Over the course of the past eight months I have shared the details of my breast cancer journey. Now I want to share what this journey taught me. My take always.
One lifechanging phrase. I bet you are thinking that phrase is – you have cancer. That is life changing for sure, but not what I am referring to here. No I am talking about one simple phrase that has changed my outlook on life. A phrase that has brought me freedom and grace.
I am a high achiever. For years my husband would laugh at my “to-do” lists and say -“You are never going to get all of that done.” And you know what? He was right, but let’s keep that between us. I was guilty of constantly setting myself up for failure. I expect a lot from myself and I am not always realistic in my expectations.
Disappointment is the space between expectations and reality. When expectations aren’t realistic, we land at disappointment. I kept landing at disappointment.
I once heard the life coach Susan Seay speak. My number one take-away from her talk was one simple phrase:
Today I give myself permission to _______.
So simple, yet profound. Giving myself permission in advance is extending myself grace. It is the answer to avoiding unrealistic expectations and ultimately disappointment.
Ironically, the first thing I gave myself permission to do was be sick. It was a couple years ago. It wasn’t cancer sick. I had a cold.
Admitting I was sick, meant I admitted I couldn’t do everything I had set out to accomplish that day in advance. It prompted me to reevaluate my “to-do” list and modify. It also prompted me to ask the question – “What do I need today?” The answer was simply rest.
My realization that what I needed more than anything was rest allowed me to prioritize that in my day. As a stay-at-home mom, I am with my kids all day. Everyday. I didn’t think getting rest was an option.
My eldest two were too old for naps. That day, after I put my youngest down for a nap, I did something I had never done before. I told my older two kids I was feeling sick and I needed to take a nap too.
I asked them if they would watch a movie and let me rest. Obviously, they were old enough I felt comfortable doing this. An amazing thing happened. Not only did my kids excitedly agree to watch a movie that afternoon, they let me rest uninterrupted until my youngest awoke from his nap. I realized sometimes I need to invite my kids into my struggles so they understand and can even help me.
Fast forward a year to that other lifechanging phrase – you have cancer. I already had this tool in my toolbox. This simple practice of giving myself permission. You better believe I used it constantly during my journey with breast cancer. I needed a lot of self-permission.
I have heard it said – there are no sick days for moms. I agree somewhat, but in reality, there are sick days for moms. Especially when you have a major illness like cancer. I could not take on cancer and do it all. I was not wonder woman.
First and foremost, I had to give myself permission to ask for and accept help. I needed help taking care of myself. Care for my children. Meals. Even driving.
Asking for and accepting help may not sound major, but as an independent high achiever I don’t like asking for help. I like to do things on my own, but that simply wasn’t possible nor realistic. I also didn’t want to be a burden or inconvenience to others.
I like to help others. But you know what? So do other people. I had to accept that other people enjoy helping too. It is ok to take a break from giving and doing and be on the receiving end every now and then.
I also gave myself permission to rest and heal. That is what my body needed. Resting can get old quickly. You can only get so much rest before you get bored. I had to get creative and find ways to make the most of the gift of time I had been given.
I gave myself permission to give my body grace. Our bodies are amazing! What they are capable of astounds me, but sometimes they betray us. That’s how learning my body had been harboring an enemy felt – a betrayal. Body why are you growing cancer?!
Surgeons had to intervene to correct this betrayal. They cut and mutilated my formerly intact body. I gave myself permission to accept my new body as is. Changes and all. Yes, I know that sounded like a grade school health class talk, but it’s true.
My body isn’t perfect, but I made it through cancer. I made it through eight surgeries!!! My scars are way less visible and unsightly than I would expect for having gone through eight surgeries. Arthroscopic technologies and hidden scars are the bomb!
There were many more things I had to give myself permission to do on this journey aside from these examples, but you get the idea. It is powerful and liberating to give oneself permission in advance.
So what about you? What do you need to give yourself permission for today? Go ahead, complete this phrase for yourself –
Today I give myself permission to ________.
Now go forth in the freedom of that permission. Right now. Right here. In this season of life. Give yourself grace. Grace to be human. Grace to accept limitations. Grace to be imperfect. Grace to be you.