In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s a new year.

Even now, 9 days in, I see blog posts and status updates discussing career plans, resolutions and a 2013 “word.”

But nada from me. I’ve been preoccupied. My 2013 started with a PET scan.

It wasn’t a surprise. I knew I’d need another one, even put the scheduled date on my calendar at the beginning of December. It’s my 2-year, post-diagnosis check up. Standard practice for those of us who have heard the word “cancer” in the recent past. To make sure those rotten little cells don’t host a party without sending an invite.

I had every intention of taking it in stride. All the facts pointed to a good outcome. When it comes to cancer, I’ve had just about the best-case scenario you could imagine. What could have been horrific, turned out to be little more than a blip on my life radar.

But my brush with crisis 2 years ago changed me. And the waiting for scan and results weighed on me more than I wanted to admit. It stirred my imagination with all the worst-case scenarios. It heightened my impulse to shut down, worry and try to control. In short, it made me more neurotic. As if that were even possible.

So, for the past five weeks, the “what ifs” played hockey in my head. In an attempt to curb my pacing and nail-biting, I took the above pic and posted it on Instagram with this tag:

The world does not rest on your shoulders.

The blue note card has decorated my desk ever since. I needed the reminding. Still do. Because 2012 taught me a lesson I won’t soon forget:

I carry far too much.

  • I carry the decisions my older children haven’t yet made, but worry they will.
  • I carry the pain my littles might experience one day when they look back at all they’ve lost.
  • I carry guilt over the projects and deadlines I didn’t complete and meet like I’d planned.
  • I carry worry over our finances and how we’ll pay for the wants, needs, colleges and weddings for six kids.
  • I carry guilt over my less-stellar mom moments.
  • I carry disappointment over the people I imagine I’ve let down.
  • I carry hurt from friendships that didn’t turn out like I thought.
  • And (gulp) I carry fear that test results will come back with bad news.

Neurotic, perhaps. But not all that different many of you. We carry too much. And it wears us out.

Call it what you want, The Unexpected will happen. Mine was a health scare. Yours might be a relationship gone bad, precarious job or prodigal child. When it comes, it changes us. Ignorant bliss is replaced with sharp reality. We become people who realize bad things can sometimes happen. Even with a happy ending and return to normal, we’re not the same.

Sometimes it magnifies weaknesses lurking under the surface.

Other times it multiplies goodness waiting to birth.

Crisis can make us more consumed or more compassionate. More frantic or more intentional. More crippled or more secure. The Unexpected will either strengthen or weaken. It all depends on what you and I choose to carry.

Worry? Lay it down.

Fear over what may or may not happen this year? Lay it down.

The words that hurt you and the person who said them? Lay it down.

The choices that aren’t yours to make? Lay it down.

The lives that aren’t yours to live? Lay it down.

Your failures and disappointments in 2012? Lay it down.

2013? Own your attitudes, your choices, your words, and your thoughts. Wield them well. Everything else? Lay it down.

By the way, the PET scan came back completely clear. Turns out that 2-ton burden of fear I’ve been dragging around like a dead body held nothing but air. I should have laid it down.

Sounds like a good word for the year.

What do you need to lay down?

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