An Image to Hold Onto
We hear a lot about the value of visualizations, usually associated with relaxation or mediation or stressful situations. For example, patients may be advised to think of a beloved and safe place, to imagine the sights and smells and sounds, and to try to imagine being right there--while in fact they are receiving chemotherapy or heading for surgery. These visualizations or guided imagery exercises are often useful, but there is another kind that is less often discussed.
Since it was so helpful for me, I often advise women to think ahead to an important marker or goal; it can be six months or ten years in the distance. Once the moment is identified, the direction is to flesh it out: see it, taste it, smell it, hear it, feel it. When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, my younger daughter was eleven. I was a single parent, and she had virtually no relationship with her father. You can easily imagine my grief and terror.
The visualization, the goal, for me was walking her down the aisle at her wedding. In truth, at that moment, I probably would have negotiated and settled for living to see her graduate from high school, but I believe in setting goals and dreams high--so the wedding it was. As some of you know, she was married three years ago, and I have a wonderful picture of that moment on my desk. To anyone else, it is a sweet picture of Julia and me, holding hands, starting down the aisle. For me, it is proof of a dream fulfilled and a prayer answered. If you are ever in my office and want to see it, just ask me.
This description of another woman's moment came to me by her email a few days ago. She chose an ordinary future moment to reach and cherish--perhaps recognizing the wisdom of the greatest value in small things. I strongly urge you to consider and find your own goal and then create a detailed visualization of it. One day, with any luck, you will have a photograph on your desk.
Breast cancer survivor visualization.
I am trying to imagine myself in the future - let’s say, 15 years from now. I am walking in the street, on a pedestrian walkway. I am pretty thin, skinnier than now. I have a shoulder-length hair, with a little bit of gray in them. I am 44 years old. The hair is curly, and slightly to the left. I wear makeup. I also wear a green sweater and a pair of black pants. I wear a medium-size heel, black shoes. I have a western-style necklace. I am in a hurry, walking briskly. I am happy. I am healthy. I see this picture clearly in my mind – all I need to do is to close my eyes, take a few breaths, and think about it. I visualized myself like this for the first time several months ago, and the image has not changed. I love this image of myself in the future. I love my future. I do not see my breasts in this image. Who cares…?