We have a choice how we view a beginning. The beginning of a hike in deep snowy woods might elicit feelings of anxiety of losing the trail and becoming lost. Or it might elicit a sense of adventure and appreciation for the beauty of a winter day. The beginning of 2021 may elicit feelings of exhaustion and despair from coping with endless changes and loss. Or it could elicit feelings of optimism that the worst will soon be over. The beginning of chemo, radiation therapy or a new drug may elicit feelings of dread and fear. Or it could elicit feelings of hopefulness and a sense of control now that treatment has started.
In Western culture the Chinese word for “crisis” is frequently but incorrectly said to be composed of two Chinese characters signifying “danger” and “opportunity.” The accurate interpretation is that the second character actually means something more like “change point” or a crucial moment when something begins to change. Our response to danger typically involves staying to fight or running away. But whatever our coping style, any crisis can provide an opportunity to reflect and reevaluate if we take the time and have the courage.
I learned to pivot when playing basketball in high school – keeping one foot in place while holding the ball and moving the other foot in another direction. Susan, our Executive Director, often refers to 2020 as a pivot point and a time when the world changed. I like seeing 2020 as a pivot point – keeping one foot in place (staying grounded and remembering who I am) – while looking toward the “change point” and evaluating what needs to be changed going forward.
Alongside every beginning, there are always endings. For example, I can end negative thinking (I’ll get lost in the woods; I can’t go through chemo) and pivot toward positivity (What a beautiful snowy day; I’ve got this). Life really is all about choices. I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions but I do believe in choices. I believe with every crisis, every feeling of despair, every scary moment, there can be a crucial moment when something begins to change. I will look for that moment within the crisis, find what needs to end, and seek out the beginning that needs to happen.
What’s most important is that I’m not alone. I know others who have found their way, who survived broken relationships, endured medical challenges, and now they are the guides for the journey through the snowy woods.
SUE'S GIFT BLOG
Sherry Martin is the Patient Services Director for Sue's Gift, a licensed clinical social worker with over thirty years of experience in the field of oncology social work, and author of the book, Beginning Again: Tools for the Journey through Grief: A Step-by-Step Guide for Facilitators of a Grief Support Group. Sherry lives with her husband in Woodland Park, Colorado.
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