My gift to all of you…for my birthday I decided to offer my book for free on Amazon for the next day or two. So, if you’ve been hesitating to download it, now is your chance! Enjoy!
I’ve been absent from my blog, lately. OK, very absent. Refrain from thinking I’ve abandoned my site or my project. In actuality, I’ve been busy writing and rewriting stories for a non-fiction anthology. The focus is on times spent with several older adults and the lessons I’ve learned; how these times together have impacted me. Several of the stories you have already read, but I’ve updated and expanded them. I’m over half done and hope to go into the revision/editing phase by the end of this week. It’s been very exciting, educational, yet stressful. I’ve got a title; but may soon ask for your input since it’s not been as easy as I thought to come up with a strong title. I hope you’ll stick with me as I make my way to the finish; maybe, help me out if I ask for input. Thanks for the support!
Photo by: maf04 (under CC sharing rights)
What would you do if you were told you had breast cancer? Any men reading this? You too could be told you have breast cancer. It’s not just a female disease. So…what would you do? Would you fight? Would you go to all lengths possible in order to fight and win against this disease? Say you decide to fight against it with all that’s available and all you have inside of you. And you survive…maybe you’re even bold enough to say you won. You celebrate every year after on the date you were told you were cancer free. The years pass…5 years…a decade…18 years…then WHAM! It comes back. What would you do then? How has your attitude changed? Your approach to going to battle against this disease once again when you had thought you were in the clear…almost 2 decades?
Well, that’s the situation Susan Ricci has lived. Susan is a breast cancer survivor, two times over. I interviewed Susan back in October 2014 while home for a family visit. I wanted to share her story because of her strength and will to live. I am grateful that she agreed to sit down, speak with me and allow me to share her story with everyone. I’m hoping she agreed not just because we’re family. We may not be blood but she has been my “godsister” all my life. Pretty much makes her family. 😉
Susan is very candid about her memories of being diagnosed the first time and then a second time. Shares about her decision during her second battle with breast cancer to undergo elective double mastectomy. Her recovery the second time has not been as smooth as the first; yet she fights on to live life to the fullest every day. She opens up about the differences in her approach to fight and the types of support she had during each bout. A song by Cher has been almost an anthem to her to keep going, keep getting up to fight. Thank you Cher for giving her the will to fight because you helped keep Susan in our lives. She has a stronger will than me. Ultimately, what Susan shows is that you can’t fight alone when battling any cancer. It takes a family and what Susan now knows is that family isn’t always just your blood but your extended family, your network, other survivors and yes, even a song by a favorite singer.
This is Susan’s answer to the question, “what would you do if you were told you had breast cancer…twice?” Please share this video, especially if you know of someone fighting to win against breast cancer.
I have a weakness that I’m ashamed of as a speech-language pathologist. I feel I am a horrible listener. Shameful, since I know better. I know and understand the power of listening vs. always speaking. True comprehension of an incoming message and all its verbal, non-verbal parts. It’s the going beyond knowing you were heard to a person demonstrating s/he listened and is processing your “full” message. You see we can hear, listen but only get a portion of the message…you know…enough of a response to get by to be a good friend, employee, spouse. Yet, did you “fully listen”? Many times not. Many times you were being distracted. Distracted by other actions/noise in the environment but also distracted by competing needs whirling through you, the listener, as you try to focus your attention (hopefully) on the speaker.
I’ve noticed over the years that I should be better at listening. This past year, especially these last few months, I’ve been trying to dissect my listening skills and why I feel driven to speak more than listen. “What are my distractors, my hurdles that I need to remove in order to become a better and more effective listener?”, I have been asking myself, analyzing and trying to implement stronger listening skills. It’s not so easy. I’m still a work in progress. To this I’m sure some of my friends could agree.
Communicating effectively tends to be thought about mainly in the active, the speaking aspect. (Although writing is another form of communication) People want to speak well so they can tell you what they are thinking, what they need, to entertain, etc. That way it can be acted upon by the listener or a target audience. There is such power in seeing your words acted upon by having something occur or seeing a positive reaction such as laughter. All this because you spoke. What power. I think that is one of my hurdles. I like to see the power of my words result in an action I wanted to have happen. I will admit that in past meetings with a team I was working with, I spoke and spoke with the intent they will have to listen to me until they agree to what I need them to do. Selfish ME!!! So they nodded their heads and “yes, yes’d” me. I felt successful because they agreed to do as I instructed and asked. In actuality, I was a verbal bully and I failed. I should have approached that meeting to listening to what was going on with the project, what they felt was going well or not well and why they thought this and how I could best help them in their opinion – not mine. Then given time to synthesize and fully assess, I could have provided the information they needed. I probably would have garnered better respect and trust from them and quicker. I’ve got to get my ego out of the listening component of my communications.
Another hurdle, I’m afraid that I’m going to forget a point that I want to bring up to the person speaking. It’s a good point. I’m afraid I’m going to lose it. At this point, I’ve blown it! I’m now more focused on trying to remember my point and my full listening capacity is gone. At this point, have you ever had this happen and now realize you haven’t heard anything they’ve said since your internal “ah ha moment”? Admit it. You know you have. It’s O.K. to admit. I won’t tell. But you act like you’re actively listening by leaning in, nodding your head, maybe “hmmhmmm”ing. This is a concern of many as we age. The fear that our brain can no longer participate efficiently in multiple activities such as listening, assessing information, synthesizing, and locating information in our memories that we think is beneficial to share. Never mind there just may be too much crap going on in your head because you’re a teenager or you’re a mother.
Who ever said listening is passive to the speaker’s active is crazy! It’s very hard to listen beyond just hearing. Hearing just happens because our ears have the functioning physical apparatus to do their job. It’s the ACT (then skill) of listening to this stimuli or input and how your brain works on it that becomes crucial and how well you do as a listener. You have to be attentive to listen effectively. Being attentive is not passive. How many times have you been told to pay attention and not get distracted? Yes, distracted. Being distracted while trying to pay attention and listen to your speaker, I allow this to happen often. In this case, distracted by the need to bring up a point I don’t want to forget. Some would say to then bring the spotlight and power back to me. Ah power and ego. Seem to keep coming up, don’t they? Nothing bad about it. It’s human nature. We like things to be about our self. Yet being on top of the food chain and having the capacity of higher thought, I can target improving my skills to become at better listener. It is scary to move away from thinking about your needs, your ego’s needs while participating in a conversation with someone. It’s not easy because it’s also a very comfortable habit. It takes awareness and practice to do so. That means work. Yes, more work. However, the benefits that can come about as a result of this work can be extremely worthwhile in both your personal and professional lives.
As I wrote earlier, I have been asking myself, analyzing and trying to implement stronger listening skills. It’s not so easy. I’m still a work in progress. I promise to keep trying because I do see great value in what comes from fully listening to others.
To appear wise one must talk.
But to be wise one must listen.
It seems I tend to be way ahead of the curve or a little late to the party in my life. Starting a blog site now is skewing towards that better late than never side. Many people have been keeping blogs for years and I’m starting this now, why? Because I can no longer delay starting a project that I’ve wanted to do for almost a decade. In my case, Time is truly working against me.
I’ve named my project Sofia -Wisdom of the Ages. Sofia is Greek for wisdom. Some refer to Sofia as a goddess. Others believe Sofia has been around since the creation of Earth and the dawn of man. As humans live they experience and as a result gather knowledge. This knowledge allows us to make decisions about how we can deal with our existence to making specific attempts to improve on it. If we do this well, then others seek out to receive this insight and wisdom and use it hopefully for their benefit.
In ancient times, elders of the tribe shared their wisdom so that it could be recorded or known in stories-myths. These stories were then passed down to the next generations in hopes that they would benefit not only the tribe but for individuals needing guidance. In modern times, we seemed to have lost sight of the value and importance of the vast wisdom contained in adults and especially our older adults. Society, today, tends to struggle with and fear aging. We think of aging in predominantly negative terms. However, if we once again listened to and acclaimed the knowledge and insights of our elders instead of the tendency to cast them away as ramblings of the old and somehow rendered useless, we may begin to see the patterns of beneficial behaviors, how humans adapt given adversity, strength to persevere vs despair. How can we use this trove of wisdom to update and expand on our current psychosocial theories of human development and the roles of life and death within it.
The mission of my project is to accumulate, document and review the life histories of older adults through mainly videotaped interviews. Initially, precedence will be given to the oldest adults having experienced World War II, the Great Depression, the Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Equality Movement. The 20th Century was a period of some of the fastest paced and greatest amount of change our society has ever experienced. Adults that lived through these times have the ability to tell us about life before and after these events. What do they see us as not understanding, returning to and about to repeat that would not benefit us as a society?
These interviews will be maintained for study and review but will also be provided to the families as legacy gifts. Some adults may be interviewed again in 5 year periods, if they are able, to account for continued growth in their insight/wisdom to be documented. The blog’s website will act as a central storage site and include links to the videos available on the project’s YouTube channel. This way the public can have access to read/view histories, creative writings and stories that may be of benefit to them, knowing what others have experienced or dealt with before them; maybe gain enjoyment or solace from others. In time, as the number of acquired histories grows, others may find the information to be sufficient to initiate using as a qualitative data set to review and revise our current human development and psychosocial theories.
If I even come close to accomplishing a portions of these goals then I will be extremely pleased and highly appreciative. This is not a quick project by any means. It is one that is going to take great patience on my part and a significant amount of ongoing planning. However, when others ask me what I’m up to lately, the tendency is to note that I get very passionate speaking about this project. And that’s just it. I guess it is my passion. It’s been haunting me for a decade reminding me to attend to it. My hope is you will experience some of it with me too over the many years to come.
I’m an individual curious about the wisdom contained in all of us. Previous societies cherished and recorded the wisdom of their tribes’ elders for next generations to use for their benefit. Why did this practice end? After working for over 20 years with the elderly, I’ve had the honor of hearing some great stories and insights. I’ve had some good advice, bad advice and some that took more living to truly understand. But all in all I’ve been honored that these individuals trusted me with their stories. My hope is to begin recording the histories of our elders in my little corner of this great big world. I’ve got a steep learning curve and procrastination is no longer a wise option. There is much to be learned from them and time is of the essence.