Give your Fear a Job

star-3291355_1280WHAT IF runs you wild. Heart races. Stomach clenches. Palms sweat, teeth grind. The worst case scenario chases circles in your mind. It takes you out of now and into a place later on today, or tomorrow, or next week. But what if… just for right now, you planted your feet squarely on the ground, and breathed all your energy back into this singular moment? Really take it all into your belly. There… just for a second, did you feel it?

And even as you read this next paragraph, you find this pause slipping away. We have this biological imperative to hold up our current situation, and look at it through the lens of our past. By knowing the poisons and pains, all the possible hurts, we can learn to survive and evolve.

But still, STILL, there are things beyond our control you say. What if? What IF!

When flight, fight and freeze has hijacked your health and comfort, it overrides your sense of choice and agency in life. Protection becomes imprisonment. It wears down your very sense of purpose and place.

There are many paths forward. For deep trauma, trained support is imperative. But for the everyday wear-you-down anxiety and stress, one very practical tool is to give your fear a JOB.

Assign it to making sure your taxes get filed on time. Put it to work finally getting that thing checked out. Make a Dr. appointment. Maybe the job is to clean up how you’re feeling, or what you’re taking responsibility for. The job could be to sit and write and clear. You can say, “just for today fear, I want you to be on the lookout for any person or activity that sucks my energy dry.”

Notice. Fear is SO good at being on alert.

Anxiety, fear, dread, worry, -all our many nuanced ways at describing that paralyzing ache. What job can you give your fear today? How can you work with it so it moves you forward?

 

If you found this helpful and would like another tool to help manage stress and anxiety, click here. Visit me at MelissaEppardCoaching.com to learn more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Long Goodbye

I’m grieving for my mother in law, Linda, who only yesterday turned 64 years old. She is slipping further down the long dark well of early onset Alzheimer’s. Today I found myself trying to express to her, in the simplest of ways, that bad things happen to good people. Even as her brain function is diminishing, I see her grasping, as we all do, to understand WHY. She can’t always remember the right words, but what she was trying to ask the chaplain who visited her today is, “What did I do to deserve this? WHY am I being punished? How could God allow this to happen? Was I a bad person in my past life? Why is this happening?”

Linda

To even write about her feels like a betrayal. To mourn for her or memorialize her while she still lives and breathes, is all wrong. At the same time, the articulate and thoughtful woman I came to call Mom, and have grown to love over the last 18 years, is gone. In her place is this anxious, paranoid and sometimes angry woman. How much longer will she even know who I am?

I shower her. I comb her hair. I help her get dressed. Even if my words overwhelm and confuse her, I know she can feel my love when I rub lotion into her hands. We are looking towards outside help, for nursing home placement, a way to keep her safe. She thinks she has done something wrong, that she is bad and we are punishing her by putting her away somewhere. There is no fixing this situation, no way to know how long we will go on with this long goodbye.

It hurts to be here and it hurts to leave. I feebly pat myself on the back for what small offering of a shower or a meal I can provide. I push paper. I make phone calls. I keep busy.

Difficult times come. Sometimes hardships roll in like waves, seemingly one thing upon the next. Sometimes it’s hard to find which way is up, to find the space for little gasps of breath so we can brace for the next wave.

Try as we might to draw meaningful connections, sometimes the reason never comes. We tell ourselves a story, but the moral is insufficient. The protagonist is lost somewhere between the lines, the pages tear stained and the words blurred.

10 Things I Wish Someone Told Me -Tips to Help When You Suspect Breast Cancer

In hindsight, these are the things I wish I knew before being diagnosed with breast cancer. From getting that suspicious lump checked out to healing from surgery, here are some important tips and considerations for the newly diagnosed.

1. Don’t wait to get it checked out! Set your mind at ease and nip it in the bud as soon as you can. Truly things can only get worse the longer you wait. I tried to convince myself it was a swollen lymph node and treat it with homeopathic remedies for 3 months. Nope.

2. A breast biopsy hurts, be prepared. Do it, but be prepared.

3. Insist that you don’t want to hear the results of your biopsy over the phone. I got the call, at work, 45 minutes from my family. That was awful.

4. Get your support system in place. For lots of people, asking for help is the hardest thing to do. If ever in your life your survival depended on others, now is it. When possible, be discerning about who makes up your support system. Some people are great for helping with chores around the house, while others you want with you at the doctor appointment. Sometimes you may need a positive upbeat figure that can distract you, and other times you may want a quiet, calm and steady person who won’t bombard you with questions. Figure out what you want and need and ask for it.

5. Don’t ASSUME the lab is going to send your scans to the hospital or doctor like you ordered. Call and check and double check. Get the UPS or Fed-Ex routing number if you can.

6. Be SUPER organized. If you can’t do it, find someone who will. I really liked using the, “My Hope & Focus Cancer Organizer” by Puja Thompson. Keep all your contacts, pathology reports, bills and questions in one binder and bring that with you to your appointments. It makes a huge difference in helping you feel informed and empowered in a rocky sea of confusing terminology and decision making.

7. Don’t settle. If you don’t like the way a doctor or a medical practice makes you feel, or if you feel your concerns are not being addressed with enough clarity or compassion, if something gets your hackles up and you just don’t feel safe, move on. Get a second opinion. Assemble the health care team that you can rely on and feel good about. Just don’t take too long doing so.

8. Create time and space to heal in peace. You are going to feel like being a patient is a fuIl time job for a while. If you are undergoing surgery or chemotherapy, you are going to need time to recoup. This is a good time to call upon your inner circle of supportive friends and family, and be really clear about what you need and how they can help.

9. If you are undergoing surgery, get the clearest post-op, discharge instructions you can prior to the date of the operation. I wish my surgeon or the nurses at the hospital had told me that I would have to stay on antibiotics for the entire time that I had drains. For some reason the pharmacist filled my antibiotic prescription with refills and only sent us home with a 6 day supply, I ended up with a fever, an infection in my right breast, and later needed to drain fluid from my swollen right side.

10. Be a good patient and really adhere to your discharge instructions. Don’t miss taking an antibiotic. Don’t lift or use a limb if you have been ordered not to. As difficult as this time may seem, it will soon quickly pass, but right now you need to follow doctor’s orders and just heal.

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close up of “Inheritance” by Melissa Eppard  -Encaustic Paint

 

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I readied myself for battle when the the hair stared to come out like gangbusters! You’ll know when it’s time to break out the clippers.

 

 

 

Finding the Path Through the Pain: a Roadmap to Rebuilding Your Life After Cancer

PathAfter treatment ends, and the “Survivor Confetti” is swept away, there are unique challenges for the younger cancer survivor. While much of the focus is on the newly diagnosed, and the actual fight to overcome cancer, little is discussed about this latter part of the healing journey.

As a 3 year survivor, I know firsthand what it takes to forge through this rocky terrain. After being diagnosed with an aggressive form of hereditary breast cancer at the age of 36, I felt my life unravel. A dark curtain fell and I could see nothing beyond the imminent surgery and treatment. While wrestling with the bare bones of survival, there was no space for my plans and dreams. I was coming apart, piece by piece, shedding layers of my life, until I was unrecognizable to myself.

After treatment ended, I could grow new hair and heal surgical wounds, but no one could tell me how to recover my life. Biologically speaking, I was living, but I felt like a shell of a person. The old life no longer fit. I was in this strange post-treatment terrain, where I could barely speak the language and didn’t have a map.

As a Life Coach, I have honed survival skills that have aided in processing and healing my body, heart and soul. It’s my mission to share what I have learned with as many people as I can. I want to help others draw their unique map through the pain and uncertainty of facing cancer mid-life.

Cancer doesn’t discriminate. It can strike a person at any age, but for the purposes of this article, I am speaking to people between the ages of 25-50, give or take a few years. In this stage of life, our healthy peers are building their careers and families; they are taking vacations, buying homes, planning and saving for the future. A cancer diagnosis completely blindsides you during what should be a productive period of life. These are some of the challenges that we face:

You’ve “Graduated” Out of Treatment:  It took Herculean strength to slog through all the treatments and doctor appointments. You were so focused on the finish line, that you hadn’t really considered what’s next. Without the structure and focus of a treatment plan, and the weekly or biweekly appointments, it’s like being set adrift on a raft with no oars.

The Pain No One Sees: Your hair starts to grow in. Your immune system rebuilds to the point where you can safely come out in public. You might look like a completely healthy person on the outside, but on the inside you are still struggling with the after effects of cancer treatment. People stop asking you how you’re doing and what you need. Instead, people tell you how great you look and how brave and strong you are. Inside you may struggle with a combination of crippling chemo brain, exhaustion and lack of stamina, neuropathy, pain at the site of surgery or radiation, infertility, menopause symptoms including hot flashes, night sweats, low to no sex drive, and fuzzy thinking. You might feel disfigured, and struggle with sadness, anger, fear, anxiety and depression.

The Ticking Clock: After treatment ends, you are living in this paradox of urgency. You want to make up for lost time, but have also learned the value of slowing down. You want to catch up with your healthy peers, to recover the lost income, to attend all the social and family events that you had to sit out on. You want to get on with living your life! It’s like an inner voice is shouting, “Go, Go, Go!” but you’re still trying to pull your feet up out of sticky tar. On a good day you might feel a new energetic spring in your step, only to find the next day that you’ve overdone it and need an extra day to recover.

The Looming Cloud of Recurrence: After a cancer diagnosis, a headache or a toothache or a backache can evoke waves of panic and send you scurrying to research what those symptoms mean. If we hope for the best, but prepare for the worst, we might be able to tell ourselves we’ve shored up our defenses, that we will be ready if and when “the other shoe drops”. What ends up happening is that we are living in a heightened state of stress, an ongoing fight, flight or freeze mode. The resulting stress hormones, tension and sleep loss make things worse.

Survivor Guilt: You can’t help notice cancer everywhere after you’ve had a diagnosis. You will likely have friends and family who will face their own cancer battles. Not everyone will see the same treatment finish line. It hurts to see and hear about the people we care about, or even complete strangers, getting diagnosed or worse, losing their battle with cancer. If you’ve hooked into a survivor support system, you might experience the loss of a person who battled alongside you. This loss is triggering and you might find yourself wondering, “Why me?” The inner dialogue might go like this: “How come I’m still here but she is not? What makes me so special? I had better do something significant with my life now. How will I face her family? That could have been me.”

So how do you find your path through the pain and uncertainty, and rebuild a fulfilling and sustainable life after cancer? Some key aspects to include in your Cancer Recovery Roadmap are mindfully tending to your emotions, engaging your future vision, and making specific, attainable goals.

Through my personal experience as a survivor and my professional training as a coach, I have developed a toolkit of techniques to guide fellow survivors in the creation of their unique recovery map. As a coach I hold a sacred and confidential space for processing the pain and the personal impact of this experience. I listen deeply and ask powerful questions. I teach tools to help manage the fear and uncertainty, and deepen your feelings of resiliency and strength. I hold open a bold and brave vision for your future self, and support you as you step into this new phase of your life.

If you would like some support right now, email me at Melissa@MelissaEppardCoaching.com and I will send you 5 Ways to Manage Survivor Stress.

How to Emotionally Prepare for Surgery

I have kept this blog going, almost 3 years after chemo treatments ended, for a reason. Processing and healing takes time. There is also the sad realization that many more people after me would face their own cancer diagnosis. Perhaps reading my story will help people not feel so isolated and alone. Maybe it will help the newly diagnosed integrate what is happening, to find encouragement and see that there is a trajectory of healing. We all have our own unique situation and healing path, but we share in the many feelings a cancer diagnosis brings… the fear, anger, sadness, the struggle to sort out logistics, developing a care team, communicating with family and friends. We all look for glimmers of hope. We stoke a fighting spirit, that well of inner resilience and reach for wholeness.

In these few years since my own cancer scare, too many friends have been diagnosed. I have had to say goodbye to some, too early, too soon. Some brave warriors I have seen go through surgery and treatment, and joyfully watched their hair grow back in, for the wheels of life to continue turning.

Recently a friend asked me, “How do you prepare emotionally for surgery?”.

This is a great question. There is so much you can do. Most importantly, finding the people, practices, activities and rituals that speak to you, that give you grounding and meaning is the place to start. Here are some things that helped me prepare.

  1. Take photos. You could schedule a photo shoot or have someone close to you take a few pictures. My before pictures were just for me, a way to remember what my breasts looked like before the double mastectomy. There is so much feeling in my face and eyes.
  2. Write and write and write and write. Obviously for me, this was a huge tool of processing what was happening to me. Try writing a love letter to your afflicted body part. Try writing a letter from the perspective of your body part. I wrote a dialogue one time where I was having a conversation with my breasts. It was intense, but opened up a well of feeling that needed to come up to the surface. Then there is this blog. Writing my blog served two purposes initially. It was a lifeline to my family and friends, so they could stay informed about what was happening with me, and afforded me a privacy buffer. It also served as a pressure release valve and way of helping my mind assimilate what was happening. I wouldn’t just write a blog post and be done. I would write it and read it over and over a dozen times. Each time I read it, a layer of stress and pain would discharge, would soften and release, little by little.
  3. Let it OUT! Break sticks, throw rocks into a stream or river, scream into a pillow, cry until you are red and snotty. My default mode is to get busy, to get into problem solving mode. This is helpful to a degree, but is also a very clever way to avoid dealing with your feelings. Make time for these feelings to come up, knowing you won’t get lost in the void. I once described to a friend my fear of falling down the rabbit hole of emotion, that I would never be able to get back out. I promise you will not get lost. You will find yourself. As an added bonus, after a good cry, there is the temporary endorphin rush, a calm euphoria that will settle around you.
  4. Have a small party, ceremony or ritual. The night before my first surgery, I gathered with a few of my closest girlfriends for a “Farewell to Nursies” party. (My little boy had affectionately named my breasts, “Nursies” when he was a baby.) We shared a potluck, and everyone wrote their good thoughts, prayers and wishes for me on beautiful little squares of colored paper. I brought them with me to the hospital and had them to read again later while healing from surgery and going through chemo. My girlfriends made a gorgeous healing totem for me, by attaching beautiful stones, crystals and trinkets onto an embroidered belt. I hung this in my bedroom so I could see it while resting and healing after the surgery. My favorite part was when my girlfriends surrounded me, put their hands on me, gently rubbed my head and arms, held my hands. They prayed around me quietly, infusing all their love and good intentions for a successful surgery and held a vision of my ultimate healing.
  5. Simplify your life. Be kind to yourself and take time. You know that saying, “One step forward, two steps back”? If you rush the healing process, you are only going to make things harder. If you have ever prepared for childbirth, think about the way that you insulated your life, slowed down and made time for a “babymoon” period. Your healing is going to be like this. It is nice to have a vague idea that in 2 weeks or 6 weeks or 3 months, you’ll be back to doing x, y, and z. But stay present to now. Now is not the time to be leaning forward, putting unrealistic expectations on yourself. You will not be the same, but there will be a new normal, and that will change as time goes on. Start now to make way for this quieter time, allow yourself to rest and prepare for your best possible healing.

 

The things that brought me healing and comfort did so, because they spoke to who I am. Do what is right for you. I would love to hear in the comments section how you helped prepare yourself emotionally for surgery. We are here to support each other in our healing and growth, and your feedback might be exactly what someone else needs on their road to healing.

I wish you inner peace, and to be surrounded by calm and circles of support.

I’m here holding a vision for your highest healing. ❤

 

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Melissa Eppard lives in the beautiful Hudson Valley, NY area with her young son and husband. She came through a hereditary breast cancer scare in her mid 30’s. After feeling the gap in support for the younger cancer survivor, she has dedicated her practice to helping other younger survivors find the path through the pain, and rebuild their lives in those first few years after a diagnosis.  www.MelissaEppardCoaching.com

If you would like some support right now, email  Melissa@MelissaEppardCoaching.com for 5 Tips to Manage Survivor Stress.

 

Do Not Squander Your Gifts

When I imagine the voice of God, I think of the smell of mildewed bibles and lemon wood polish. I see the blue and green itchy plaid jumper, interwoven with threads of yellow, my pale scabby knees jutting out over the edge of the pew. I remember the white leather bound missal with gold embossed letters, showing pictures of Moses on the mount, face skyward, clouds parting with heavenly light. This is how I imagined the voice of God would come. It would be a thunder crack that splits the sky and shakes the ground. It would bring all of creation to its knees.

I am 40 and tired, with a daily lower backache and new creases between my eyebrows. I notice the mirror needs cleaning as I swoop in to pick up stray crayons and legos. Dust particles dance on a single beam of light. I push the vacuum back and forth over my son’s carpet, and this voice comes to me. It always enters through the back of my skull, like a swiftly moving weather system, a barometric pressure drop, that pushes through words that are not mine.

This time the voice says, “Do not squander your Gifts.”

It does not have a sound, like my husband calling out, “Have you seen my phone? Can you call it for me? I think the battery is dead… oh shoot! No wait, there it is.”

No, it doesn’t boom and crack, and stop space and time. It doesn’t bring me to my knees. It doesn’t come in pictures, like those fully formed paintings, waiting to be made, that sear into my brain before sleep.  It doesn’t come from my gut either, that inner voice that nudges me to turn left to find that open parking space. It isn’t a guiding beacon that tells me to slow down because there might be a police car positioned right up there, a half mile on the left.

The voice comes fully formed. It does not trickle in word by word. It is not hinged on my understanding, like a translation. It is a knowing, a message. If you were to crack my skull open like a fortune cookie, there it would be in red letters, in CAPS.

I forget about my backache and the busywork. They are just backdrop now as I let the message seep in, and hold it up against the storyline of my life.

I first notice the obvious irony, —the timing of this message, with the Christmas holiday looming and the emphasis on physical gifts. But I know it’s not about that. I then think about my real TRUE gifts which are these:

I have time. I have my health after overcoming breast cancer 3 years ago. I have my family, my friends. I have the gift of my voice, my words, my writing. I have the gift of my work —my purpose and passion to help other people. There is a deeply embedded fingerprint on my heart. It is empathetic care, a love for life on this planet that sears my heart with pain and longing and makes my eyes sting with tears. This gift is to see and love and feel.

If I were to never write another word, to never speak to you again, please remember this:

DO NOT SQUANDER YOUR GIFTS.

 

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Giving Thanks in Times of War

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There has been a growing unrest between the daily headlines. I can read it in the new creases of my brow. Lines have been drawn and the artillery of offensive acts and politifacts carefully stacked. I am armed to the teeth and ready to  face the enemy.

That is where my story ends. Really I am too passive for battle. Thanksgiving Day looms and I already feel too full of it. I imagine hiding behind mounds of carved turkey and a bottomless glass of wine.

So many hurtful things have been said, and the resolution still remains. I conjure up foggy pageant images of Pilgrims and Indians breaking cornbread, sitting around an obscenely overflowing cornucopia. Meanwhile the gesture was wrapped in Friendship Blankets, murderous diseases hiding there.

My Gratitude, oh Gratefulness! Are you there?! I don’t want to wear you like some gaudy holiday sweater. I want the real thing, the healing embrace, your kindness and a softening heart. See me in the warm candelabra light of our shared feast.

I am not your sworn enemy. I am human. We are family.

What will it take to smooth out all your hurts, and mine? We can not take back and unravel all the stories told between us. I’m weary and calloused and seeking shelter from the hostility of the world. This world that gets smaller and smaller, as friends and family are picked off one by one, cozying up to our polarized Truths and the divisive voices that back us into corners, stoking anger, prickling with righteousness.

I want warm buttery rolls and soft trailing laughter. I want extra whipped cream on my pie and your acceptance of how tenuous and fleeting our time is together. Our holidays whipping past, our aging bodies giving way to the turning of the earth.

Please pass the gravy. I am not your sworn enemy.

 

 

Coping with Loss after Cancer

There is a raw wordless ache in my core. When I start to approach it, it builds into a fire that agitates my whole system and threatens to engulf the whole of me. It’s in my pulse and my blood. My scalp prickles and my hair hurts. I itch all over. My hands are restless, so I scrub dishes and fold laundry and pull weeds. I’m afraid that if I get too close to it, all my positive efforts at healing and rebuilding… my health, my career, all my gratitude, that it will careen off into a blurry void of hopelessness and crash into a gully of despair.

Three people in my circle have had their lives taken by cancer this year. Their names are Champagne Joy, Milyn Kukon and just this past weekend, Cat Barney. Cat and I were newly acquainted, and I wish I had more time to know her. Our sons go to school together, and this similarity in age, the idea of leaving behind a husband and son, it gathers the storm clouds and terrifies me.

I want to put a name on it, to analytically dissect it. That is safer than feeling the tsunami of emotion. I am left with this question:  How can I experience loss without retraumatization?

I have heard the saying that, “Anger is Sad’s bodyguard,” but I wonder if Sad is somehow allowing the walls to still stand. Anger threatens to obliterate me. Anger seeks to undo my remasking as a “Person Among the Living” after the absurdity that is cancer. Who am I angry with? Is it God? Is it Mankind’s destruction of the environment? Why would my genetic code go haywire like this?

I don’t know what to do with these feelings, so I write. I lean into my community again, like I did when I was weak and bald and sutured. What comes to me now is the image of being carried by a sea of people who love and support me.

After Harvey and Irma, and our mass retraumatization of watching these devastating images, I remember that most of us intimately know loss and pain and the vulnerability of being alive. I see these images and all I want to do is get on a bus and head to the most ravished place I can find and try to pick up the pieces.

As I wrote Cat’s name the sun broke through. I want to tell myself a story that she and Milyn and Champagne are everywhere now, all around us, invisible in the air, and we can breathe them in. Is raw vulnerability the gift they left? This reminder of impermanence? It makes me double down on my mission. Busy is my default coping mode.

Refocusing on the other, finding my community again, I’m leaning in.

What You Nurture Will Grow

There were 7 of us gathered around the table, silently letting our bodies and minds arrive into the quiet anticipation of our time together. Our small monthly gathering of the Younger Women’s Support Group for cancer survivors under the age of 55 was about to begin. On the table between us sat a basket of unimposing flower bulbs, some rocks, glass beads and small vases.

A few days before, I met with the social worker who facilitates this group with me, and the idea formulated that we would lead the group in an exercise of focused intention. We were to focus on what we would like to nurture and grow, really feeling into what that need was in our lives. We used the bulbs as a structure to represent this idea, belief or habit that we were going to foster and grow by adding water and tending to.

The clear vase with white stones and blue glass looked beautiful when I brought it home. I was feeling inspired and hopeful as I added water and carefully brought it to the windowsill next to my crystals, potted plants and singing bowl. It was all set perfectly. Now I just have to wait for this bulb to grow, I thought. This didn’t turn out to be very easy.

Among us in the group, our intentions were as varied and personal as our inner lives. For me, I recognized a need for better self care and permission to rest. I find this feeling lives deep in my belly, in the core of knowing who I am. In the dark cob-webbed cellar of my being, there is an old rooted belief that my value as a person is tied up in how hard I work. Logically, I know this to be untrue, but coming from a long line of type-A workaholics, this belief can feel like an insurmountable hill when I’m in full tilt productivity mode. There is my heart work, my newly burgeoning coaching business, a few other side projects and jobs, my family, home, garden, friends and a myriad of other responsibilities. I like being busy and usually thrive on the rich diversity of my day-to-day. Until… I bottom out.

I know I have hit a wall when the deadened neuropathy in my fingers and toes comes back and it feels like I’m walking around with clothes pins on my extremities. It shows up in the dull ache of my low back, the ligament laxity that comes with full blown adrenal stress. It feels like the knotty kink in my neck. It’s really apparent when even after a cup of my strongest morning brew, I still want to face plant into the pillows. Instead of napping, I’m looking for what’s next. What else can I cram into my already busy day before my son gets off of the bus at 3 PM, before dinner, before bedtime, before, before, before… and then I’m dragging myself off to bed. Hmm, I’m wondering if some of this sounds familiar to anyone else reading this.

So it’s really no wonder that my bulbs refused to grow. At first, the water was evaporating too quickly. The heat from the bay windows sucked up so much water the first week, that I found myself adding more water every day. There was a tiny bit of root growth, that quickly shriveled up after a day or two of neglect.

I decided to add more water, hoping that my recent oversight would protect the bulbs from drying out. This only resulted in some mold growth. What else was I doing wrong here? Why was this taking so long?

I sat back and thought about what else I could do. As a gardener, I thought about the conditions that exist for bulbs when planted in soil.  There is darkness, this required period of rest, before the plant has energy to send its first light green shoots up through the dirt. I reflected on how I was not living up to my end of the bargain. Despite my intentions, I was not resting. I moved the bulbs out of the sunny window. I changed the water entirely.

Conditions must be right for growth to occur. For both the bulbs and for my intentions for better self care and more rest, there were some requirements. These 5 R’s can be applied to any difficult situation or hang up you experience in life.

  1. Reality: I must be willing to take a hard look at what is really going on here.
  2. Responsibility: After making an observation, what am I taking responsibility for? Where can I realistically effect change? Am I over-watering the bulbs and overdoing it energetically? Am I over-scheduling myself?
  3. Responsiveness: It is time for damage control. What can I do to mitigate the lack of growth for my bulbs and in the realm of my own intentions? It is not enough to observe and be stuck in lamenting over what has not grown. I can choose to be responsive and make changes.
  4. Respect: After getting clear on my intentions, it is not enough to make a statement, have an intention setting ritual and just walk away. I must remain vigilant, mindful of what I am setting in motion.
  5. Resilience: I must hook into the part of me that knows how to stay the course and go the distance. Even if I stumble, make mistakes or feel like a flat out failure sometimes, I can learn from my mistakes and keep on trying.

I really didn’t expect all these life lessons could come from some tiny little gladiolus bulbs. I’m reminded that there are lessons all around me if I pay attention. By observing what my body and bulbs are needing, by practicing moderation and most of all, by BEING PATIENT WITH MYSELF, then yes it is true… what you nurture will grow!

 

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Melissa Eppard lives in the beautiful Hudson Valley, NY area with her young son and talented musician husband. She loves gardening, hiking, poetry, art, music and spending time with her family.  As a Life Coach she knows that life is more than a sum of our losses and seeks to ignite the spark of purposeful living and creative fire in everyone she meets.  www.MelissaEppardCoaching.com

 

 

 

 

A Whole Year of Turning 40: Not Just Another Party

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This is a big one, but I’m not one of those women lamenting the aging process. After kicking breast cancer to the curb 3 years ago, after the steady climb back into my strength and vitality, gaining another year is an achievement. Sorry, not-sorry… it’s an outright blessing and a gift! But please don’t jump to buying me a present for my 40th birthday in November. Don’t look for a save-the-date in the mail.

Here is why: I have a special invitation to all of my friends and family. I am inviting you to celebrate with me All Year Long!

One of the gifts in being where I am in life is that I know what I like and I know what I need. I know how to ask for and pursue what I want. While I like to attend other people’s parties, I don’t enjoy the thought of planning one for myself, or hosting one, or having a surprise party thrust upon me. Hear me out before you close this and call me a party pooper!

I always feel overwhelmed at my own parties. There is too much noise, too many competing conversations, and I can’t give individualized attention to discuss anything of depth over the French onion dip. There may be quantity in who shows up, but it’s usually not the space for quality time.

There is all this pressure in the planning and preparing too. First, culling the invite list to meet my budget, booking a venue, planning entertainment and food, hunting down RSVP’s, you know…really working it! Then, suddenly it’s party day, and 4-5 hours later it’s over and done. I’m left stripping tables with half a buzz and tossing half eaten pieces of cake. Instead, I want my “cake” and my “birthday buzz” all year long!

Here’s the other thing. I don’t want you to celebrate me. I want to celebrate US in this world together. I want to honor our paths, lament our struggles and heartaches; I want to dance over our achievements, discoveries, and joys! I want to do something that is so uniquely US. It may be spontaneous or it may elegantly planned, but either way it will be personal and it will be QUALITY time. Perhaps there will be greasy food involved, or hysterical laughing, or getting lost in the woods. We might dare each other, go outside our comfort zones a bit. We might just stroll that old familiar neighborhood and talk quietly. We might sit in silence and watch the world go by together. If geography prevails, we will curl up with our phones and share our hearts. There will probably be a lot of laughing and maybe some crying too.

This would be the greatest gift for me in this year of turning 40. I want this celebration to be lasting, and I want to share time with the people I love and care about in a meaningful way. Here is how I see this playing out in real life. My job in to show up, to be (reasonably) available, and commit to showing up. Your job? Seek me out. Offer up your plan, your date, your reservation, your hike in the woods, your dance in the rain, your best lasagna, your cup of tea. Small groups are ok too.

This is not about what you will do for me, or buy for me. I really don’t want presents, just presence. Real life, real time presence. In thinking about the many people who have touched my life in a meaningful way, even a year might not be enough time, but we can try!