Change is not a moment, but a series of tiny shifts we must implement throughout our lives. The resulting culmination can become something great, but will always remain a living, evolving journey.
Throughout 2016 I often said that the more I began to figure things out, the more I realized that the real work was just beginning.
When I say figure things out, I am referring to the arsenal of tools I have amassed that help me fire on all cylinders – mind, body, and soul – no matter what is challenging or confronting me. Tools like articulating and firmly rooting into my core values and beliefs, going plant-based, or adopting a new, unshakeable mindset that was cultivated by practicing yoga, meditation, and self care. I feel so much more at peace, and the former plights of depression, uncertainty, turbulent relationships, and anxiety have begun to dissolve.
But there’s a catch.
What ails me only continues to dissolve when I remember to employ those aforementioned tools, which isn’t always the case. The real work is keeping my focus on feeling, remembering, and acknowledging the motivations that I cannot see.
My diagnosis is a fairly overstated fact around these parts, but one that I still need to be realistic with myself about, and remind myself of often in an effort to be as vigilant as ever with my nutrition, self care, and steps toward achieving my ultimate aspirations. Ignorance is not bliss, especially when I struggle to make the right decisions each day that will be most beneficial to my health. I don’t always want to eat clean, or consume less, or do the right thing.
Why would I when there’s no tangible reward for doing so? I am an unfortunate product of an impatient, entitled, and convenience-driven society, which at times feels like a secondary diagnosis.
There’s also the lack of an overt, physical reminder, which doesn’t make these personal wellness campaigns any easier. I hardly ever see my scars, especially this time of year. It becomes hard to remember to feel what I cannot see, and therefore act upon it. Not to mention the reinforcement from others who tell me how healthy I look.
It makes it all seem so unreal at times.
Sometimes I lie awake, unable to sleep, and remember that it is there. I can go days without thinking of it, and then it pops into my mind: disease. Relentless disease. It’s in my midsection, somewhere deep in the depths, unable to be detected by any of my senses, save for the occasional distracting, phantom-esque aches. And with those I wonder, is it just the ghosts of my ovaries haunting me?
Kidding. Sort of.
In those moments when I remember, I become immersed in the awareness.
I feel out of control and safe in my self-containment all at the same time. I also feel like I need to wake the f*ck up and remember this awareness tomorrow, and the next day. I need to put this awareness into action, every single day. It’s my body, my feelings, and my experience to ultimately weather alone. No amount of medical intervention is going to truly affect how I think about it all, or act upon it when left to my own devices.
Which brings me back to the focus: the need to remember your ultimate aspirations and values when you can’t always see, or experience, the reasons behind them.
I believe that humans, for the most part, have a hard time focusing on and acknowledging difficult realities when they’re not confronted with them, face-to-face. Most likely that inclination is a defense mechanism, or ignorance, or self-protection.
For example, I wonder what it will take to convince certain people that climate change is real? I pessimistically feel that it would take a natural disaster knocking at their own front door to make them believe. Or what about people that consume meat and animal products, yet love animals, therefore compartmentalizing the grim reality behind the former life that’s now on their plate?
I recently watched Mission Blue, and Sylvia Earle (impassioned explorer and protector of the oceans) said that on the surface, oceans will still look the same to an outside observer, no matter how catastrophically life continues to decline and die below.
That kind of sums it all up: Why take action when, from the outside, things look just fine?
I used to be one of those people who settled into the inaction of “normalcy,” which is why I often credit cancer as a positive in my life. It woke me up, kicking off a domino effect of wanting to better my own body, then branching out from there to wanting to better the entire world.
I opened Pandora’s Box, realizing that many areas of my life were just so damn comfortable, and ingrained – it was overwhelming. I became resistant to changing certain things, and became bitter when I felt continually isolated from the “normal” flow of life.
Who likes to change, or give up comforts, when there’s seemingly not an urgent, or personal reason to do so? Arguably no one.
And I never would have felt obligated to make any drastic shifts in my life if it weren’t for such an intense trauma. I never would have felt it was the “right time” to ditch my excuses for not improving my diet and my fitness routine (or lack thereof).
I had to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, with cravings, with missing certain indulgences, and with going against the tides of popular opinion.
Cancer became my wakeup call, my source of accountability (as has this blog), but it has been up to me to continue to implement the subsequent changes I have made.
Being the boss of all of these changes has been the greatest struggle of all – but the most rewarding.
And so that’s what I focus on these days: keeping myself accountable and dedicated to improving myself and the world around me, even when I can’t look a palpable reason in the eye. That focus in turn creates an awareness of how I am truly feeling – mind, body, and soul – therefore reminding me of what I cannot see.
I have to remember that just because I can’t see my disease, or many of the other detrimental things going on around this planet, doesn’t mean that they aren’t there. The challenge is to act as if these things are knocking down our front door every day, and taking action to make sure we exist in a way that will ultimately serve our own personal health, as well as the health of our planet.
The more I remember, the more I can contribute gifts of action to my future self.
I know she will need them.
Comfort is not king when it comes to long term change, and neither is complacency. We must strive to remember why we’re doing the real work behind the changes we seek, and support each other in doing so.
Never forget that health is the most precious wealth of all.