Gratitude & Relationships

  • Post category:Spirituality

It’s been 12 months since many of you have heard from me. In my Christmas message last year, I shared the news of being diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer in September 2021 and being given approximately 3 months (or longer) if I tried Chemotherapy. What a roller coaster of a year it has been for me and I’m sure, for many of us! News items have been full of disasters, despair, and devastation, both national and international which have affected so many.

I have two themes that I’d really like to share with you this year. They are around gratitude and relationships.

Not only have I survived the year, but I have also thrived.  For some three months the cancer was completely resolved, and I was four and a half months without chemo. I did a social media post in September this year showing me out on a tractor doing rough mowing on the local golf course as a volunteer. The caption I placed under the photo was – ‘this time last year I was given three months before I’d be pushing up daisies, – today I’m out there mowing them!’

Angela and I even managed four wonderful weeks on holiday at our son’s beautiful property in Vanuatu.  In all, we were away some five weeks and I was enjoying life without Chemo.

I have so much to be grateful for.  For a long time, I have known that when I talk about ‘I’, I’m much more than ‘temporal flesh’. I’m as God created me to be and that is ‘timeless spirit’.

Having said that and being at peace mostly with whatever circumstance in which I find myself, I do appreciate so much the extra time I’ve been given in this temporal body.

This has been due to a massive cooperative effort by a wonderful medical team, my wife Angela who has had to bear the brunt of this journey with me, my very close and loving family, my siblings and their partners, my golfing mates, and an array of friends who have stayed loyally in contact with both Angela and me over the year.

When the happiness movement led by Martin Seligman, blossomed in the 90’s, Angela and I picked up on a gratitude activity which was to acknowledge three good things that happened each day at the dinner table at night.  We started doing that some thirty years’ ago now and have encouraged many others to do the same over this period. It’s almost magical the way you can reframe situations by expressing gratitude – especially as we live in such uncertain and chaotic times.

Today, when I reflect on the past year I’m overwhelmed with gratitude, even down to the little things like having running water and flushing toilets, not having to worry about food or where my next penny is coming from, being able to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation which surrounds us with the golf course and the nearby ocean and wherever we are, the amazing generosity of family and friends, having well developed tools that help me deal with my ‘monkey mind’, being able to still carry on with a little coaching, playing golf, gardening including growing beautiful flowers and vegies, walking our old dog Poppy (who is now 14.5) and being able to walk and exercise. I love having friends and mates around and being able to cater and cook for them and I know that this social activity is wholesome and good.

As well as all these positives, for which I’m so grateful, there have been quite a few challenges, especially in relation to the side effects of the chemotherapy. Peripheral neuropathy (the loss of feeling in the fingers and toes) has been the most debilitating but I’m learning to reframe my thoughts and feelings around this.  Angela has helped me enormously in this area too.  Instead of saying ‘my feet are so bad I can hardly walk today’, I gently thank my feet and toes for being able to walk and my fingers for being able to hold things and type despite having to use the back space key so frequently!

Reframing is so valuable.  It keeps us focussed on the positive, and mindful of the present. Most of all it fosters an attitude of gratitude regardless of our circumstances. As I write this, I’m now one week into recommencing chemotherapy as the disease has returned.  Rather than feeling sorry for myself, reframing means that I thank God for the miracle of surviving and the wonderful times I’ve had and shared with many throughout the past 12 months.

Over the past year I have learnt to be more mindfully grateful and thankful regardless of my circumstances. I encourage you to see the world through loving eyes and not through fear. Whichever one you choose; the world will reciprocate.  Whatever you give to another, you give to yourself.  Being grateful for a generous universe is not to deny the shadow side. Good and evil will always exist.  I believe if we sow seeds of love, then love will grow. Conversely, the opposite is true.

Now onto Netflix! For the past week or so Angela and I have been watching some ‘feel good’ Christmas movies.  We have not done this before but wanted a change of pace from the thrillers and spy movies to romance and comedy.

As depicted in these festive season movies, Christmas is celebrated differently around the world, and we certainly witness this in Australia where we have such a variety of cultures, ethnic groups, and religions. For Christians, the central focus and true meaning of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus. For many others, Christmas holds special meaning for family gatherings, sharing gifts and enjoying amazing food.

These are ordinary movies but there has been an extraordinary theme coming through. More than anything else, they have reminded me of the importance of relationships – to connect, reconnect, forgive, reach out, and spontaneously love over this Christmas time. For me, The real spirit of Christmas manifests itself through our divine natures – our True Self, that beautiful place of goodness and Godness, the space where love overcomes fear, where goodness shines through and the place where we experience true peace and share unconditional good-will to all humankind.

Wishing you all a very happy and peace filled Christmas and good health as you share in gratitude the new year with your friends and loved ones.