Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

(Living in Parentheses)

Today I have a very special post—2 short essays written by Rose Rappaport, a woman who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on June 5, 2005. During her illness, she took a writing class and wrote a series of essays about what she was going through. She passed away 10/23/2007, 11 days after her 59th birthday. With the help of her writing teacher, Barry Sheinkopf, her husband, Harvey Rappaport, put together a book with Rose’s essays called (Living in Parentheses). It’s a sad but also very uplifting glimpse at how one woman with a finite amount of time lived every minute fully, and with a positive outlook.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth cause of cancer death, yet people know the least about it. It’s also the most underfunded for research. All proceeds for the sale of this book will be donated for pancreatic cancer research. If you donate at least $20 directly to the Lustgarten Foundation, you’ll get a book (more info on this below). When Rose passed away, her spirit lived on. Harvey Rappaport says:

I ask that you not be sad at her passing. This was a gloriously unselfish person filled with faith, love, and compassion. Her search for enrichment and spirituality knew no bounds. She was a teacher in every sense of the word. These qualities always drew people to her. Please rejoice in a life lived to its fullest.

Rose Rappaport refused to fall victim to cancer. I’m honored to be able to share some of her words with you and hope that you’re inspired enough to donate to pancreatic cancer research so you can get a copy of her book (more info below). You can strongly feel her spirit in her words. These 2 essays are last 2 full ones in the book.

by Rose Rappaport

February 2, 2007. It’s twenty months since I was diagnosed. Lately I have been feeling more tired than usual. The cumulative effects of continuous chemo are beginning to take their toll. Yet I am so very blessed. When I first met with the oncologist I naively asked, “How long?” She looked at me and smiled a sad smile. She could be accurate to a point; lots depended on my reaction to the drugs, how fast the tumor would grow, my mental attitude. I pressed her further. It was important for me to know what I was dealing with.

Finally she acquiesced and stated clinically, this was a virulent, fast-growing cancer, and given that I was at the fourth stage–perhaps a year. So that was the prognosis.

Dr. O’Reilly has been pleasantly surprised and, truthfully, so have we. After the shock and the tears, I decided I would not die of a diagnosis—that statistics were averages, and I was bold to declare that Rose Rappaport had never been average a day in her life. Whether it’s my gene pool (my paternal grandmother lived to be 104), my insistence that I keep to a fully active life (I teach at university and continue to consult on an at call basis), my support system of family and friends requesting calls for prayers and positive thoughts, or my darling Harvey, who refuses to let me stay in the dark cave of my mind too long–

I know I am blessed, yet my heart is heavy.

My friend Terri called several nights ago. We met Terri at our veterinarian’s office. She was the able assistant who calmed our precious cats during their examinations. Her soothing manner and luminous blue eyes reassured our angst. A single woman in her mid-thirties, Terri stroked and soothed in a manner that was engaging, not only to our cats, but to us two-legged beings. Soon we became friends and engaged her to cat sit for us whenever we travel. And she loves cats. We know her visits will include not only feeding and litter box patrol, but squeezing and petting our three furry children.

Terri had called to tell us that the breast cancer that had been cured two years earlier had invasively returned. Her recent scans showed a growth on her liver and nodules in the bones of her shoulders, neck, and chest. She was calling to ask for a recommendation for a second opinion. We talked for a long time. I listened carefully, allowing her to say what she was feeling. I offer words of courage, knowing what her new battle will entail.

Cancer, cancer, cancer. It never becomes a meaningless noise the way almost any other word does when you repeat it endlessly.

There is something about the way the letters hang together that is oddly malignant. The cure, with its well-documented cumulative effects, knocks you down like a ton of bricks or flattened like Road Runner under an Acme safe.

How one handles a life-threatening illness demonstrates character. Cancer has brought me two lives. One as a healthy person and another as a–what? I don’t know what to say, for I have never claimed this diagnosis. What is my identity in the face of so radical disruption? Who was I? Who am I? Who will I be? Truthful answers to these questions often take years to realize. I am on a fast track—always was—but now the movement forward is different. I cannot run and hide. Sometimes I wish I could be less introspective, less aware of what’s going on inside.

Suffering does different things to different people. Some souls become tempered, unshakable in their trust in God; others become twisted and misshapen, abandoning all connections to Him.

Like school, each medical test or procedure is another determinant of your fate. Passing the test or getting a bad grade has few do-over’s. When you flunk, you die. Hearts, lungs, bones, blood—the raw materials that keep you alive–are so very vulnerable. They wear out, wear down. But the spirit–that is another story. In many ways my soul has gotten stronger, experiencing life with more wisdom and gratitude. Yes, I am blessed more today than before because the spirit can shine beyond the realities of the body.

I believe this because it sustains me.

by Rose Rappaport

One of the more amazing elements of this journey has been my total surrender to the Will of God. I realize that for some readers this statement sounds like I have given up or am delusional. I am far from a Holy Roller or evangelical. The idea of total surrender is a new one for me. I have been raised Catholic, attended grade, high school and college with religious instruction. I was fortunate that my teachers, be they nuns or priest, always provided a platform of self discovery and constant questioning. My attendance at Mass or Holy Days is not driven by guilt or habit, but by choice. Jesus Christ is alive for me and I believe I am where I am supposed to be.

This was not always the case. In September 2001, before 9/11, I was downsized from a position as Vice President, Human Resources in the music industry. It was a job I loved and was good
at. World events after 9/11 exacerbated a slowing economy. My expertise was attached to a high price tag and efforts to explain I was willing to start over met with the corporate cold shoulder. In the midst of this fruitless job search I attended a parish mission. Frustrated and close to despair, I met Fr. Daniel Frances, a Redemptorist priest. His words and passion about the Christ rekindled the smoldering embers of my faith. Fr. Dan spoke of the Lord’s Passion and death as the anchor for resurrection and revival.

I always had an eclectic reading regime but now I wanted to fill myself with reading from both the West and East. The melding of Eastern philosophy, Zen Buddhism; the reading of Aquinas, John of the Cross and Theresa of Avila merged together, simmering diversity yet similar messages of trust, faith and love. These imprints reinforced my personal philosophy which simply stated is “you create the world you live in.” I had a choice on how I would deal with the diagnosis and live the balance of my life no matter how long. The concept of surrender is foreign to western sensibilities, particularly in the US. Yet, the intentionality of accepting life’s circumstance takes an enormous burden from your being.

For me surrender, AKA acceptance, did not mean I would give up. I researched my illness and actively participate in my treatment. My oncologist, Dr. Eileen O’Reilly is one of the special experts who has the sense and style to ask me what I think about what’s happening to ME.

Surrender gives up the struggle of anger and denial. It understands there just may be no other reason than circumstance. Surrender allows me to take control of my thoughts and actions. It places trust in a Higher Power. Be that my higher sense of self, or the Universe or God. It provides, at least for me a booster shot on the days the pain is too strong and I am scared.

A terminal illness takes over your life and acceptance allows me to boldly state: “I WILL NOT DIE FROM A DIAGNOSIS” My spirit is buoyed up to plan for the future and to live in hope.

Harvey Rappaport says if you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can donate $20 to the Lustgarten Foundation (so it’s a tax write-off!). That will cover the cost of the book and mailing and the proceeds would go to a foundation that supports Pancreatic Cancer research. You’d have to contact Harvey to get the book. Email him for more info.

If you enjoyed my post, please leave a comment and/or click on the bookmark and write a short review at some of the sites, especially Stumbleupon and Digg. Thanks!

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Is the Economy Making You Fat?

I just read an article in Ad Age entitled, Does This Economy Make My Butt Look Big? It talks about how many of the various weight loss programs are suffering as people have less money to spend. I imagine that gyms are getting fewer people as well. People can spend less on losing weight so they might now be packing on more pounds.

So now we have another excuse for gaining weight!

I found that whole idea a shame. Many people use companies like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig to manage their weight but haven’t learned a lot of what they teach. Don’t get me wrong, I think these organizations are terrific and help many people. They teach a healthier way of eating and viewing food. But it’s hard to grasp why people would give up on themselves if they have to stop going. I truly hope this isn’t happening on a large scale (pun intended!).

It’s hard to take weight off and maintain the loss if you don’t feel good about you, with or without support.

As I worked on loving myself more and building better self-esteem, losing weight became easier. I control my eating for the sake of being self-loving, not just to look better for others. It’s for ME! I want good health and to feel good. Carrying around extra pounds doesn’t feel as good. It’s so important to take the lessons you learned from whatever support you may get and use it even if you’re on your own.

Organizations that help you lose weight, or to get anything else under control should be used as a learning tool, not a crutch.

When you love yourself and want to feel good, you have the best motivation. When my personal trainer isn’t around (or I want to save a few bucks one week), I work out myself. I know how to. Yes, it’s more helpful when he’s there pushing me to new heights or spotting me on the weights. But I know enough not to give up if he’s not there.

With money tighter and the economy bad, I’ve actually made it work in my favor and have lost more weight!

Being budget conscious, I’ve used the economy as an “excuse” to cut back on my more calorie laden eating. In restaurants, I eat less and take more home. I’ll add veggies if necessary or some beans. etc. to have healthier substance to make a second meal. It’s led to eating smaller portions of red meat (which I don’t eat much of anymore) and chicken. As I slowly cut back on my portion sizes, I noticed a small weight loss. I’ve actually been spending less money too!

I didn’t do this to lose weight. I just saw prices going up in restaurants and at the supermarket, and wanted to be more economical.

It’s YOUR choice to eat healthier, less, or more. When you truly love yourself and want to get into better shape, go to a mirror and say, “I love you and want to make you healthier.” Reinforce it as an affirmation until you believe it. Go to Weight Watchers, etc. when you can. But don’t look for excuses to eat more or more unhealthy. That’s YOUR decision, not your fate because the economy isn’t good.

Find ways to take advantage of the bad economy instead of lamenting it. I now prefer my smaller portions, and the results. Americans eat way too much anyway!

If you change your lifestyle a little to flow with the rising prices, you can find alternative ways to feel good in a not so good environment. It begins with changing your perception of what’s going on and looking for the good in what’s not so good. You can if you don’t let it get you down. Because I’m happy, I feel no lack in these days of a bad economy. Except for a few pounds I didn’t need!

If you enjoyed my post, please leave a comment and/or click on the bookmark and write a short review at some of the sites, especially Stumbleupon and Digg. Thanks!

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Can I Get…?

I went out for lunch today to a diner. A guy came in, also by himself. He knew what he wanted. But, instead of just saying what it was, he asked, “May I have eggs, over easy?” I’ve heard this many times before when people were in a place that they paid for a good or service, yet asked for it, instead of just saying what they want. “I’d like 2 eggs, over easy.”

Many people ask for what they have a right to expect.

Yet it’s so common. I did it all the time when I was a DoorMat. It reinforced how powerless I felt. I couldn’t just receive anything, even if I was paying for it! So I’d ask like the person was doing me a favor instead of giving me what I was entitled to. And each time I did was a reminder that I wasn’t worthy.

“Could I trouble you for some more coffee?” Why is it trouble? The waiter’s job is to get you what you want. Then you pay for it.

“Can you fix my broken toilet?” to the maintenance person. Do you really want to give him a choice? What if his answer is “no?” Do you live without a working toilet? Besides hurting your self-image, asking for what you definitely should get sets a tone for the person to take you less seriously. A waiter may not rush to refill your water if you speak like everything he does is a favor, instead of his job. Your plumber may save you for the last stop. The bartender may ignore you if it’s very busy. “My I have a glass of wine?” can leave you thirsty. “One glass of Chianti please” gets taken more seriously.

Yet both men and women often ask apologetically, instead of just stating what they want. Your choice of words sets a strong tone for your self-esteem, and your confidence. Pay attention to how you ask for things. It’s one thing to ask for a favor. Getting acquiescence for one isn’t a given. But when it’s something you pay for, you should state your needs and sound like you expect to get what you want.

When I say this in a workshop, often I’m challenged with arguments that it’s not polite to just tell someone what you want. But it is. You can still be polite. “I’d like 2 eggs, over easy. Thanks.” I always say thank you when someone brings me what I want. I express my appreciation to waiters, service people and anyone else I buy something from or use the services of. But it’s because I do appreciate the job they do. It feels a lot better than acting like a child asking mommy for something.

I think the tendency to ask instead of stating it comes from childhood. Kids ask for everything. Some learn they have to wheedle to get what they want. When your self-esteem grows as you grow into an adult, you might just naturally switch into a different way to say what you want. But if you’re like I was, I still felt like a child who was afraid of being turned down for everything I asked for. So I’d ask apologetically or like I was afraid they’d say “no.”

I had to consciously battle my old DoorMat ways for a while; listen to how I put my needs out. I realized when I just stated, I felt better about me. That was good motivation to continue expressing what I wanted in ways that showed I expected results. Be more definite in your expectations of what you ask for. When done with a smile and appreciation, it’s usually a win/win experience.

If you enjoyed my post, please leave a comment and/or click on the bookmark and write a short review at some of the sites, especially Stumbleupon and Digg. Thanks!

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Interview with Yehuda Berg

I’m delighted to share an interview with Yehuda Berg, author of The Spiritual Rules of Engagement (Kabbalah Publishing, 2008) and a noted kabbalistic scholar and co-director of The Kabbalah Centre International. He’s also the author of many books, including the bestselling, the Power of Kabbalah. The Spiritual Rules of Engagement is a small, easy to read book that packs a lot of spiritual wisdom for finding and maintaining a loving romantic relationship. It’s endorsed by Ashton Kutcher, who credits Yehuda Berg’s teachings for the success of his marriage.

The rules in this book aren’t about game-playing. They guide you to use the spiritual laws and the technology behind them to become a person who can recognize your soulmate and nuture the relationship. The book explains the spiritual reasons behind the way men and women think differently.

While The Spiritual Rules of Engagement is written for women, men would learn from it too. Besides telling you how to recognize your soulmate, there’s an emphasis on the importance of working on loving your partner more and more as the years pass so that your relationship continues to deepen and get stronger. Here’s what Yehuda Berg had to say:

You referred to Kabbalah as a spiritual technology. What’s the thinking behind that? People view Kabbalah as a religion. It’s not a religion. You don’t know exactly how exactly a computer works but you know it’s a technology you need to send emails, and other things. Our spiritual work is the same thing. We may not always understand every part, but at the end of the day if we follow certain rules, there are certain places we’re going to get to and certain results we’re going to get. Besides countering the religion aspect, it’s an actual technology. You don’t have to do anything. There’s no judgment. There’s conscious choices and conscious results or actions.

How does a man and woman either attract or repel each other? Unlike what’s very popular with the Law of Attraction, Kabbalah believes in the law of what’s similar. If I’m similar to someone, I bring them closer. If someone is further from me, I draw them away. So if I want a positive person in my life I need to be working towards being that. If I want someone who could support me, I need to be able to support somebody else. Whatever it is that I want to get in this life, I need to open a space in me to bring that into my life. It’s not just the intention; not just thinking. Yes, you do need all the proper intentions and thoughts. But you also need action. If you take the intention plus the action it will make us either similar or take us further apart.

Why did you write The Spiritual Rules of Engagement for women? I wrote this book for women because I’ve found that it’s usually women who are not taking their role to where they need to. The support and emotions are the role of the woman. In Kabbalah, the woman is the make or break person. The guy just wants to be told what to do and he’ll do it. Men are action oriented. Tell us “go capture that flag” and we go. We can conquer the world but need a support system.

In what ways do women run relationships? The woman is the person with the GPS navigation system about where the relationship, and the guy, will go. It’s not an outward control that tells your man he must do this or that. It’s really an internal understanding of your power. I go through this in the book and write it for people who have almost no background. Once a woman understands her power and her role, a quiet internal power and navigation happens, as opposed to an outward expression of control.

Would you say it’s about a woman learning to control herself? It’s totally about controlling herself. We each have certain tendencies that always lead to chaos, that we need to get a handle on. You can’t just shut it down it down because somewhere it will explode. Ask yourself, “how can I control this or use it for something good?” We all have things that blow us out—anger, depression, jealousy. We have to make sure that we have whatever has taken us down before in relationships, under control.

What mistakes do you see women make in how they handle themselves with men? Women often don’t find their place in a relationship. If they are in a victim consciousness, they want to be in a relationship and will take whatever he does, sometimes even accepting emotional or physical abuse and accepting things as is, just because they want this and will be a total victim to have it. Then afterwards, they ask, “Why was all of this done to me?” But you are actually part of the problem. Not everything was done to you. You could have said no at any point.

Some women go to the other extreme of complete control. They think, “No one is going to mess with me or hurt me. I’m going to make sure that I’m in complete control of this relationship.” Both of those extremes tend to be the problem. The very great and amazing middle is where a woman knows her role and the power that she has to navigate a relationship and understands:

* Where she needs to support and strengthen the guy
* When to let him be by himself

And there needs to be a balance between the go, go, go energy of a guy who’s constantly action oriented and not words oriented, and a woman who uses more words and emotions. Find that balance without being a victim or trying to be in complete control.

Please explain “receiving for the sake of sharing.” In The Spiritual Rules of Engagement, I talk about that we can work our whole lives to receive for ourselves. There a maximum capacity for how much you can receive. But the moment we let others receive with us, we receive for the sake of sharing. “How can I really share this with my family?” This doesn’t mean working twenty hours a day so your grandchildren can have money. Meanwhile you don’t see your kids. So are you really sharing? No, you’re taking.

You need to find a balance where your existence still has a “me existence,” because that’s our nature,” but you can find a way to include others, which starts with family and friends. Eventually there’s a kind of global responsibility we feel—we’re in this boat together on one planet. Each person needs to find a little something they can do to hel
p this world. Part of life challenges is to surround yourself with a small group, whether it’s a girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, wife, children, friends, that really are there for you unconditionally. That can only happen if you receive and take from this world with others in mind also.

You said the order of a relationship is meet, marry, love? This is the essence of this book. So often the goal is to be with the girl or guy. People can be together for ten years, get married, and get divorced six months later. What’s the goal for most people? Being together or getting married? Most Hollywood movies end with the kiss on the beach or at the wedding. But that’s just the beginning of the work in Kabbalah. A person who’s with someone for ten years should have greater love for that person than at five years, or one. If you know more about your partner in ten years and love less, you really didn’t know them before. This is one of the biggest challenges in life. The more you know someone, the more layers they reveal, the more garbage. So you should love them even though and even more because of who they are.

What advice would you give for some who complains about never meeting a potential romantic partner? There’s three levels—shut down, open and desperate. Some people say they want to be in a relationship but don’t really want to be. They’re shut down. To them I recommend doing anything to go out on a date and break the cycle of “I don’t want to.” If someone is desperate, they need to work on their desperation. A person who’s really open and not desperate should continue to work on her life. See if there’s something in the past that’s still inside you that hurts—something you didn’t close from your last relationship. If you feel there are no men to meet, it means there’s something a little off. Think about whether there’s something underneath why there’s no one. Ask yourself “where in me am I not letting a man in?”

What your best advice for developing a loving relationship? Ask yourself why you want to be in one. If the answer is, “I don’t want to be alone,” buy a dog. If you’re answer is, “I want to be able to share everything of me with someone,” now you’re talking! But too often we look to find the person and not someone we want to have something special with. Do you want to just have someone, or someone to take care of you? That’s not a good reason.

Check out Yehuda Berg‘s book, The Spiritual Rules of Engagement (Kabbalah Publishing, 2008). It can help you from the beginning of a relationship or to help make a relationship stronger.

If you enjoyed my post, please leave a comment and/or click on the bookmark and write a short review at some of the sites, especially Stumbleupon and Digg. Thanks!

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