The last time something came into my life with an unexpected punch, I was cracked wide open for the first time.
It was twenty-two years ago, and I can safely admit that it was one of those profound moments that changed my life for the better.
I was awakened to an easier and freer way of living that was no longer riddled with anger, resentments, or emotional pain. It was like I'd been living behind a veil that muted all of the goodness. I wasn't necessarily unhappy, but I wasn't fully engaged in my life, either. My ex-husband's addiction was out of control and I'd been reacting to it without even knowing it existed.
I felt frustrated, angry, impatient, and not at all like myself.
Months later, after the grief and shock of his disclosure dissipated, I came out of the experience a new woman. I'd learned the lessons that the event was meant to bring, and I was able to transform distress into wisdom.
Then within seven years, life happened again, bringing new lessons to learn. But the intensity of those lessons, and the ways in which they arrived, caused inner turmoil that I could not easily pull myself out of.
First was the devastating blow when my family retreated from my life because of the truths I made known in my book. Then PTSD symptoms arrived (and stayed for 2 years) on the heels of therapy for sex abuse, followed by a four-year romantic relationship that was often stormy and chaotic.
After having done so much healing work with the dissolution of my marriage from sex addiction, the pain of these new lessons, in such quick succession, took me down. Oh, no, I did not gracefully accept each one as a lesson to teach me anything. I was raging mad that so much shit was arriving, and even more frustrated that I wasn't handling any of it very well with my typical zen attitude.
I was mad at God, my family, my new mate, and my life.
I had consciously created a meaningful life by cultivating new habits and healthier behaviors. I wrote a book about my life-changing experience, then moved cross-country to be with the love of my life. So when it all started to fall apart just months after our move, I felt duped by my life. It had lured me to create such a satisfyingly happy existence, then tricked me by ripping it all away.
I began fighting against the grain of how the details of my life were showing up instead of accepting how it was unfolding. Obviously, it was not going according to my plan, which bolstered my fury. I kept pushing, forcing, blaming. I wanted my old life back, where I was more at peace, but the woman who had lived that life had already been buried beneath a rubble of disappointments and dashed dreams.
I felt more alone than ever.
Perhaps that set the breeding ground where cancer would eventually find its way in. Not that I am to blame for its arrival, mind you, but I am responsible for figuring out what its presence is trying to teach me now.
The few years leading up to my diagnosis were beginning to resemble my attitude from two decades ago and I was feeling bothered about it. I felt far away from God and the spirituality that had once come so easily. I wasn't where I wanted to be professionally, and I was still prone to fighting against my life when it didn't jive with my plans.
Nothing seemed to be working out as I'd expected.
Something had to change, and I could sense that something was about to change. I expected that a big shift that would catapult my life in a new direction was on its way.
* Enter cancer *
Not at all what I was expecting, but might it be the big shift I'd been needing, after all?
In the early days after my diagnosis, I re-read Anita Moorjani's book about her near death experience (NDE). I needed to make sense of the diagnosis that had just landed in my lap, and as a Life Coach, I believe that our lives bring us exactly what we need in order to heal.
I also believe that our souls are constantly trying to get our attention to become more of who we are meant to be: authentic, vulnerable, flawed, beautiful humans. I'd experienced a wake-up two decades ago and it changed my life. But in the ensuing years, I'd slowly become unconscious again. Old dysfunctional behaviors were settling in, becoming way too comfortable, and I was living behind that veil again.
So if the Big C showed up, it must've been for a damn good reason. After all, I do not resonate with being a sick person, which definitely means I don't resonate with having cancer. But, why then, would I be knocked upside the head in such a dramatic way?
Moorjani had experienced death (and rebirth) from the same cancer I have, and later wrote that she believed she got cancer because of her own power that she had turned inward.
"Cancer was my soul grieving the loss of its identity."
That sentence jumped out at me as if written just for me. I broke down in sobs because it resonated so deeply.
I haven't been entirely myself because I've been stuck in the angst about how I had gotten so thrown off-course over a decade ago. I forgave others' their transgressions long ago, but had I forgiven myself for falling so far away from the spiritual and happy woman I'd become after my last catastrophic event?
Probably not, since I haven't been able to fully recover my former self yet.
Then cancer showed up, bringing with it a gaggle of people who had my back without my having to ask. I knew, almost from minute one, that cancer had arrived to bring me fully back to life.
And so far, eleven weeks later, I am more convinced than ever.
I feel more emotionally alive today than I did before my diagnosis. I actually feel more physically healthy, too, and I didn't even know I'd been unwell.
I feel closer to God again, and it's not because I am afraid.
It is because I am thankful.