It’s been almost 2 weeks since I’ve been home, as though God had different plans for me, and that He did! From Slave Lake to Stettler to Edmonton, visiting family and friends, playing “Mrs. Fix-it,” helping out with tasks around the house, installing door seals, mending gates, hanging Christmas decorations. God presented me with an opportunity to help my friend, while she goes through cancer treatments. I’ve rarely experienced so many feelings at one time, feeling so strong, yet at the same time so weak. The prognosis is terminal yet her will to live is strong. Her determination is fierce and she has touched my heart.

I cherish her wisdom, her smile, her stories and her attractive attitude towards life. There are certain people that cross your path and touch your soul, that impact and change your life for the better, and I’m forever grateful that our paths crossed. I find myself angry at cancer, pissed off, frustrated, bitter, resentful, spiteful… for what it’s doing to a lady I have fallen in love with. It’s not fair, it’s not right and I want to be able to fix something I know I have no control over, which elevates my anger and frustration.

From all my life experiences so far, I’ve learned I can’t live like that for it would ruin me. So what do you do when a monster is slowly killing your friend? It takes a very unique and brave individual to stand between someone and a beast, to hold back the fear and uncertainty for periods at a time. To witness a loved one live out their last days. In a way, we are all passing in one form or another from this thing called life. I don’t know much, but what I do know, I know well, what’s right and true. One thing I’ve recently learned is that sleeping with one eye and one ear open for five days in a row wreaked havoc with my routine… That being a 24-hour care giver was more than I anticipated and requires a level of patience I have yet to reach.

A wise man once told me to get a Hula-Hoop, put it around my waist and have a long hard look at it. Within that Hula-Hoop is everything I’m in control of, and everything outside that Hula-Hoop is what’s out of my control. In almost every situation it has helped me with acceptance — it’s brought to my attention that if I’m not good to myself, keep on a schedule and routine, that I’m no good to anyone. Putting others’ needs, wants and desires before my own is something I’ve always struggled with. I have this constant urge to help others and am always looking for opportunities to be of service. It’s the most wonderful gift to be able to help others—family, friends and strangers.

I tend to deplete my resources and dive into my reserve tank, then find out it’s too late. My mind tricks me into thinking I have more than I can give. Then I find myself struggling to survive. I’m reminded of a crisis situation which calls for you to put on your oxygen mask before you help others with theirs. You’re not good to anyone if you’re not good to yourself first. We all have our limits and none of us know them until they’re reached, even then sometimes they reach beyond what we think we’re capable of. It’s like an invisible border that’s constantly changing and expanding.

Thankfully I have people in my life that know my limits better than I do at times. They can see it in my expressions and hear it in my voice… when I’m saying “yes” to everything, when I should be saying “NO.” I am always testing and crossing my border limits, when in reality I need to be respecting them much more. To continue learning, I must travel outside my comfort zone, yet beyond that zone are borders and limits and beyond those, there lies the danger.

Two little letters, one small word, yet so difficult to say — No. It’s life-changing and empowering. So why is it so hard? It feels selfish, it feels like I’m letting someone down. It’s fear of rejection, retaliation and misunderstanding, as though I’m leaving a job half done. For the majority of my life I’ve said yes to others and no to myself. Old attitudes and behaviors and ways of thinking are often the hardest to change. By being a “yes person” I’ve ended up in a heap of trouble, the kind of trouble that damn near ended my life; if I’m not aware, that three letter word will take me right back to the beginning and I’ve come too far for that now.

I’m not going to pretend that saying no is easy, because it’s not. Situations and events change and sometimes yes is the right answer, yet when it comes to your own well-being, “no” is the better answer. When enough time has passed and you begin to love yourself a little more, saying “no” doesn’t seem as difficult, and the ones that truly love you and respect you will understand. The most important thing is to love and respect yourself enough before you pass into that danger of self destruction.

I used to think saying “no” meant I was incapable, inadequate, less of a person. Four years and six months into my new life I’m learning those are lies I tell myself — whether I choose to believe them is entirely up to me. What I’m now learning is quite the opposite. Saying “no” sometimes means I’m only human, it means I need help now and then, it means I’ve done the very best I can and I need to put myself first for a while until I’m able to say “yes” again. It means having the same compassion for yourself that you do for others.

From now on, I’ll work on staying within my Hula-Hoop, for it’s what’s inside that counts the most.

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