Emotional Cancer

 

Why am I not happy?


We live in the most prosperous time in human history.  If you are reading this and lucky enough to live in America, you may have become accustomed to a lifestyle that would have boggled the mind of your great grandparents for its ease and comforts.  We live safer, live longer, suffer less disease, eat more meals, live in infinitely more comfortable housing, and drive stylish vehicles of amazing reliability.   We are living in the lap of luxury compared to billions of people around the world.   Yet, many are not happy.

It is a disease of luxury. 

It’s not that we can’t see, but rather that we don’t see.  We have developed a weird tunnel vision that sees only the few things we lack, rather than the abundance of generous things we possess.  We will drive our luxury automobile thru the drive through at Starbucks to purchase a $5 latte after having a full breakfast at home, and instead of feeling blessed, we are annoyed that the wait will be 5 minutes to get through instead of the usual 2 minutes.  Then, we pout because a woman, who walks past our car, is wearing a pair of $400 shoes we can’t afford, conveniently forgetting that the shoes we are wearing are one of dozens of pairs from our closet, which, by the way, is bulging at its seams.

Emotional cancer limits our success.  

Being unhappy is like having a sinus infection. It is not severe enough to cause you to miss work, but you don’t perform at optimum level while there.  Your co-workers notice you withdrawing. You don’t engage in discussions that could produce new growth because you feel off your game. You will skip meetings, because you feel blue. Bottom line… you perform at a subpar level. If you keep these behaviors up for very long, you will be passed over for promotions and probably find yourself on your boss’s blacklist.  Being unhappy for long periods of time will definitely cost your pocketbook.

It is a disease that disables.

In the next few blogs, we’ll look at how to survive emotional cancer.  For now, just diagnosis yourself.   Get honest about your habitual thoughts and start looking for a cure.  

The Master said, “I have come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly,” You were not meant to waste away in emotional distress.  The answers are on the way.  Freedom is coming.  

It’s Thanksgiving week. Time for turkey, football, family and the giving of thanks.  Thanksgiving is usually my favorite holiday, but this year my wife has cancer.  The annual feast of gratitude takes on a new dimension when you are experiencing life with the number two cause of death in America. Even though she is doing well, and the prognosis is for full recovery, it is a sobering time.  I should be depressed and angry.  Certainly, my wife would have a right to be out of the holiday mood, but… that’s not how we feel.

We feel thankful.  How can we feel gratitude with cancer in our lives?

The question is really bigger than that.  How can you feel gratitude when your life is in a serious downturn?

  • Can you be grateful when someone you love has recently died?
  • Can you be thankful when your child is in prison?
  • Can you be grateful when your family has been shattered by divorce?
  • Can you be thankful when your business is sinking financially?

The answer is yes, and here’s two reasons why:

First of all, if you will access gratitude you will be happier. Why?

  • You will enjoy better relationships with your friends and family.
  • You will enjoy greater success in your work.

Gratitude can not only increase your enjoyment of life, but it will actually make your life more successful.  I just read a wonderful book on developing charisma for personal    success and I was surprised to learn it had a section on developing gratitude.  Here’s a     quote from the book:

“Everyone seems to be preaching gratitude these days. Oprah champions an “attitude of gratitude,” and studies have come out showing that gratitude helps you live longer, healthier, and even happier. The science is compelling, as are the ways in which gratitude can boost your charisma.  If you can access gratitude, an instant change will sweep through your body language from head to toe; your face will soften, your whole body will relax.  Your body language will emanate both warmth and a particular grounded confidence that people will find very appealing.”     Olivia Fox Cabane  “The Charisma Myth”

  • You will enjoy more of the life you have left.

Our pain can narrow our vision.  We can fail to see the good that still abounds in our lives when we are dealing with a   disappointment or pain. The Bible commands us to be thankful in all circumstances, because in almost all situations there remain reasons to rejoice.

Secondly,  the choice of gratitude will protect you from bitterness.I have a friend who lost a beautiful sixteen-year-old daughter in a car accident.  She told me that after a season of nearly unbearable grief and spiritual confusion, she made a decision to give her questions to God and move on.  She said her motivation was selfish.  “I did not want to be a bitter, old woman.”

I choose to be grateful this thanksgiving in spite of my wife having cancer because I want to be happy and I refuse to be bitter.  I hope you will choose gratitude as well this holiday season even if you’re going through a difficult time. So pass the cranberry and the candied yams.   Turn up the volume on the TV and let’s root for the Cowboys.  Oh, and if you ask me to pray, get ready for little bit longer prayer than usual, because I want to thank God for all Barbara and I still have in spite of her cancer.

How to Walk Through Darkness

I don’t like to be scared. I’ve never cared for scary movies or spook houses.  I never understood the appeal of having someone jump out of the dark at you while wearing a frightening mask.  Some people love this kind of thing.  I don’t.  Some spook houses have a room or hallway that is designed to put you in absolute darkness.  It is terrifying because you can’t see what’s coming.  The only way to conquer the darkness is to wait it out or to keep walking till you get to the light.  What keeps you from going crazy with fear is knowing that eventually you’ll get out of the darkness and the night will return to normal.

Life can be like a dark room in a spook house.  You can find yourself in a place of darkness.  Suddenly, you can’t understand what’s happening and even worse you can’t see what’s  going to happen next.  An emotional “dark room” can be terrifying.  To handle it you attempt to shore up your courage with the hope that light will return, things will get better, and hopefully, life will return to normal.

Struggling with the dark has been one of the more difficult parts of my wife’s and my experience with cancer.  Our lives were changed dramatically without warning and we struggled to make sense of it all, kind of like having the lights go off.  The darkness increased as we  faced the complication of medical treatments, the resultant body pain, the loss of control of time, and the steady stream of medical bills kept coming at us.  We fought to keep a positive attitude.

One of the worst aspects of “the dark” is the waiting.  As a friend of mine, whose wife is also struggling with cancer shared with me;           

The whole process is taxing on my wife.  It is all the waiting.  Every time we see one doctor, we have to wait another week or two until   we see the next one.  This weighs on us knowing that she has cancer inside her. The surgery is still probably at least 3-4 weeks out. 

I feel his pain.  Been there, done that, and we have that cancer t-shirt.

Maybe you’re in the dark right now.  Maybe you are facing:

  • The terror of a job loss.
  • The fear of ballooning debt.
  • The fright of a health crisis.
  • The panic of a child that is on drugs.
  • The apprehension of a spouse who is threatening to leave.

What can you do?  You don’t have a lot of choices.

One, you can curl up in a fetal position and cry in the dark.  You can whine incessantly about how unfair life is, and how God has failed you.  Of course, that will change nothing except to shorten the list of friends who will take your phone calls.

Two, you can choose to shore up your courage and keep on walking.   You can choose to believe that God is good, life is worth living even in times of struggle, and that eventually the darkness will end.  You can put a smile on your face as you make the inner determination that you will get through this with your integrity intact, and that the darkness will make you a better person when it is gone.

You can choose not to visit a spook house.  You can’t always choose not to walk through emotional darkness, but you can choose how you get through it.  Keep on walking. Keep on believing.  Next year will be better.  The darkness will eventually lift.

Leave me a comment about how you have dealt with the “dark rooms” of your life.

 

WHAT IN THE WORLD DO I SAY?

My wife is dealing with cancer and I’m learning some things about that far too common journey.   The ironic thing is that I’ve been writing a book on cancer with a friend, who is dealing with the strain of her second diagnosis of cancer.   For the past year, I’ve sent her a daily devotion and she has been journaling her response to each day’s post.  We hope to publish a book to help people find spiritual support and practical wisdom to help with their struggles.

It looks like I’ll be writing a chapter I never dreamed I would write….when cancer came to my family.

One of things I’m learning is how hard it is to support a loved one in a great trial.  It’s been said that it is harder to watch someone you love go through pain, than it is to go through it yourself. I know I’m finding it difficult to say the correct words to help my wife.  This is due to wondering “what is the right thing to say?”, not whether or not I want to be encouraging.    This dilemma is not a  “cancer”specific problem, but rather applies to anyone with a loved one in pain.

  • What do you say to a friend who says, “I have cancer?”
  • How do you encourage someone who says, “My husband left me for another woman?”
  • What expression of hope is appropriate for the one whose child just died?
  • How do you answer the question, “Why did this terrible thing happen to me?”
  • What can you say to the one who got laid off two weeks after his wife had a baby?

Now the problem is not having something to say.  The problem is not saying something that is trite in sentiment or that sounds callous to the one who is hurting.

  • Don’t say – “I know how you feel.” Nobody knows how anyone feels
  • Don’t say – “I am sure everything will be okay.” You don’t know that.
  • Don’t’ say – “I have a friend who had the same surgery, etc.” Your friend’s experience is not relevant.
  • Don’t’ say – “let me know if I can help.” Find a way to help.
  • Don’t say – “God needed your loved one in heaven.” That makes God sound cruel.

What do you do when someone you know gets the worst news ever? Maybe, don’t say anything at all. Do something!  Anything.   Say a prayer. Write a personal note. Make a personal visit.  Bring a meal to the house.   Make a phone call.  Make yourself available to listen.  Or try this, just go sit by their side and saying nothing at all while you hold their hand.

When someone gets the worst news ever, do something that will make you their best friend ever. Show them that you care.   That’s what they really need.  They don’t need a solution, they need to know they are loved.

P.S.  Let me know in the comment section you’d like to receive the cancer, or going through trial devotions, I mentioned in the last post.  I’m still compiling a list.