Thursday, January 8, 2015

Spreading Some Sunshine...

     I had the pleasure of working with a wonderful person a few years ago. On my journey of re-discovery she crossed my path and I'm sure it was no accident. Sadly, yesterday she lost her brave battle with cancer. Please, if you can, take the time to read her Manifesto of Gratitude. I'm posting her words on my blog with the hope that I can spread some of her sunshine. I feel we can all learn from her. She was such a caring and mindful person and I'm sure, though she is gone, she will live on in the hearts of all she touched. 

Allison's Manifesto of Gratitude

    September 24, 2012 is significant day for me.  It’s an anniversary. A big one.  10 years ago today  I was diagnosed with a rare inoperable form of cancer called neuroendocrine-cancer on my pancreas (this is similar to what Steve Jobs of Apple had). I was 22 years old and it was the day that I was supposed to start my practice teaching placement for teachers college. The reason I am sharing this, is many people in my life have asked me to blog about this. I never really thought it would be that interesting to others.

     Since that day ten years ago my life has been filled with many opportunities and challenged I would never have imagined for myself and those around me. My life is so different now. Better, fuller, more complicated and when I look back on it all - I smile. It has been challenging for not just me but, the people around me. I am proud of how we have handled this and still handle this. I have never felt alone and I am eternally grateful for the positive energy the surrounds me and I try to share this with everyone whom I meet. The last ten years have had surgeries, chemo, hospital stays, trips to Europe for treatment, continued treatment, meeting and marrying my husband;  he is a part of my soul - happily ever after and loving him for me is like breathing, spending time with my family & friends and becoming a part of my large married family, growing an even stronger bond with my remarkable family who`s strength is unbelievable, my teaching career, having fun in life and growing older. I am so blessed. I like who I am better, today, 10 years later. I am proud of myself and who I have grown to become and am excited to continue on my life`s path and so much of this is because I have had a lot of help. Thank you.

     I choose to celebrate and mark this day, by thanking everyone.  There are people who have made a significant difference in my life in the past 10 years and will not read this, some have passed on, some do not have a computer, some I am not in contact with and some I do not even know personally.  I send out this love and thanks into the universe for everyone. Therefore I want to share the 10 most important lessons I have learned in my Manifesto of Gratitude of some lessons I have learned along the way.

1. Be Brave – this is my mantra. I say it hundreds of times a day. I use it when I go to see my docs or when I am picking out an outfit. If I ever got a tattoo –it would say this. Be brave, be brave, be brave.

2. Spend time with myself – I am fortunate to have finally realized that I need to rest, relax and listen to myself. I am a lot smarter then I give myself credit. I know a lot of answers of things that I wonder. By spending time with myself I can hear my inner voice. Sitting quietly or singing at the top of my lungs. Hanging out with me gives me time to connect to myself. Yoga and meditation really allow me to do this. My yoga experiences have been heavenly and I am blessed to have had wonderful teachers.

3. Pray – I do this not just for what I need but, also for others. Often.             
My two favourite prayers are:

The prayer of St. Francis
 ( also a favorite mantra of mine)
Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

A Buddhist prayer 

Let all things be healthy.
Let all things be peaceful.
Count your blessings at least once a day.
Forgive those who have hurt you; forgive those who have offended you.
But most of all forgive yourself for what you have done, and for what you have failed to do.
What is done, there is no need to speak of.
What is past, there is no need to blame.
Have self-control, self-knowledge, self-respect, and the courage to dare.
Strive to make the spot where you stand beautiful.
Then harmony, happiness, and longevity will follow you all your days and all your ways.

4. Things do not go as planned: so deal with it – sure, it is ok to not like it.  If I can change things I will. If I cannot, I choose to go with it. Life to me is not a fight. It`s a song and I need to play on. Even if I play the wrong note, I know to keep playing on. By developing a stronger set of coping techniques is important for everyone – it has been essential for me.

5. Gratitude- every night before bed my husband and I say ‘thank you’ to each other. For our lives, the day, our experiences. I try to exercise as much gratitude as I am able to. When I exhale, I try to breath out `thank yous`` as often as possible. If I can help someone, I try my best to help anyone in whatever way I may be able to. So many people help me on my path and I am honoured to show gratitude by helping whenever I can.  Give back as often as possible.

6. Smile & Laugh – authentically, whenever, until my cheeks hurt, in my sleep, as often as possible.

7. Give Energy to positive things -That is one reason I do not often talk about having cancer. It’s a part of my life, but not MY life. I am happy to talk about it, however, I like talking about cooking, fun, music, travelling and being happy. Hence, my manifesto. I try to release the things in my life that are not serving me or causing unneeded stress. Some things are unavoidable and that is why giving energy to positive things helps me deal with not-so-positive times.

8. Forgive – nobody is perfect. I am not, but my inner voice is really good at telling me I should be. To take a good look at myself and forgive is a life-long process. To forgive others is tough too. I believe that people (myself included) have trouble forgiving out of fear. So to be brave and face that fear is the ultimate personal freedom.

9. Treat myself & make bad choices – drink one more glass of wine or do an extra shot, eat a piece or two of cake, stay up too late, eat something a little too spicy or maybe deep fried. I do not mean anything too crazy, however the term crazy is relative to your gage for crazy.  I believe in life we regret more the things we don’t do, then the things we have done. I do not exercise this even moment of my day. However, my philosophy is 80:20. 80% of the time I do make best to make the absolute best choices that I am able to make (diet, exercise, keeping stress levels low, surrounding myself with calm and authentic people). Then there is the 20% of my life. It is the Chinese food  I love Chinese food), the vanilla cupcakes with rainbow sprinkles ( I try to avoid sugar at all costs), the bottle of wine I will open and finish with my husband. Why do I do these things, it is because sometimes I want to. Sometimes, this 20% actually makes my 80% better. I have less stress because I do not feel like I am sacrificing what I want, rather actively choosing what’s best for me.

10. Lead by Example  I think about this every day. Who do I admire, why do I admire them, how can I be like that. I am thankful for the lessons that have taught me how not behave as well. One of my favourite teachers, Ajhan Brahm (a Buddhist monk) talks about how sometime people show us examples of how to conduct ourselves or how not conduct ourselves. I try to lead by an example of the people who have inspired me. I even have a sign in my classroom that says this.

     I want to close this with Thank You. I hold in my heart all of the love and support from everyone and I am humbled daily by the positive people and support.  Letters, cards, texts, emails, visits, prayers, well-wishes, hugs, lunches, smiles, flowers, phone calls, silly times, serious times, holding of my hand, taking time off to be with me, and moments that could go to moon and back if they were listed. All of these things are etched on my heart. My loving parents always told me the best gift you can give someone is your time. I remember every second of time. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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