Sometimes when things hit hard and fast — like cancer – like loss of health or a way of life, or loss of a loved one — there can be a tendency to wrap our lives tightly around ourselves, much like a security blanket, and stay put. All of a sudden, venturing out doesn’t feel very safe.
Two summers ago, Hubby and I left a southern Oregon campground one day early and ended up in ER later that evening. It would be our last Johnson family reunion together.
Two years ago I remember thinking how hard it would be to attend this annual family event without my husband. And yet I somehow knew I needed to not let it fall off my calendar.
So, if it’s more comfortable keeping to our nice, easy, safe routines, then why venture out?
Everyone will have a different answer for that question, but here’s my reasoning: Because I want to explore new places, make memories with the people I love, notice all the simple pleasures that make each day sweet; I want to spend the remaining days of my life in away that truly matters – bringing hope and encouragement to others.
So how does one go about building courage? Here are 4 action steps that worked for us: Decide what you want to do This is more than simply drafting a Bucket List. You can certainly start with a Bucket List item. But rather than saying, “Someday I’d like to swim with dolphins, hike the Grand Canyon rim to rim, learn how to play the ukulele” – instead of having those loosely-organized ideas in the back of your head, start with one goal. Decide the first thing you’d like to accomplish or experience or learn. Determine first steps Now that you know what you want to tackle, figure out first steps. One of the brave-making ventures I hope to accomplish is getting a book published. As a first step, I enrolled in Michael Hyatt’s Get Published course. Which put me on track for determining second and third steps. Work in the direction of the vision Roll up your sleeves and show up. For me, this means putting in the long hours writing. It means looking for avenues to be a guest blogger or contributing writer. It means not giving up when a rejection letter spills into my Inbox. It means being available to do whatever it takes to help market the book. Recruit an accountability team Tell the right people about your goal. Recruit mentors, critiques, cheerleaders; enlist people who will hold you accountable: “Hey, how’s that book coming along? How many chapters have you written?” * * *
And so, on this summer weekend in the shadows of tall mountains and evergreen trees, amidst much laughter and the chasing of grandkids, the Johnson family once again pitched a big yellow tarp over the common eating area, and sat around a campfire with camp coffee, and organized water fights for the kiddos. And I was present as part of my brave-making campaign.
There were people missing — this year the most irreplaceable person of all, Hubby — but always new little ones as the circle of life continues. And this cancer widow found herself grateful to be included and wanted in a gathering of family with whom I share no blood. How blessed am I?
What about you? Has a circumstance in your life left you feeling not-so-brave? What could you do if you had a little more courage? What’s the first step that would take you in that direction?
In 2004, Marlys’ husband, Gary, was diagnosed with late stage prostate cancer and given two years to live. The couple established a non-profit — Cancer Adventures — and presented at a variety of venues across the country including the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, MD, sharing what they were doing to live well with terminal cancer. During that time, Marlys also wrote a book, Cancer Adventures: Turning Loss into Triumph, featuring 28 cancer heroes who had established purpose and meaning, and found a way to give back.
Gary lived 10 good quality years with terminal cancer, much longer than the experts predicted. After he died in November 2014, Marlys took an early retirement from the St. Charles Cancer Center in Bend, Oregon, where she served as Survivorship Coordinator.
She is in the process of procuring a literary agent for her newest book, a memoir highlighting the lessons cancer taught them about living and dying well. While her story is one of setbacks, Marlys knows she has a greater purpose in life — a passion for showing people how to navigate life’s challenges, tenaciously and with heart wide open.
Follow Marlys on her website Cancer Adventures.
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