I'm lucky because my husband got cancer.

I didn’t really start to understand mindfulness — especially the importance of practice — until my husband, the love of my life, was diagnosed with kidney cancer. I had a choice to make: I could continue to be full of worry that his cancer could recur or I could deal with my sh*t and figure out a way to let that go. I wanted to be fully present and joyful for my daughter and my husband; I wanted to be a full partner for my husband who needed me to step up and be one. 

That’s when I got serious about practicing. 

I was highly motivated to figure out how I could reframe my thoughts, feelings, and beliefs so that I could feel better.

What I didn’t expect is that I’d be able to drop the label of “high neuroticism” from my Big-5 personality profile! (industrial & organizational psychology joke, y’all)

A few months ago I found these words falling out of my mouth in a conversation about how I’ve become a happy person, “I’m lucky because my husband got cancer.” I laughed at this profound change of perspective.

Think about a painful event in your life: you got fired, or not chosen for a team, dumped by a girlfriend… some event that really hurt at the time but no longer has a sting to it. Maybe you can even laugh about that now or view it positively; you can now see that good things came out of that painful experience.

At the time, that event was deeply painful and you couldn’t foresee that one day it would turn into a quiet, perhaps even funny, memory. The reason it no longer stings is because now we have perspective: we have a more balanced view of reality. We know the terrible and the good and — all of that, together, is the truth — right? The negative and the positive are true. 

One of the benefits of mindfulness practices is they help us get to a perspective of reality, of balance, much more quickly. 

You’re still going to have to go through shi**y stuff, and feel the negative emotions, and grieve over losses, but you’ll learn to know and trust that there is a better day coming. You’ll know you have choices to make that better-day come sooner, if that serves you.

And why wouldn’t it serve you?

Jennifer RivlinComment