By Paula Holland De Long ACC, CPCC
Asking for What You Want. “It’s been over two years and I almost no one besides my husband knows I was sick,” confessed the striking African woman, arriving at my workshop three hours late. Despite surgery and treatment, Doreen’s day to day life was virtually unchanged. “We have three small kids,” she explained. They need me.” She wept as she whispered, “I can’t go on like this anymore. I’ve got to have some time for myself.” The idea of asking for what she wanted, and for their help, shocked her.
I asked the group to help her role play asking for what she wanted. As she practiced saying “I’ve been feeling tired and want a quiet hour to myself each day. Will you help with household chores so I can do that?” her confidence grew. She committed to talking with her family that same night, and her time to herself began the next morning.
Six months later she founded an organization to make mammograms available to woman in South Africa. Often, asking for what you need is even scarier than cancer. The first time is by far the hardest. Practice makes it easier and more natural. Practicing in front of a mirror, or asking someone you trust to role play can help you see that getting what you need will be easier than you think.
Ask yourself “What if?” “My boyfriend wants to get married right now,” Doretha, recently diagnosed with breast cancer, scoffed. “No way am I risking that. How could he possibly want me with half a chest, knowing I might die? I’m thinking about breaking up with him.” Her miserable face told its own story.
“It feels like you’re making this decision out of fear of what might happen.” I observed. “How does this decision make it easier for you?”
She hesitated. Took a deep breath. “I love him and I want him with me but I just can’t get married now. I just can’t risk it.“ And then admitted her deepest fear. “Even if he does still want me, what if I don’t make it? I can’t do that to him.”
“What if you stay together and just put the whole idea of marriage on hold until you’re done with treatment?” I could see the relief on her face. She smiled. “That would make if so much easier.”
That was over a year ago. I ran into her and her fiancé last week. They’re getting married next month. Doretha’s fear of what might happen in the future almost cost her the love of her life, and valuable support during her treatment.
Sometimes we get so caught up in negatives of what might happen we lose track of what that is might be really good, or what we need now. Consider:
- What is the best thing that could happen? What’s the worst?
- What if I decide/do it now? What if I wait?
Your physical, emotional and intuitive responses to these What If? questions will help you deepen your understanding of what you want and need.
Find out What’s Possible. Torn between financial stability, physical health, and the desires of her heart, Sharon‘s anxiety about returning to her job had taken over her life. Eight years from retirement, she hated the work, and while knowing she could do it, feared the physical demands would weaken her over time. She was filled with a vague new yearning to do more, and dreamed of somehow giving back.
Within a few hours, my professional balance assessment quickly identified what she would be happiest doing, and our brainstorming transformed her vague dream into a plan to create a blog and ezine, sharing her knowledge of how art and music therapy helps patients and survivors.
Together, we created a transition plan that allowed her to keep her job while she creates and launched her new business, which will be in early 2013.
Sharon’s anxiety came from her mistaken belief that it was impossible to be financially secure and do something new at the same time.
If you want something more, but don’t think it’s possible, invest time in finding out. Most likely you’ll find out that it is.
Each of these women is exactly like you and I. We make choices and we live life. It’s choosing making to ask for what you want, consider all the “what if’s”, and find out what’s possible that bring us the feelings of choice and freedom we must have to take back our lives during and after cancer.
Are you ready to take back control of your life? Learn more about my new Living Well After Cancer 8-week telecourse. Past participants have taken back control of their lives by changing careers; breathing new life into their relationships; sustaining lifestyle changes like losing weight; overcoming depression and fear; and report huge improvements in their quality of life.