Figure Out What’s Important

When you’re faced with your own mortality it causes you to reevaluate what’s important.

At the ripe old age of 37, death is not something I really contemplated before now.  And then – wham!  You’re diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and your whole perspective changes.

I know some people facing serious illness and terminal disease may be tempted to continue living their lives just as they had before.  Changing nothing.  And although I continue with the day-to-day tasks of everyday living as I always have, I’ve also been overcome by this strong desire to prioritize.  To decide what is truly deserving of my time.

I don’t want to waste my time on bullshit.

I think questioning what is truly important is a good exercise for everyone to do.  Are you spending the time you have in a nourishing and fulfilling way?  Do you enjoy your work?  Do you enjoy your time outside of work?  Do you make decisions in line with what you truly want out of life?

Immediately following my diagnosis these questions started to creep into my head.

So what sort of things are important to me??

Number 1 – Family and friends.  Having this ongoing rotation of all my favorite people coming out to Ohio to help us (and spend time with me) is such a gift…  Just this morning Auntie L finally headed home.  Sniff!  Sniff!  Miss M is still in a state of denial asking, “Where’s Auntie L?  I wanna play!”  Thank god the family and friend brigade continues tomorrow with Auntie M – who arrives tomorrow evening.  Having all these loved ones around is not only helping me, it’s helping Miss M BIG TIME in terms of dealing with all the changes cancer has thrust onto our family.

So what else is important?  Spending time doing things that bring me joy – dancing, traveling the world, being in nature, watching sunsets, listening to music, getting engrossed in a really good book, learning new things, helping others, being in New York City, meeting new people…

But even though I’ve figured out what’s important to me, the hardest step is incorporating these things into my life.  Making them a priority.

So let’s all do it together.  Let’s make the effort to prioritize the things that bring us joy.  Find a few moments each day to do something enriching and enjoyable.  Something that makes your day a bit better.  That makes this life worth living.

If not now – when?

Make it happen.  Peace to all.  -T


12 Responses

  1. Totally agree…no matter what challenges or opportunities we face, it’s hard to keep our true priorities at the forefront of our minds. Thanks for the reminder. You are in my thoughts every day!

  2. It is interesting how this is such a battle for so many of us – to make a priority and enjoy what is important to us. I get so caught up in the day-to-day, and even recently have been trying to “clear my slate” and am finding myself getting even further bogged down in tasks. I guess that one could say that you have been given the opportunity to really realize what is important. We must all learn this lesson, though.

    So when do you get to head to New York City?

  3. Loved this blog. We all spend most of our lives bogged down in routine and day after day looms exactly the same as the day before. Before we know it a decade has gone by and have we really stopped to evaluate what we want, what matters?? I often think that the true meaning of our existence is not the big dreams and aspirations but finding the beauty and grace in our every day lives. Seeing the cup as half full as much as we can, taking the time to breath in, feel lucky, feel loved, stop and appreciate this crazy beautiful but fragile world we inhabit. The thing is for the rest of us not living with stage 4 cancer, we think we have time to get where we need to go but but the reality is any one of us could get knocked down by a bus tomorrow, next week, next year, every day is a gift and it is the only day we can count on. So we may as well think the best of our fellow man, live gratefully, love big, laugh big, be kind and enjoy all the tiny moments that make up a day.
    Your blog is a gift to us all and in turn we send you the gift of positivity,wellness and love from all over north America.

  4. Mom would be applauding you right now. That’s Zen, right there. None of us can afford to waste a minute.

    But if she were here, she’d add that sitting still is a perfectly good thing to do.

  5. inspiring! u r so right to remind us to treasure the things that make life worth living and aim to reach them.
    glad u have more family coming to stay- enjoy xx

  6. Right On, dear niece! You are very wise and mature for your 37 years……
    As much as I’m not crazy about traveling, I am psyched to see you guys!
    And when I get back home, I will design one of those boards you described, and maybe it will help bring me closer to fulfilling my dream of a house in the country with Trigger!

  7. Even though you dont know me your struggles are both very poignant and deeply personal because of my youngest sister. Your grace and fortitude continue to be a source of inspiration to us all. My secret desire is for a complete remission of this most dreaded of human afflictions.

  8. Terri…you continue to inspire and enrich all of our lives. You are going to beat this and live the life you dream of because of your positive outlook. Always in my prayers.

  9. OMG- Figuring Out What’s Important… Have I ever been living this for the past 24 hours since kissing you all goodbye… I apologize in advance for the length of this comment Terri, but I think you’ll understand when you get to the end.

    The anticipation of wrapping my arms around my husband tempered the sadness I felt at our leave taking (as did the numerous hugs Marisa gave me to hold me over!). Arriving home 15 minutes early, I eagerly gathered my things only to discover my wallet was missing!! Retracing my steps (including sifting through the flight garbage), I ultimately needed to cut my losses (while stifling my rising panic) and get off the plane. However additional anxiety insinuated itself into my gut as I rehearsed how to tell my waiting husband…

    As soon as I saw him, nothing else mattered…

    On the ride home I phoned the necessary credit card companies, both of us choosing not to waste our precious time and energy on the “what if’s”, aka “the bullshit” you refer to in your blog. And in that choice, a thought flew through my mind-maybe someone will find it and I was meant to somehow connect with that person…

    Flash forward 24 hours. 24 hours of pure joy mind you, including a homecoming to beat all homecomings; roses, a new home office completed by none other than my hubby (including hardwood floors!), Andrew’s acceptance letter to Bridgewater, dinner with the fam, (including Erin via phone) followed by a trip with my boys to see The Wizard of Oz performed by Andrew’s “brothers and sisters” from the theater camp he attends. Pulling into our driveway at 12:30 a.m., I realized, there truly is no place like home…

    I finally sat down to “do life” a little while ago-paying bills, calling a few more credit cards I realized were in my wallet, when my sister, Auntie Maria called. Knowing she was en route to you, Terri, I hoped she hadn’t missed her connecting fight. (Maria is a reluctant solo traveler!)

    “Sister, you are not going to believe what just happened,” she exclaimed.
    “Did you miss your connection?”
    “No!! I was just getting off the plane and someone said, ‘Is there a Laurie O’Neil here? I just found her wallet.'”
    “What?” I yelled, my husband looking at me warily.
    “I’ve got your wallet, sis. Someone just found it on my plane before I got off.”
    Goose bumps covered my arms as I tearfully said, “It’s Jeanne, sis… Oh my God. It’s Jeanne.”

    After hanging up, I did my usual “Jeanne visit screaming and yelling dance”-(which are well known in my family!). Although some of my family used to be a tad cynical about these events, all have come to appreciate these joyful serendipitous connections that affirm when we are on the right path…

    So my dear niece, thank you; for your inspiration, your courage, your insight, and your challenge to Figure Out What’s Important…

    Mom says you’re on the right path…

  10. Wow! Laurie…you just gave me goose bumps too. Awesome you had a fabulous trip, awesome you found your wallet and nonetheless, recovered by your sis!! See miracles do happen…. There are people out there watching out for you, Terri, all of us. I believe it!

    T- you may not realize it, but long before this blog you helped me to figure out what’s important. You’ve helped me put things into perspective and realize whats important and what I want out of life. Thank you!!

    I recently saw this quote from the late Steve Jobs. ” Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinion drowned your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

    There’s no next time. It’s now or never.

    xoxoxo ~ Moe

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