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

 

 

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!™”

 

 

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

If you like….please LIKE me of Face book, and if you’re in the sharing mood, please be a princess and SHARE!

                  “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!™”

How to give a million-dollar holiday gift for free

Dear Royal Friends,

This holiday season, wanna know how to take something worth more than a million dollars, not pay a dime for it, and give it to more than a million people? 

The next time you are:

…in back of a mile-long line in your neighborhood’s shrine to organic food, sweating up a storm in your sub-zero rated down parka, and the cashier (along with her customers) is angrier than a swarm of hornets and slower than a herd of turtles — when it’s finally your turn to pay, you…..;  

or the next time you are:

…in a high falutin’ boutique and make a beeline for the sales rack, ask the snobby sales associate the price of those diamond-studded cowboy boots, and you get the obnoxious “eye roll”  and invisible quote bubble popping out of her perfectly coiffed head that reads, “if you have to ask you can’t afford it,” you….;

or the next time you are:

…walking down the street and a sad stranger catches your eye, you… smile.

And because of you, the cashier snaps out of her funk, smiles back, and passes it on.  And because of you, the snobby sales associate snaps out of her cloud, smiles back, and passes it on. And because of you, the sad stranger decides not to take all those pills, goes home and hugs her mom. And passes it on.

The butterfly flaps its wings in New York. The breeze is felt in Paris. And the world says, “Thank you!”

HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO YOU AND YOUR LOVED ONES! WISHING YOU HAPPINESS AND HEALTH!  

XOXOXOX,  

PRINCESS DIANE VON BRAINISFRIED

                       Live your royally happy life!

 

 

 

Seven Little Known Secrets For Coping With Fear, Anxiety, & Worry

Dear Royal Friends,

Life has a way of scaring the living crap out of us. Sometimes it’s self-inflicted, like when we ruminate in the Trifecta of Troublesome Thoughts (Fear, Worry & Anxiety).  Sometimes we blow up a small problem bigger than Puff The Magic Dragon — the old ‘Mountains out of Molehills thing. Sometimes the goblins are totally real…like the passionate frog you kissed (etc.) and thought was Prince Charming, turned out to be a run-of-the-pond “horny” toad. Literally. 

"When Prince Charming turns out to be Pond Scum.'

“When Prince Charming turns out to be Pond Scum.’

I may be a princess pundit of positivity, but I’m not immune from getting into a tizzy by life’s slings and arrows.  But I do have a rather large bag of tricks up my princess puffy sleeves to deal with them.  I’ve accumulated an arsenal of handy dandy worry circuit breakers which I keep readily available in my “Coping” Cabana drawer located on the left side of my brain.  In the bag are thoughts and exercises that calm my mind when it’s twirling around, as the Queen Mum says, “like a fart in beet soup.”  Or maybe someone’s bubbe said that. 

Here are seven excellent coping tricks I use that are quite unusual, but incredibly effective:

1.  Remember you have to learn how to comfort yourself, then visualize being in two big hands full of light. – Fanny Trueherz;

2. Say to yourself, “Let go, be loving, and let the divine swirl move you.”  – Princess Diane Von Brainsfried;

3. Calming breath exercise: “Smell the flowers, blow out the candles.”  Technique: Breathe in slowly through your nose on “smell the flowers,” breathe out more quickly through your mouth on “blow out the candles.”   – Intensive Care Unit at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, NJ;

4. Say to yourself, “Leave the thinking to the horses; they’ve got bigger heads”  – Fanny Trueherz;

5. Become like a chiropractor of your brain and make an attitude adjustment – Princess Diane Von Brainisfried

6.  Say to yourself, “It’s all mind over matter. I don’t mind, and it don’t matter.” – my dad, Dr. Irving Young;

7. LAUGH. Find some funny videos on Youtube or Facebook, or watch a funny movie.  “The World is full of horrible things that will eventually get you and everything you care about. Laughter is a universal way to lift your head up and say: ‘Not today, you bastards!'” – Anthony Jeselnik  

I invite you to get yourself a big ole’ Bag o’ Coping Tricks too. Steal these from me with my blessing.  Store your bag wherever you like, but keep it handy dandy. And yes, we have to learn how to comfort ourselves, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get a little help from our royal friends.  I’m here for you.  

Bisous et tra la la,

XOXOXOXO,

Princess Diane Von Brainisfried 

“LIVE YOUR ROYALLY HAPPY LIFE!”

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One princess’s pudding is another’s poison

Dear Royal Friends~

You’ve undoubtedly heard the expression,  “one man’s poison is another man’s pudding.”  

"You don't like puddin'? Then more for me!"

“You don’t like puddin’? Then more for me!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For example, staying on a “roll” with the food theme, I am not a big fan of pig roasts.  It pains me to see these sad-eyed  little critters crammed all whole and real on a serving platter, their last Wil(bur) and testament being a parsley-plattered  laurel, a sad irony considering it’s certainly not the pig’s victory.  And, good lord, what they do to that poor apple!

Pig roasts, as you might have guessed, are my poison. But some princesses love pig roasts. To them,  it’s their pudding.

And so I was reminded of this pudding/poison axiom as I was strolling through New York City’s Central Park just the other day, when  grey, threatening skies loomed sooner than predicted.  The clouds were not supposed to open up into wetness until evening. But you know what they say, “Man plans, G-d laughs”  and the skies had another idea.  Almost without warning, we in the park got dumped on by a torrent that soon soaked our clothes and packages, and made our sneakers and jellies squeak.  

Many scurried and many scowled, and most did both, harassed by this lapse in weatherman judgement.   I ran under the nearest broad-limbed tree, but the droplets were like heat seeking missiles that found their way through the feathery leaves.   I spied  a table umbrella at a vacant table by a little park cafe and made a bee-line for better cover.

As I stood waiting out the downpour,  feeling slightly grumbly,  I saw a sight that shifted my perception of the unexpected storm.  

You see, running down the hill outside the little park cafe was a young man pushing a baby carriage  in the pouring rain.  He was shouting  “wheeeeeee” “wheeeeee” at the top of his lungs,  and his rain-streaked face sported a smile so brilliant, it was a near match for the absent sun.   Inside the carriage was a golden-haired angel, maybe two or three years old, soaked curls matted against her head,  head tilted up to the sky to receive this gift, giggling and laughing in wild abandon.  Both of her chubby little  arms were outstretched high into the air in order to grasp the raindrops as they whizzed by her in the carriage.

  I will never forget the expression on that little girl’s face. If joy had a face, she was IT.

In that moment I realized that this downpour, this “poison” that was responsible for so many scowls on so many faces, was quintessential pudding to this little girl!  Forget pudding; this was an Eiffel tower-sized  ice cream sundae with rainbow shhhprinkels!  This was  a giant stuffed teddy bear won at a Six Flags roulette wheel.  This was an “I bought you a puppy” even though mommy said “no.”

Suddenly, at the sight of this little cherub’s amazingly happy face, I broke into a Cheshire Cat grin. Her exuberant squeals of delight tickled me princess pink, and what was a moment ago my poison, became instantly my pudding. (Not to be confused with instant pudding.) Right then and there I made a vow  to remember the expression on that little girl’s face forever. To remember the sound of her unfettered and spontaneous glee.  To remember her father’s indulgently playful “wheeeeeee” “wheeeee” all the way home. I shall use these as my shield against the onslaughts of daily little poisons.

And when they assault me, and they will, I will  remember this little girl and her father, and then this little princess will go “wheeee” “wheeee” all the way home to the palace. 

TTFN, P! (Ta Ta For Now, Princess)  

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PRINCESS DIANE VON BRAINISFRIED

“Live Your Royally Happy Life!™”

 

 

 

 

 

 

9 NECESSITIES FOR A ROYAL PRINCESS LIFE – HOT NEW LIST!

Dear Royal Friends, 

If you’re a newbie princess like I am, it’s a little hard to get up to snuff.  I’ve had to do a lot of catching up in a short time, not only to fulfill my royal duties, but also to learn to live life the way a royal princess oughta. One of my self-appointed duties is to help other newbie princesses learn the (purple velvet) ropes of princess life.  In order to do that, I make lists of this stuff. 

Here’s my latest list. It’s not organized in any particular order, because neither is my brain. 

1. A comprehensive guide to the most elegant and princess-worthy public pit stops in your kingdom — in case you need that throne away from home on your royal tours.

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The above is the glamorous entrance to New York City’s Waldorf Astoria’s ladies’ inner sanctum on the main floor.   

2. An auditorium-sized walk-in closet for your tiara collection.

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Make sure it has theater-quality lighting.   

3. A signature perfume created by a famous “nose” just for you, with the perfect blend of evocative notes to reflect your sweetness and your refinement, as well as your bold essence. Make sure there’s not even a hint of mousiness. 

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4. An hat that on a non-royal would look absolutely ridiculous…

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 …but on a royal just looks kinda ridiculous. 

5. A family “CREST” befitting your present royal status.

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Absolutely essential for your front doormat, and by jove it looks swell on cocktail napkins.  

6. A Frenchie Locator App for your phone.

filippo-991912_1920Helpful to locate these cute little royal princess mascots anytime, anywhere, so you can pet them. 

7. Proper rain boots for those more formal occasions. 

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 Sloshing about in muddy puddles with $2,000 pink peau de soi shoes on your tootsies is a total buzz kill. Trust me.

8. A crash course dedicated to international royal-speak.  

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A princess needs to be able to purr in a multitude of languages such phrases as, “I love your tie. Is that Hermes?”  Or, “My what an adorable infant. Do you do Baby Einstein?”  Or in the hotter realms, “Yikes! Are those mosquitoes or birds?”  It’s a “tall” order, but you’ll be glad you did.

9.  Claim a signature expensive French wine as your favorite and make sure to order it frequently. So when the waiter (inevitably) brings you freebies, he won’t “monkey around” with the cheap stuff. And you won’t have to water the nearest plant!

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What’s on your princess necessity list?  I’d love your comments!

TTFN,P!  (Ta ta for now, princess!)

XOXOXOXOX PRINCESS DIANE VON BRAINISFRIED

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 SECRETS OF THE HAPPIEST PEOPLE – A LAUNDRY LIST FOR YOUR NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION!

Dear Royal Friends,  

With all my heart I wish you abundant happiness for a fab-YOU-licious New Year.   And I’m not just blowing smoke up your assignment!   I’ve got some royally fantastic, researched-backed information to help make my wish for you come true.  YES, THAT’S RIGHT, did you know there’s a laundry list out there that’s not for wash day, but for a happier life?  I know that may sound like a stretch…using the words “laundry” and “happier life” in the same sentence, that is. 

Photo Credit: Tiago Zaniratti via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Tiago Zaniratti via Compfight cc

As for the idea that royally happy people might share some common attributes, they absolutely do.  

Sonia Lyubomirsky, in  The How of Happiness, has researched  and put together a list of ten things the happiest people do.  I bet you’re already doing some of them!  If you are, or even if you’re not, everyone can do a little something to up their happiness factor.  Why not take a clue from the experts at happiness and make it  part of your New Year’s resolution to UP YOURS! 

How to take action to boost your happiness quotient?  Do more of what’s tried and true on this laundry list.  If you do, be prepared to wash away some  frowns and clean up some smiles.

LAUNDRY LIST OF WHAT THE HAPPIEST PEOPLE DO. 

– Devote time to relationships

– Express gratitude and offer help to those who need it

– Practice optimism

– Cope effectively with difficult experiences and emotions

– Get regular exercise

– Savor life’s pleasures AND commit deeply to the pursuit of life-long          goals

Happy New Year’s Resolution-ing!  

SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!

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PRINCES DIANE VON BRAINISFRIED

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