On 1 July I pledged to give up alcohol, and I signed up for Dry July to raise funds for people affected by cancer. A month later and I’ve reached my goal, I’ve abstained from alcohol and I’ve raised $249.75 for Look Good Feel Better, to help people living with cancer. And I’ve been surprised with what I’ve learned along the way.
Why I gave up alcohol
I had a number of reasons for giving up alcohol and signing up for Dry July. Firstly, I was looking forward to the health benefits of not drinking for a month. Secondly, I’ve also lost too many people I love to the hideous illness.
I lost my father to cancer over 15 years ago. Despite his fight, he didn’t make it to my graduation. He wasn’t there to walk me down the aisle at my wedding. And he never got to meet his beautiful grandchildren.
I’ve signed up for Dry July! I have pledged not to touch a drop of alcohol for the month of July, and I’ve signed up for the Dry July fundraiser to raise funds for people affected by cancer.
Not only am I looking forward to the health benefits of not drinking for a month, but I’ve also lost too many people I love to the hideous illness.
I was 18 when my father rolled his truck on his way home from work. The first few cars drove past him, thinking he was a drunk driver. But the truth was, he had suffered a stroke. He was flown in the rescue helicopter to Auckland where emergency surgery kept him alive. We arrived in the early hours of the morning, baby brothers in tow, to find out the cause of the stroke was a brain tumour the size of a golf ball. Dad was given two months to live. Three days later my youngest brother turned five.
It’s the old saying – do you want to be right or do you want to be happy? Of course, you can be right and be happy!
But that doesn’t always happen. And the question is – when do you put your foot down? When do you insist on being right? And how far do you push it?
At our house, we have had a week of fighting. Well, more accurately, Hubby and I have.
It started last week. I had been working long hours and was exhausted. After a 13 hour day on site, I had come home to the news one of the girl’s school friends had passed away. It threw me a little, well more than a little. She was the same age as my youngest, and her elder sister the same age as my eldest. And I was tired. And it was cancer.
As I’ve said before, you never get over the death of a parent. You can learn to cope, and you can start to remember them and to smile, without a tear in your eye. But then IT (grief) will rare its ugly head when you least expect it. And when cancer took the life of a little 8-year-old girl that we had known since she was a toddler, a little girl who loved princesses and cats – IT hit me like a bus.
So I wasn’t coping. I was grumpy.
And Hubby did something I didn’t like. He was wrong – I was right.
A brave little girl who fought a battle beyond her years. Who had her 9th birthday party early, who never made it to 9.
As I tuck you into bed, as I kiss your forehead, I think of your friend who has just lost her little sister. Your friend, who at 12 years old, now has to face life without her best friend, her snuggle bunny.
Your friend who has to bury her little sister in the next few days.
I think about when the funeral is over, and everyone has gone home. I think about your friend, and that she will have to get up in the morning. That she will sit down for breakfast, at the family table, with an empty chair. That she is going to have to go to school. And come home. Alone. And that for everybody else, life will go on. But for her, life as she knows it has just stopped. Life will never be the same again.
Miss T, I ask you to be there for your friend. Your friend that you may find sitting on the floor of the library, head in hands, crying. I ask you not to expect her to move on. Just sit. Listen. Be there.
Miss T, I ask you to never wish your sister wasn’t born. I ask that you never hate her or wish her away. I ask you to love her and cherish her.
And Miss T, my daughter. I love you. I am so proud of you for being who you are. For being a leader, and a competitor. For being so stubborn and argumentative – for being so strong. The world needs you to stay strong.
This exercise in gratefulness helps me to concentrate on what is good in our lives. Giving thanks can make you happier and more resilient, it can strengthen relationships and reduce stress. This Gratefulness Family Challenge does that simply:
Every night at bedtime we each say three things we are grateful for that day.
I love the idea of incorporating gratefulness into our everyday routine – of practising gratefulness every day with our children.
Focusing on what we are grateful for also helps us on our path to minimalism, to get rid of the clutter and to concentrate on what is important to us.
What does the phrase “living my truth” mean to me? It is about being at peace, and content. And the freedom to be me, to drop the mask of the person I show the world, and to honour what is important to me.
“Living my truth” is a journey in getting to know myself. But one benefit of going through the grief process is that it makes you stop. Stop and assess what is really important to you.
Years ago I wrote my goals down. It was in the wake of losing my mother-in-law suddenly, and in the context of having already lost my father to cancer, long before he could walk me down the aisle or ever meet his beautiful grandchildren. One of my goals was to:
Spend more time with my children. Make that QUALITY time. Spend more time playing hairdressers and bouncing on the trampoline and making cakes and reading stories.
Sometimes we need a little help to remember what we are grateful for, to find our happy place. The Happiness Toolbox is a tool I use for this. You Happiness Toolbox could be a list of memories or activities or things that make you happy. It could be a list of things that help you to relax and be calm. It could be phone numbers, for those people that you know will be there for you when you need them. It could be an actual box, a memory box, with precious things that you can pull out and touch and smell and remember …. and smile.
I created my Happiness Toolbox a long time ago when my father was sick.
I was young. I was 18 when Dad was given two months to live.
A friend recommended a book a while ago, “Rushing Woman’s Syndrome” (Libby Weaver). She loved it, she said it changed her life. I asked her what Rushing Woman’s Syndrome was. Her response was “you!”. So I bought the book and sat down to read it.
Rushing Woman’s Syndrome describes the biochemical and emotional effects of always being in a hurry and the health consequences that urgency elicits. It doesn’t seem to matter if a woman has two things to do in her day or two hundred, she is in a pressing rush to do it all. She is often wound up like a top, running herself ragged in a daily battle to keep up. There is always so much to do, and she very rarely feels like she wins, is in control and gets on top of things….
The book had a test. Score 1-4, you are not a Rushing Woman. Score 5-7, you are on your way. Score 7 or above, hello Rushing Woman. I scored 24 … and decided I didn’t have time to read the book!
But then, in a split second, our lives changed (again). I thought I had solved my Rushing Woman’s Syndrome. I wrote “[t]here is nothing like having someone who makes up such a huge part of your life die suddenly to remind you to stop and smell the roses“. Continue Reading…