Endure It Well

By: Michelle Lange 


(7 min. read)

My current adventurous expedition in the jungle of life is about managing burnout. I have lived through copious moments with stellar performances batting back and forth that tennis ball of life, on automatic pilot, doing what I do best. On those occasions, which were many, I gave no thought, unintentionally, of course, for myself or the rigors this would eventually have on my soul, heart, and mind in that order.

It has become a time in my life when I truly need to exercise my belief/faith muscle. This requires more than just exerting hope the size of a mustard seed – no bigger than a pinhead to generate phenomenal sustainable energy.

Over the last week or so, I have come to learn my actions and choices were not wrong; it was what was needed at the time for me to move through my life. The cancer diagnosis – the initial shock, the line-upon-line – step-by-step treatment, and now the seventh-inning stretch. A stretch that takes mindfulness in a very purposeful, meaningful way. The key to this expression is about finding endurance and doing it well. One cannot fully understand or comprehend the very means of what it takes to be present in life and get through the difficulties without greater repercussions. I am a single mother with cancer, raising a child who needs lots of love, support, and tools, and most of all, someone who will stand with her in the hard. I have overcome all of this with all I have, acknowledging one crucial shortfall – giving back to myself, my bucket – my me-ness.

Let me say that life prepares you for battle and challenges via the path of experience. I am learning that to stay in the game; it is you who prepares you to be there to manage going the distance. A friend recently told me that my experiences over the last few years are much like being an athlete who trains for the Olympics with the reward of a medal, notoriety, and achievement in their sport of choice. The difference between me and an Olympian is that I am not on this expedition for a gold medal. Although I deserve one, it is by choice and necessity. Necessity because with cancer, you have no other choice, should you wish to live to do the hard yards, that marathon or 15000 meters race.

The other facets of this race or expedition are who has joined my life expedition and how those modify or add to this experience. Every day, I choose to stand in my daughter’s path because her pain is an ugly consolation at the hand of another, an outcome that is inherently not something she asked for. Standing in her path, for her, and loving her has been my greatest blessing.

Other tender mercies this week came as I embraced the facets of equine therapy. I became acquainted with a Welsh pony named Clover. Clover’s owners gave treats to coax her to respond so that ropes could harness her. Their well-meaning intention was to use unconventional training methods so that Clover would comply. Let us just say the methodology damaged this precious creature who, in the end, Clover became a statistic of abuse and mistreatment. She is afraid of the very presence of humans and keeps herself at a safe distance, wilfully controlling her environment because Clover’s sense of trust laid trampled in the dirt by the hoof of humankind. In her, I saw reactions of uncertainty and mistrust, however, wanting to engage. She looked on at me longingly, unsure, controlling her safe distance as I sat watching. It was her time and space. I knew that. Her hurt showed up as trotting frantically from one space to another.

From that quiet distance, I could see her pain, the pain of my youngest daughter and my own. The pain and grief of cancer, abusive marriages, the grief of losing children, and many things that I could choose to define me and stay lost in that place. I have heard that we cannot know our greatest strengths and gifts until we are in the thick of a struggle or challenge. There are times we do not see what we are capable of or have done until we are through it.

By taking time to intentionally pay attention to our soul heart state of mind, we will come to understand, like Clover, how our inside self shows up outwardly. Often, over the last few weeks, the book The Body Keeps the Score, written by Bessel Vander Kolk, has come up in several conversations. For me, it was a universal reminder to not only read the book but to understand the toll, my experiences were having on me now.

Our body is our biggest judge of where we are at, and it does keep the score. When we are tired, exhausted, and have overdone anything, we get gentle reminders. Our nervous system, our muscles, our heart, and our mind share communication with each other, signaling tension, weaknesses, stress, and over-exertion through our mood and language. Add to this a source of inspiration, our capacity to receive and use divine intelligence. A discerning mechanism where our spiritual self can trigger those gut feelings.

All of this is energy that you get to use to contribute to your wellbeing in thoughts and actions. Remember, thoughts are things. If seeing is believing, then to believe is to truly see. See the signposts that signal you to slow down, to take hold of yourself, align your faith, and mindfully drown out the noise, expectations, and judgments to find breath and life within you to go another mile.

Line upon line, inch by inch, my M I L E arrives in – Mindful Intentions Live Everyday. As I recover from a flu-like illness, meaningful moments and mindful intentions fill my minutes. I have discovered this with the help of past learning experiences, friends, and a fabulously sharp therapist who brought new tools to move ME into the next milestones and miles.

Those tools are aligned with Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) methods. Meaningful mindfulness –   to observe, describe without judgment the essence of the moment, and fully absorb soul, heart, and mind, arousing all my senses to participate and deliberately stop and participate in what shows up in my frame. When you are on automatic pilot, doing what you do best, I can assure you it is best to give yourself permission to take time to play, participate in mindfulness, and take a break to breathe life in.

To breathe life in means that we do not wait for adventure to find us; in every waking moment, we mindfully capture the very essence of what is in front of us. It may be the buzz of bees, the hum of hummingbirds as they come close to a feeder, the warmth of the sun on your face, the sound of the breeze through as branches sway to and frow, or the delicate fragrance of apple blossoms in bloom.

Prayer – Minutes tick by as I quietly retreat in prayer beseeching God to not remove my experience but to carry me a moment because my soul energy is spent – run out. In my mind, I picture a reflection of those footprints in the sand where his feet tread my winepress as he lifts me through my mental exhaustion.

Participation – As the gentle breeze whispers in my ears, I lift my eyes to the sky and am grateful for the clouds and sharp images as they slowly drift across the sky. I take it all in, immersed in the greatness of the art found in clouds. William Wadsworth’s words saunter into frame – “As I wander lonely as a cloud.” With joy, I appreciate the moment and capture the time on my phone with the aperture of a click of the camera.

Truly, the secret to a better tomorrow is to be in the present with a willing soul, heart, and mind to drink it in. We all have moments of unrest, burnout, and feeling lost and alone. These last few days, I have come to know that finding your heart is your first healing point. A heart that seeks to enjoy the vibrancy of life once again, not waiting for the adventure to arrive but creating a pivot in the now to embrace the essence of a moment abundantly.

My pivot point for today was revisiting one of my favorite movie moments – Out of Africa. I have come to love this story of a bygone era, which tells the tale of a woman who finds herself in an era where marriage is all that she was supposed to do, and yet she learns to grow a coffee farm in Africa. In the end, her truth I have known as it started is that she owns nothing, and the land is not hers; it never was. We are the masters of our lives and those we invite in are visitors who are destined for their own journeys. It is but a brief opportunity to bring meaningful purpose.

I was reminded how rare and precious life is as I altogether absorbed the music, the scene where  Karen and Denys are above the lands of Africa in a bi-plane, taking in the breathtaking sights of herds the move, waterfalls, meandering immense rivers and lush green forests, mountains and all kinds of wildlife. They are fully engaged as each deliberate minute passes by because they choose to embrace an experience that will never come again or be quite the same as long as they live.

As I completely immersed my senses, my heart beckoned to my soul to surrender to the sweetness of the moment that, for me, would never come again quite like that. In the quiet solitude, I found peace. I found myself breathing in life. Through small and simple things, gradually, my soul-heart space was recharging. When I let go of the lists, the expectations, and the judgment and allowed myself permission and room, I found peace. I found that young woman who decided to go on her own Out of Africa adventure many, many moons ago.

On my journey, I found disappointment, experienced loss, found love, and lost it. Like Karen, I have discerned my truths, my learning, and my strength & courage. When we let go, we become open to receiving JOY, BLESSINGS, SUNSHINE, HOPE, and OPPORTUNITY. Opportunities of experience are gifts that illuminate our path, open our hearts to healing, and our souls to learning for our greater good. My greater good is to see with eyes wide open new possibilities to acquire tools that will help me to endure life well.


Michelle Lange
                                                                     All Things Wellness, LLC

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