If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life this far, it’s that life is much sweeter when you let go and
S U R R E N D E R
For the first 3/4 of my life, I had a lot of expectations on how I wanted my life to be. I wanted a successful photography business, a healthy retirement fund, a successful man, and several children. And pretty much in that order!
I was stressing myself out by trying to do all the things that I thought I should be doing in order to get all the things I thought I wanted in life. The only problem was, I didn’t pay attention to how I felt deep down inside. I didn't listen to my heart.
When my heart tried to tell me what IT wanted, I would shove those feelings away because they contradicted what my mind was telling me (or was it society?). In fact, I buried my feelings so deep that I had to develop terrible anxiety to finally slow down, get quiet, and really listen to my heart.
If you’ve never thought that your body is your ally, then please believe me when I say…your body is your ally.
As it turned out, my body was acting as my very own internal GPS. It was alerting me to danger and telling me to find another route because the one I was on wasn’t any good. It did this by literally taking my breath away, making it terribly hard to breathe. And let me tell you, that is no way to live! Something had to give.
So I did what seemed to make the most sense. I left the relationship I was in and stopped trying to force my life to happen. If the relationship with the man I thought I wanted to have kids with wasn’t working, then fine! I'll leave it and have kids on my own. One "small" hiccup in my life's master plan. So off I went again, forcing my life to happen. I decided to be single mom by choice. I found a fertility clinic, researched sperm donors, and took action.
Nine months and two miscarriages later, there I was again. I had spent a good portion of those nine months grieving and questioning everything. It didn't escape my attention that every time I got pregnant, my anxiety curiously settled in again.
When my doctor gave me the ok to try another insemination, I didn’t jump at the chance. Something inside me said wait. I don’t know what it was exactly, but I listened. I thought to myself, “What’s the rush? Just wait one more month and then try...if it feels right”.
Shortly thereafter, I felt it. A lump in my breast. It was big, round and sore. Having an extensive family history of breast cancer, I had been having regular mammograms since I was 35. My next one wasn’t due for another 3 months. But I trusted my instincts and went in to have it looked at anyway.
It turned out that the lump I had felt was a cyst. A plain ole, garden variety, cyst. I’ll never forget the nurse showing me the cyst during my ultrasound on the screen and explaining that she could tell it was a cyst because it was hollow in the middle (fluid filled) and round in shape. When she moved to the other side of my breast, I saw another mass on the screen. I asked her what that was. And all of the sudden she got really uncomfortable and quite...not a good sign! After going over the mass a few more times, she quickly went back to the cyst and said, "well, this is what it looks like when it’s a cyst". She then quietly excused herself telling me she was going to go get the doctor.
I felt like I had morphed into the twilight zone. There I was, in my robe. Staring up at the ceiling. It was then that I realized that the lump I had come in for was the messenger, just like my anxiety was a messenger, telling me ”Something isn’t right, listen to me…i’m your body, your friend, your ally.”
The next day, I found out I had breast cancer.
What happened over the next few months was surreal. There is such a stigma to the word cancer. Saying “I have cancer” never felt right. But there I was. Going through the process like so many women in my family had done before.
My whole outlook on life changed. I thought about how strong I needed to be, not only for myself, but for my family. I thought about what a gift life was, and how I had taken it for granted. I thought about my body and how was that it was looking out for me, signaling me when things weren’t right. I thought about how grateful I was that I listened to my body and didn’t try to get pregnant again. Can you even imagine?
It basically changed everything. My view on motherhood. On survival. On gratitude. On strength. On courage. On love. Everything.
All I could do was surrender.
I put myself in Gods hands and trusted that all would be well. That everything was happening exactly as it should be. For the first time, I stepped into the flow of life and stopped trying to MAKE my life happen the way I thought it should be happening. I surrendered to the unknown. I stopped trying so hard. I trusted in the divine power of all that is and ever will be and felt ALIVE.
Looking back, I realize that my life began anew right then. The moment I surrendered.
As I think back on those years of pregnancies, losses, surgeries, and doctors visits, I wouldn’t change any of it. They were simultaneously the best and worst years of my life. They were filled with so much sweetness and sorrow, challenge and pain, mindfulness and love. It was as if all of life's forces were gathering up for a big exhale. A grand release into the unknown.
When I found out that the type of cancer that I had would prevent me from being able to safely take any fertility drugs in the future, I realized that my chances for motherhood were over. Strangely, it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. I had completely surrendered and trusted that it was not my soul's purpose to have children of my own. I gave myself over the mystery and beauty of life. It's also not lost on me that I am able to work with babies and children every day in my professional career. What a blessing!
Now I live each day full of gratitude and love, knowing that I am guided and protected and that my body is my ally. I also fully believe that everything happens for a reason and for my highest good. And I'm not embellishing in the slightest when I say that my life is sweeter than I could have ever imagined.
I share this now with the hope of inspiring anyone out there whose life isn’t going as planned. Life is hard at times. Believe me, I get it. But when we stop fighting against it and surrender to what IS, it will get easier. I promise.