all of the corner and outer pieces (any with a straight edge).  She would build the entire frame first and then methodically complete the inner pieces.  My daughter will sometimes dump everything out and first work on pieces that have similar colors and graphics.  She will put together groupings of pieces at a time and then put those groups of pieces together to solve the puzzle and see the Big Picture.

Throughout my life, I’ve seen my late mother and, now, my daughter solve many puzzles; each with her own method and timing.  I’ve been guilty of feeling overwhelmed by the puzzle pieces of this “new normal” and being like an ostrich with my head in the sand.  But, I’ve learned that your head doesn’t need to be in the sand. There are multiple ways to solve the puzzle, some fast and easy and some more lengthy and difficult.  But, solving the puzzle starts when you open the box and dump out all of the pieces and begin to see things take shape.

Think about how you will you get started working on your puzzle right now!

Melanie A. Nix – Triple negative breast cancer survivor.  Resilience Coach, Reconstructionist™ and Health and Wellness Advocate.  Always striving to color outside of the lines when defining my new normal.