I’ve been hearing this phrase in my head for over a week now.  What does it mean?  What am I doing about it?

Well- firstly, I’m thinking of a million different reasons as to WHY this message is coming to me, and coming NOW.  “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”, right?!  I mean, it IS, and it isn’t…Maybe that’s why I keep hearing this in my head.

How has your Fall been? Honestly?  My Fall has been ROUGH. 

Our daughter started college, and a) we didn’t know what to do with ourselves for the first month, because we were lonely without her, and b) she ended up getting sick before Thanksgiving, which was a combination of: anxiety, heartbreak, frustration and adrenaline (she ended up having pneumonia and is totally great now, Thank Goodness, but it included a trip or two to the ER at 2:00AM). 

On top of that, I have been having one hell of a time with my medication.  I take an aromatase inhibitor (AI for short) to block any estrogen being made in my body.  Ah, post-cancer fun…NOT.  I was taking my SECOND AI for over 9 months when I started getting unbearable pain in my hip and elbow.  Of course, I thought the worst, but my oncologist, after examining me and sending me for x-rays, is confident that I was having side effects from the medication, which evidently can occur at any point (fucking great, right?!)  SO- I took two weeks off from the medication, then started the THIRD AI.  All I can say is…SIGH…  After 6 days all hell broke loose, and I was in MORE pain, and had some other, less pleasant side effects.  So, I once again took two weeks off, and started the medication on an every-other-day basis.  That’s where I am now.  We’ll see what’s going on in another week (Yay {insert sarcasm}). 

THEN, I decided to take orders for Thanksgiving.  I hadn’t done baking orders for Thanksgiving in a few years, because of the cancer bullshit, but I just had to take that part of myself back from my post-illness life.  And, it was SO STRESSFUL but SO REWARDING.  I was up at 5:00AM at the end baking scones, but it was worth it, and it was a small victory for myself, so that was good (see there was good in there, lol!).

What did I DO about this rough and tumble, drag-me-around Fall?  I put my tree up early!  I didn’t care (and still don’t!) WHO thought it was too early- my heart said it was time, and I listened.  It truly makes me happy to turn the lights on and sit by the tree.  It gives me a small time to reflect and have a peaceful moment of joy, even when the world around me is a universe of stress.  It shows me that hope and beauty is there, and that all the rough times are only temporary.

Secondly, “Look Inside Your Heart” reminds me of a passage in The Bible.  Now- hear me out- take the religious aspect totally away, and we are still left with a beautiful story of a strong woman- Mary.  In the Book of Luke, we read through the traditional Christmas story (Birth of Jesus, Angels appearing to shepherds, etc.), and after that, we see the phrase, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19).  That one phrase means more to me than the rest of it, because we all know what happened, BUT, then in an instant we catch a glimpse of HOW Mary felt.  I’m not sure how many people really think about that- HOW did Mary feel and WHAT did she do about it?  Here is where we need to look at this like a good story- because that’s what it is.  Here is this young woman, who, in the story, is given a HUGE responsibility to carry, which undoubtedly came with a buttload of stress, anxiety, social scrutiny, etc.- and what did she do with it?  I’ll assume that she knew that she had A LOT on her plate, and had just been through what was probably the easiest part of her journey, but she accepted everything that came her way, and then, in a moment, was able to mentally step back and think about it all.  WOW.  Just WOW.  It’s like she survived the first round of crap, looked back and said, “I did it, and I got this.”  It always leaves me in awe- and makes me realize that stress, illness, strife, injustice, and whatever else you can throw in there, has been going on FOREVER, and that what I’m going through now, has been triumphed in the past, and if people had been badass warriors thousands of years ago- I can be one now, and I know that we’ll all continue to get through shit as it comes along in the future. 

So, I guess I’m hearing “Look Inside Your Heart” as a reminder to slow down, stop worrying, and take a step back every now and then.  I have to admit that I have a tendency to worry and hold on to it, when I should let it go sooner.  I know some of you do that, too, and so my wish for all of you is to look inside YOUR hearts at this time of the year, and at all times when you need to, and find the little moments of joy that are around you, even when it doesn’t feel like it’s there- it is.  Trust me. 

A joyous holiday season to everyone, and all good wishes for the New Year ahead.

Love to each of you!

Jennifer Angarano Ricci is a wife, mother & creative soul-searcher.  She is a musician, artist, and baker, and runs her home business Baked By Jen, in addition to running her local community theater group.  She loves to sing, create and help others and tries to connect all three passions whenever possible.

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