Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Weekly Discussion Summary ~ Learning to Live a Rich and Meaningful Life

In this week's discussion, we shared the varied ways we are learning to live rich and meaningful lives, despite our our physical ill-health and losses, including perhaps aspects of our identity, such as work, and despite the ongoing uncertainty of living with cancer and it's effects.

Our breast cancer diagnosis had led many of us to experience a greater appreciation for 'life' and for what it means to be alive, as well as a profound joy in the small - perhaps previously unnoticed - details that make up our day-to-day lives: acts of kindness, being outside in nature, spending time with loved ones, volunteering, learning or establishing new traditions for our children and grandchildren.

Some of us described how our outlook on life had completely changed, we might for instance have become calmer, more tolerant, kinder to ourselves and by re-evaluating what is important to us, have decided to take up new interests. Our awareness of our mortality, though painful and frightening, had led many of us to find within ourselves a freedom to be more authentic, perhaps giving up aspects of our previous lives which we realised were unfulfilling. Some of us had also decided to take more risks and embark on new adventures.

Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist and holocaust survivor, said “Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how.'” To find and have a purpose in life brings a much more powerful meaning to those of us living with breast cancer and its effects, because our experiences are that we have a life that we no longer take for granted. While some of us have faith and spirituality, we discovered that we don't need to be religious to search for meaning in life, instead, we all have within us a spirit that can reach far and high, in search, not for 'the truth', but 'our truths', that with courage, we can discover our inner selves and what makes each of us unique and resilient.

Frankl also says: “But there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.” In his timeless classic, 'Man's Search for Meaning', Frankl shows us that the 'freedom' we have is not, as we might believe, in events that happen to us, or the way our bodies behave, but rather, in how we choose to respond. We discovered that whatever our physical limitations, we can still make choices about how we want to live day by day, and do what brings us pleasure and joy.


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