The JOY Tank
The main focus of my cancer story began long before December 7th, 2018, which was the day I got the news my breast biopsy was positive for Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.
Over the past eighteen years of being a life coach, speaker and leadership trainer, it became clear to me that my greatest gift to others, as well as for my own benefit, was my natural gift of joy. Joy has always come easy for me. I didn’t have to try to feel good or to have a positive attitude. It just happened. It was in my wiring. Some people have a knack for singing or doing complicated math in their head, but for me, it has been the ability to access joy.
Joy has been a lifeline for me. It keeps me strong in recovering from challenges and reminds me that I am more than a physical body living in a physical world. Joy has shown me that it is unconditional and is undeterred by bad news, bad-humored people or bad diseases.
As it became clearer over the years that joy was my secret weapon in life that can steer me clear from deep disappointments, long-lasting grudges, bad luck, grumpy people, potential worries and everything in between, I began to be intentional about maintaining my joy and came up with a metaphor of the Joy Tank.
My Joy Tank is an invisible container that I imagine is located within me in the vicinity of my heart. Whenever I do anything that pleases me in some way, joy flows into my tank. It can fill up by watching a great movie, going for a walk with my dog, meditating, practicing yoga, eating a great meal, taking in a gorgeous sunset or sharing a good laugh with a friend, to name a few. In essence, it is any activity or even a positive thought that causes me to feel good. The better I feel, the fuller my tank. Regardless of the joy-producing activity, the key is always to be present and grateful so I can feel it. In other words, I must be awake in life to fill my joy tank.
On the flip side, if I get sidetracked and behind in making joy deposits because my life is extra stressful, my joy tank level diminishes. If this lack of attention to filling my tank persists, eventually I end up running on fumes and that is not a pretty picture. I have less energy, smile less, eat more carbs and spend more mindless minutes scrolling on Facebook. In addition, when my tank is empty, I lose my superpowers of joyful interactions, my creativity and my ability to have fun with whatever I am doing. Life becomes routine rather than fascinating and I lose the spark that keeps me feeling vibrantly alive.
I have no doubt that because I have been intentional about maintaining a full joy tank for almost two decades, news like having cancer is just news. I am not pulled into fear or dread and I don’t tend to make up scary stories about the future. I have a spiritual common sense that allows me to sail through life with fewer bumps and bruises that can occur when one refuses to accept what cannot be changed.
A full joy tank has given me the luxury of observing myself in a spiritual way. I tap into my inner knowledge that although my spirit is housed in this physical body, I am not just a body. I know that my thoughts direct my emotions and I am in charge of my thoughts. I know that I am not a victim of my circumstances, but the director of how I will navigate through them.
So that’s why when I heard the words, “You have cancer”, I did not panic or catastrophize about long-term suffering or even death. My full Joy Tank allowed me to stay calm, ask questions and make choices about how I would handle this blip on my screen of life.
It is because of my Joy Tank that I believe I will navigate this current cancer adventure to the best of my ability. I believe I will meet each challenge mindfully and clearly. I will ask for support when I need it, both the physical kind and the emotional kind. I will take care of myself by filling my joy tank regularly in a variety of ways. Making regular entries for this blog is one of the ways I will keep my joy tank filled so stay tuned for more.