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5 Steps to a Blissfully Unproductive Weekend

Happy Independence Day to all of my American readers. Today is our national holiday celebrating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. It's a day of family picnics, parades, fireworks, baseball and concerts. It's a day to celebrate freedom.

And what better way to celebrate freedom than with a four-day weekend! If you're lucky to have the next few days off, here's five steps to a blissfully unproductive weekend:

1. Change Your Mindset, If Only For the Weekend: If you have a workaholic, productivity proves validity mindset like me, you don't relax easily. Why not try changing your mindset for just a weekend? Everyone needs time to relax and recharge and anyone who thinks they are productive 24/7 is just kidding themselves anyway. So go ahead, throw relentless productivity to the wind and resolve to be blissfully unproductive this weekend. You can always go back to being a crazed workaholic on Monday.

2. Unplug From Your Electronics: Put the stresses and obligations of the work week on hold by separating yourself from your cell phone, tablet or laptop. Deliberately unplugging makes a statement to yourself and others, "I choose to relax and be blissfully unproductive for a few days."  

Go one step further and seek out silence. As Deepak Chopra said, "Silence is the great teacher, and to learn its lessons you must pay attention to it. There is no substitute for the creative inspiration, knowledge, and stability that come from knowing how to contact your core of inner silence."

3. Stay in the Moment:  As hard as it is to unplug from your electronics, it's even harder to unplug from your monkey mind. You know what monkey mind is - the incessant chatter of worry, "should's," "what if's," and past/future focus. When the chatter starts building, take a breath and stop. In that moment of awareness, you create a gap that allows you to recognize the noise for what it is, before it takes you away with it. Practicing "catch and release" of your monkey mind thoughts, keeps you present in the here and now and focuses your mind on one thing at a time.   

4. Have Fun:  Fun is not a luxury. Let me repeat: Fun is not a luxury. In fact, fun is necessary to a healthy life. Spontaneous fun is great and happens more often when you're in the moment. But planning for fun is as important as planning your meals. This is a great weekend to go to a concert, parade, family picnic or watch fireworks. It's also a great weekend to have sex, read a book, lie in a hammock, or make banana bread. Fun doesn't have to be big and noisy. Fun is whatever feeds your soul and makes you feel more alive. Go have fun.

5. Reconnect With Loved Ones: Sometimes we're so overwhelmed with obligations, schedules, responsibilities and appointments that we forget to really be with the people we love. If you turn off the TV, phone and laptop; stay in the moment and go looking for fun, guess where you'll end up? Reconnecting with friends and family! That's the message of this adorable video. Enjoy!


May you have a wonderful, blissfully unproductive weekend! 

Survival > Existence,

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Are You Spending Too Much Time with Technology?

The Survivor's Nest - Family Togetherness

Scared to Move Your Body After Breast Cancer? Here's How to Get Started

Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity. Hippocrates

If you're like me, cancer treatments and surgeries left you afraid to move your body, feeling out of control and angry. I needed to heal, but had no idea how to rebuild my body and my confidence.

Finally, an opportunity presented itself - I found the MovingOn Rehabilitative Exercise program. Specifically designed to address the physical limitations breast cancer survivors feel after chemotherapy, radiation and/or surgical procedures, the program was tailor-made for me and I signed up immediately. 

MovingOn's founder, Lockey Maisonneuve, is a breast cancer survivor, certified personal trainer and cancer exercise specialist. You can read the interview I did with her here (that's Lockey in green.) MovingOn (and Lockey, who is now a dear friend) are true gifts of my cancer and I wholeheartedly endorse her program. (I'm a two-time graduate.) 

Now you can move on too, because Lockey's program is on video (and I have a surprise coming up for you, so read on!) Check it out if you're experiencing common post-treatment discomforts such as:
  • Tightness in the chest area
  • Weakness in the back and neck area
  • Discomfort in the shoulders
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle and joint pain

In the video Lockey demonstrates gentle, rehabilitative exercises designed to open up the chest area, strengthen back muscles and correct posture. These exercises can be performed in a sitting position, lying down, at home or at work. 

Get your video download here. But, before you click on the link, SURPRISE!  As a fellow WWGN member, Lockey is giving you $5.00 off the price of the video. To get it, make sure to enter coupon code WWGN.

Also, it's very important to "CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE STARTING ANY NEW ACTIVITY OR EXERCISE PROGRAM." (I really mean it! I'm not a doctor and am not qualified to give medical advice. You must get an okay from your doctor before starting an exercise program, especially after cancer treatments.)

Survival > Existence,

Stopping to Recognize Live Out Loud Joy As You're Living It

While our children were in grammar school, I waited with them for the bus every morning on a corner directly in front of our house. 

That corner was not their original bus stop. As the school year approached for our brand new kindergarten student, a post card arrived in the mail assigning her to a bus stop a few blocks from our house. After the first few weeks of September, I realized the bus had to pass "our corner" to get to her stop, where she was the only pick-up. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I asked that her stop be moved to the corner closer to our house. Given her young age and the fact that we weren't adding a stop or changing the route, my request was granted.

For nine years, our children were the only pick-ups at that corner.

As I stood waiting for the bus with them, we worked through the sweet sadness of letting go, if only for a few hours a day. We collected acorns and pebbles from the ground to put in my daughter's pocket as reminders throughout the day that I was always with her. As the years went by, she didn't need the acorns as much, but last August when she went off to college she took a small token of mine that fit discreetly in her backpack for the very same reason. 

Speaking of college, we talked about it at the bus stop on one of her first days of school. (The year escapes me now.) After a long summer together, she was especially upset about going off to school and leaving me. It struck me then that this was the first of many such separations. I took a risk and told her that one day I would be sending her off to college but, just like today, she would be able to handle it and I would always be there for her no matter how long or far our separation. It was both poignant and reassuring to remember that conversation when we left her on campus the first day of freshman year.  

My son and I collected tiny pine cones, which still fill a bowl in my front hall. We talked and laughed and made jokes. I kissed him goodbye and held his hand for as long as he would let me. Finally when he entered the fifth grade, he lobbied hard to stand alone on the bus stop. I didn't want to give up our time and was nervous he'd bounce and play right off the sidewalk and into the path of the bus if I wasn't there, but I finally let him go. For the rest of that year, I watched over him from my kitchen window until the bus safely whisked him away.

Why am I telling you this now? 

Every day, at approximately 8:13 a.m., I hear that same bus round the corner and I remember those moments with my children. I said it before and I'll say it again, it's the little things that give us joy. For just a few minutes we got to stop the madness of school mornings to notice the little things, like rocks and acorns and pine cones. In the process, we were sharing joy and learning to trust that we could let go and and come back together again.

When I look back now, did I stop to recognize the joy of those moments in the moment?  Did I know then how much I would treasure them now? Was I aware that living life out loud was often at its best with very little noise and fanfare?

I'm sure there were mornings I was in a hurry or not in the greatest of moods. That's why I was inspired to write this post by a video I discovered on Gretchen Rubin's website, The Happiness Project. You can watch the video, The Days are Long But the Years Are Short, here. This is one of my favorite websites and I'm happy to share it with you if you haven't yet discovered it.

If the video resonates with you too, please let me know in the comments how it inspires you to stop and find joy in the little things.

Survival > Existence,

Related Post:

10 Little Things to Do With Mindful Awareness

The Gift of Julia Child & a Broken Hot Plate

Image credit: samaro / 123RF Stock Photo


Are You Still Telling People You're Fine When You're Not?

"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." Maya Angelou

"I'm tired of telling people I'm fine when I'm not." Debbie Woodbury

I founded WWGN because I wanted to continue sharing with other people who "got it." Along the way, I discovered that telling my cancer story and finding support were the keys to creating inspired healing, wellness and live out loud joy.

Twelve days ago, I appeared live on GE Healthcare's Breast Cancer Mosaic webinar and shared my story in great detail. I talked about all aspects of cancer's impact on my life, including:

Receiving a diagnosis;
Survivor's Guilt;
Body Image;
Giving Back;
Family Responsibilities;
and so much more.

The overarching message I wanted to share was the importance of finding a community of people who completely understand where you are. As I talk about in the video, it took me a long time to find support (over six months.) When I finally found it, I felt as if someone had thrown me a lifeline and saved my life. With that support I gradually found validation and strength, which enabled me to take responsibility for telling my story - rather than keeping it locked inside me. 

To all of you who sent me questions during the webinar as part of the #BCMTalks twitter chat, thank you so much for your participation. Much thanks also to those of you who wrote to tell me that my vulnerability (some tears were shed) inspired you to open up too.

When you have the time, I'd love you to watch my video so I can share my story with you. Even better, I'd really like you to share your story with me in the comments below.  

Survival > Existence,

Related Posts:

Express Yourself - Tell Your Untold Story

Do You Share Your Bad Attitude Toward Cancer?

Do You Want to Find Support - Communicate!

Six Things You Need to Find Your Divine, Female Creative Power of Reinvention

How to Cope When Mama Bear Has Cancer

I tell my cancer story a lot. I tell it here at WWGN and to groups of medical professionals as a patient educator with the Pathways Women's Cancer Teaching Project. Last Thursday I told it to the world in an hour-long live GE Healthcare Breast Cancer Mosaic webinar. 

It's an emotional story, of course, as anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer knows. After four years and many retellings the details have gotten a bit easier to recount - except in one area. My husband. My children. My family. When I get to their part in my cancer story, the same tidal wave of emotion that hit me then hits me again. And all I can do is accept and dive into the wave.

It's hard to explain, but anyone who loves doesn't need an explanation. My 19-year old daughter was a newborn when I held her in my arms and first felt it. An overwhelming surge of protectiveness washed over me. In an instant I claimed my primal she-bear fierceness and it imprinted on my psyche forever.

Fifteen years later, the phone rang and I learned my mammogram was suspicious. Because I was alone when the call came, I thought it made sense to sneak back to the breast center for more pictures without telling my husband. What possessed me to put protecting him from worry above having him with me? When I came home and had to tell him the truth (and that I now needed a stereotactic biopsy) I felt the guilt of causing him pain.

Four and a half months later, I had a surgical biopsy and returned to the breast surgeon's office to hear my diagnosis. I was alone again. When I think back on it now, I realize with some shock that my husband wasn't there because I kept him away (he had gone to every appointment and test since I leveled with him.) Again, I prioritized protecting him above letting him be there for me at a critical moment. 

Through the entire diagnostic phase, we didn't tell our 15-year old daughter and 12-year old son anything. We felt it was better to wait until I had a diagnosis and treatment plan. When we finally sat them down, I was glad I could tell them I wasn't going to die and would be back to normal after my mastectomy (shows what I didn't know back then.) I remember being shocked at their response, which wasn't good. When I look back now, I realize I had focused so intently on protecting them from bad news that I had deluded myself into thinking I had been successful.

After my mastectomy, I felt extremely isolated. As hard as it was to share bad news about my health, it was even harder to share the emotional aftermath of my diagnosis. My she-bear wanted to be better, happier and move on for the sake of my family, which caused the rest of me to resent my loneliness. 

Now, when I speak with the Pathways Women's Cancer Teaching Project I talk about my children and husband knowing I will tear up because their pain still makes me very emotional. I push on because doctors and nurses need to know how significantly a patient's role as a wife and mother affects her cancer experience. 

This is the unspoken burden of women with cancer. We are inseparable from our roles as caregiver, nurturer, confidant and emotional touchstone. We take care of others before we take care of ourselves. Our she-bear instinct is primal and viciously strong and it will over-protect what we care about most in the world  - our partners, our children, our parents, our families and our friends. 

We can't help it because our overwhelming drive to protect our loved ones, even to the detriment of ourselves, is a force of nature. We're never going to stop feeling and acting on it, but we must come to grips with reality. Even a she-bear needs to take care of herself so she can continue taking care of others. 

This is what I learned the hard way and what I now share with you. In addition to your family and friends, build a support network that is there just for you. No one should do cancer alone - and by that I mean without other people who "get it" and are there to support you without needing you to care for them. Laying down your she-bear once in a while is necessary to healing. And then, when you're a bit stronger, you can get back to being Mama Grizzly.

Survival > Existence,

Image credit: 123RF Stock Photo

Related Posts:

Survivorship & Giving Back: The Pathways Women's Cancer Teaching Project

The Secret to Making Your Way on Your Cancer Journey

Running on Empty - Coping with Cancer Stress