Photo by Samuel Elkins
We all have bad days. Some are legit rough, others are just challenging. But the hardest thing (and my best practice) on bad days is to maintain perspective. “It could always be worse” isn’t some pat phrase. It’s usually true.
Those words aren’t empty for me. Some of my hardest “bad days” came in the form of breast cancer. And even when I was as bald as a ping pong ball, eyelash-less, too tired to walk a city block, queasy like a seasick landlubber on a boat ride from hell, and a whole slew of other gnarly side effects from the treatments, I knew I was lucky.
I was aware that I was fortunate to have such a incredible support system of friends and family. My access to some of the most cutting edge healthcare was covered by my health insurance. I’d caught it fairly early. My odds of survival were increasing rather than decreasing over time. Even at my worst, I still had it pretty good. I clung to that knowledge like a buoy.
How did I develop gratitude amidst the rubble? Journaling. I logged those rigorous days in the pages of multiple notebooks and amidst my frustrations, fears and lengthy complaints I tried to also capture moments of grace. Connecting to bright spots helped me get through the roughest times.
There was no pretending that this was anything but difficult, but like the aftermath of a bad break up you can completely give in to wallowing or (after you put away the tequila) you can cowgirl up. Getting it down on paper helped me discover a piece of my inner landscape, a part of me that happens to look a lot like a feisty cowgirl.
I admittedly don’t love revisiting that period of my life, preferring to look forward not back. But when Lindsay DeLong of The Fullest Magazine asked me to be on her new podcast (see link below) about survivorship, I said yes because (1) she is one of the cutest, kindest humans on the planet (2) if my story can help others, then it’s worth the retelling.
I originally met Lindsay during a journaling workshop I led at a retreat for breast cancer survivors in Zihuatanejo, Mexico hosted by Keep A Breast Foundation. That trip was a powerful experience and I realized anew the importance of recording our experiences on paper so they aren’t just rattling around in our heads. Get it out on the page, purge and process.
This week I celebrated my cure anniversary, 11 years strong, and it happened to coincide with the release of this podcast. I listened to it for the first time, then you can guess what I did next. I cracked open my AllSwell notebook and journaled.
Hope you enjoy this latest round up of AllSwell Reads, including a piece I originally wrote for Folk Rebellion’s print publication The Dispatch, and a whole bunch of other goodies to inspire your inner cowboy / cowgirl.
In Swellness, Laura Rubin
Penny Lewis, from Cardiff University, and two of her colleagues have combined past sleep discoveries into a new theory that explains why sleep and creativity are linked. Specifically, their idea explains how the two main phases of sleep—REM and non-REM—work together to help us find unrecognized links between what we already know, and discover out-of-the-box solutions to vexing problems. Dive in at the link up top.
For The Fullest’s inaugural podcast, hosted by their Managing Editor and breast cancer survivor, Lindsay DeLong, Lindsay sits down with our founder Laura Rubin, a fellow survivor. Laura and Lindsay bravely share their lessons of life pre, post, and during cancer. It’s an episode guaranteed to help you write away the pain — or simply celebrate the beauty of this human experiment we’re lucky enough to call life. Tune in at the link above.
An estimated 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. To give you some perspective, that's 5 percent of the population. There's no question that depression is fairly common, and there's no one-size-fits-all way to manage it. One tactic that's proved to be helpful, however, is journaling: Not only can it ease symptoms of depression, but it can help manage anxiety, reduce stress, and help you prioritize and sort through exactly what's getting you down. Find out how via the link above.
In his open, omnivorous writing on literature, visual art, and performance, Hilton Als has made critical analysis and introspection a conjoined practice. The essay, which he has called “a form without a form,” is his primary mode, and he invariably interweaves family and friendship, American fixations on and lived experiences of race and sexuality, metaphor and reality. Read more at the link above.
Create Your Own Damn Dream, Laura Rubin for The Dispatch
Two and a half kids and a couple of shiny cars parked in the driveway of an over-mortgaged house while keeping up appearances for the neighbors? No, thank you. The concept of one unifying American Dream is as outmoded as a Betty Crocker recipe for tuna casserole. There’s some kitschy nostalgic worth but no nutritional value. Originally written for The American Dream issue of Folk Rebellion’s The Dispatch read Laura’s take on crafting a dream that’s unique to you at the link above and receive 10% off a subscription to The Dispatch and the American Dream issue free with code allswell10 at checkout.