Therese Martin-Fox: Alive with Great Courage
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” Eleanor Roosevelt
By now, if you have followed my series of one-on-one interviews, you know that my subjects or interviewees are the fantastic folk I meet on various social networking sites. I must admit that lately, most are from Twitter which is a terrific resource. I decided to work on a series of get-to-know-you interviews in the fall of 2009 and my goal was to delve into my social media connections, share insights and stories from some of the beautiful and brilliant people I have met, and put a real face to the person behind the web page, blog image or twitter post we see.
Every participant answers the same set of questions and these remarkable people; men and women who share their creative talents and gift of communication by joining the social media community and conversation – do so in their own unique way. The process has been enlightening and I am continuing the series with another special interviewee.
Today, we meet Therese Martin-Fox, a courageous and loving mother of two, energetic earth mother and friend to many, Reiki Master healer, aspiring author and breast cancer survivor. I met Tess on Twitter and we had an instant connection. Tess’s smile, effervescent personality and energetic presence caught my attention. When she briefly shared her breast cancer story, I wanted to hear more. How did she stay so upbeat? How did she find the energy to reach out, to touch and heal so many other people? Please read her story and share your comments below.
“Remember me as a woman who made the world better by birthing and raising two incredible human beings who, in turn, will shine their light upon others.” Tess Fox
Background Story: Who are you?
My earliest recollections, during the first decade of my life, were of my Mom bringing home a new baby, a new playmate, every other year. My mom was an obstetrics nurse and worked in the delivery room assisting doctors as they welcomed babies into the world. As the eldest, my mom taught me a lot about babies and how to take care of my younger siblings. My two brothers were fun, but became attached to each other as they got older. I wanted a baby sister and my Mom acquiesced by having three more daughters in a row.
One of my theories is that women should have their most nurturing child first as it really lightens the load. I was the built-in babysitter for our large brood and this is who I still am. Almost 60 years later, I find that my role as nurturer has encompassed my life. It permeates my thinking and my behavior. I am the nurturer of everyone; even of people I haven’t met or will never meet. I imagine myself as Mother Energy hugging and caring for everyone.
Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
Chicago (Chitown) has been my home for a good portion of my life. Many people have mad love for this city including my son-in-law. Yet, I have never really felt like I belonged here fully. A trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico confirmed that to me in quite a vivid way during a trip there years ago. As I was rounding the mountains from the airport into the city, a feeling of oneness with the land overcame me. The neighboring town of Taos had an even more mystical sensation for me. I’ve heard stories about knowing when you feel a deep connection to a place in the world; perhaps, I shall return to New Mexico some day.
During the years I lived in New York City, I found the cultural richness and diversity exhilarating. I felt imbued with a spirit of global expansiveness and loved the lifestyle choices the city offered; especially the freedom to choose your entertainment. Now, when I visit the Big Apple, three things I enjoy most are listening to live music, eating at ethnic restaurants and visiting local book stores. The city is a virtual utopia for my obsessions and there is never a reason to be bored. My son, David, lives in Midtown Manhattan and I plan monthly trips to visit him and enjoy the city.
My family and friends are my true home – Home is where the Heart is – and most of them, like me, live in Chicago and feel rooted here. My daughter, Rachel, and her husband, Mike, love Chicago and plan to raise a family here; we are all excited about the impending arrival of my first grandchild.
What do you do for a living?
I went to Catholic schools all my life including an all-girls catholic high school. In college, I completed a degree in Behavioral Science. It was a natural degree choice for me because I’d always been curious about behavioral patterns; different types of thinking and lifestyles.
Over the years, I also accumulated alternative degrees and the most tangible of my alternative degrees is that of Reiki Master/Teacher. This is a Japanese technique that enhances relaxation and reduces stress. Reiki allows me to become a conduit for healing. I become an open vessel for Spirit energy to enter, flow through me, and then, through my laying on of hands, interact with my client in the best possible healing way.
If you ask any Reiki Master/Teacher, you will get varied descriptions of what Reiki is. This is my method of describing what I do. What has evolved throughout my years of practice is a unique blend of psychotherapy and Reiki which has resulted into what I describe as my healing art. What my clients experience is a safe place in which to release their deepest and most intimate fears, hopes and dreams. Cathartic change occurs during my sessions with many of the clients I work with. I have been in practice for 25 years and have many satisfied clients which is an honor and a testament to how much effort I have invested into every aspect of what I do.
“It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.” Alan Cohen
Tess’s Survival Slideshow
Why/How did you choose the path you now follow?
My Mom planted the healer seed that grew in me and in all of my siblings; we each display intensely similar philosophies. I was born in 1953 during the baby boomer years and I believe that the combination of being born during a pivotal period of change in the USA and elsewhere, and my Mom’s humanitarian heart, both had a profound impact upon my life choices and approach to the world.
I remember one evening; my mother sat us down in the living room in front of the first television in our home. She turned on the TV; it was broadcasting a show about the Holocaust and Mom said she wanted to make sure that we knew that all people deserved kindness. I remember feeling paralyzed on my couch as I watched the black and white shots of the Nazis digging mass burial graves for the Jewish concentration camp dead who were being dumped out of wheelbarrows into a deep dirt pit. The film footage was so graphic I felt quite ill. I later recognized this event as my baptism into empathy at age 7.
As an Irish-Catholic household on both sides, we had two framed portraits hanging in our home. They were not of our family but of Pope John Paul XXIII and President J.F. Kennedy. It was a shrine. In addition to these two leaders, my deepest attachments were to Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Malcolm X, Dorothy Day, Fathers Daniel and Phillip Berrigan, Nelson Mandela, Bernadette Devlin, Bobby Sands, Gloria Steinem and Bobby Kennedy.
When three magnificent freedom fighters, JFK, Bobby and MLK, were gunned down, the pain in my heart was unbearable. Caught in the chaos of the civil rights struggle, the women’s liberation movement, the Vietnam War, the hippie movement and the free love/drug epidemic, it was no wonder my teenage years were confusing. Yet, my path was laid by Mom’s humanitarianism and fierce sense that injustice should not be allowed to prevail.
“Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others.” Winston Churchill
When did you decide to make key changes in your life?
Four years ago, I was diagnosed with synchronous bilateral breast cancer. This means that I had cancer in each breast; apparently a very rare occurrence. During this period, I made a few key changes. The book, The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle became the resource I frequently leaned on. The philosophy of being present in every moment became my discipline.
I had seven surgeries to remove the cancer, double radiation to arrest the microscopic cells, and 4 rounds of chemotherapy to remove any cancer in all the other organs in my body. As this was an intense time, it would have been easy to have become anxiety ridden with thoughts about all the potential doom and gloom. However, with my new discipline of being fully present, I discovered that I was able to achieve internal peace.
During chemotherapy, I had a vivid vision of being around to hold my first grand-baby. This blessed vision was a huge part of what I clung to during my treatments. As a result of living with breast cancer, I’ve incorporated the Now philosophy into my routine. I view myself as an “Aliver” because I am still here and each day I have is an opportunity to touch and connect.
Share your worldview: How do you live your life and manage your household?
I have an open door policy at home and I have a sign in the front yard that says, “Mi Casa ~ Su Casa.” Suffice to say, there is a communal spirit present at my home and I suspect that some of the neighbors don’t appreciate my mini United Nations atmosphere. Spontaneity seems to suit my personality and my easygoing, free flowing lifestyle can be a challenge to some. I’ve not yet met my match or found a guy who can go with my whole flow but I’m not giving up on finding a romantic partner.
“If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream.” Martin Luther King, Jr
What motivates you to get out of bed?
Everyday, when I wake up, I go into prayerful meditation and hold an intention for the day. Each day holds a surprise for me because I never know who I’m going to meet and interact with. My daughter frequently says that complete strangers tell me their deepest secrets within minutes of meeting me. This is true. Sometimes, it takes me twice as long to do anything because I engage with whoever crosses my path. It is not unusual for me to hug people if they’ve bagged my groceries, made my coffee, or danced with me.
What makes you happy?
Happiness fills me whenever I’m on the dance floor with a rhythm and blues; Motown style; live band playing. If you throw in a few bottles of Guinness and a guy who just wants to dance all night, I’ll be the last one leaving. Hanging out with my kids is another recipe for miles of smiles. I enjoy the look, feel and smell of books; if I were to get locked inside a bookstore overnight, I wouldn’t try to get out.
Film is my window to the world especially foreign films with subtitles. It’s like taking a mini-vacation.
What makes you sad?
Any kind of suffering in the world breaks my heart. I feel other people’s pain but, I cannot disengage from watching and reading everything about world events. Injustice on any level angers me. Even though I know life is not fair, when I witness any form of inequality, it enrages me. Human rights violations are particularly
offensive. Sending young men off to war makes me feel truly depressed. My nephew, Michael, is in Helmand Province, Afghanistan right now. He is 19 years old and my heart worries and hurts for him.
What would you do differently with your life if you had the power?
If I could do it over again, I would change the duration of my marriage. Even though it was evident to me during the honeymoon that I had made a mistake, I remained married for 20 years because I regarded it as a lifetime contract. In later years, I thought the family unit remaining intact was in my children’s best interest.
I’ve been divorced for 12 years and realize that I stayed too long. I allowed traditional and religious influences to pressure me into a commitment that did not contain joy. That would be my do-over if given a chance
What would you do with the world if you had the choice?
If I were Queen of the World for a day, I would institute a law that would require society to support mothers to stay home with their babies during the first five years of life so that mothers and babies could form strong bonds. My belief is that most psychological inadequacies would be averted if early, successful attachment is achieved.
“One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.” Maya Angelou
What guiding principles do you follow to make your life meaningful?
The constant North Star of guidance for me is to ask myself what my intent is in relation to any interaction I have. This clarifies my behavior and has helped me recognize when I might be trying to advance my own agenda in the guise of helping another. It’s a quick reality check.
What words of advice would you give to others today?
In Oprah, the magazine, there is a great segment called “What I Know For Sure.” Here is my own attempt at What I know: Speak your truth quietly but clearly; Look people in the eyes and use your ears at the same time: Give hugs whenever possible; Ask if someone wants input before volunteering it; Find your silent spot within and then make friends with it; Practice kindness with no attachment to the outcome; Be here in the NOW; Keep your ego in check and eliminate “should” from your vocabulary; finally, Give thanks for BEING.
How would you like to be remembered?
Remember me as someone who picked people over things. Remember me as a woman who made the world better by birthing and raising two incredible human beings who, in turn, will shine their light upon others. Remember me as someone who sees injustice and dreams to rectify it. Remember me as someone who held a light for you to see yourself. Lastly, remember me as someone who feels others hearts hurt and cries healing tears.
Happiness is… health care for all regardless of economic standing; no children killed in the name of war; having my family near to me and safe; when women are safe to walk anywhere without fear; every human being in a bed with a roof overhead; when all are free to speak their feelings and thoughts; protecting children from predators; praying and practicing spirituality as one sees fit; viewing art, seeing film, listening to music, and creating one’s own form of expression; ultimately, building loving attachments with people.
Therese Fox is a doting mother of two (with a grand kid on the way) who lives in Chicago happily surrounded by friends and family. She has a very successful Reiki practice and looks for ways to share her gift and give back to her community. Tess can be reached via her Twitter handle:@girlzoo. You may also connect with Tess on YouTube.
What are your thoughts on Tess’s courageous story? Do you have a similar story to share? Do share your feedback with us. Thank You!
For More: Women’s Lives & Issues
Positive Motivation Tip: Be here in the NOW; Keep your ego in check and eliminate “should” from your vocabulary; finally, Give thanks for BEING
PHOTO CREDITS/ATTRIBUTIONS: All Photographs of Tess Fox, her family and friends by courtesy of Tess Fox and Jori Stevian