I wanted to share with you an extraordinary experience I had on a routine wellness visit with my doctor.
Ashley, a beautiful, 42-year old, South Korean-born immigrant is a happily married mother of two. ALWAYS impeccably dressed, she is a remarkably intelligent go-getter who has been “on the fast track” all her life. A high achiever in college and medical school, she completed her residency while pregnant with her first child. Yes, she is a superstar!
We discussed maintaining my health and the value of self-care and rest. I confessed to her that, although resting is something I struggle with on a daily basis, I try very hard to model my self-care message. I am getting better at setting limits for myself and honoring my mind and body’s need to rest and recharge.
Then, uncharacteristically, Ashley told me not “to try” . . . but to “DO IT!”
I wondered where the passion in her plea came from and I soon found out.
Ashley received a breast cancer diagnosis and has been undergoing chemo treatments. She will next have a double mastectomy, breast implants, and reconstructive surgery.
I was shocked, to say the least. She is as gorgeous as ever and, of course, as stylish as ever, wearing studded Valentino heels to see patients . . . literally!
Being the Coach I am, I decided to listen to her differently today. Not as her patient but as her sister. I believe every pain and trial we suffer holds a lesson we can learn from to become stronger, wiser and better.
We journeyed into a deep and lengthy conversation about what her diagnosis meant for her, her family and her patients.
She told me that at her worst, she felt “like a failure as a woman, wife, and mother. But a failure especially so as a physician.” She knew that she had not taken care of herself over the years. She had not applied the sound medical advice she had dispensed to her patients, admonishing them to get plenty of rest, sleep 7-8 hours per day, exercise daily, etc. She was on the ‘to-do list treadmill’ that never ends but simply repeats itself day after day.
I asked her what lessons came from her diagnosis and if there were any gifts through the pain.
Don’t let it take a cancer diagnosis to force you to make self-care a priority.
Ashley was making everyone else in her life and her work a priority; her family, patients, business partners. As a result, she was “not being kind” to herself.
She realized she was ‘doing a disservice to herself AND her family’ by trying to do it all; working more than full-time, leaving work at 6:00 p.m.to pick up her children, helping them do homework, cooking and straightening up the house prior to the house cleaner coming. And . . . she did everything on the weekends that she could not do during the week.
Sound and feel painfully familiar? Yes. I know. It is like looking into a mirror, isn’t it?
The biggest realization the good doctor had was that she “was not pursuing pleasure and happiness” but instead was in constant pursuit of completing her to-do list.
She told me that she sees pain and illness in a completely different way and now has greater compassion, empathy, and sympathy for her patients.
She ‘loves the humility’ that came from surrendering the need to control and manage E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G.
She now allows herself to RECEIVE: help, compliments and genuine loving kindness from people who are not her family. The outpouring of love and support from her patients validated the value of her service to our community.
This accomplished medical doctor feels that she has been given a new lease on the way she will live her life from now on.
I was very much moved by this conversation with my beautiful doctor.
I left her feeling more resolved to serve my clients from a place where I continue to urge them to make self-care a priority. Please make self-care your priority.
And, having said that, my first responsibility is to live and model the message I teach. I do not want a lack of sufficient self-care to force me into submission by a cancer diagnosis. I am deeply committed to my own self-care.
In fact, I choose to have a self-care approach to everything I do, including the way I love, serve and work.
And that is why I asked if you are sitting down.
One of the things I told Ashley was my realization that I never, ever, just sit down. If I am sitting down, it is because I am doing something else. Usually working: on the phone with a client, writing articles or reading to increase my knowledge to serve my clients.
Yet, I LOVE to read for fun. Reading brings me great joy. I also love to sit and think . . . to ponder life, love and the natural beauty that surrounds us.
I have decided to sit down and read for pleasure, rest, and relaxation and for no other reason. I also want to sit down to simply breathe in my surroundings, gaze at the clouds in the brilliant blue sky and watch magnificent birds fly by.
So how about you? Are you sitting down? Will you make time to simply sit down and do something relaxing? I sure hope so.