The last of the human freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances. These insightful words from Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl in the classic book Man’s Search for Meaning have meant a lot to me, originally when going through harsh cancer treatments and later when our daughter Krista died.
So I was moved to see how central they also were for Ruth Bachman (in picture above), author of Growing through the Narrow Spots. All of us go through “narrow spots” that she describes as the “bumps, potholes and detours on the road of life that represent loss of one kind or another.” For her, a seemingly healthy, active, left-handed wife, mother, and educator, her narrow spot came when diagnosed with an aggressive sarcoma on her left wrist.” Her 35-year-old sister Kristin, a mother of two young children, had recently died of a malignant melanoma. To Ruth, cancer was evil. “I told my friends I would do whatever treatment was necessary, but I would not, could not, lose my dominant hand.”
But when chemotherapy failed, this required amputation on the lower part of her left arm. “I had a choice. Say “yes” to such disfiguring, life-altering surgery, with no guarantees. Or die.”
She describes having to “surrender safe territory” as she faced her fears.
She found solace in the image of the hourglass. “I imagined traveling down, through the tight spot, arriving at the bottom; the same sand, but now with a different arrangement. I had to completely change my perspective. Your sand is refined and redefined, sifting out interior resources of strength not previously noticed or called upon.”
A brief, but artistically elegant book encourages others to find similar resources in the sand to face their own narrow spots, and navigate them with courage and intention. By saying “Yes” to embracing the passage, rather than continue kicking and screaming, she discovered cancer to be an extraordinarily powerful teacher that offered her profound transformation. Now an inspirational speaker and cancer advocate living in Minnesota, she uses her story simply to encourage others to not just go through the narrow spots, but to grow, even thrive, through them. She is convinced that, “Narrow spots are tools that provide us with life lessons that lead us to compassion and wisdom.” An advocate for integrative cancer care for patients and cancer research, you can learn more about The Hourglass Fund Project, see www.ruthbachman.com.
I have heard very similar stories of transformation from persons experiencing deep suffering from the loss of a loved one, clearly another narrow spot in our lives.
Recently I’ve been fascinated with research along a similar vein called Post Traumatic Growth. Although we are all familiar with the reality of post-traumatic stress, especially for men and women enduring the ravages of war, this illustrates another phenomenon. Can we actually find our lives transformed in positive ways after facing life traumas? I’ll expand on this in a future blog. In the meantime you might enjoy an introduction to this idea on the following link.
Are there ways you have grown through loss?