A letter to Julia Louis-Dreyfus: 3 keys to beating the breast cancer blues

Dear Julia,

I’m a huge fan of yours and I send my heartfelt wishes for good health and a complete recovery.  I myself just finished up surgery, chemo, radiation and reconstruction after the positive diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer. I’m sure the irony is not lost on you that our diagnosis could be associated with the word “positive.” Nevertheless, there is light at the end of the tunnel, in the tunnel and before the tunnel, if you can learn to adjust your thinking. I hope you are helped by the following “happiness tips” from someone who’s been there/done that, and who was brought onto  RWJBarnabus Health System’s “Women’s Health Initiative” as their optimist expert. 

The very first thing I struggled with when the docs told me I had breast cancer was figuring out where to put my mind. I was frightened, upset, disoriented, sad, overwhelmed, and I couldn’t seem to think straight.

I’m trained as an attorney; that was a weird mental space.

A brilliant man once told me that he doesn’t like to think too much, because when he does, he goes behind enemy lines. That’s just not me. I am by nature a happy person. I call myself a non-recovering laughaholic. I didn’t want that to change. I was terrified it would.  My dear father used to joke that “everything in life is mind over matter. I don’t mind and it don’t matter.” This time, however, things really did matter.

I knew that the key to mentally surviving this ordeal was to find a way to change my perspective about what was happening to me from something negative to something positive.  I might still mind, it might still matter, but I was going to have to “give a shift.”

KEY ONE: Give yourself permission to be happy!  I realized that even though I was given a life-threatening diagnosis, if I let cancer steal my joy… then I’ve died while I’m still alive! And I didn’t want to die while I was still alive. If I lost my happiness mojo, that’s exactly what would  have happened. I’m allowed to be happy! I’m allowed to laugh. I’m  still alive! And while I’m still alive, I’m going to be alive! I came back to this thought a lot.  It always helped me when fear gripped my innards and twisted me inside out. I won’t let cancer steal my joy. 

But you say, Princess Diane Von Brainisfried, how can I be happy when  no-one can give me a guarantee that I’m safe, that I’ll be cured? That’s what I was thinking, until it dawned on me that in asking the universe (and the doctors) for a guarantee that I would live, I was asking for something that didn’t exist…for anyone! No-one has a lockdown on tomorrow.  The proverbial car crashing, the errant branch falling, the glamorous elephant stampeding, there are a thousand ways to check out unexpectedly. Guarantees are for April Fools.  

It dawned on me that even with my diagnosis, I still have everything everyone else has. I have this moment. Nothing less, nothing more. Wait, I have more! I have a new reality that has seeped into my head and my heart. I understand on a profound level what it means that time is seriously precious, and that I truly must make my moments and my relationships count.

KEY TWO: Give yourself permission to be healthy.  I’ve always been a healthy person. I eat well, exercise, and keep a positive attitude.  So when this cancer thing came along, I didn’t know how to view myself. For me, the paradigm of a cancer patient was someone who is sick.   But by the grace of G-d I didn’t feel sick, I didn’t look sick, and I didn’t want to “be” sick.  My brain was having major cognitive dissonance.  I decided that I was still going to consider myself a healthy person. 

It took some mindful moxie to call myself healthy, especially after I started chemo.  My “monkey mind” was taunting me, asking me how could I possibly consider myself healthy, when I had more ports than a horny sailor, one to deliver the Red Devil and two for expanders.  How could I call myself healthy when my bald head made me a dead ringer for Elmer Fudd, and my once voluptuous chest had been reduced to a short stack.   I’ll tell you how I called myself healthy; I gave myself permission!  

The first step was to recognize that other than cancer, I was healthy.  I was “otherwise” healthy.  This line of thinking gave me a laugh. It reminded me of that old riff, “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?”  Truth is, other than cancer, I am healthy.  When I get a cold, I don’t see myself as a sick person, I see myself as a healthy person with a cold. When I had IBS in college, every emergency trip to the loo didn’t make me think of myself as a sick person. I saw myself as a healthy person who had these inconvenient incidents.  I decided to view cancer the same way. Thus, I learned not to say that I have breast cancer. Instead, I say that I’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer.   Don’t claim it. Don’t own it.   

KEY THREE: Give yourself permission to see this as an adventure! The philosopher Goethe famously stated, “The journey of discovery is not going to new places, but seeing with new eyes.”   A yoga teacher of mine once said, “It’s not what’s happening to you that’s important, it’s what you tell yourself is happening.”  Positive psychologists talk about reframing.  I searched my mind to find a way to look at the situation with new eyes and to reframe what was happening to me in a positive way. I decided to look at it as an adventure!

An adventure carries with it the possibility of excitement! What was I going to find out about myself on this new journey?  What wonderful people would I meet? What new experiences would I encounter? Seeing my circumstances as an adventure and not a curse immediately shifted me from a victim to a victor mentality.  It changed my energy.  Hopeful! Expectant! It was a chance to up my learning curve and go up the next rung of my evolutionary path, which, by the way, I’m farther along than most people, having never received my wisdom teeth. But I do have an L-6, which is kind of akin to a tail. So that’s a wash.

By seeing my breast cancer diagnosis as an adventure, I was borrowing a page from Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning by finding meaning and purpose in the ordeal.  I was also ripping a page from Pollyanna’s playbook and doing her “Glad Game.” I was in good company with these two.

I now look upon breast cancer as a beautiful gift bequeathed to me from the universe. Through it, I’ve been graced with the opportunity to help others find a positive and optimistic way of adjusting and coping with breast cancer.  I’ve had the gift of modeling for my kids that life can hand you a curve ball and you don’t have to fall to pieces. I’ve felt the love and caring of family and friends.  I’ve learned, like the line in the beautiful poem Alicante  by Jacques Prevert, “the present of the present.”  I’ve learned to savor moments deeply. I’ve learned the sustaining nature of passionate dreams and goals. I’ve learned the depth and breadth of my resilience, and the understanding that no matter what comes at me in the future, I’m gonna deal. And so will you! Cause that’s just how the girls in our club roll!

To our health!  To life! To the gift!                                                 XOXOXO,

Princess Diane Von Brainisfried

If you don’t take it on the chin, you’ll get it up the arse.                                       – Princess Diane Von Brainisfried

 

 

YOU ARE RELATED TO ROYALTY & WHY IT MATTERS

Dear Royal Friends,                                                         Did you know you are related to royalty?  Yes it’s true! You may have seen me advocate this principle before, but it’s so important, I want to make sure my new royal friends receive this information and my long-standing fans don’t forget. 

According to my theory,”The Sixth Degree Princess,illustrated below beautifully by my son, Prince Max, and recently proven at the Royal Academy of Brainiacs and Quacks, one way or another we’re all descended from a royal bloodline.  Right side or left, you know who you are. 

 

Why is this theory so important? There’s a magical transformation that takes place when you realize you’re a real princess, as authentic as the kind who wears  a diamond encrusted tiara or sleeps on a mile-high mattress with a little pea. (That’s spelled correctly.) The kind who knows Compassion and Kindness are her middle names. Mine is also Frances. The kind who’s proactively pursuing her bold destiny and carrying out her royal duty to use her gifts and talents to make the world a better place. The kind who knows the power of a smile to brighten the world and gladden a stranger’s heart.

When a person understands that there really is a tiara in her closet, and that her royal roots are not something she acquired at her hair dresser’s, she holds her head higher and walks more assuredly as she moves toward manifesting her destiny.  She awakens to the power of her birthright that is bound up in her sacred duty to explore, unearth and utilize her special gifts and talents to help make her kingdom a more wonderful place in her own, uniquely fabulous way.

So like I’m always hocking you, “Put a tiara in your closet!” Go out there and be the bold and beautiful princess you are!

I’d love to hear what putting a tiara in your closet means to you!  Leave your comments below, princess!

 

XOXOXO,

PRINCESS DIANE  VON BRAINISFRIED

 “Live your royally happy life!™”

 

Hold your tongue-keep your friendships

Dear Royal Friends,     

Our friendships account for a big chunk our happiness currency.

We need to protect them from the damage we can do in a knee-jerk reaction to some perceived or real infraction.

Were you ever just about to indulge in some delightfully decadent dessert, when an inner voice whispered, “Ten minutes on the lips, ten years on the hips?”  Wouldn’t it be fabulous if we had a similar sound “bite” that would give us pause before we lashed out at a friend?  

Here’s one of my favorite sayings that packs more “pause” than a five-legged cat. It goes:  “Least said, soonest mended.”

I understand that sometimes we’re faced with a “straw that broke the camel’s back” moment and we’re mad at a whole bunch of stuff,  and we just want to blow.

Here’s the problem. The salvo might feel good for a moment, but…ten minutes on the lips, ten years on the hips.

“Least said soonest mended.” Try it next time you’re on the brink of ripping your friend a new one. Give yourself the grace of stepping back. Remember what’s at stake. It’s not  just the friendship; it’s also your happiness. 

You can always eat dessert later.

XOXOXO,

PRINCESS DIANE VON BRAINISFRIED

“LIVE YOUR ROYALLY HAPPY LIFE!™”

 

 

The Most French Girl Thing About French Girls

Dear Royal Friends,                                                                                              

I love being a bit like a French Girl. It gives a princess a certain air, a certain mystery, a certain feminine style with a powerful stance.  

There’s one aspect of being a bit like a French Girl that I’d like to suggest you adopt, because when I do it (and I do it every morning and throughout the day) it has a very uplifting effect on my spirits.  Can you guess what it is?  I’ll give you a hint: It’s one of The Most French Things about a French Girl.

When we think about what is The Most French Thing about French Girls, we might conjure up some cliche images like a jaunty girl in a beret, smiling as she pedals a bicycle with her long crusty baguette and a small round cheese wheel jostling around in the bicyle’s front basket along with a bottle of red. Perhaps she’s wearing a blue and white horizontally striped sweater. Or a striped something.  Possibly she’s sporting chin length fashionable hair.  Always fashionable hair.  But something would be missing from that scene.  What’s something you will never see on a French girl…but bet your bottom Euro, she’s always wearing ( besides pretty, sexy and pretty sexy undies?) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…..perfume! 

To illustrate how obsessed  French Girls are with their perfume, I recently went to a wedding in New York.  Seated next to me was a quasi-relative French Girl traveling from Paris who exuded a luxurious fragrant presence.  Yes, she had chin length hair. I asked her what fragrance she was wearing.  I figured she’s just gonna tell me, but no, she proceeds to Show & Tell me in the most astoundingly French Girl way.  

She opened her teeny weenie purse that was in the shape of a small orange.  More of a pouch than a purse, really. This purse looked large enough to hold maybe a driver’s license, a piece of bubble gum, and either a pencil stub or a tampon, but not both.   She  proceeded to pull out of this walnut of a thing, a full-sized bottle of Pamplelune by Guerlain. Not a sample, not a travel size, but a big, full size bottle.  I couldn’t have been more surprised  had she produced a full-sized rabbit. Wearing a beret. And a blue and white striped sweater.

Think about it. Perfume must have been so important to my relative, that she handicapped herself with a full, heavy bottle of the stuff, thereby displacing other important cargo…like say…her wallet and her phone!  But to a French Girl, it made perfect “sense.”  She’s French. I remembered how  a few years before the wedding this quasi relative  was visiting for another occasion. As she passed by the stairs in the house we were visiting, I breathed the trail of a beautiful scent just as deliciously divine as the one she wore at the wedding.  I also asked then what she was wearing. It was Prada’s Infusion d’Iris.   Her nose knows what she wears, and she takes shhhpritzing seriously. 

Another truly elegant and stylish French Girl friend of mine who, when I first met her,  always smelled like Caleche by Hermes. Years later she always smelled like 24 Faubourg by Hermes. She never didn’t smell great, just like my French relative.  

How do these French Girls do it? Waft around in their perfume clouds?

The secret is: “spray well and often.”  Have perfume will carry. None of this spray to last to the end of the day. If you want to be French-Girl worthy, you gotta cultivate Fragrance Vigilance. Perfume Priority. Spray and Stay.

So what’s on my dressing table? I have a number of perfumes that I wear from time to time, but right now I have three go-to’s that I wear most often to “Channel” my inner French Girl.   Chanel No 5 Eau Premier;  Hermes un Jardin en Mediterranee; and  Hypnotic Poison by Christian Dior. 

Learn to channel your inner French Girl to start your day sweetly. Find a perfume that you love, that makes you happy, that uplifts your spirits, then spray well and often.  That way, wherever you go, there you smell. 

QUESTION: WHAT’S ONE THING YOU DO THAT CHANNELS YOUR INNER FRENCH GIRL? I’D LOVE TO KNOW! PLEASE TELL US BELOW!

XOXOXOXX,

Princess Diane Von Brainisfried

“LIVE YOUR ROYALLY HAPPY LIFE!™”

 

 

 

 

 

3 TOP TRANSFORMATIONAL HAPPINESS IDEAS FROM WOHASU – MIAMI WORLD HAPPINESS SUMMIT

Dear Royal Friends~

I’m back from the phenomenal World Happiness Summit in Miami. Woohoo WOHASU!

As promised I’m excited to share my 3 TOP TRANSFORMATIONAL HAPPINESS  takeaways from the WOHASU conference on happiness, where I was honored to be a facilitator.  Here they are, in random order:

#1 Happiness starts with a smile                                      Profound in its simplicity and power. Who knew you can start seeding a world with less misery and more happiness by smiling more!  You can! Your very presence can, more than words, bring a change in vibration, the way you can feel the vibration shift all of a sudden when a baby or a puppy enters the scene. You must be the change you want to see in the world. Happiness starts with a smile!  Serve with your smile! – Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

#2 Don’t pursue happiness directly – the happiness paradox – Tal Ben-Shahar                                                Just like you can’t look directly into the sun, you don’t want to directly pursue happiness, as there’s a happiness paradox; people who pursue happiness are often more depressed! The solution?  Focus on wholeness, which is   Shahar’s definition of happiness.  How to attain wholeness? Focus on  these categories: spiritual, physical, Intellectual, relational, and emotional, otherwise known as S.P.I.R.E.

#3 Joy can be experienced even when life isn’t pleasurable – Shawn Achor                                            Happiness is “the joy you feel moving toward your potential,” so you don’t have to be all ships & giggles to be happy.  By way of example, Achor told how a marine carrying a heavy backpack slithering through the mud on a military exercise described himself as happy because he felt he was upholding the safety of the United States.  Achor states, “Our goal is joy and meaning in our life and how we can help other people.” Thus, while pursuing meaning and helping others, we can experience joy even when life kinda sucks. Awesome!

I hope you enjoyed these key happiness takeaways! If you did, keep your eyes peeled because I’m putting together a FREE DOWNLOADABLE REPORT with more KEY HAPPINESS TIPS put forward by the leaders at WOHASU.

There’s also a spoiler alert coming soon, but I’m not going to spoil the spoiler just yet. Maybe next post! 

XOXOXOXOX,

PRINCESS DIANE VON BRAINISFRIED

 “Live your royally happy life!™”

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Top 3 transformational happiness concepts – I promise to share my takeaway from WOHASU

Dear Princess,

As many of you know I’ve been invited to be a facilitator at next week’s World Happiness Summit in Miami, where I will be schmoozing and elbow bruising with some of the world’s most extraordinary thinkers and happiness experts dedicated to promoting a happier world.

HERE’S MY PROMISE TO YOU: I intend to share with you the next best thing to a free ticket…my takeaway on what I consider the TOP 3 TRANSFORMATIONAL  happiness concepts that I spot at the event!

Do YOU have any positive transformations coming up? I’d LOVE to hear in your COMMENTS BELOW!

XOXOXOX, 

PRINCESS DIANE VON BRAINISFRIED

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                  “Live your royally happy life!™”

There’s a big chunk o’ greatness inside of you!

Dear Princess~                                                                                        Did you know that the magnificent, breathtaking and awe-inspiring statue of David already existed beneath the giant chunk of marble, even before it was created?

According to the artist it did!  Michelangelo said of his statue, ”The sculpture is already complete within the marble block, before I start my work. It is already there. I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.” 

If you’ve let life blow you hither, thither and yon (locations without GPS coordinates,) and you haven’t gotten a foothold into some big, bold, princess-worthy dreams, and you’re beginning to doubt that greatness is even there, rest assured that like the sculptor’s enormous  slab of marble, there is greatness within you!  And the most exciting news is, it’s your own unique, very special brand of greatness.                                                                                              

It’s time to start the excavation!  Go digging for that buried treasure inside of you! Starting NOW is  better than starting never.  We need every princess to contribute her own unique brand of talent!  Now is the best time to enrich yourself and by doing so, enrich the world.

Inspire us…. Let us know what you find on your excavation!

XOXOXOX,

PRINCESS DIANE VON BRAINISFRIED

“Live your royally happy life!™”

SPRING RENEWAL – FINDING THE POSITIVE WHEN LIFE BRINGS POOP

Dear Royal Friends,

A little bunny told me that spring is hare, I mean here!  Time for recalibratin’, re-evalutatin’, and re-invigoratin’ your outlook on life. Time to push upwards with a new view. Maybe life ain’t that bad. Maybe there’s something wonderful and promising in your life that doesn’t look so great right now.  Listen, if the tulips and daffodils can do it, so can you! They slept as bulbs all winter long, cozy and warm underground.  Then spring came along, they peeped up from the ground, and what did they find? They’re surrounded by fertilizing poop that smells so bad, it’s a wonder they don’t dive back into the earth and grow upside down! 

But they knew how to put a good spin on the stink. They knew their  situation may be hard to take right now, but it’s gonna turn them into one glorious bouquet!

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https://pixabay.com/en/woman-flowers-female-sitting-768702/

 

 

 The ability to find what’s good lurking in what seems bad is one of the biggest keys to a happy life.  You know that joke about the little boy who found poop in the living room under the Christmas tree, and instead of crying, he happily exclaimed, “I know there’s a pony here somewhere!” The trick in life is to try to find that darn pony lurking in every smelly pile.

Very often, it’s these challenges and limitations in our lives that hold something wonderful, if we just remember to look for it.  A perfect example of this is Dr. Seuss. He wrote one of his most famous books, “Green Eggs and Ham,” on a bet he couldn’t write a book with fifty or fewer words. We all know how that turned out.  He got to say, “Here’s egg on your face.”

I remember when I was in college and I had a  painful infection in my tooth and had to rush to the University clinic for an emergency root canal. The tooth then needed a crown. (Perfect for a princess, aye?) Well the little bugger didn’t fit perfectly, and little bits of dinner liked to hang out there.  I thought at the time, “Well this sucks. Food is getting caught in my tooth and I have to floss it out every night.  What a pain!”  But I figured as long as I was flossing the one tooth, I might as well floss them all. And the habit of flossing was born.  Voila. Something good from something bad.

And indeed, like the habit of flossing, learning to find the good in the bad is also a habit, and you would benefit greatly from cultivating it, even in the lighter challenges of your life.  Say you bemoan the fact that you can only afford one really good Little Black Dress. That might feel like a lack.  But with only one LBD, you might find the benefit of working your creativity like nobody’s biz.  One little black dress might be a catalyst to exploring  different ways to express yourself.  A big starburst pin on the shoulder one evening,  a vivid scarf flowing a la Isadora Duncan another,  bangles and baubles on another occasion, red heels on another, a bold statement necklace on another. Necessity is the mother of invention…in the end you learn something wonderful about yourself. You never knew you were such a mother!

Try looking at life from a benefits point of view, even in the hard times. The moment you take a problem and turn it on its head to find the blessing, life gets a whole lot easier, and you get a whole lot happier.

 HAPPY SPRING!  FIND THE BLESSINGS!

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PRINCESS DIANE VON BRAINSIFRIED

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THREE WORDS THAT WILL TRANSFORM YOUR LIFE!

Dear Royal Friends, 

I remember reading once that the famous Rabbi Hillel was  asked if he  could teach the Torah while someone was standing on one foot.  His answer was yes.  He said something like, “Don’t treat others in a way you would not want to be treated. The rest is commentary. Now go study.”    Pretty amazing condensation of ideas.  The guy literally invented short and sweet.  The idea expressed in that powerful sentence was life-changing for those who are capable of following the credo.  Whenever I think of Rabbi Hillel, I think of that lesson as being his essence. 

Have you ever challenged  yourself by asking what lesson, what credo do you hold that is the essence of yourself? Something you believe in your inner core that is profound that could change a person in a positive way?  I bet if you thought about it, you would flesh out something really inspiring. 

I encourage you by way of this post,   to think about a premise that you believe is life-changing for the good, and share it with us in the kingdom.   Let us know!  If you are reading this column, you are a person of substance and love.  We in the kingdom want to hear what you have to say that could change the world for the better.  Just start with one idea.  If you thought it, it’s worth reading.

Here’s my big credo. Something that is of my essence:  PRACTICE RADICAL FORGIVENESS.  Dee Nice Photo 1

If you forgive radically, unconditionally, you will change your life and the lives of others.  You will fly light like a bird.  You will know the incredible lightness of being. You will never again drag around the baggage and puss of old grudges.  It’s the most liberating thing you can do for yourself without breaking any laws.  Practicing radical forgiveness does not mean you excuse the other person. It just means you sing the Frozen song and let it go. Not for the other guy, but for you. It releases the forces of revenge.  It breaks cycles of madness. It keeps doors open and let’s people back in.  It kicks the crap out of fear. It’s the singular most powerful force in my universe that supports my smile.  I’d love you to try it and share your thoughts below!

Bisous et tra la la,  

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PRINCESS DIANE VON BRAINISFRIED

 

“LIVE YOUR ROYALLY HAPPY LIFE!™”

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This Valentine’s Day-Do You Know Who Your Secret Valentines Are?

Dear Royal Friends,      

Valentine’s Day is this Sunday.  We can be sure that fat & furry stuffed Steiffs, bon mot candied hearts, and Godzilla-sized Godivas will be buzzing around town like blue-arsed flies. (A distant cousin of Shooflies, but never caught dead in a pie.) It got me to thinkin’ of a time way back, when we kiddies exchanged  Valentine’s Day cards in class. There was always some mystery clowns who sent me their Valentine signed “Guess Who.” 

valentine-1171220_1280That never much bothered me.  I figured if my Secret Valentines were too shy to fess up, it never hurt to have their good vibes thrown in my direction.

When I think about it now,  I realize that each of us has legions of Secret Valentines who exist in our lives that won’t ever declare themselves,  yet send us silently palpable goodwill.  These Secret Valentines are the good and kind people in our lives who help us and watch over us in unobtrusive ways, who fashion safety nets of encouragement when we need steadfastness,  who send signs and symbols from the heavens at opportune times.  These folks include sisters and brothers, parents and children, friends, relatives, teachers, nurses and doctors. It includes an administrator who helps you fill out a form, a cafeteria worker who gives you extra chips with your hoagie, a teen who lets you use his phone on a train when you forgot yours…even some extra licks from a beloved pet when you need a hug. 

This Valentine’s Day, even if you don’t get a pony pant load of cards or certifiably cheesy romantic stuff, please know there are  minions of silent “Guess Who’s” circling you with their warm thoughts and well wishes, their soothing energies and goodwill, their heavenly prayers… their secret, sacred smiles.  

 Please know too, that I am grateful to all my “Guess Who” Valentine’s whom I may never personallyknow.  Your generous spirit and kind thoughts are bright lights in my kingdom.  I can honestly feel them. I hope I can be a light in yours.

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!!!

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Princess Guess Who