2014 – Year of Responsibility

A week into the new year and I hadn’t really thought about a new focus for it. Last year, Alex, Max and I dubbed it the “Year of Releasing Judgment.” It was huge. All three of us worked through it in our own way. I faced my depression, examined my disease to please, forced myself to go on the dating market, discovered I am a lesbian, came out of the closet as such, and faced my father. Oh, and I finally took control of my health, discovered I had cancer, and went through surgeries and treatment.

In no way have I mastered “releasing judgment,” but at least I am more self-aware. I still battle vulnerability. I hate opening myself up, being more authentic…but I also thrive in it. I have felt more joy and connection by doing so, even if it is still excruciating. I had trouble today just asking some neighbor kids to shovel my yard after having two feet of snow dumped on it. Admitting that you need help and seeking it takes vulnerability.

At the end of 2013, I was very satisfied with my growth and development. When you see how far you have come, it does motivate you to continue. I just didn’t know how. I am still working on saying what I believe, even if it differs from what someone else believes. Standing in your truth, accepting criticism, but not being defined by it is still immensely difficult. I have found that communication and super understanding friends help, but it takes practice. It is like developing a new muscle. It may hurt when you are working it out, but it gets stronger and easier each time you do it.

As we start the new year, I intend to keep “releasing judgment,” but it is time to step it up a notch. For inspiration, of course I lean on my buddies Alex and Max. We had been locked up in our homes for three days during this “polar vortex,” and finally had a chance to pow wow last night. After a lovely meal, Alex casually busts out, “I think I know what 2014 will be… the year of taking responsibility.”

Immediately, I felt a wave of horror. This is a girl who will go weeks without opening her mail, avoids answering the phone, is behind on most of her bills, and is beyond discipline. Most of this was a response from the days where I over scheduled myself. When I wasn’t working 80 hours a week, I volunteered, went without eating to pay bills, over extended myself with friends, and went to bed feeling used and miserable. I would take trips to see Alex and Max in Chicago and call them “vacations from responsibility.”

I am sure that I am not the only one with an immediate repulsion to “responsibility.” The dictionary defines it as: ”the state of being the person who caused something to happen; a duty or task that you are required or expected to do; and something that you should do because it is morally right, legally required, etc.” An appropriate synonym in my head is “obligation.”

Alex and Max agreed that this was a common way to view responsibility, but they had a new approach. “Responsibility,” in their view, “means simply, to respond. To take action and ownership of your life.” Instead of viewing it as doing something you don’t want to do for someone else, or to act because someone else feels you should, “responsibility” is about using your gifts and energy by responding with action. You act because you are owning who you are and fully exercising your passion to create and thrive. It is about shifting focus from being a passive passenger on the bus of life and taking the reins and owning your life by taking the wheel and making the decisions instead of just letting life happen to you.

An important disclaimer. For some people, there is a tendency to claim “responsibility” for things that aren’t theirs to own. I am guilty of this. I will often apologize when I have nothing to apologize for. I will feel guilty about things that I have no control over. I have used the label of “responsibility” to demonize or dehumanize me. I count my lack of responsibility with my level of self-worth. It is a great marker to abuse and bully one’s self with.

Redefining “responsibility” requires releasing judgment. It asks for us to take action on the things that are within our power and releasing things that are out of our sphere of influence or control. It is about empowerment. You can make a difference by responding to life in a way that is authentic and true to who you are and what you are meant to be.

Alex also made a great point that 2014 should be a year of “love.” Valentine’s Day is 2/14->2014 Also, releasing judgment helped us find and feel love; taking responsibility should help us respond to love and help it grow. God knows I need help in the love department.

I am indebted to Alex and Max for this brilliant idea. I accept the challenge a little more enthusiastically now that I have dispelled some of the myths of responsibility. I can’t say that I don’t feel intrepidation, but I also understand that this is a long overdue step in my maturation. In order to open the door for great things to happen in my life, I have to prove that I am willing to take enough responsibility to even just push the door open.

Taking Action

My third round of chemo came this week. There was no real fanfare. I am kind of use to the drill. It did take a lot longer than normal. I had a full examination by my doctor, which looked good. The infusion room was packed, so I was placed in some small back corner. It took a half hour just to get the IV in and another half hour to hang the first bag of pre-chemo meds.

I kind of felt like I was on the second string’s team in the back. I missed the nurses that I normally bond with, but I had my buddy Max with me to keep me distracted. Around noon, my father swapped out with him and brought me some lunch. All was normal until I started feeling a wave of heat flush through my body. I threw off any blankets or excess clothing and felt my scalp and palms clam up. The nurses came and stopped the IV. They took my pulse, blood pressure, temperature, and blood glucose readings. I got some extra oxygen because my pulse oxygen was a little low. I had to have a doctor come down and check everything out. We never determined if it was a reaction to the chemo or something as simple as a hot flash.

By the time we got back on track, I noticed that I was one of the last patients in the building. I expected to be held there for 6 hours, but I left after 8 and a half. I am pretty sure I was the last patient out of the building and it was a crazy feeling. I felt bad for my father but he didn’t seem to mind. I passed out early that night. I was exhausted.

I am now off for about four weeks. I go in mid December for a simulation for the start of radiation. I am a little scared about it. It will be every day for 4-5 weeks, right during the holidays. I am going to get my first tattoos ever just so they know where to irradiate me.

I am now on day 3 after the chemo and am feeling the bones again. This has been the worst part of the chemo for me. I may be a little more tired than normal too. Over all, I really feel lucky. I know so many other people have a worse time with this treatment. I am annoyed by certain side effects of the treatment but in so many ways it has not been a huge deal. Giving myself the time and space to recover can almost be more difficult.

I feel like recovery includes focusing on what I want my life to really be. So many people look at cancer as a death sentence or a huge loss, I am choosing to look at it as a way in which I can gain everything I have always wanted but made too many excuses to actually take action.

I don’t even know if I would have sought treatment if I hadn’t started this year with the focus of releasing judgment. I had so many strange opinions or perceptions of what I thought things should be. I was the meanest self-critic, and I couldn’t even see it. I knew I felt miserable, but I didn’t realize how much I was playing a role in it.

After you make a huge shift in such an area, it isn’t like you are immediately cured. Constantly, I have different events come back up to test me. I feel like the more I confront my bad tapes and faulty thinking, the easier it becomes. I equate it to building a muscle memory. Thoughts can be super powerful, or they can be nothing. It depends on what the feeling is behind it and how much attention are you going to give it.

I have been working super hard at confronting my negative thoughts. Having witnessed my parents’ journeys with cancer and mine, I think it is really normal to worry about your longevity. You might be doing something mundane and then think about what someone might think if this was the last time they saw you. Stupid thoughts. I have learned that when I get a thought like this, or one that is just not pleasant, I thank the Universe for showing me the contrast and flick it away or send it off.

I went back to the woman at the bookstore today. It was time for another monthly Shared Circle of Enlightenment. The energy was a little different from when she talked to Alex and I about our spirit guides, but I still felt like I gained a lot from being in her presence.

I talked to her about feeling the need to release resistance. I have grown so much, but I still resist doing things that I know I need to do or to relax and surrender more.  Besides confronting negative thought patterns, we had some dialogue on faith and trust. After my surgery, I knew the Universe had my back. I was so sure that the Universe was supporting me and giving me all that I needed. Now, a few months out, that same solid faith and trust had softened a little.

Alex and Max continued the conversation with me at home. One of the things that they hate about me is that I trust so very little. They even think I don’t trust them. In reality, I trust them implicitly. I trust them more than I do myself. That is where the a-ha came. It does seem a little backwards. I than asked Max, how does one build trust? He said, “through your actions.”

Sometimes when I read all these self-help books or meet these interesting people who help me see things a little clearer, you’ll feel better initially because you feel like…oh, now I understand. There is a little relief. But if you don’t put those lessons into practice, the Universe places little tests in front of you to see if you really get it. One way you might get ahead of the surprise quiz is by changing your actions to match what you believe.

Okay, I am the worst at this action-based thing. There are a million things that I should probably do or I know I should do…why aren’t I doing them? If having cancer doesn’t make me lose weight, what the hell else will? Good point. I know the biggest block for me is feeling worth the effort. As much self-confidence as I have built up over this year, I am still lacking crucial components.

I don’t know why I feel like I am so different. Everyone goes through this, but somehow I feel like I am supposed to suffer alone. I feel like everyone deserves love, but I often question if I do. If I felt abandoned during other portions of my life, which may have had nothing to do with me, how can I release that I don’t have to feel that way now? How can you have trust in faith that the people who love you aren’t going to hurt you or abandon you? How can you have faith that you won’t hurt or abandon you?

I can’t say I have any answers for these questions now…it is just what my mind is pondering. My goal for this week is to take some action steps to be kinder and more giving to myself. I want to celebrate who I am and feel like I am taking fruitful action to allow more to follow.