While (finally) starting the process of backing up my blog entries for the past 7 years (my bad, I know, but I am getting it done), I found an essay on my computer that I had submitted to the book Chicken Soup for the Survivor's Soul. It was not chosen for inclusion (I never heard back), but as I re-read what I wrote, I could still see everything about that moment, along with remembering my subsequent thoughts and feelings. I also remember the enjoyment of writing the article. I enjoyed reading it again last night, and I think it deserves 'flight', so to speak.
So I hope my blog readers also enjoy reading it, if you are a cancer survivor or not. The experience can be had anywhere by anyone, and the insight is applicable to each and every one of us.
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Crows or Eagles: Which Will You Choose?
Sitting in a Utah canyon during January 2003, I saw a magnificent and memorable sight, a mixed flock of approximately 50 crows and three Bald eagles flying in a thermal updraft from the warm canyon rocks. As i viewed the swirling acrobatic birds through my binoculars, I could see individual crows pestering the eagles, who put up with this annoyance for a while. Eventually, however, each eagle turned as if to say to the crows, "You are only a crow. I am an eagle!" Each eagle then flew on its own separate way.
I was struck by how this real-life observation in nature resembles not only our own real-life patterns, but also our opportunities. How often do we find ourselves staying within the comfort of the group or the ease of the updraft without moving on to new experiences or opportunities? How often do we find ourselves slowed down, bothered by, or worse, resigned to the myriad of life's distractions, or our own poor choices, when we really do have the desire, strength, or ability within us to follow the better path? Healing our own cancer-weary spirit or helping someone else are just two examples of the better path; a path with more happiness, more joy, or a more meaningful purpose.
This recent experience also has given me a new perspective about my own cancer recovery journey. I have always called myself an "accidental" author since writing the first edition of my book, A Dietitian's Cancer Story, in 1997. Writing and oral presentations were very difficult for me during my high school and college years, and I truly doubt that any of my past teachers would have selected me as a potential future author or public speaker. However, after viewing these eagles purposely fly away from the crows, I no longer see this aspect of my cancer recovery journey as accidental. Instead, I realize I made a choice to fly with the eagles; a choice to share my professional knowledge about nutrition and cancer along with my personal experiences through a book.
I did much more soul-searching after my most recent cancer diagnosis than I had done previously. I finally understood that my heart was being pulled to help others have an easier cancer recovery journey than I have had. I took a deep breath and chose to say "yes" to that pull in my heart' "yes" to leaving the comfort of a job I loved; "yes" to sharing my personal experience and professional knowledge with the hope that I could provide "information and inspiration" for other cancer survivors.
It was a risky choice, indeed I was terrified to know I would need to fly into new territory. I could have let the fact that I knew nothing about using a computer or nothing about the internet keep my flying inside my comfort circle with the crows. In addition to knowing nothing doubt writing a book, I knew nothing about book publishing or methods of book promotion, let alone how to run a home-based business. It certainly would have been easier to hang back with the crows, even with their occasional annoying pestering!
However, the Chinese proverb "When the student is ready, the teacher appears" immediately became true for me. As soon as I said, "Yes, I will write a book", people appeared to help me with every aspect of this daunting project. I now envision their teaching and helping to be just like the updraft that kept those eagles afloat until they were ready to fly alone. Writing, self-publishing, and marketing my book, creating my web site www.CancerRD.com, and public speaking are all examples of ways that I broke away from my group of crows to soar with the eagles.
Is flying with the eagles always smooth or easy? In a word, no. Do I have days when I am back with the crows, days when I do not feel like I can reach out to help other cancer survivors by soaring on my own? Yes, of course. However, I have two favorite verses that I keep close to me at all times for both comfort and inspiration. For those days when I just don't feel like I can keep soaring with the eagles, I take comfort in this verse:
"He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge." (Psalm 91:4)
For days when I am ready to try soaring again:
"They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint." (Isaiah 40:31)
Over time, many details from my recent trip certainly will fade. However, I know I will hold the gift and power of this sign forever. Anytime I ever see a crow or Bald eagle in the future, I will remember that I have choices in life; a choice to either hang out with the crowd of crows or a choice to soar with the eagles. In addition, I frequently find myself visualizing the crows and eagles swirling together in that updraft; seeing the eagles in my mind as I choose how to spend my precious time and energy on a daily basis.
My wish is that you will also find the courage to choose a risk; the courage to say "yes" to some meaningful aspect of your life where you can help make a difference. It does not need to be cancer-related or even something "big" like writing a book or running a marathon. It just should be something uniquely important to you; something that will bring meaning, happiness, or joy into your life.
If you are not yet ready to soar by yourself, look for teachers to help you first stay aloft and then move outside your current comfort zone. You also can rise above the "I can't….." and the "If only………." type of statements so common when we surround ourselves with the crows in life to "I did it!" when we risk flying with the eagles.
I hope you experience the joy of soaring with the eagles during your life's journey!
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My computer file says my final draft was 2.28.2003, nearly 11 years ago, and I don't think I have re-read that article since then, as life moves along quickly.
However, I can still clearly see those crows and 3 eagles in the blue sky, the rock outcroppings where I was sitting plus the general terrain of winter in the southwest desert canyons, along with feeling both the wind and sun on my face that day.
I can also clearly remember the shaky feeling of risk as I took flight on a journey in which I became an advocate, a spokesperson, for cancer survivors on many fronts.
Life is not easy, and it certainly is not fair (whatever that might be), but we do have choices, and we will have support. The Universe is abundant, and yes, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear". Teachers have come to me over and over and over again since my cancer experience in 1995.
So I will dedicate this blog post to all my teachers during the past 19 years, some of whom are now dear friends, others flew with me for a short time within my flight path and then kept going. I would not be here, and I would not be who I am today, without all of you. Very simply, I thank you all.
And to all of my blog readers, I'll end this post exactly where I ended that article.
I hope you also experience the joy of soaring with the eagles during your life's journey!
Cultivate your life - You are what you grow (and who you choose to fly with) - Inch by inch, row by row,
Diana Dyer, MS, RD
PS - Please don't think I don't like crows. I do! In fact, I love them, look for them, and even count them twice each day as they fly over our farm in their flock (called a murder). Besides actually counting their numbers, I count them as friends and was as tickled as could be to actually see one close-up, really close-up for the first time, while it was scooping up scattered sunflower seeds under our bird feeders one day last week.
PPS - Guess what I am going to do right now. Back up this post? Yes……… :)