Writing for therapeutic expression | Living Beyond Breast Cancer

My advocacy through writing – on lbbc.org my post on writing as therapy – you don’t have to share or publish but even 10 minutes of reflection a day or even a week can let you get what’s on your heart on the page and leave you feeling less weight. Going back to reflect on your journal can let you read your thoughts from a week, month or year ago and see how patterns may be holding you back, how you’ve progressed for the better, and even give you a sense of accomplishment just by seeing how well your writing can improve. You can use any form of expression – poetry, quotes that inspire you, acts of kindness you’ve witnessed, things that surprise you, art, collage, drawing, music. Writing helps heal our souls. It’s for you and you alone to decide how and what you want to do with it. Even a dream journal is a form of expression and therapy. Try it! I’m here to help you get started if you’re stuck -reach out any time. And if you’ve got breast cancer. Check out living beyond breast cancer -it’s for all ages and all stages.

Ilene Kaminsky was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in March 2015. She turned to writing in her journal and eventually her blog, The Cancer Bus, to help cope with her diagnosis living with breast cancer. She shares how writing has helped her through the years and how you can start a writing practice.
— Read on www.lbbc.org/node/8030

Days of Futures Past

Would what I know today have helped me in the past? Circumstances change with every decision and what and who play roles in our lives constantly shift like sand on a beach. The ocean’s tides ever flow, but never continually the same so the charts must change with them and the shifting of the depths we cannot see beneath us. So anxious minds consider, “if only I’d known then what I know now,” beating themselves up with the knowledge they never could have known before that very moment. Experience and wisdom helps our insight, but focusing on the moment helps us get to the shore, while not looking back at the vastness and the waves behind us can make us run ashore instead of landing in the safety of the port of call ahead.

People change, as their roles in our lives do – and they perhaps hadn’t even shown up yet as we sail into this moment. Knowledge of the past certainly builds a foundation failures and corrections, of perfecting a skill or building a long term relationship. Adding all those trials and errors leads to our successes. But somehow we get older. Hopefully wiser and things become easier. Right?

There’s knowledge that’s unfashionable to a younger, unexperienced mind. Yet how I sometimes wish I retained less of the knowledge I’ve amassed. The German Erfahrung, translates to the English word experience yet the German definition connotes more closely to my point. Erfahrung equates to the coherency of one’s life’s experiences. And that’s the subtly of why what we know now never could help our past selves.

Our egos sometimes overshadow our vision making it difficult to see that we, as the coherence of the past, culminate into the current moment. Can you know more than you know? But how do you infer a decision from the past without the culmination of experience?

I try to follow the old rule “fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me.” But there’s not a one of us who can honestly say we’ve not gone back for more foolishness given instances of grief, love, passion, obsession, and even hope. It’s the science. We rely on evidence based knowledge to go back for more chemotherapy. Yet as far as I know there are no instances of chemotherapy curing cancer, though we’ve experienced successes using western medicine.

It’s not foolishness but hope that drives us to swallow the pills, sit through long infusion sessions of poison, and lasered with radioactive beams of light. How can we hope to recover with the help of the very things that contribute to cancer? We certainly know more today than we knew yesterday, but back for more we go.

All we are is all we are.

We’re all we are, but not all we have been. Change is never a straight m path. It’s not a tightrope with a net beneath to catch our fall when we make mistakes and lose our balance. The paths we walk, crooked and curved, and look more like mazes than labyrinths, since we have an end to the process in mind not just a question we ask as we walk around the crooked and curved lines, none contain us or forced us go make a decision in order to exit.

We skip over cobblestones in the roads. We change course. Our bodies don’t even remain the same as our physical selves aren’t even the same as they were a millisecond ago. And that’s physical age taking us over. Everyone is born terminal. If the doctor slapped a newborn’s bottom to make sure they’re able to scream and thus breath, the first words we should have heard were, “I’m sorry but you have a terminal case of stage four life and you’re going to die from it”. We don’t have a prognosis on your actual mortality but have hope. Medicine has come a long way and life expectancy has reached 77 years in the US and over 80 in European and Asian countries. If your children were born recently they’ll be expected to live over 83 years. When I was born in 1965, the average age of mortality was 74.

It’s unlikely I’ll reach 74. Metastatic cancer shaves years off of the long life my parents expected me to have – both of them thought I’d live into my 90s for some reason. I’m a mortal disappointment.

Roll the dice and be nice.

Take good care of your soul and your spirit. Whether or not it’s true that heaven and God exist, kindness and giving others love won’t make life here and now any worse. Actually, I can only make living here better. What really do you have to lose by navigating this life with a well tuned moral compass to help guide the way?

One thing I have learned is that saying I’m sorry even if I don’t feel that I am at fault and the argument isnt “my fault” I apologize. Yet it has to be a real apology not one that feels false or feels forced. Sometimes you have just say I’m sorry. Because tomorrow morning it’s not who said they were sorry, but that the burden of stress is over. Chances are you won’t even remember what the argument was about. Because let’s face it it wasn’t about what you said, it was about what you didn’t say. But you’ll be happy for for the hug that you’ll feel for the kiss on the cheek for the I love you that you’ll hear. That is an easy thing to do. It’s the ego that gets in the way and if you’re taking care of your spirit and your soul the ego takes a backseat.

It’s the ego that gets in the way of the possibilities of genuine apology. Yet if you’re taking care of your spirit and your soul the ego can take a backseat. We can let the ego grow, like ivy growing over the bricks of a university building. It might look good, yet it covers what’s hiding underneath.

Your soul and your spirit are the most valuable and precious things you’re responsible for. And if indeed there is “heaven” and “God,” and you don’t believe in a specific doctrine or prayer book or religion, still what do you have to lose by doing good? Taking spiritual care of yourself is as important as taking physical and mental care of yourself. It helps you treat other people the way you like to be treated.

I do believe in the old aphorism of treating others how you’d like to be treated. How many of us really practice that? Look at the arguments that you have look at the things that you don’t say that you really want to say and then tell me that you do treat other people the way that you want to be treated. Don’t you want to really know what somebody feels have somebody wants to be treated? Perhaps it’s not what’s being said, but that feeling in your gut that you should listen to instead.

Laying down your sword and holding out your arms instead to hold someone makes life easier. And I do believe that life is meant to be easy. It’s certainly easier taking care of yourself and allowing that self-care to show and shine for other people in the form of a genuine heart. The better you take care you take care of yourself, the better you can take care of other people. Practicing that can give you a happier life right here and right now. Practicing self-care and self-love helps the way I care for others to improve.

Where in lies the difficulty?

We struggle when we want more than simply life itself. We cannot control others. If indeed life weren’t meant to be easy then life itself would make no sense at all. It is simple and it is easy. In summary I want to give you for things that I’ve been thinking about that had me write this post which seems probably very philosophical to you. I haven’t written a post for a few weeks because I’ve been thinking quite a bit in this downtime, in this alone time, and tried to treat this isolation is not so much lonely but is the time to do some self discovery. I hope that you’ll get a little bit from the soul-searching that I’ve been doing.

1. Accepting that you’re born to eventually die and not worrying so much about the end but simply living in this very moment is the best life there can be.

2. If you take care of your spirit and your soul your back is covered. Whether you believe or not in god or a doctrine to understand the meaning of life, regardless, there was once a beginning of all things and there will be an ending of all things but everything comes from “one.” You don’t have to worry if you’re a good person and don’t damage yourself or harm others or the planet or anything beyond.

3. All we are is all we are – but not who we are. Some say we are only the summation of our experiences. But those circumstances of our experiences don’t simply make us exactly what we are and we can change. There are second chances and we can change. Some say people can never change but I say that’s absolutely false. I’ve seen people who have argued about the same things so many times but when they finally got down to what was really bothering them they were able to go forward and move forward and take care of their spirits and souls.

4. I have all I need right here and right now. If I want more than life itself then I’ll always feel life is a struggle. Leave behind the wants and the must-have’s and the lists of things. Buying doesn’t make you more human, but sharing does. Loving does. And being loved in return makes life an easy place to be. Life is terminal but let’s say this:

Life is easy let’s let it be and so it will be.

Honestly Blogging: exposing our true selves intimately and deeply

I love certain blogs and posts most likely because I agree with the author or the point of view on a given topic. Human nature forces the mind migrate towards those who have similar views to our own. Naturally. But why do we expose ourselves so intimately on topics that affect our lives so broadly with such a dangerously wide audience, not only those who agree with and similarly like our writing styles?

Writing a personal blog provided me with something soul cleansing. I feel better when my honest words spill out onto the virtual page instead of, or sometimes along with, my tears. Isn’t “honesty” not the objective but the catalyst?

There’s no one who cannot see through you like a plate-glass window if the writing presented is disingenuous or trite. I get complimented on my honest no b.s. style, with regards to my primarily cancer-related blog posts. By divulging other corners of my emotional life along with cancer’s affects on my body and my spirit the therapeutic benefits become self-evident. This includes the sticky issues around how my husband’s depression effects me and our relationship. My blog also allows me tackle all kinds of issues through my poetry.

I’d not feel genuine nor as though I were presenting my life with authenticity if I don’t present the three-dimensional view of Ilene. So I publish it all – ugly, funny, beautiful, strange. 

Why a blog instead of social media?

Publishing my innermost feelings on a platform such as Facebook opens up a big can of worms that won’t get back inside without much squirming – kind of like those surprise spring snakes in a can labeled Peanut Brittle. Frightening and not very humorous. If a friend or relative chooses to read my blog posts they have to actually make an effort to leave Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram, or LinkedIn, or… I provide a link on those pages to let those who want to know I’ve published a new post.

A closer look at the kinds of posts on social sites and the reactions they illicit, pushes me to take what I believe is the right approach for my purposes in the virtual world. Getting what I need and giving back what’s needed by others on specific sites primary purpose for taking a deeper look at what the right content – and at what comfort level I derive from each.

For instance: participation in peer closed cancer groups on Facebook; short messages on Twitter for communicating to the wider metastatic breast cancer community; and marketing to a wide general audience through more visually engaging platforms like Instagram and Pinterest for my vintage Etsy business and for my blog. 

“Tell me about your mother, yah?”

Writing is therapy – and not everyone wants to know what lights up the CT scan from deep within. And there are many who need to know there’s another person who has been through a similar experience so they don’t feel so alone with their malady. They find our blogs eventually and on their own terms. That’s one reason to keep writing – it’s not cowardly or hiding out cowering from feeling vulnerable in a dark corner of the web at all. It’s rather brave to spill your guts in the midst of history’s most public forum of all – the internet. Our blogs can be read by a hugely wide audience including people we’d prefer not have access to our fears and our pain. 

The recursive act of throwing ourselves out there without any reason to believe someone will or will never read our stories leads us down an unknown path without a map or a compass. We jump off into a great unknown and hope for the best.

Why am I telling you all this?

I read a wonderful blog post on Fractured Faith – What have you written about today? My comment on the well written and thoughtful post (equally well written and thoughtful as the rest of the blog posts) sparked a lot of thought. Specifically thoughts about why all this gut spilling and what purpose it serves me and those who slouch towards my posts?

Additionally, I sat down to reply thoughtfully to a heartfelt comment on a prior post. The comment’s author emphasized feeling connected to another human being who also happens to be a cancer patient. Since I do strive to bleed on the page without prejudice and with no b.s., a feeling of interconnectedness sparks at the moment when my words meet a like mind or a like person with similar experiences.

That’s the point (to me anyway.) A blog can create a bond between minds, no longer strangers to one another. And that’s where the gift of writing comes back to pay dividends. The value of those bonds doubles upon knowing your words met someone during their time of need – or they wouldn’t have sought out someone or something to connect with – and therefore it’s not my right to keep it all to myself.

It’s my privilege to pay forward to others who found me in the vastness of the internet’s expansive universe of people just like you and just like me. And we gravitate towards each other here, don’t we?