Tag Archives: hopes

My self-care plan

In January 2021, after a couple of years of increasingly serious health challenges, my mom went on hospice. She was ninety-four years old, her heart was getting weaker and she had other health issues. I was still working, and I spent much of my after-work time at my mom’s. I was already a bit worn out, and I knew the most challenging times were ahead.

I worked at a cancer support center and continually encouraged people to take care of themselves, especially those in the care-giver role. I decided to take my own advice.

One self-care plan for me is to have something to look forward to, something exciting to plan for and anticipate.

Several years earlier, I had been to Paris, and I wanted to see more of France, but I don’t speak French, so I booked a land tour of France with Overseas Adventure Travel (O.A.T.) for March 2022. It was more than a year away, and I bought insurance so I could postpone if need be, but once it was booked, the trip dangled in front of me like a sparking gem.

I began to read books set in France, particularly books related to World War II and the actions of the French government and the resistance movement. I love history and especially enjoy reading historical fiction.

My mom’s care became more consuming as the weeks and months went on, and my dream of traveling in France helped sustain me.

My mom died in June, and grief replaced dreaming; France settled somewhere in the recesses of my brain.

And then one day last November, I remembered my trip to France. I called OAT and asked where I was in the process. Yes, I had booked the trip; I still needed to do some administrative tasks and book my flights. Once those were completed, I began again to dream of France.

Since I was going to Europe, I decided to add a week at the beginning of my trip to visit friends in Ireland. It was great to see them again after five years, and we had a wonderful time. Then I was on to France.

On the way from the Charles De Gaulle Airport to Fontainebleau (the first stop on my tour) I noticed trees along the highway which had things that seemed to be huge nests in them. I asked the tour guide, and he said they were mistletoe.

He explained that mistletoe is a parasite and if left untreated, it kills the trees.

I had never given any thought to where mistletoe grows or that it might be harmful. This is going to be an adventure of learning, I thought—beyond my expectations or hopes or dreams.

Sure enough, there were surprises almost every day. We traveled for three weeks, from Fontainebleau to Normandy in the north, south to Carcassonne, and north to Paris—the mistletoe in the trees along the highways serving as a reminder to let go of my expectations and be open.

In some other place

The trip seemed so far away

when I booked it.

Time seems to have a way of moving at its own pace,

sometimes too fast and

sometimes too slow.

The mindfulness people tell us that

today is all we have,

and I know what they mean,

but I like to have things to anticipate,

plans and dreams.

I suppose I live in the future,

creating my packing list,

immersed in my daydreams and guidebooks,

imagining myself in some other place,

on the other side of the ocean,

visiting museums and historic spots,

being in buildings erected

before the first ship sailed west.

It seemed so far away

when this trip was just a dream,

and now it is here.

Do it now

“Will this matter at the end of my life?” was a question posed in a book on prioritizing where I spend my time and energy. I read that book at least thirty years ago, but now that I am getting nearer to the end of my life, that question has taken on greater significance.

What will matter at the end of my life?

One thing I know is that I do not want to have regrets because I did not do something I had wanted to do.

While working at a cancer support center for the past seven years, I have met so many people who said things like, “I really want to see the Grand Canyon before I die,” or “Going to Europe is on my bucket list” or “I want to sky dive” (or any other risky activity). You get the idea—those things we think about and daydream about doing or seeing—and sometimes don’t get around to.

When I write my story, “What I have learned from working with people facing cancer,” one of the top things will be the importance of doing what you want to do now (NOW) while you still can. No one knows when cancer will be diagnosed, so if you have an impulse to do something, do it now.

My friend Ted wanted to visit the Missions in Southern California and Jim wanted to see the Grand Canyon. So why didn’t they? The answer is that they waited too long and then cancer stopped them.

So, the take-away is do it now. See the places you want to see. Write the book you want to write. Gather your courage and jump from a plane or zip line in a jungle or raft down a river. Or learn to fly fish or develop a meditation practice. Whatever it is that catches your fancy and occupies your daydreams—act on the impulse.

Making our dreams a priority will make our dreams come true; postponing dreams can easily lead to regret.