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?


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.


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.


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!


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.


Bottle Half Full Isn’t Always Good

Hanae Mori perfume bottleThis is my bottle of my favorite perfume, Hanae Mori.  It is a great fragrance that my then boyfriend, now husband, bought for me on a Caribbean vacation about 15 years ago.  This is time when the bottle half full isn’t a good thing.  The other day as I walked past this half full perfume bottle, I was irritated with myself and had to do a little self talk.  The reason this bottle is half full and not completely empty is because I put it on a shelf to take down and wear only for special events.

Well, I definitely need to change my definition of special events.  When I survived breast cancer, I made a list of things I loved to do and said that I would do more of them.  I outlined all of the things that have brought me joy from the small (going to movies and comedy shows) to the large (traveling throughout the Caribbean), but somehow in these last 4 years and 10 months, there have been too many times that I let “life” get in the way.  The irony is that I know, more than ever, that no day is promised.  Life is the reason I should be celebrating.  Waking up is a special event.  Listening to music (yes, music was on my list) is a special event.  Having the opportunity to have a conversation with my husband, 9 year old son or 6 year old daughter is a special event.  All of the moments of my life – a life that is not guaranteed – are special events.

So, I plan to empty this bottle quickly.  (Somehow, I’ve got to get back to the Caribbean soon :-).  When I get up in the morning, I’ll dab some on and do what I said I would do, what I’ve urged others to do – celebrate survival, celebrate life ’cause they are special events.  EVERY DAY!

Melanie A. Nix – Triple negative breast cancer survivor.  Always striving to color outside of the lines when defining my new normal.  October 7, 2013

Overcoming, surviving and telling your story: Venus Williams, Serena Williams, and Me

On the first day of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2013, I want to talk about telling our stories.  I recently watched Venus and Serena, a documentary about, arguably, the most competitive and highest achieving tennis players in history.  The documentary focuses on 2011, but weaves in many other years from the sister’s childhood to their many championship wins into adulthood.  What was particularly profound to me was their resilience – from injury, defeat and illness.  Their tenacity.

I watched the story with pride and in awe of what these two beautiful, young African-American women have accomplished at a young age.  But, I also watched their honesty and vulnerability, them allowing cameras to follow them to some private spaces – hospitals and doctor’s offices – as their shared their thoughts about winning, losing, illness and rebuilding.  It took me back to many conversations that I’ve had with my husband, sister and friends about my survival.  For me, my story seems like a no brainer – do everything you can to survive and have a great quality of life.  But, to my family and friends, they often remark in awe about my journey from breast cancer diagnosis to treatment and survival.  And, when I think about many events I’ve attended with and conversations I’ve had with survivors, I’m always in awe of and inspired by their triumph and survival.  I’m encouraged and often feed off of their energy, especially when I’m facing challenging times.

So, as Venus and Serena shared their stories of overcoming sexism, racism, adversity and illness, it resonated with me.  As a triple negative breast cancer survivor, I know a bit about overcoming.  I know how important it is to hear stories of triumph, especially survival.  But, the world will only hear the stories if we, as survivors, tell them.

I’ve been at different points along my journey.  And, I’ve seen so much more in my own family as a fifth generation breast cancer patient surrounded by countless relatives who’ve battled cancer.  But, I’ve heard and witnessed stories of fortitude and such incredible strength (including those of my late mother and late aunt) that encouraged me during my darkest, most hopeless moments.  And, I’ve also had the blessing of having others share with me their being inspired by my survival.

Our stories of triumph, especially survival – we must share them.  We cannot deny the power of our survival and the determination, commitment, prayers and even obstacles that guided our survival.  Thank you Venus and Serena for what you’ve done for the sport of tennis, especially for females and African-Americans.  You are Champions.  Thank you for further inspiring the champion in me.

I am a champion – a breast cancer survivor of almost five years.  I’m grateful that I’ve lived to tell my story.  For all of my survivor sisters, please tell yours.  There’s undeniable power and strength in our stories.  Most of all, our stories can provide that mustard seed of faith that inspires another.  So, with the gift of having more breath in our bodies, let’s use it to give someone else a gift – the gift of hope and inspiration.

Melanie A. Nix – Always striving to color outside of the lines when defining my new normal

October 1, 2013

#breastcancer #breastcancersurvivor #triplenegativebreastcancer #breastcancerawarenessmonth #VenusWilliams #SerenaWilliams #tennis #champion #survivor

Valentine’s Day – Matters of the Heart

485245_10151462653575240_1438229617_nThe picture of the running shoes and online game of solitaire are two things that help me maintain a steady heartbeat. The running shoes for my 3x–4x weekly jog to keep exercise as a priority in my life and help reduce stress and the online game — a mindless, harmless pastime – that takes me away from the stress of the day to maintain calm. On Valentine’s Day, especially, we need to focus on matters of our own heart — literally.

On Valentine’s Day and always I wish you health, happiness and peace.

Always striving to color outside of the lines when defining my new normal.

Keep Climbing

On a Christmas Eve airplane flight, I was very concerned as we left Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on a wintry day with an oncoming storm. During the record breaking winter, storms were blanketing much of the United States. A cool, grey and rainy day, with declining temperatures, I was more than anxious as we prepared for takeoff.

We experienced some turbulence as the flight began its ascent and I looked out of my window onto the grey ugliness. As we began to climb, it didn’t take long for the flight to become smooth and for us to break through the clouds. As we broke through the clouds, I saw a beautiful site of a sea of celestial clouds accented by big beaming rays of sun. In just a few minutes, we had moved away from the winter storm into a slice of heaven.

I was reminded of the Christmas Eve trip this past weekend when I was on another flight and witnessed another beautiful sea of clouds. It made me think of the lessons I learned just a month earlier:

  1. If you keep climbing, you can put a lot of distance between you and the storm
  2. It’s okay to be nervous and anxious, but keep climbing
  3. Breakthroughs can happen quickly – it can be a short distance and a short time period between doom and gloom and majesty
  4. Turbulence and discomfort are often harbingers of positive change
  5. Sometimes we need to rely on our angels to pull us up and out of “hell” and into heaven. This day it was the pilots and flight attendants. For me, it’s my close family and dearest friends.

I believe that the beauty that transcends all of the gloom is God’s reward for having the courage to climb. KEEP CLIMBING!

Always striving to color outside of the lines when defining my new normal

My First Mammogram

Today, I was at my six year old’s soccer game speaking with one of the other soccer moms. During a break, she leaned over and whispered to me, “I got my first mammogram this week. I know it’s breast cancer awareness month and I thought it was a good time to get my mammogram.” I was glad that she shared her information with me, but more elated by her enthusiasm.

It was refreshing to know that she is excited to take charge of her health. I believe she is in her 40s and obviously has been impacted by the national breast cancer awareness month campaigns and messages she has heard about breast health. And, I think she felt comfortable sharing with me because she knows that I’m a young breast cancer survivor. As we left the game, I told her that I know that she might be anxious until she receives her results but that I would keep her in my thoughts for a mammogram that indicates normal, healthy breasts.

So why and I excited and why do we know it’s important to get mammograms? It’s not like #voting; we don’t get an “I voted” sticker to wear to show our civic responsibility and pride. It’s not like going to the pediatrician’s office for the first time; we don’t get a lollipop or other treat to reinforce a focus on living a healthy life and ensuring excitement to return for future appointments. For many, a mammogram is an uncomfortable exam that can be preceded by anxiety and fear. But for all of the potential emotions and feelings leading up to and immediately following a mammogram and for the seemingly absent instant gratification, there are many great benefits from getting your first mammogram and continuing to get mammograms.

  1. Your first mammogram serves as a baseline for doctors to use in detecting abnormalities and as a basis for determining any future breast changes as you continue to get mammograms.
  2. A mammogram can be used as a tool to detect breast cancer early, earlier than can be detected through a physical exam. EARLY DETECTION CAN SAVE YOUR LIFE.
  3. Your family, friends and loved ones will be grateful to you for taking charge of your health; making yourself a priority. You can only be good for others if you are good to yourself!

So, to my soccer mom friend and to all of the women who have decided to get your first mammogram, I applaud you. Continue to make yourself a priority and take charge of your health. Keep getting your mammograms. I wish you continued good health and a great life.

Breast Cancer, A Mother’s Day Gift and My Definition of Super Motherhood

Mother’s Day makes me ponder all the things that mothers do that makes them deserving of their own day of celebration and honor. This year, the thing that makes me deserving and honorable, the best thing I ever did for my children was battle and survive Triple Negative Breast Cancer, one of the most aggressive and recurring sub-types of breast cancer. When I was diagnosed at 38, my son was 4 and my daughter was 19 months. This diagnosis forced me to reexamine my definition of motherhood and my role as a mother.

18 months later, this is my first Mother’s Day post diagnosis that I’m not planning for chemo on Tuesday or scheduling a pre-operative physical for my next surgery. I’m not struggling to walk a city block or throw a ball with my kids. I’m not (generally) too exhausted to read a book, watch a movie or play a board game with my kids in the evenings after work. And, I can peel an orange for their snack. I can do these and many things that were daunting and impossible tasks, on Mother’s Day last year, while I was battling cancer, on chemo and recovering from multiple surgeries.

One of the worst times of my life, a sometimes helpless and lonely time, was a time that I abandoned my quasi-normal routine and huddled with my medical team to give myself some good odds for a good quality of life and some more Mother’s Days with my children and my husband. But, it also made me refocus my hopes for motherhood, the ways I want to challenge, encourage and support my kids – being their role model – the legacy I want to leave for them. And, I want to be sure that I leave an indelible imprint on their hearts and their souls.

What’s the best way to do this? There have been times when I got caught up in the “supermom” hype, questioning and second-guessing every decision that didn’t conform to the socially and politically “acceptable” norms. Reading any number of published articles on motherhood can only compound this with the unrealistic picture of the perfect PTA mother, whose perfectly shaped brownies greet the breastfed kids upon their arrival from school; whose kids always have matching socks, lunch with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches cut into perfect geometric, or better, animal shapes; who can play the piano, violin, harp; speak English, French and Spanish (sign language too); are asleep in their own bed at 7:30pm every night; can tell time on a non-digital watch and head their own Political Action Committee, all by the age of 4. Any deviation can prompt self doubt and questioning “am I a good mother”. Ahhhh, the pressure.

But, I can say unequivocally that I’m a great mom who has given her children a great gift, the gift of my time. Time to watch my son learn how to read. Time to listen to my daughter sing throughout the house. Time to walk beside them as they ride their bikes to the playground near our home. Time to hold their hands when they are frightened in a new environment. Time to be a guide and help them learn how to play nicely in the sandbox. Time to discipline when they blatantly do wrong. Time to kiss the boo-boo when they fall. Time to hug when they are disappointed. Time to protect them, time to expose them to new things, time to love them unconditionally every second, every minute, every hour of every day. Time to watch them blossom in God’s garden and be proud.

Their socks may not always match, they may never master multiple languages, instruments or get to every soccer, basketball or swim practice on time and with the right equipment. I surely don’t meet the standard of the archetypal supermom, but I am super and I am mom. My precious son and daughter have told me so and they are arguably the only ones who should be judging.

As mothers we are all, at one time or another, battling and surviving something. It may be the demanding job that didn’t deliver the work life balance it promised, but the paycheck keeps the family afloat in a depressed economy. It may be the huge socio-economic disparity that distances you from the other families at your child’s school, but the school provides them with an enriching academic and social environment. It may be a chronic ailment that keeps you from attending every recital, but allows you to be a great one-on-one coach at home. There are many choices, often difficult, hand wringing choices that we make to provide what we have determined is the best for our children. At one point or another, we may all be conflicted, concerned, unsure and scared.

And, especially if you find yourself in the unenviable situation of being a mom battling breast cancer. Be proud of yourself for having the courage (no matter how fleeting) to battle and the capacity to nurture your children no matter how limited your physical strength. Fight for yourself. Fight for your children. If their normal changes, let them show you how resilient and adaptable they can be.

Before me, my mother battled breast cancer for most of my childhood. I don’t resent her because I couldn’t go to a popular summer camp that she had planned for me after third grade, but I hold priceless memories of that summer and the time I had spending it with my mother, sister, grandmother, cousins, aunts and uncles that summer after her first mastectomy. I didn’t fall behind in elementary school because chemo drained my mother’s energy and she was too tired to check my homework every night. I did well in school and went on to get two degrees. I don’t remember mommy making me geometric shaped sandwiches or registering me for every extracurricular activity. But, I do remember her patience as I bounced from piano to flute and back to piano, never becoming truly great at either one. I remember her unconditional support, her applause and smiles, words of praise after my recitals. I remember her laughter and the comfort of her hugs. I remember her handwriting on encouraging notes. I remember her love. I remember that the best gift she ever gave me was her fighting spirit. She epitomized the definition of supermom, a real supermom, they way I’m patterning myself now.

I have a strong family history of breast cancer and death from the disease before age 50. I am in remission. I have no idea what my journey holds, but I pray that I defy my family’s odds. A lot of times, my faith is shaky and I don’t know what to hold on to. But, I need just reach out and hold onto my babies and get lost in their embrace to get some grounding. As time passes, I may not remember all the words on a mother’s day card they give me, but I’ll always remember the pedestal that they place me on. I’ll always be supermom to them and any moment I have with them, every moment I have with them, is my Mother’s Day gift.

So, on this second Sunday in May, 2010, write and live your own definition of super motherhood. It’s the best mother’s day gift that you can give yourself and your children. You earned it. You deserve it.

(Dedicated to my beautiful mom, an unassuming and humble pioneer who inspired me to walk my own path.)