I’ve been pretty silent the past few months. The last time you heard from me was in early February when I reminisced about my days as a wildland firefighter.
Since then, my beautiful and brave wife, Jill, was diagnosed with breast cancer, and there was a flurry of uncertainty, fear, resolve and then important decisions to be made.
Just like that, life threw us a pretty crazy curveball.
One of the first things Jill said to me after her diagnosis was, “You don’t know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.” I’ve hung onto those words more than ever the past couple of months.
During this time, I’ve never been more grateful for having my own business. It’s given me the flexibility to shift things around and be there for visits to the doctor, important conversations, and time to comfort Jill when she really needed it.
Nothing could have prepared me for this journey. It was completely unexpected and something I don’t think there was any way to really prepare for.
For those of you lucky enough to know Jill, she is the most alive, positive and loving person. I’m a little biased of course, but it was so hard to imagine that someone with so much energy and vibrancy could have been dealt such an unfair blow.
I’ve since learned that over 85% of the women diagnosed with breast cancer don’t have it in their family history and it’s considered non-hereditary. It’s simply bad luck, and the fact is that one in every eight women will be diagnosed with this disease.
In other words, there is a pretty high likelihood that a friend, family member or loved one will be impacted by this disease in your lifetime.
The great news is that Jill’s breast cancer was detected early and she had surgery to remove the cancer on April 30th. Her pathology tests have come back clean and she is on the road to recovery and well-being. The rest of her treatment plan is still being considered by her medical team.
We feel incredibly blessed and grateful for the collective community and countless individuals that have shown up BIG TIME for Jill and me.
Whether it was a supportive text or phone call, a home-cooked meal delivered to our doorstep, a dog walk for Addie, a financial donation, a card, a candle, flowers, heartfelt hugs, prayers or a note of support and kindness… it’s all added up to the most generous flow of goodness that I’ve ever experienced.
We’ve been blown away by the overwhelming love and generosity of so many people who love Jill and are collectively showing up to make our lives a little easier during a tough time.
3 Ways To Navigate Life’s Challenges
One thing is certain in life… there will be challenges. It’s not a matter of if we’ll be challenged. It’s a matter of how and when.
So if we’re going to face challenges, whether it’s health, relationships, money, career or otherwise, how can we navigate a sticky situation in a healthy and sustainable way?
I’ll share three things that I’ve realized over the past couple of months that have helped me navigate this latest chapter of life.
1) Acknowledge, accept, receive and embrace.
When we first received Jill’s diagnosis, I was in shock, and then I moved into a subtle pattern of resistance that I’ll call ‘pushing through’. This is my go-to pattern where I shift into high gear and try and plan the whole thing out.
This worked pretty well until… surgery. Jill’s first week home from the hospital was close to unbearable for me. No amount of planning could have prepared me for the pain and discomfort that Jill experienced following her surgery.
This forced me to acknowledge the situation and truly accept my role as a caretaker. There was nothing I could do to fix this or make the pain go away, but I could do simple things that would be helpful.
I could run errands, carry her pillows up and down the stairs, queue up Netflix, bring her food, listen, read to her, and just be there.
Acknowledging and accepting the situation allowed me to see things from a more empowering perspective. I began to understand that in the most challenging moments, I could choose to see who, what, when, and how to show up and support my wife without needing to fix everything or be Superman. I moved out of resistance (which suffocates truth and possibility) and into acceptance.
This allowed me to begin trusting our current life situation, at a soul level, and realize that I could purposefully use this time for my own growth and learning. I began to receive and embrace it. All of it! The sad, the bad, the scary and the ugly bits, along with the joy, happiness, surprises, and miracles yet be discovered.
This is what Jill meant when she told me that, “You don’t know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.”
There’s always an opportunity to allow the pain and suffering to be what it is. To fully acknowledge it. To accept it. To look for the value it can bring you. Ask yourself, “How can my current life situation be okay just as it is?”
2) Keep one foot grounded in reality and the other foot grounded in possibility.
In the first meeting with the surgical oncologist when we learned of Jill’s breast cancer diagnosis, the doctor said, “It won’t be helpful to dwell on the worst case scenario – that won’t be helpful to you at all. What will be helpful is taking this one step at a time while also planning for life after you get through this.”
I love the simple brilliance of her advice. It would have been really easy, and completely normal, to hop on the fear train and quickly spiral into a constant stream of negative thoughts and inner dialogue.
There’s power in acknowledging the truth of the situation while also not allowing yourself to drown in it.
Together, Jill and I learned to take one step at a time and keep our awareness on the present moment. We identified what we needed to do for that day, that hour, or that moment.
But we also talked about how we would celebrate when this was over. We talked about our upcoming trip to Africa in 2020 and all the fun we’ll have this summer. We talked about trips to the river with Addie. We talked about going to the beach with Jill’s mom and step-dad in a few weeks.
If you find yourself in a shitty situation, focus on the action you must take to move forward, for sure. But don’t forget to dream a little.
There’s a lot of wisdom to be gained from finding the sweet spot between the devastation of a painful situation and the acknowledgement of possibility and hope.
I completely acknowledge that not every situation has a happy ending, but there is a deeper meaning to be gained if we’re open to it.
3) Understand that your situation is bigger than you.
We are more deeply interconnected than we realize. On the surface, we appear separate. However, underneath it all we operate collectively, and our actions (and reactions) deeply influence one another.
Part of my growth process has been accepting help from others and understanding that this entire situation is much bigger than me. I have an opportunity to consciously choose my role and grow through this challenge and understand that I don’t have to (or need to) do it alone.
Please understand that you are never alone with your circumstances, whatever they may be. I coach and support others for a living and this situation has humbled me and put me face-to-face with the opportunity to ask and receive support and understand that by doing so, I am allowing others to participate in healing the whole.
At any given time, thousands, if not millions of others, have gone through, or will go through, what you are facing. Don’t be too prideful to ask for help. And don’t be too cool to receive it. Your situation is almost always bigger than you.
Consider your life challenge a request to update yourself, and therefore, all of us. We, as a collective, are constantly being asked to advance. As Tom Bilyeu says, humans are the ultimate adaptation machines. We are literally hardwired to adapt. But to adapt and change, we need each other for support, creativity, imagination, and collaboration. This allows for an evolution of emotional intelligence, humility, and compassion to be experienced.
Your experience, no matter how grand or simple or painful, is an essential piece to healing the whole. And you have more agency than you might realize. Understanding that your situation is bigger than you may be the key to your own personal transformation, as well as the transformation of others.
As always, thank you for reading and listening. I look forward to being back and leaning into life and business with a whole new perspective.