Self-care is an elusive term.
I’ve posted how stress increases copper and lists some of my self-care practices to reduce stress like meditation, exercise, relaxing baths, and quiet time. All of this helps and is essential to my emotional health. Also, eating a healthy low copper diet and listening to my mind and body support better well-being. But this past year, a friend from high school taught me that self-care is also about facing fears.
Strength can come from facing fear.
Our friendship over the years was on and off because of our busy lives. We would sometimes get together for holiday parties, go shopping, or meet up for lunch. There were times when we hadn’t talked in many months. She was always a better friend at keeping in contact. Particularly, when I pulled back as I struggled unknowingly with copper toxicity.
This past year, I contacted her when I noticed a Facebook post about her being in treatment for throat cancer. She told me how awful the medicine made her feel, but she was on an upswing with a good prognosis. As she talked, I could see a change in her. She had always been a strong woman, but now she was scared. The man she had been with for the last eight years was so supportive and caring, and she loved him deeply. Things were good because the throat cancer was in remission. Behind her smile, I sensed an unsureness about cancer’s absence.
“Being brave isn’t the absence of fear; being brave is having that fear but finding a way through it.” — Bear Grylls
Then during the year, cancer did reappear, but this time in her lungs. We got together on a few occasions. Each time she would cry, “It’s not fair, I want to live, and I’m a good person.” She would exclaim, “People killing and doing bad things, why can’t God take them.” Listening is all I could do because no one can answer that profound question.
I do believe we all are here to learn and teach lessons. Witnessing my friend’s love for life was a gift she gave to others. As frightened as she was, I’ve never seen a strength that would not let the disease stop her from what she wanted to do. She married the guy she loved, vacationed, and always said, “Yes” to family and friends who wanted to get together. It was heartbreaking to see her physical appearance become weaker. I still had no words to express when she cried about how much she wanted to live. She just wanted more time with her new husband and to see her grandchild grow up.
Our fate rests in genetics and enviromental influences.
Then as she is fighting her battle with cancer, her mother, who is also suffering the disease of cancer, loses the battle. The stress of losing her took a tremendous toll on my friend’s health. I watched with respect as she pushed fear aside and lived with gratitude, knowing time was not on her side.
At her mother’s memorial, she spoke about how life can be cut short, and she implored her captive audience to live life to the fullest, not let little things be a bother, connect with friends and family, and love. Please, she said, “Love others and love yourself enough to do the things that make you happy.” She pushed on, saying, “Don’t let one moment escape into the abyss of unhappiness. Just live and love your life to the fullest and don’t let anything hold you back.”
Fear is only temporary; regret is forever
On a phone call with her before New Year’s Eve, she said her cancer had progressed to the brain. I felt a sense of urgency to share with her how her words at her mother’s memorial impacted me. I told her I recently took decisive steps to leave a passive-aggressive relationship I held onto out of fear. It was keeping me in the clutches of unhappiness. I’m very aware that fear has a paralyzing effect on the body. Confronting the fear, allowed me to get my joy back and make a vow that I would no longer allow others to make me feel insignificant. I told her how I feel lighter with a newfound sense of awareness about the lies of fear.
Gifts don’t always come wrapped up with a pretty bow.
To my surprise, my friend said, that’s great, but you are the one who has inspired me. She told me how she had been reading my book during her chemo treatments and it gave her hope. My friend said, “Your book is for anyone struggling who needs encouragement. It’s not just for people with high copper.” She went on to say how it helped her know that she wasn’t alone fighting to survive. Enthusiastically, she said so many could benefit from my book, and she has been telling everyone to read it. My friend blessed me with the gift of helping me to overcome fear, and now she gave me the greatest gift of all by telling me my book inspired her with hope. I thanked her and told her I loved her because love is the reason we keeping fighting for life.
A new year brings new grace for new accomplishments.
I visited my friend in the hospital before she went into home hospice. On that day, she was feeling good and thinking maybe she could go on a vacation soon. She wanted to live longer and do more, but cancer painfully pulled her out of this world a couple of weeks later. She may not be here in a physical body, but she has left a legacy of a big heart that lives on in the family and friends she touched. Her husband told me, “She really loved you and all her friends.” I knew this because she showed it. I’m grateful she was persistent through the years and didn’t give up on our friendship.
Her love radiates with me an understanding that self-care is so much more than the routine things I do to reduce stress and take care of the body that God gave me. Watching her grasp onto life as it slipped through her hands, awakened me to the realization that self-care is about doing the things that bring joy every day. It’s about not wasting one moment on negative thinking, people, or something that can distract from feeling happy. It is also about giving and receiving love and emotional support, and mostly about living a life without fear.
I’m not going to profess a New Year’s resolution, but being that 2020 is a visionary year, I will continue to face my fears while focusing on the clarity of self-care. I am always striving for optimal physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. I hope that my routine self-care practices may extend my life, but the reality is we don’t know when it will be our time. Thank you, my friend, for the grace of showing me to live my life fearlessly with gratitude and love.