Updated: Feb 10
This was almost my first blog post--
every time I sat down to write, I would begin with my cancer story. So here it is in a nutshell: 29 years old. Breast cancer. Mastectomy. Chemo. Scared. Lived to tell the story.
Why am I telling you this? I have had to ask myself the same question. As I introduce my coaching practice I realize that cancer shaped me as a person. It’s part of what made me who I am today. I am a little more snarky and a lot more grateful now than I was prior to cancer. It helped me want to be sure that I keep fun in my life. It has also made it somewhat easier when I have had to face subsequent difficult situations. And, I have an awful lot of empathy for people who are facing really difficult challenges in their own lives. From this experience, I understand that wellness isn't always linked to physical health. I had to learn to redefine what it meant to be OK.
This process of being able to be well while I was facing down cancer was my first real foray into understanding wellbeing. I learned the hard way. And in the decades since, I have learned more and more about how we can work on our wellbeing to be better even when our bodies or our minds or our souls aren't quite like we wish they were. I believe that wellbeing is something we can improve in most life circumstances.
I must say it hasn't always been easy, and even today, I have moments where stressors take over and make it difficult to make decisions, or I just don't like what life has dealt me that day. But overall, I feel like my wellbeing is in pretty good order. I've had to work at this. My wellbeing is improved when I do some of the basic health things like eating good-for-me food and getting enough sleep at night. I feel better when I manage my disappointment or my anger well. I feel even better when I spend time with people I care about and have work that I really love.
I have found that in addition to these, I have put into practice regular routines that help sustain my wellbeing over time. I walk a lot. Sometimes it is a mindful practice where, as Thich Nhat Hanh suggests, I "kiss the ground with my feet" as I walk. Sometimes it is for fitness. Occasionally, it is to explore a new city or wander around a market or museum. But I do it regularly and the meditative quality that pervades the experience keeps my feet attached to the earth and I feel grounded.
I also regularly look for things that delight me. I got this practice from Ross Gay's, The Book of Delights. He is a poet, a community gardener, a social impact activist, and a professor, among other things, and his book is part a celebration of human interaction and part a challenging social commentary. What he does is notice things around him--particularly human interaction, but sometimes how plants grow. I try to notice things that delight me everyday. I often take pictures of them so I have a whole catalogue of delightful things should I ever need some cheering up. Looking for delights helps me notice even more delights. And this improves my wellbeing all the time.
In my coaching I find great delight in creating new opportunities for my clients and this improves my own wellbeing because I am focussing on helping other people. Currently, I am working with another coach to create a virtual pilgrimage. I have begun working with clients to create their own daily rituals that help them stay grounded, or mark the transition from a work week to their own time, or allow them to approach their daily reading with gratitude for the authors thoughts and ideas, or give them time to acknowledge how their day went and help it come to a close. The rituals that my clients create ignite me, too, and keep the fire tended for my own wellbeing as I witness others' joy and and occasional surprise at how they help them improve their lives.
With all of this work, and awareness, and groundedness, I sometimes feel unmoored, my wellbeing floating away. But I know it is there, I just can’t access it all the time. And that helps me be empathetic when others get themselves into the same situation. We can reach for a place of wellbeing even when mental illness, disease, pain, and other distress are present. Sometimes we need additional help or a larger network of care, and coaching can be a vital part of improving and sustaining wellbeing.
Your wellbeing matters to me.