Tag Archives: strength

For Sheila C

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Hollyhocks on Lustica Peninsula, Montenegro

Hollyhocks on Lustica Peninsula, Montenegro

You are strong.

You are colorful and vibrant.

Your spirit is open and shines in the foreground.

And, it is beautiful. 

This post is dedicated to my friend Sheila Connelly who was recently diagnosed with lung cancer. She’s sharing her journey at In Sickness and In Health. Sending you hugsful of strength, energy, light, and love, my friend.

Healing Light

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healing light

Yesterday I learned that one of my breast cancer survivor friends was diagnosed with colon cancer. I am so glad she chose to share this news with our yoga group before our practice.  Our sanctuary filled with healing light. We offered our hearts to our friend, and she received.

Her diagnosis is fresh, having had her colonoscopy a week ago yesterday. She’ll be having surgery this coming Wednesday. The good news is they found the cancer early enough that they can remove the cancerous section – no colostomy.

We all dedicated our practice to her. This poem is an attempt to capture the beautiful moment that Theresa, our yoga instructor, helped us create with her guided healing imagery.

We Are Light
By Vicki L. Flaherty

We are light
Pure and healing light
Here to hold you
To give you strength
To offer our love for you

We press our palms together
Rest the edges of our bonded thumbs against our hearts
Our fingers spread like rays of golden sunshine
Releasing healing power from deep within, out into the room
For you

Our energy floats gracefully to the center 
Each of our spirits moving toward the other
Melding into a single source of powerful light 
Encircling you in radiant illuminating light

Take our pure and healing light
Let it hold you
Let it give you strength
Accept our love

I’ve been transported to that place of vulnerability that comes with such a diagnosis, that place where reaching for hope is strength, where the ability to trust is a gift, where the simplest act of love brings incredible contentment.   I’m reminded of what’s important in life – my family, my friends, my health, bringing joy into the world, filling space with beauty and gratitude, embracing all the possibilities that open in front of me.

Seeing it

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Photoa Courtesy of Carol at Radiating Blossom

Last fall I found the job I’d been dreaming about for several years. I moved into IBM’s leadership development organization. Then, in January, I was promoted to a leadership role within the team. Ever since then, I’ve been in a whirlwind, and all sorts of feelings have been swirling around. From moments of confidence to fear, from hope to uncertainty, from calm to chaos, from peace to distraction…and so much more. Frankly, there have been moments of profound overwhelm. And, moments of incredible possibility.

This morning I came across the poem below that I wrote back in the summer of 2012. It’s unfinished but it spoke to me so I thought I’d share it in all it’s imperfection. The words resonated with me and connected me to how scary it is when I glimpse how amazing and powerful I can be. It touched me with its doubt and its hope. I frequently come back to my experience with cancer and the fear I felt then, the hope I grabbed on to. When I go there, I am reminded that there is nothing more important than my finding aliveness and joy in whatever I am doing and that life has a way of moving me with grace when I open to it, flow with it.

Seeing it
By Vicki L. Flaherty

I glimpse it like a crack in a door
where the light comes in
or maybe it’s flowing out.

Mother always said it was there.
Father’s confidence pointed to it too.

Flickers like photographs
strewn across a table
bits of color
sparks of life.

She is beautiful.
A power all her own.
Grace dancing.
Hope shining.

Do you see it?
See it.
Please.

No.
Better if you don’t.

Her strength is overwhelming.
The possibility is frightening.

Cover your eyes.
Glance away from the light.

Peeking, though.
It pulls you.
You have to look.

Gradually appearing less real to me

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courtesy of misifusa.wordpress.com

courtesy of misifusa.wordpress.com

This morning when I read the post on Misifusa’s blog, The Presents of Presents: Why Should I Fear? (http://misifusa.wordpress.com/2014/01/19/why-should-i-fear/) ,  I thought about the grip fear can have on my life, how it limits what’s possible.

I was also inspired by my awesome friend Maureen who faced some of her fears head on. She boldly stepped out on a skinny branch to do something amazing that will shape people’s lives in powerful, positive ways. Check out her Project Butterfly: http://maureenmonte.com/project-butterfly/ to join her strong approach to life.

With such wonderful inspiration, I stretch into hope for a day of fear-less-ness…farewell to fear and all it creates in my life!

Fear
Vicki L. Flaherty

You spoke to me with your tantalizing words
You told me I couldn’t have it all
You shouted at me, vibrating through me:
Who I am is not good enough
What I want doesn’t matter

You laid yourself in front of me
You blocked entry to my soul
You covered the essence of me in noise

I missed opportunities when you showed up
You neutralized my relationships
You took the possibilities from my work
You led me away from discovery

I have lost so much because of you
You stole my sense of wonder
You squelched my curiosity
You made my dreams unimportant

Day by day I find the way
To ease you out of my life
Your false sense of importance
The expectations you create
Gradually appearing less real to me

The Light

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Photo by SGAngel as featured on the 9/15/13 Presents of Presence post

Photo by SGAngel as featured on the 9/15/13 Presents of Presence post

I wrote the poem in this post for my husband. Now, as I reflect upon it, I can see how it might have taken root in my own need to hear the message. I am not sure why seeing, and believing, in our own light is so difficult. As my friend over at The Presents of Presence likes to say: SHINE ON!

The Light
By Vicki L. Flaherty

There is a light
An amazing and powerful light
That shines in daylight and darkness

The energy impacts with its mere presence
And dazzlingly so when its flame is full

Its glow reaches into the shadows
To illuminate and inspire
Filling space and time with warmth

To catch a spark, all it needs is
Belief in its inherent strength
Faith that its sole purpose is to shine

And most of all
A desire to glow brightly

The light is you

Mammo

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Today was the day. Annual mammogram. As much as I tried to play it down, rationalize it as just another doctor appointment, the fear got inside me, danced on my heart. Strong emotions, from deep within, crept up uninvited. Worries about worst case scenarios. Visions of the train leaving the station again. Brought me to tears having to validate the answers to the check-in questions – yes to positive mammogram, to lumpectomy, to mastectomy, to implant. It still doesn’t seem possible that healthy little me is a cancer survivor.

It is with incredible relief that I say my fears were unfounded: mammogram normal. YAY!!!  Indeed, a case of False Expectations Appearing Real. I can let go of that fear now…ahhhh.

Overall, this year’s experience was better than last year’s. Guess that’s not surprising – having been through something once makes it less unusual the next time.  I wrote a poem after my 2012 mammogram that seems appropriate to share here.  Then, for a few moments, I thought I had another abnormal mammogram. Words somehow seem inadequate to capture all that raced through me mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically; I just can’t seem to capture the fear and anguish that moved through me, nor the enormous sense of relief upon hearing the actual results.

Here’s to another year of being cancer free…

Mammo
By Vicki L. Flaherty

The anticipation –
if you can call it that –
had been building.
The appointment was imminent:
first annual mammogram
since the ‘big surprise’ of 2011.
My ‘bosom buddy’ and I
playfully refer to the procedure
as our ‘mammo’.
As if it is something fun.
In actuality, it’s not.
Scary now.  Dreadful.
We know what can follow
this miraculous diagnostic procedure.

The reality comes vividly to life
in the breast imaging waiting room.
A form to fill out –
update actually, since last year’s ‘gram.
Heartbreak as I change
the ‘NO’
for biopsy and lumpectomy
and mastectomy and reconstruction
to ‘YES’.
All in pretty pink ink.
It forces me to accept the reality of it all.
Will cancer continue to challenge me?
‘Til when?

Joking with the radiologist:
“At least I just get to do one boob now.”
The jest releases pent up anxiety.
She plays along:
“Maybe you should get a discount.”
My left breast –
the apparently good one –
squeezed flat, then from the side.
The awkwardness and discomfort
taking my mind off the fear.  
What will these images show?
Will the train of cancer start
chug, chug, chugging again?

I find myself waiting
back in the lounge.
Reading a magazine
or trying to – distraction welcome.
A doctor calls my name.
My heart begins to race.
He invites me into the examining room.
“Oh, my God!” races through my mind.
Here we go.
I’m light-headed.
In disbelief.
The train is leaving the station again.

I have to shake my head,
clear it when he says:
“Nothing abnormal.”
And, again, in my head –
or was it out loud this time? –
“Oh, my God!”
“What a relief.”
The train isn’t moving.
At least this year.

© 2013 Vicki Flaherty

(I selected the above photo because it is an image I have of a healthy breast. You can read more about the bouquet here.)

The darkness is an anchor

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One of my fellow blogger friends posted a poem, A Dark Thing Inside the Day, on her lovely and inspiring Radiating Blossom site today (thanks, Carol). Linda Gregg’s piece of art really resonated for me – I have no idea the meaning it had for her; no matter, she’s touched me.

As I sit on the cusp of the 2-year anniversary of my breast cancer surgeries (lumpectomy on 9/7/11, then mastectomy 9/28/11), and cope with the fears that seem to spit up days before my annual mammogram, I found special meaning in the poem. My deliciously abundant life – blessed with a wonderful husband (I love you, Jim Hogan), a family full of love and lightness (thanks Mom, Dad, Mike…), an awesome collection of inspiring friends, a wonderful home where I am nourished and comfortable, a challenging and satisfying job, and fantabulous vacations (just back from two weeks in Portugal) – is like strokes of bright and beautiful pink coloring over a deep, dark purple spot. I find it significant the author says “The thing is hardly  visible (a lot like mostly a heart singing?) – it is not completely hidden. It’s there. It lingers. Not quite haunting. Like a haze that passes over from time to time (like the clouds that swept over the coast of Portugal one morning as we headed to the beach – photo above).

One might think cancer haunts me. No. It’s not like that. It’s more like an anchor. A counter weight. Something that keeps my life in balance. Blesses with me with perspective, understanding, grace, clarity. Something that holds me in place, in peace.

Noticing

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courtesy of accidentalcreative.com

courtesy of accidentalcreative.com

Today I am celebrating. As I contemplate whether to go to the gym to lift weights today, I realize that I accomplished something I desperately wanted to do after my surgery. I am back in tip-top shape. Even lifting more weight than I did before. What got me here? I find myself wondering.

Discipline and determination. My father gave those gifts to me. Faith and belief in myself. Thanks, Mom. Confidence and courage. Jim’s love a solid foundation from which to take each step.

Our bodies are truly amazing. One day I can’t move my arm an inch and slowly, over time, with exercise and therapy, I’m able to move it a bit more, and then a bit more. Today I probably have stronger, more flexible shoulders than I did before. Nineteen months since my surgery. I feel really great.

I still notice some things. I can feel my pectoral muscles when they flex around my right breast. I giggle to myself when I see how it contorts the shape of my breast as I dry off with a towel. I wonder what people think when I occasionally massage the area near my arm pit between sets of weights. There are some yoga postures where my body tells me to ‘go gentle’. I’m not the same as I was, but I am good. Life is good.

All the noticing made me think of this poem from Mostly My Heart Sings.

Noticing
By Vicki L. Flaherty

I noticed how glad I was to get the bandages off.
I noticed how cleansing it felt to finally take a shower.
I noticed how freeing it was to have the drains removed.
I noticed how I reached back to brush my hair the way I like it.
I noticed how I made the bed without exhaustion.
I noticed how the discomfort under my arm disappeared.
I noticed how taking a walk did not tire me.
I noticed how my arms were extended to the sky during yoga.
I noticed how the scars changed from dark to light pink.
I noticed how the tingling sensations occurred less often.
I noticed how the skin of my breast was not so numb.
I noticed how I am not noticing anything anymore.

© 2013, Mostly My Heart Sings, Vicki L. Flaherty

Running into strength

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I remember how grateful I was to be back to running after my surgery last fall. Days like yesterday have an amazing power to lure me outside for a run. I posted a blog on This Abundantly Delicious Life about Running, which includes a poem with that name that appears in my book Mostly My Heart Sings. After my surgeries, finding my way back to a daily fitness routine gave me focus and called on my strength. I know I danced on the line between pushing too hard and doing what I needed to do to feel normal and whole. My parents encouraged me to pace myself, and my husband supported me in stretching into my challenges. In the end, I found a wonderful balance.

© copyright Vicki L. Flaherty, Mostly My Heart Sings, 2013

Free

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My initial intention with this blog was to go through the poems in Mostly My Heart Sings in the order they appear in the book. However, today a particular poem (below) was calling me. We have a gift of a day here in Iowa City – sunshine, blue skies and temperature up in the 60s. Jim is back home from a business trip and we are looking forward to a fun day, enjoying the beautiful weather, a run along the Iowa River, an evening on the deck with our fire pit…today I have a sense of freedom.  (And how appropriate with Veterans Day tomorrow?)

I wrote this poem after both of my surgeries, when I was gaining a sense of strength, realizing that I would overcome the cancer and move gracefully and more powerfully in my life as a result of my experience.  The seeds for this poem were planted on a beautiful day like today, when I was outside running with Jim, and watching the birds fly over the Iowa River.  I remember thinking how awesome it would be to fly, to embrace the vast openness of the sky and float effortlessly on thermals – and wondering if I could create something like that for myself down here on the ground as a human being.  The answer?  Yes, for moments at a time.

Free

by Vicki L. Flaherty

A bird

opens her wings

wide and expansive.

Air surrounds her

and her feathers

fill with strength.

Using the lightness

from the solid ground

into the endless sky.

She floats on thermals

into the unknown.

Free.

© copyright Vicki L. Flaherty, Mostly My Heart Sings, 2013