Friday, 23 December 2016

Weekly Discussion Summary ~ Finding Happiness

We shared the many ways we had learned to find joy and laughter in the small things that make up our daily lives. For many of us this included spending less energy on work and making space in our busy lives to relax and do what is truly important to us, including music, art, dancing, travelling, walking and writing. Many of us valued nature and being outside and described noticing the beauty that surrounds us, the birds singing, gazing at the moon and stars, the sight of a robin on a window ledge. What stood out most from the discussion was the value we place on 'experience', on 'making memories' over 'material things' and the importance of our relationships.

Families, partners, friends, children, grandchildren, pets - it emerged that it is these relationships which are at the heart of our identities and the core of how we experience happiness. We shared the importance of being with those we hold dear, with a profound appreciation for our loved ones as a result of what we've discovered, although if we experience love more deeply, we also experience grief for those we miss, perhaps more acutely too.

We challenge the notion that cancer is a 'gift' because of the intense suffering and distress it causes, especially for those living with secondary breast cancer and long term side effects of treatment. However, we do believe that it is through our extraordinary resilience and strength as human beings that we take from, and learn from the trauma that we experience as a result of our diagnosis. It is this which we can take forward to develop a greater appreciation for life. The gratitude which we feel, Naz explained, is an after effect of trauma that we are inevitably left with, and through practice we can sustain this gratitude, otherwise, like the many sweet things in life, it can disappear.

Some of us described how we had lost the ability to laugh as a result of our diagnosis and treatment, whereas others had found humour, including a 'dark' humour at some of the indignities that we experience, to be a vital means of coping and experiencing happiness.

Naz told us that evidence shows that gratitude and grit come from flexibility and sensitivity, from pain and the will to survive, not from 'toughness' and being 'hard' but the will to sustain along this path we call life and the will to embrace our vulnerability with tears.

Many thanks to the wonderful Sally for allowing us to use her stunning photograph of a winter sunrise.


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