The Winter That Would Not End is finally over and today on my morning walk with Tucker, I saw the first signs of spring.
Tucker is 11 years old this year, which is 77 in dog years, so our daily walks are more like strolls than the brisk activity we used to enjoy. Interestingly, our walks have become meditative for me as I notice things more deeply and I’m more focused on what’s in front of me than in the action of walking.
In addition to a generally slower pace, Tucker stops to investigate and inhale everything he encounters along our path. He sticks his nose deeply into every smelly pile that we come upon, whether it’s grass, leaves, compost, fallen tree branches or animal poop, with an intensity of pleasure that mystifies me. I’ve read that dogs have 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, compared to about six million in humans and apparently they can learn a lot from smells about another animal’s temperament, age, and eating habits.
He’s fascinated by every single blade of growth he finds along our walks which in turn slows me down and opens my eyes to see what’s around me, something I missed in the past, when the walk was all about the exercise, instead of about experiencing my surroundings.
This winter has lasted well into April on the East coast and I hadn’t noticed any of the new growth until Tucker’s meandering gait forced my eyes upwards to see flowers blooming all around me on this mornings walk.
I’ve been cancer free for 8 years this spring. Since cancer, I’ve made a choice to be mindful every day of being in the moment; in fact, of inhaling the moment, like Tucker, grateful for the experience of simply being alive. There are many people who don’t get a second chance and I know I’m lucky to be one who has been given this gift.
I’m not a Pollyanna. I still have my moments and things can still throw me. I’m still working full-time, am a wife and a mother; periodically the weight of balancing work and family overwhelms me and I often feel anxious. It’s my nature, I have always had lots of nervous anxious energy, but since cancer, I’ve learned how to manage my anxiety by rigorously training myself to be mindful of my body and my anxiety levels so that as soon as I feel stress creeping into my body I can purposefully focus on removing it through walking, breathing and meditation.
I think more than anything, what I learned from cancer is to embrace what I have, instead of yearning for what I think I want. For much of my life, I thought I had to change who I was instead of accepting who I am. After cancer, I realized that where I am is exactly where I’m supposed to be and most importantly, that I’m eminently lucky to be here.
To my readers, where ever you may be on your breast cancer journey, know that you are where you’re supposed to be. I send you hope, joy and peace on this beautiful spring day. And now I’m off to take another nice, long walk (without Tucker to slow me down this time). Namaste.