Trying to stay focused on the present

Red Mug Cafe, Mt. Hope OH
At the Red Mug.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I sat in my favorite café sipping a delicious cup of coffee. I often met my older brother there or enjoyed a yummy breakfast with my wife. Today I was alone, musing upon what had recently transpired, and what was yet to come.

As customers came and went, my mind raced over the events of the last days and of the days ahead. I had no regrets and no dissatisfaction. I was at peace with the world.

My friend Susan helped me arrive at that conclusion. She had just stepped to the counter to order and didn’t notice me until she was about to leave.

We exchanged fond greetings, and when Susan asked how the moving preparations were progressing, I told her of two emotional partings I had recently experienced.

Only an hour earlier I had bid farewell to one of my most precious possessions. I sold my beloved 1970 Chevrolet Malibu Sport Coupe, the car I had helped a dear friend purchase brand new at a dealership in Millersburg, Ohio.

I loved that car, and so did its original owner, the late Helen Youngs. She took good care of it, too. I tried to do the same once she sold it to me in the summer of 1988.

Now, after all of those years, someone else owned the car. A man from out of the area bought it for his wife. He told me he liked the car’s story as much as the car itself. He purchased the Chevy for his wife without ever having driven it. She had owned the exact model as a young woman.

I witnessed her joyous reaction when I drove my Chevy into her garage. I knew then and there Helen’s car was in good hands and that I could lovingly let go. I wish you could have seen her.

I needed to sell my automotive treasure. No one in the family wanted it, and I had no place to store it in Virginia. Plus, I didn’t drive it enough to justify keeping it.

grandchildren
Celebrating a birthday.
Just as it was time to sell the Chevy, it’s also time to move on in our lives. We want to experience all we can with our busy grandkids. Concerts, ball games, shuttling them to appointments are all part of our Virginia agenda.

Only the day before we came to grips with the emotion of moving. Our daughter and her family had returned for one last visit before we joined them in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.

handkerchief quilt
Our granddaughter helped hold the handkerchief quilt my wife made.
All went well until it was time to leave. Before our daughter jumped into the family van, she broke down and so did we. Tears freely flowed. Tears have incredible power. As they trickle down from eyes to cheeks and are wiped away, tears cleanse us, help us to heal, force us to accept the situation just as it is.

Our love affair with our home, our community, our good friends was coming to an end.

As I watched the van drive away, I was happy that this last visit for Carrie’s family had been a memorable one. I hoped and prayed it had brought them a semblance of closure.

As my friend Susan had reminded me, we are much better to live in the present. No sense longing for the way things were or fearing what may be ahead in life.

I am most happy for the past. I joyfully anticipate whatever the future holds for us. We need to embrace the present with gusto, delight, and jubilation. I have my friend Susan to thank for that reminder.

Family home, Holmes Co. OH
Home for 38 years.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2017

Feeling guilty about surviving cancer

foggyridebybrucestambaugh
Life sometimes is a foggy ride. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I wasn’t surprised when I got the word. Three years after my successful prostate cancer surgery, I remained cancer free.

Of course, I was glad, ecstatic really. But after getting the all clear from my doctor, I never celebrate, and I don’t gloat. I know I am one of the fortunate ones. Far too many people diagnosed with cancer never hear those blessed words, “cancer free.”

I had excellent doctors who expertly monitored and guided me through my journey. When it was decided to do the robotic surgery, I hoped and prayed for the best results.

rainbowbybrucestambaugh
A sign of promise. © Craig Stambaugh 2014.
Fortunately, my prayers were answered. Those of too many others with cancer have not been, will not be. At times, I feel bad about that, guilty even, sometimes to the point of depression.

I never know when those feelings will arise. I’m not even sure what triggers them. I just know at times I feel really sad for others, and guilty because I made it while others did not.

I recognized that an important first step in fighting this negativity was to personally acknowledge my situation, and seek the appropriate medical and therapeutic help. It’s good to be honest, especially with yourself.

It was also reassuring to learn that my anxiety propensity is fed by a genetic disorder only recently diagnosed. Medicine and diet help balance my emotions. That doesn’t eliminate my remorse, however.

Whenever I share these survivor guilt feelings with others, reactions vary from understanding to bewilderment. Some question the idea entirely, and wonder how in the world I could feel the way I do.

There is no easy answer, just like there is no good cancer. Cancer is cancer. Guilt is guilt, whether it is justified or not. Like so many other survivors, I ask the obvious questions. Why was I saved? Why were others not?

I am not sharing for sympathy. I do so for understanding, not for me so much as for all the others who suffer similarly.

I am not alone in dealing with this survivor’s guilt syndrome. The condition ranges far beyond the circles of cancer victims. Firefighters, military personnel, first responders, victims of violence all hurt likewise.

hopebybrucestambaugh
A sign of hope. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.
The good news for me, besides being cancer free, is that I try not to let my sporadic despair overwhelm me to the point of hopelessness. I always have hope, and always hope the best for others.

I tell my own story when asked. But I found a pair of other actions far more helpful. Simply being there, and listening to others are both critical to cancer victims, their families and friends, and to survivors, too.

I have found a sincere presence, and kind, active listening beneficial healing approaches to all touched by this horrible disease. Such support encouraged me during my ordeal, and I try to do the same for others in need when and where I can. There seem to be too many opportunities lately.

I greatly appreciated the encouragement given by my loving wife and family. I also belong to a very supportive small group with other cancer survivors and victims. We share openly and honestly with one another, without judgment or shame. We meet regularly to stay in touch with how each of us is doing on our cancer journey.

Still, when that dreaded guilt shows its ugly face, I know what to do. I visit and I listen. Purposeful focusing on the needs of others helps me heal, too.

liferenewingbybrucestambaugh
Life renewing. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014