Remember those moments, as a kid, when you just couldn’t wait to be a grown-up? You wanted to ride your bike with your friends after dark/dye your hair purple/sleep over at your boyfriend’s house and you agonized when your parents wouldn’t let you? Or do you remember feeling lost as a young adult and wishing that you had things “more figured out?”
Now, do you remember when the flip switched and you and your friends started lamenting, “Ugggggh. I’m soooooo old. How did this happen??!!”
I’m writing this on my 43rd birthday. And I want to erase the “I’m so old” lament phrase from my consciousness. I get it. I really do. I’ve been guilty of it. And I will cop to fact that the process of aging isn’t always easy. When you get carded until you’re 30, it’s hard to face the fact that you will never. Ever. Get. Carded. Again. And sure, to get a halfway decent selfie after the age of 35 you really have to hold the camera at the just right angle and 90% of the time it’s better for all of mankind if you delete it. (I am always barking at Jason, “Higher! Hold the camera higher!”)
Fear can feel painful, overwhelming, even paralyzing. Whether you’re facing a major life change like an illness or a break-up, or a more specific fear like giving a presentation to colleagues or standing in front a group and teaching a yoga class, I hope this post gives you some idea for navigating fear with more ease.
I’m not going to lie. I still have moments, hours, or even days when I’m consumed with fear about cancer. Despite the campaigns that have played out over the past 20 years, early detection does not guarantee a cure for breast cancer. (Laurie Becklund, a well-known reporter for the LA Times, faced this reality and wrote about it just before she died from metastatic breast cancer in March.)
I never used to be afraid to go to the doctor. But that’s different now. My fear arises with a vengeance when it’s time for a check-up. There are lots of them at this point. For all kinds of whacked out lady-related things that I won’t go into here. (You’re welcome.)
Last week, before one of these check-ups, I spent 24 hours moving through what I am now referring to as my Seven Stages of Coping with Fear. I am now intimately familiar with these stages because last fall they were on a repeat loop while I was constantly awaiting test results. This means that I:
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately – about consciously thanking my body for all that it does. When you’re diagnosed with cancer, it’s easy to feel like your body has betrayed you. Like it’s been sneaking around behind your back, hanging out with rogue cells in alleyways making dirty deals. It’s a horrible feeling, that.
But my whole cancer experience has reset my priorities, which means that my time on the mat is now nonnegotiable. And so, I’ve been spending a lot of time feeling all the great things that my body can do and these are the things I want to focus on.
Before I begin my thank you note, I’m going to apologize for my past transgressions. In part because, despite what my writing might portray, I want you to know, dear readers, that I’m really not all hearts and flowers all the time. And also, by acknowledging the crappy stuff I’ve done to my body, I’m hoping that I can let it go (and my cells can, too) forever.
Ahem. Where do I begin? It seems like I have to begin loooong ago, back in my late teens and early twenties since that seems to be when my poorest choices were made. So here goes: Sorry about all those French fries (although the jury’s still out, I feel twinges of guilt for those high school McDonald’s runs). Sorry for drinking alcohol. Like ever. I’ve never been a big drinker, but that doesn’t seem to matter with the type of breast cancer I had. Sorry for bumming cigarettes at college parties and for my (past) love of cakes, cookies, ice cream, and cannolis. Do I need to atone for that tanning booth experiment that one time? Let’s just say it was the 80s and we were pulling out all the stops for prom. And we didn’t know any better.
In spite of all that—through fat times and thin times, good hair days and bad, you’ve continued to be there for me. So, I thought I’d thank you, publicly. Here goes:
Thank you to my heart for beating and reminding me that I’m alive
Thank you to my belly for moving up and down when I breathe in Savasana
Thanks to my toes for feeling the sand squoosh beneath them
Thanks to my face for feeling the sun shine on it
Thanks to my arms for being so great at hugging
Thanks to my legs for running and skipping and hopping
Thanks to my hips for wiggling and having dance parties with my two year old
Thanks to my vocal chords for making it possible to sing
Thanks to my ears for being able to hear music
Thanks to my wrinkles. If I’m being really honest, I have to admit I don’t like looking at you. But, you remind me that I’ve lived and and that I have gained some wisdom since the tanning booth incident.
Thanks to my blood and lymph and all of those other elements that come together and make sure that my body keeps on keepin’ on each day
Thanks to my musculo-skeletal system for firing up so that I can do yoga and feel what it means to be embodied
Thanks to my taste buds for giving me so much pleasure
Thanks to my brain for being able to process all of this. Sometimes you are too clever for your own good and you make things far too complicated. But all in all, I’m impressed by your hard work.
And finally, a big shout out to my eyebrows. Because, have you seen my eyebrows? I just really love the shape of my eyebrows.
You may or may not know that I spent more than a decade as an editor at Yoga Journal. A decade is a loooooong time to keep any job in this day and age. And so, it’s hard to summarize succinctly what I did during my time there. In a nutshell, I worked as the deputy editor of the magazine and then ran the web site as executive editor. I was the asana nerd, the cover model talent scout and coach, and, on many occasions, the team shoulder to cry on. I learned so much from the talented editors, designers, and photographers I worked with. I developed all of my true editorial chops there — from taking the initial spark of a story idea, choosing the angle, assigning it to the right person, guiding said person through the research phase, pruning their prose, packaging the story, managing the talent for the shoot, and watching the designers and stylists bring the story to life in the photoshoot and on the page. I also got to work closely with the most insightful, skillful yogis of our time, many of whom were very influential to me: from Sally Kempton to Maty Ezraty, Cyndi Lee to Shiva Rea. And of course, it’s how I met the man who is now my better half, Mr. Crandell.