#13 What's Your Story?

Mar 22, 2015

From my earliest days, I was compared to my mom in looks, habits, and personality. Many will tell you we look alike. Our professional lives parallel and when I’m thinking of her the phone rings and she’s on the other end. Born in Northern Ireland, she has instilled in me a deep-rooted affinity for the Emerald Isle. I've grown up hearing story after story about the drama that surrounded my emergency c-section birth and how we both pulled through. Unquestionably, we have a strong connection.

Together we faced random, unexplainable reactions to some mysterious something or other that kept us from eating shellfish and horseradish. Tests had shown I was not allergic to shellfish, but the verdict was still out on horseradish. Mom was stricken with very random allergic reactions to things we could only surmise to be shellfish, but we still weren't sure.

As a child, I watched my mom put herself through college. We both held our breath as the mailman delivered report cards and we jumped for joy when we saw all the passing grades. I sat by her side in college lecture halls when babysitters weren't available, and I proudly attended her college graduation. Soon after we did it all over again when she continued on for her Master's Degree. Fast forward twenty years and my kids watched me do the same. They watched me study, and balance home, work life, and school. We had a dance party every time grades were posted online and they also attended my college graduation.

My mother's favorite saying is, "That umbilical cord is still as strong as ever." So you can imagine the horror that coursed through my veins as the words fell from her lips telling me she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The question I immediately asked myself, which soon became my story from that moment on was: When am I going to get it?

When Mom shared her news about her diagnosis, it was very matter-of-fact. There was a plan in place; it would be followed, and her diagnosis would one day be a memory. “I’ll have six chemo treatments and we’ll take them one at a time until I have my surgery”. She spoke and I listened. I was as calm and as certain about her positive outcome as she was, but I cannot deny the story that began to immediately embed itself into my internal dialogue and thus, into every cell of my body;  Very consciously at first, and then later and much more dangerously, subconsciously.

At the time I was not aware of the astounding power of words. I was not mindful enough to realize the damage my unhealthy self-talk did to the psyche and immune system, all the way down to my cellular level.

It wasn’t until years later when I began to teach a graduate course entitled: Stress and the Teaching and Learning Process, that I really understood the science behind how our thoughts manifest what is presented to us in our lives. As a medical doctor and alternative medicine advocate, Deepak Chopra tells us, “All the interpretation you make in your life about what is happening to you structures the biological responses down to your cellular level. When you think ‘I am happy’, every cell in your body learns happiness and joins in”.

Maya Angelou tells us when we know better, we do better, and she's so right! I use their words as daily affirmations and I now have lots of fun with affirmations that I make up and ones that I borrow from other people. They change as my needs change. I write them on tri-folded pieces of paper and prop them up all around my home where they act as constant reminders to stay strong and be positive. I write them on Post-it notes and stick them on my desk at work and they act as little reminders helping to calm and focus me in the middle of what can be a crazy and continually interrupted day. Living consciously has become an important practice for me. To get some affirmations for yourself, you can search online or click on the affirmations page here.

Sadly, 75% of what the average person tells him or herself is negative. And what's even sadder is that many people in our lives have scripted our self-talk, but the good news is we can rescript it. By selecting and feeding our minds positive affirmations the programming in our minds can and will change.

Your words can be a potent contributor to illness. So pay close attention to the story you are telling yourself. Stop comparing yourself to other people.  To quote Oscar Wilde, "Be yourself, everyone else is already taken." Take a moment today to think about your story. Is it working for you? Dispute it if it is not serving you, and work to change it into a more positive, healthier, internal dialogue. Life gets better when your story gets better. Have fun writing your happily ever after today.