#15 Be Positive
One of the biggest “kick in the nuts” the universe can hit you with is the dreaded cancer and here I am telling you to be positive. It’s easier said than done and I know it.
After doing a little reading about the disease I was afflicted with, my next question was mortality rate. When was I going to die? (Pay attention to the wording of that question. We’ll come back to that.) The internet and the doctors are pretty vague simply because every case is different. It’s highly individualistic about what your outcome will look like. How aggressive is the disease? How well do you respond to treatment? In my case, what mutation were they looking at? Some are much worse and harder to treat than others. I did a little digging on the internet. Not the thing you really want to do but cancer has that effect on people.
If left untreated, I was looking at months. If I didn’t get a transplant, it might be managed for a year or two. Three if I was lucky. With a transplant was a possible cure. There would be life long problems, some of which could be potentially lethal, but it could extend my life for decades or longer. Transplant was really the only option. I have two young daughters. They were four and seven years old at the time of my diagnosis. I’ll be damned if I’m not living long enough to dance with them at their wedding or to hold my grandkids.
That’s the discrepancy. I couldn’t be thinking about death and dying while in the same thought dancing with my daughters at a much later date. I slowly started to change the question of “when was I going to die” to “how much longer did I have to live?” That shift wasn’t enough though.
Words have meaning. That’s why we use them. We use words to convey thoughts, emotions, commands. The meaning that words carry is not just to formulate thoughts or relay information. They can be used to control and relay emotions. That meaning gives rise to a more powerful function. That function is the ability to control our emotions and potentially our very lives. Our words give our thoughts life. Our words can in turn change our thoughts. I’ve mentioned it before but instead of saying, “I have to” change it to “I get to.”
I have to wake up early tomorrow. → I get to wake up early tomorrow. (even my word processor wanted to change this to “have to”)
I have to go for a run. → I get to go for a run.
I have to eat healthy. → I get to eat healthy
You get the idea. Suddenly, your thought of that action is perceived differently. You start to realize that no, you don’t have to do it, but instead it’s a choice and it’s a damn good choice (hopefully). It means that you have control. No one has a gun to head telling you to go for a run. You choose to because it means something to you. It also is the alternative to not being able to do those things. It’s turning the negative into a positive. Reshaping our words so that it reshapes our perception. You have that control.
I further changed my original question from “how much longer did I have to live” to “how will I live?” Now I don’t even entertain the option of doing something other than what I want. Cancer is a roadblock. It’s not a drive off the cliff. Think about driving along a mountain road with a guard rail on one side and a sheer cliff wall on the other. It’s a long and winding path. It doesn’t matter if you’re going to the top of the mountain or going down. Either way, it’s scary. There’s a huge drop off to one side and on the other is a rock wall. As you’re making your way along, there’s a huge landslide. You might see it coming or it might happen right in front of you. You slam on the breaks and the car starts to skid. There’s nowhere to go. It’s either over the side of the mountain or into the mountain. Over the side, is no option. So it’s best to hold on, stay to the road, and smash into whatever happens. The only solution is to get through the roadblock. It’ll take time. The road won’t clear itself. You have to make that happen, but it’s better than the alternative.
The stoics have this saying, “the obstacle is the way.” There’s a couple different ways of interpreting it, but for me, here and now, it simply means that I have to go through cancer. I can’t go around. I certainly can’t avoid it. So I must determine how I will approach it. I could let it consume me and give me the attitude of complacency or I can be aggressive in my action to take it head on.
As I said earlier, it’s not easy being positive. There’s trying times for sure. Hell, even without a deadly disease eating at your body, life can be tough. Changing your vocabulary isn’t a cure, but it is part of the cure. As we change our wording, we change our perception. Changing those perceptions enable us to reframe our outlook and from there our control. It helps us to better control our emotions. I’m not saying you won’t feel sad. There will still be days when you’ll be depressed. It’ll happen. What I am saying is that the more we smile, the more we continue our positive talk, the better our lives will be. This is more than just faking it until you make it. The act of positive words have a profound impact on our emotions. The simple act of smiling or laughing can produce chemical changes in the brain and body. That’s substantial and it won’t happen if you’re not taking the proper steps to introduce positivity into your life.
I no longer worry about when I’ll die. I worry about how I’ll live. Disease or not, I’ve got shit to do. I want to smile. I want to laugh. In part of my journaling I phrase and rephrase sentences so that they’re more positive. I choose better words in my writing. Take that simple sentence for example: I choose better words in my writing. It can as easily be said, “I don’t choose negative words in my writing.” Positive affirmation. I want to smile, not I don’t want to frown. I want to laugh versus I don’t want to cry. The power of words is profound. It won’t come easily at first and it takes practice. I journal and I look at my own words. Can I make those words more positive? How can I reword that sentence to give me more power, instead of those negative connotations taking it away.
This isn’t the glass is half full type nonsense. This is being thankful you have a glass to begin with, and that there’s even anything in the glass to start with. It’s being real but choosing to take control. Negative emotions tend to get away from us and start an even greater negative spiral. Positive self talk is work. It’s clearing that rumble across the road. One agonizing rock at a time. But knowing that the work yields results and that on the other side is a beautiful view and clear ride out. At least until the next speed bump or road block. :-p