I have a friend battling cancer. She’s triumphed over multiple reoccurrences, and has recently been declared cancer-free, even though she isn’t treatment free just yet. It’s been a particularly grueling and harrowing past year. Somehow she keeps working, which is a blessing because it fills her with good energy. She loves her work as a teacher for visually impaired students. If you listen to my friend, the work isn’t work at all, but a joyful way of giving and receiving what both student and teacher need to make their lives worthwhile.
She focuses on good stuff, like progress a young scholar makes, a student sending her a “thank-you for making a difference in my life” email, and of course the joy of seeing a child learn and grow in a positive way. There must be hard parts too, but you never hear her talk of those things. Bureaucracies, bull-headed parents, and petty school politics simply aren’t part of her focus. I figure she knows what’s important and chooses to give attention to those things, instead of letting the other stuff waste her time and drain away energy.
When she isn’t working, she enjoys her photography hobby, “kidnaps” her husband for time away together, and anticipates seeing her grown children whenever they can arrange some time off together. It seems she is always out and about hiking and photographing in between treatments and tests. Considering she lost lots of weight this year, nearly died twice, and has absorbed more chemotherapy than anyone else I’ve known, it’s a wonder she can do all this high energy stuff. I think it’s more than determination and medical miracles, although those are clearly important factors. I think it has just as much to do with her passion for finding the good in her day, for making each day meaningful, and for celebrating out loud and often all the wonderful people in her life.
She had a rough few days leading into the weekend and was nauseous Friday from a procedure involving anesthesia. Never-the-less, she let her husband whisk her away Saturday night for their anniversary and worked on regaining her energy yesterday. This morning she packed her pain meds and headed into traffic earlier than usual, and this allowed her a thirty minute rest in the car before going into the school. She made it through the day without any meds, tolerating the pain, and came home exhausted yet satisfied.
Part of her satisfaction comes from knowing she is teaching far more than the curriculum. She was open with her students about the cancer and treatments, telling me, “That opened up lots of interesting conversations and I had some hard questions to answer from them. But hopefully, I gave them some skills to help them when life doesn’t go their way.” She taught these skills to more than her students. I think we all benefited from her examples.
My friend has found a way to make her time count, consciously deciding how to find celebration and meaning in each and every day. During these cancer episodes, she didn’t wait until she was feeling better to celebrate, or until the treatments were finished to go back to teaching, or until her hair and energy were restored to run out and embrace what the world offered; she’s totally alive right now, more so than almost anyone else I know. By focusing on what matters, celebrating daily victories, and relishing relationships, she found a way to live purposely and fully.
Most of us have at least as much to celebrate, to explore, and to offer the world in a valuable way as my friend and I don’t want to be in a tough spot before I recognize each moment counts. I’m going to take a deeper look at what I give attention, how to celebrate more often, and which relationships need a little more nourishing. It’s the kind of healthy activity my friend would automatically do.
I invite you to join me in making more moments count, in being mindful of what’s important, and in celebrating the moments as well as the milestones.
What would your life be like if you only focused on what is worthwhile?