When you go looking for answers, expect to find them in unlikely places. While there is no answer as to why I have cancer at the age of 37, there is an answer as to how to feel more connected to your body. More empowered. It’s a sense of control, really. Cancer can make you feel so out of control, but nurturing yourself can feel so good. Like, “Why I haven’t I been doing this forever?”
In a world (or at least a country) where it’s totally normal to be sleeping less than 8 hours a night, eating packaged foods on the go, and living paycheck-to-paycheck, it almost seems “odd” or “hippy-like” to slow down and want to live more in-the-moment (yoga and meditation have taught me so much!). To not want stress to overtake your life. If you caught me letting lots of people into traffic ahead of me or taking my time ordering my Starbucks coffee in the morning, you would think that either I lived in the south (love that take-it-easy-mentality they have down there) or that I was just being annoying, and you’d want to tell me to hurry it up, I’m sure (because up until recently, I would too). So when our bodies tell us to slow down, is our instinct to listen? Not always.
I have been trying to tune in more lately as to what my body needs, what it is trying to tell me. Is it tired? Depleted? Energetic? Content? How do I know if I’m just “normal tired” or there is something else going on? Am I getting enough nutrients? Antioxidants? Iron? And is it really OK to take things more slowly? Will those in my life be accepting if I don’t immediately return texts, phone calls and emails? Can I sit on the couch after dinner instead of doing the dishes? And perhaps most importantly, can I really say “no?”
One key thing that I have learned over the past year is just how much I love being with my friends and family. I always knew this, of course. I always considered myself a grateful person for all of the loving relationships that I have in my life. But now, I really soak it in. And I gather energy and strength from being with all you, which I need. I don’t find it tiring to have dinner with my parents or go shopping with a friend, I love it. I realize so much more now than I ever did before that this.is.what.life.is.really.all.about. Fun is not overrated!
So when I look at my calendar that is filled constantly with social plans, whether it’s going to see a play downtown with friends or have brunch to celebrate somebody’s birthday or host a gathering at my house, I feel fulfilled. At least, my mind does. I know that I’ll have the companionship of those that I love; that I’ll laugh, that I’ll listen, and be heard and supported. That it will be fun! Yet at the same time, my body is saying “Yikes! Your weekend is going to be great, but when will you rest?!” Rest? What is that? While I sleep at least 8 hours every night, I don’t exactly “rest.” (As I write this blog I am working late from home, so if the phone rings, I’m on call. Then it’ll be on to dinner and maybe an hour of watching TV and relaxing, if I’m lucky). If I’m not at work then I’m exercising, catching up on emails, cooking, blogging, cleaning up the house, paying bills, hitting the town with my hubby, or going to a yoga class. (Just like all of you, right?). And it’s all great stuff! I love having a job, moving my body, eating well, connecting, fueling my creativity, spending quality time with my spouse, and taking care of my home. But I’m not resting a whole lot. And is that overrated for anybody, let alone somebody who is living with cancer? I know that I need to do everything that I can to keep my immune system strong, especially when I travel or in the wintertime and being around lots of sick people.
So I struggle a little bit with when to say no. I want to see everybody, do everything. I want to be Jim Carey in “Yes Man” and say yes to everything! I don’t want to miss out on anything. It’s about finding the right balance between not just nourishing the mind, but the body as well. For the first time in my life, cancer has given me the reason to purposely say “I’m just going to have fun today,” or “I’m going to actually do what I want today, and not what other people want me to do.” (Most of the time. Still working on that one. It’s not about being selfish, but putting yourself as a priority only gives you the rejuvenation that you need to be present with everybody else in your life who needs you as well).
Today I got my very first juicer for Chanukah, courtesy of my parents (the best ever). They are so incredibly supportive of anything that I want to do that is health and wellness related (not to mention anything else). Yoga? Great. Eating zucchini noodles? Awesome. Juicing? I’m a wack-a-doodle, but they still think that its fabulous nonetheless (they eat plenty of fruits and veggies, they just don’t tend to drink their kale). (interestingly enough, if you asked them, I would think they’d say that they just want me to rest more!).
I was super excited about the juicer. Those that know me know that this is a testament that change is possible. That at any time, any day, we have the power to change our mind-set. If you had asked me B.C. (before cancer) if I would ever have juice with spinach in it for breakfast, I would have laughed until I fell off my chair! It’s not that I was eating pop-tarts for breakfast, but I was more a toast with peanut butter, yogurt with granola, kind of girl (if I ate breakfast at all). And then Kris Carr happened. I had heard of her, but when I was diagnosed I really reached out to her as a lifeline for wisdom and strength. The beacon of hope. The light in my sky. I knew that I needed to eat more fruits and veggies, I just wasn’t quite sure how to get in that 5-10 servings a day (it can be a lot of chewing if you really think about it!). So I started making smoothies in my blender, which was OK, but a little bit thick for me, and a lot of cutting and chopping of the produce (I kept asking SHL this morning, “are you sure that we can just put the whole piece of fruit in?!” It was astonishing to me to be able to put a whole lemon in the juicer!). And if you’re wondering what the difference is between blending and juicing (it’s OK, I didn’t know when I started out on this journey either, and there’s still so much more– excitedly– to learn), it’s this: Juicing removes the pulp. Now pulp is great for you because it has fiber and slows down the absorption of sugar, but it can also slow down the absorption of nutrients as well. So if you’re getting enough fiber in other parts of your diet, then juicing seems to be a pretty cool idea. My juicer says that I am extracting about 70% of the nutrition right into my glass, and without the insoluble fiber, your body absorbs 100% of these nutrients! Plus Kris says that giving your digestive system a break means that your body can focus more on… Wait for it… Resting!
Cheers to that.
Love and leisure,