Staying in the Drivers Seat
Earlier this year, I took down my website after being diagnosed with breast cancer, an unfortunate family tradition. I lost my mom to the disease when I was 22-years-old. My grandma, aunts, sister and niece also have braved this path before me.
Who am I on the other side of recovering from treatment, finding a new normal after the removal of three malignant tumors and treatment?
Some of the changes are nuanced. Take the structure of this blog, for instance. It’s likely that the teacher-at-heart “old Mollie” would come out of the shoot with a list of key lessons learned through the cancer journey.
Bulleted takeaways along the lines of:
- Celebrate something you did today, no matter how small, that reflects the best of who you are.
- In this moment, soften your heart and feel compassion for someone you would normally tend to judge.
Not that I didn’t (re)learn these types of lessons and not that there isn’t value in mining, integrating and sharing this type of wisdom. But for now, I’m coming out the other side of this experience with a desire to write more like I’m in conversation with a friend.
So here goes, top of mind…
Have you ever thought of giving as a two-way street?
Following surgery, I was plugged into the wall with a wound-vac that compressed the surgical sites to reduce complications. I could not use my arms. Family members and friends emptied my surgical drains, fed me, brushed my teeth, toileted me and basically did everything for me.
My children’s school and friends set up a meal chain.
I could have turned down these offers of help, comparing my situation to that of others who had things much worse or who didn’t have family who could help. Instead, I chose to open my heart to graciously receive the inpouring offers of assistance.
The more I opened myself to receiving, the more I came to see how this in itself can be a gift to others.
People want to feel useful and helpful.
The more openly you receive, the more you allow others to feel the joy of giving.
Have you ever experienced how lessons learned within times of great trial feel different? It seems that the softer a lesson lands, the deeper it can restructure you. They fall quietly like a snow fall, seemingly blanketed in unexpected grace that can change everything as you listen within the quiet.
One night, stewing about being left alone in my recovery chair for what felt like a long time while my caregivers were out living their “normal lives”, I vented.
To no one and to everyone, my voice rang out through an empty house.
“You’re driving me crazy!”
I sat listening to the echoes of my frustration.
And then in a moment of grace…
I have a choice.
I always have a choice.
A reframe gently fell into place.
“You’re driving me…”
“Your behavior… is encouraging me to choose…”
Others do not drive my life.
Not even cancer drives my life.
I am in the driver’s seat of my life (when I choose not to give it up).
I choose my thoughts, my emotions, my actions.
Yes, I could react to the tardiness of others by choosing to stew in anger.
I could even choose crazy.
But these choices do not serve me.
Your behavior… is encouraging me to choose… peace.
That feels better. So much better.
I choose peace.
Our lives are brimming with opportunities to get triggered by the demands and actions of others.
No matter the circumstance, may we be mindful of staying in the driver’s seat of our own life and making choices that serve our happiness and well-being.