This is my first post to "Living Joyfully With What Is". How exciting!!! And what a JOY.
For me, it all begins with gratitude -- living joyfully, that is. Of course, living joyfully with cancer can be a great challenge, and it is at times. And yet, none of us know what lies ahead in life, although we may sometimes act as if we will live indefinitely. We all face challenges, and all of us have the capacity to embrace these challenges, to see the lessons in them, to act with love and acceptance, and to embrace our lives with joy.
This spring, I am filled with gratitude. Gratitude for being alive, for being able to walk, to bend, to touch the Earth, and to tend my gardens. Gratitude for the beauty of my gardens, for the warmth of the Sun, for beautiful flowers and trees. Gratitude for the baby squirrels in our yard. Gratitude for the hawk cries which pierce the afternoon. Gratitude for all the gifts that surround me.
In addition to gratitude, for me living joyfully involves acceptance, which means allowing the present moment be what it is, without resistance. Acceptance does not equal complacency, for I can always endeavor to improve what I choose, but acceptance removes struggle. It allows ease and peace.
I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma 2 years ago, in July of 2006. Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the blood's plasma cells, so it is throughout my body. My life since being diagnosed has felt like a roller coaster at times, especially physically and emotionally. My daily spiritual practice -- prayer, yoga and meditation -- has helped sustain me through this time, along with the love and attention of family and friends. And in spite of this serious physical condition that I face, I feel joy every day. Just as I would be gentle, compassionate and loving toward a friend with this diagnosis, I choose to be gentle, compassionate and loving toward myself. There is no war inside of me. I choose peace. I choose gratitude. I choose acceptance.
Within 12 hours of receiving my diagnosis of cancer, I began a list of the good things about my diagnosis. I expanded the list as the days went by, and by September of 2006 I had a list entitled "The Twenty-Five Good Things About My Diagnosis". I will share this list in my next post to this blog. Suffice it to say that I have shared this list with family and friends, and many have found my words inspiring and shared them with others who face great physical challenges.
Sixteen year ago, on Mother's Day of 1992, my daughter Laura named me "Joyous Judy". I know we are not usually named by our children, but then Laura is not a typical daughter. I loved the name "Joyous Judy", and it stuck. Through the years it has served as a reminder to me of Who I Am.
And if I have learned one enormously important lesson about Who I Am from having cancer, it is this: I am not my body.