Not Black. Not White. Just Gray.

It’s a peculiar time. The pandemic, while still real, no longer poses a crisis situation for most of us. By no means is this true for everyone; cancer patients, their families, and caregivers continue to be at serious risk. It’s just that the hysteria surrounding COVID-19 in earlier months has waned as the world now tries to live with a virus that isn’t going away anytime soon. It isn’t new. It isn’t old. It’s just our new reality.

Let’s call this in-between place the gray zone. I wrote about my own experience learning to accept gray earlier this year in The Reality of Grief. One of my all-time favorite writers, Abigail Thomas, who taught writing workshops for cancer patients after her daughter’s diagnosis, puts it this way in her book What Comes Next and How to Like It: “Part of what I’ve learned is that if it isn’t life and death, it isn’t life and death. I know now that cancer is not an isolated...

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Holding Joy and Pain Together

Life really is both sides now. It is happiness and sorrow, love and loss, triumph and setbacks all at once. 

I learned this lesson as a longtime cancer caregiver where every day was like being in the already and not yet, somewhere in-between remission and recurrence.  Any moment can move us from one side to the other.

May 21, 2001, began as the most joyous day of my life. That’s the day I became a mother. I had twins, a daughter we named Rebecca, and a son, Casey. More than anything, Brett and I hoped that the trauma of his cancer diagnosis and treatmentwould remain in the past. Not even the twins’ premature birth could dampen the excitement we felt for the future.

Later that day, Brett and I napped together in my twin hospital bed. We were in a groggy stupor when his cell phone rang.

“Hi, Dr. Balmaceda,” Brett said, as if he’d been struck by lightning.

He was silent. Dr. Balmaceda, his neuro-oncologist, had news...

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Learn to Thrive Amid Disruption

If transitions in leadership, careers, and organizations are inevitable, why do they test our resilience, causing the sturdiest among us to doubt and fear? This is true of any disruptive event, including a personal loss like my own, which, at the time, diminished my confidence, optimism, and ability to meet my goals. Being widowed young with preemie twins and no life insurance just wasn’t the narrative I imagined. One thing only allowed me to move through this experience: I learned to summon the resilience I never knew I had.

While some level of anxiety is perfectly normal amid times of upheaval, be on guard for signs of apathy and stuckness. Here are two questions to reflect upon.

Do challenging events feel disproportionately large or even insurmountable?
Are these challenges impacting other areas of work and life?

It’s important to understand the range of emotions people feel during periods of change, stress, and uncertainty. We're all hard-wired differently, and yet...

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Know Your Strength

've taken up boxing. This is me practicing my jab.

Let me be clear about something. In no way do I have any intention of fighting for real. I took up boxing for three reasons:

 

 

 

 

 

1) because it's a heck of a workout and I tend to shy away from intense cardio activity
2) because it challenges and balances my brain, and
3) because it pushes me to be my strongest, most capable, resilient self.

 

You might actually see me laughing during these workouts -- at myself and my own clumsiness and poor coordination. Even so, I take these workouts seriously and appreciate the lessons borne from trying something new that pushes me way beyond my comfort zone physically and mentally.

 

There is no straight line to a strong self. There is only the persistent work of showing up and being resilient. 

 

Take time to summon your strength every day and especially during periods of stress.

 

What you do doesn't matter so much as what you think....

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