When Cancer Hits Home

My wife was diagnosed with breast cancer a couple of weeks ago.

While the prognosis from the oncologist is promising, it’s still, you know, cancer: a word nobody ever wants to hear their doctor utter.

She had a nagging feeling that the tiny lump she felt was something, even though her primary care doctor thought it was nothing. Regardless, she sent her for a biopsy to be sure and, well, here we are.

Less than two weeks later, it’s still so weird to associate this terrible disease with my wife. It doesn’t seem real. She still seems so normal. But I know there are renegade cells on the loose inside my wife’s body that want to do her harm because they know of no other way.

Over the next few weeks, I imagine I’ll have a lot more to write about regarding her battle. My aunt suggested that I continue to write everything down so that we may have a record of it some day.

I hope that we look back on this as a “blip” in what turns out to be a long, healthy life, and I’m confident we will. But for the time being, I need a place to talk, and this place seems as good of a place as any.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Let Your Labor Cause Your Life To Suffer

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We all need to make a living.

The work we do for our companies and organizations is what allows us, I hope, to enjoy a well-balanced life outside of our cubicle walls.

But we also need to maintain a healthy mental state so that we can enjoy the lives we’ve built outside of the workplace. Because if you’re not right between the ears, your friends and family are not going to like dealing with this version of you.

Early in my career, I was assigned a client who came with a caustic reputation. Their actions brought colleagues to tears. The sight of their name in inboxes caused panicked moans. There was a general sense of anxiety among the team because we were always wary of when the other shoe would drop.

I had heard the stories. And I was terrified to start working with them. So I went out of my way immediately to show that I was going to work as hard as I could for that client, but it was not going to come at the expense of my well-being.

In my mine, I was not going to let the actions of one person impact how I behaved as a person when I wasn’t working.

Through my actions, and those early phone calls and meetings, we came to an unspoken agreement of how the work would get done, and I think it saved me a lot of unnecessary stress.

I believe very strongly that we should work as hard as we can when we are, you know, working. But when we are not expected to work, we should be allowed to turn off that part of our brain and concentrate on being better parents and better people and enjoy life.

If we’re putting in the necessary time, we’ve earned the right to enjoy time off, unburdened from the confines of an inbox.

This client I speak of became one of the nicest clients I’ve ever worked with, and, I believe, part of the reason was that we came to an agreement as to how this working relationship would, well, work.

Our team showed that we had the chops to fulfill expectations. And, we were in constant contact when we needed to be. We worked hard so that when we punched out at the end of the day, there was no reason to be anxious that they might call on us unexpectedly and ruin our weekend.

So as most of us prepare to enjoy this blissful extra day off that caps off Labor Day Weekend, let’s take a moment to make a pact that we will do everything we can, to the best of our abilities, to stay true to ourselves.

Work is a necessary part of life, but it doesn’t have to be an extra stressor if you work hard (and smart) to make it so.

Can We Separate Work and Life?

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A few weeks ago, I took two days off work to drive to Brookston, Pennsylvania — a hamlet buried deep in the Allegheny Mountains — to bury my grandmother’s remains.

It was a necessary vacation for obvious reasons.

Thanks to my iPhone, though, I could monitor work-related matters while cruising down the Ohio Turnpike. (While my wife was driving.)

At my grandmother’s grave site, we came together to accommodate the dying wish of a Granny and a mother: gather the family to put her to rest next to my grandfather.

While standing atop a cemetery hill that holds older generations of the Marley family, sharing the myriad reasons why we loved our grandmother so much, I took out my phone to snap a photo and noticed that I was out of range of a cell signal.

I know it’s hard to believe that in 2016 there’s still a place in the United States not covered by cell reception, but this tiny burb that takes up less space on a map than a fingernail might be one of the last places you can go if you seek true solace from a world that moves at a thousand miles-per-hour.

Not having instant access to e-mail is a foreign, if not unsettling, concept today for those of us in the communications industry. Even when we’re on vacation, there is still some expectation to be connected. (Which is totally our fault, btw.)

Even though I was surrounded by loved ones, I felt a weird sensation caused by not being connected to the Internet.

I should’ve felt relief, but it was more like anxiety.

Something could be happening that I needed to respond to, but it was impossible to do so.

Here I was, burying my grandmother, and my brain wouldn’t let me forget about my real-life responsibilities.

***

Our connection to work is only as far away as our mobile devices.

Even though we say we aren’t going to check email while on vacation, we still do. Constantly.

Which begs the question: is it possible anymore to actually turn off work and enjoy your free time?

Consider this:

The Economist suggests our jobs have become prisons from which we cannot escape.

In The Week, the writer thinks we work insane hours because we’re afraid of someone taking our spot if we’re away for too long.

Still don’t see where I’m going with this?

Well, then take this statement from a story in New Republic: Burnout is a diagnosis for winners.

Can you hear me now?

We talk a good game when it comes to ditching technology and “getting away from it all” but we have put ourselves in a position where, except in rare instances, we don’t truly enjoy time away.

You even see it in our social media habits when we constantly share the great work our company or agency has done, even when we’re supposed to be off the clock.

It’s like we cannot forget about our careers, even for a couple of days, because then what is our purpose in life?

If we can’t stop thinking about work long enough to celebrate someone’s life, then something is clearly wrong here.

Maybe I’m asking the wrong question.

It’s not: Can we separate work and life.

The better question is: Do we want to?

You Are The Best You

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My oldest daughter is becoming her own person.

My wife and I are so used to having a say in everything that she does that it’s still a little bit strange when she does things of her own volition. Whenever I enter her bedroom, I have to prepare myself for what I’m going to discover she has been using her brain for.

Has she turned her room into an art studio?

Is it a lending library?

Every other day, her room is something other than her bedroom. It’s a testament to the way our kids’ brains function.

When I was putting her to bed the other night, I noticed a new addition to her room that I hadn’t noticed before. Inside a frame on the nightstand, is a piece of yellow paper with a saying on it.

The saying reads: “There is no one alive who is youer than you.”

It was written by Dr. Seuss. The full quote reads: “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.”

For the last few nights, when I read her a book before bed, I’ve found myself thinking about those words as I turn off the light and hug her goodnight.

They are a good reminder that you are, well, you.

You were hired to do your job because you are you.

Your friends are your friends because they like you.

Your significant other was drawn to you because you are you.

As a species, we are constantly comparing ourselves to others. We can’t possibly live up to what others are doing. Every person we know is smarter and prettier and cooler than us.

It’s easy to look at others and think you fail to live up to their standards when the world props up the winners and bashes the losers.

But who said we need to live up to anyone other than ourselves?

You do what you do for a reason, because somebody sees value in how you go about your daily life.

***

As I sit here and write, I wonder if my daughter read that Dr. Seuss quote somewhere and decided to cut it out and frame it.

If so, bravo to her. (But, honey, don’t use scissors unless you ask mom or dad, okay?)

It takes a confident person to decide at such a young age that she’s just going to be herself, especially when where you sit on the school bus each morning can be devastating.

But even if she didn’t do it, it’s still a nice reminder to her to be herself, because nobody else can be.

Journalists Get A Bad Rap

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Journalists get a bad rap.

Not only is their average pay pathetic, but they are often our last line of defense against elected officials who wish to do harm to the country through antics that often aim to better themselves and their standing within society.

Without hard-working journalists, Kwame Kilpatrick might still be running the city of Detroit into the ground.

Without reporters willing to stick out their necks, Richard Nixon may have gotten away with abusing his power as president and who-knows-what-else.

(Without journalism, I wouldn’t have a job, but that’s neither here nor there.)

There are so many instances where journalists have stood up for our rights when nobody else would. But if you read the comments of an article on The Detroit News, it seems that most people believe the media has become a propaganda machine for the government, even when the First Amendment clearly states Congress is forbidden from restricting freedom of the press.

The idea that Donald Trump, if elected president, would go after the media for libel is a scary proposition that brings to mind a controlled state of media where only the approved news gets disseminated to the American people.

It’s ironic, then, that Trump wants to “Make America Great Again!” when it’s freedoms to speak and write newspaper articles a few of the freedoms some other countries don’t have.

Trump’s candidacy would be nothing without the attention from the media he’s received.

I don’t understand why he wants to bite the hand that feeds him.