Getting spooked

Sorry that it’s been a while.

I freaked out.

Last August, I woke up from a nightmare while on vacation in Tuscany. I tried to walk it off through the early morning hours in the tiny town where I was staying, and in the process got into quite the conversation with myself about what I continue to hold onto years after a relationship ends.

Then I shared it.

Because that’s what I do. When I uncover greater understanding, I hope what I learn helps you, all of us, dislodge the thoughts that keep us separate from one another, and find more ways to reach out, be ourselves, love and be loved.

Good news / bad news: the post was read.

One of the first responses I received was from one of the last people I imagined would read it. We both knew who the story was about though neither of us referenced it directly. The email simply said to have fun on vacation.

That was enough.

From however many thousands of miles away, I felt exposed as if we were in the same room together. I wanted to hide.

So I did, for six months. (And also ate a lot of cake. How could I resist this table in the Tuscan inn?)

It’s not that I wasn’t writing, it was that I couldn’t bring myself to hit Publish. Almost as if I was physically unable to.

When feeling vulnerable, my go-to response is the classic deer-caught-in-headlights.

In their defense, it’s a decent tactic in the woods. Stand perfectly still, and fade into the background until the coast is clear. Those damn headlights change everything, rendering deer even more visible than if they had just kept going. Now we all have more time to stare.

The longer time passed, the harder it was to move again. This blog lay dormant, and it became increasingly difficult to post on my coaching blog too. Lucky for me, you were busy with your own life and probably didn’t notice my absence as much as I worried that you did.

Thanks to those who did notice — that helpful flick of the high beams that woke me up out of my trance — I’m back.

Being asked about my writing reminded me how much I missed it, in particular the act of sharing it. The connection fostered between us.

Then I could see what had happened. I got spooked. The perfect topic to share for my return.

That thick skin of successful writers who continue the output no matter what is said? God bless them. I hope to be there someday. Maybe this post will keep me going.

Hopefully it will keep you going too.

I missed you.

 

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The best rejection

If there is such a thing as rejection phobia, I have it.

spend a good deal of time avoiding anything that I’m not good at in order to make sure I’m never bad enough to be rejected. There are the bigger things like applying only to my safety schools during my senior year in high school, and the small ones. You should see me attempt Big Fat Noto casually play mini-golf. I barely crack a smile.

Recognition is the first step to change I tell my clients, and sometimes I actually take my own advice.

I decided to give rejection a whirl. Dip a toe in, you might say.

In the last six months, I applied for two book awards, and submitted an excerpt from my forthcoming book to five magazines. Each time I hit send the ol’ gem, This will be a good experience, whispered in my ear, and I made peace that no response could be my only answer.

Weeks and weeks and weeks later, the submissions were so far out of my mind that when emails appeared in my inbox, I assumed they must be newsletters I’d forgotten about, or spam.

Nope. They were rejections, and little did I expect a good experience to be true.

In addition to “no, thank you,” they offered:

  • We wanted to let you know we think you’re on to something here. You have a great voice and an ear for framing…We hope that you will submit work to us again in the future.”
  • “Oftentimes life’s big events – a divorce, the death of a loved one, a life-threatening illness – provide the impetus for a book. I’M SCARED & DOING IT ANYWAY falls into that category…the story makes perfect sense and immediately engages the reader…its power is in the execution and in the writer’s voice. Because every word is deeply felt and considered, the reader is…genuinely moved.”

I’ve received praise from people I admire and respect before, but from these strangers means something different.

They make being a writer more real.

Who would have thought that rejection could be so encouraging?

 

 

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Playing peek-a-boo

Sometimes I forget that I have a body.

As author Geneen Roth would say, most days I’m just a head with arms and legs attached.

In her book, Women, Food and God, she describes what’s underneath the fear/hatred many of us have of our bodies, and what to do about it.

These women, myself among them, are playing peek-a-boo the way young children do when they believe that if they can’t see you, you can’t see them. If I ignore my body, hopefully you will too, because if we all can see it we will all see what’s wrong with it…and nothing good can come from that.

If you’re thinking, “Why would you feel that way? You’re thin,” know that thin people have just as many body issues as everyone else. Often it feels like we aren’t allowed to, but somehow it’s okay for everyone else to have an opinion.

Case in point: a couple years ago at a networking event when I was lifted in the air by not one but two male friends as both loudly and jokingly guessed my weight.

At the same time in my personal life, the guy I was dating would make obnoxious pig snorting sounds whenever I went for seconds at dinner (after he had also portioned out my servings), or mentioned wanting to buy ice cream when we were in the supermarket.

This was not the first instance of overt and opposing viewpoints about my body, but it was probably the most glaring.

Maybe I learned to ignore my body, because I wished everyone else would. Maybe the real problem was how much I listened to them.

Two weeks ago, something changed.

My yoga teacher had decided that this was the day that our class would do headstands. I had last tried them years prior, and in addition to being intimidated, my neck couldn’t handle it. I gave up soon after.

Without hesitating, she explained how to position our forearms and head on a folded mat against the wall. Then we were told simply to throw a leg up, and have the other meet it.

Before I could protest, reminding her about my weak neck muscles, she was holding both of my feet in the air.

Ready or not, I was standing on my head.

I panicked that she would let go, and that my neck would snap. It wasn’t until I realized that she wasn’t going anywhere, that I started to pay attention to her directions to the rest of the class.

For a split second between the terror of falling and the desperate search for the strength to keep my legs in the air, I could feel my whole body, perhaps for the first time, and it suddenly made sense why I would want to take care of it.

As soon as my legs returned to the floor, a wave of emotion hit me. I wanted to run out of the room and cry my eyes out.

I stayed though, and as the class ended and I nonchalantly raced for the door, the instructor rested her hand on my arm.

“You did well today,” she said and took my hand in both of hers. “I could sense you were freaking out.”

Tears welling, I faked a half smile and hurried past her.

The next twenty minutes were spent in the solitude of my car in order to feel all of the emotion I was trying (not well, apparently) to keep hidden.

How terrifying it was to know that I didn’t have the strength yet and to be dependent on a relative stranger in order to keep me safe. How much work it must have been for her, that I was basically dead weight, and how I wasn’t progressing as fast as the others and I might never get there.

This wasn’t a thing I could figure out — the way heads attached to arms and legs go through life — and that made the thought of doing another headstand even more daunting.

Then I remembered what else she said: “Every time we do this, I’ll be right there with you. I’ll hold your legs as long as it takes for you to feel comfortable doing it yourself.”

I am not alone. What’s more, she can see all of me, and she’s still not going anywhere.

How wonderfully scary is that?
 

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New cover, new cover, and sale!

I’m thrilled to show off the brand new cover of my book, I’m scared & doing it anyway: How a little white blob changed my life. [Thanks to Rebecca Nolen and Lisa Helfert for the beautiful design and photography.]

I hope you like it!

This is a chance to revisit a story that I love, and love sharing. I learned first hand that I have the power to change my life in immeasurable ways, even in the darkest moments. You have it, too.

Are you scared & doing it anyway?

Do you know someone who is?

In the readings and conversations I’ve had since my book was published in 2013, I’ve found that it most resonates with two groups: fear-facers like you and me, and concerned loved ones feeling at a loss for how to help someone else in crisis.

Inside these pages is a chance to come along on my journey, and to see the choices I made that turned my greatest fear into unabashed, arms-outstretched l-o-v-e.

It will help you find the courage within yourself to keep moving forward, and it will help you to be there for others in a new way.

You may wonder why I’ve chosen now to change the cover.

I was too afraid to use the one I should have from the beginning. The one with My Face on it.

I’m not the first writer to hide behind her words — nor the first speaker who still hides even though she has stood in front of hundreds of people, and hugged on television.

It’s different when it’s your book, your cover, your face…but then it isn’t. I love my story, and am as excited to share it today as I was when I started writing. I want you to gain meaning and inspiration from it, and then I want you to share it with the people you care about. (And, please hug them!)

If you like the new cover so much that you want a new copy, that’s great!

There is a sale on the paperback until the end of the month.

From now through Sunday, March 1, you can buy it for $6.50, half-off the original price ($12) , which just covers the publisher’s printing costs. Click here to purchase your copy.

If you’re in New York or Washington, DC, I will happily hug my way to you and sign it in person.

Please know that your support of this little-book-that-could has meant the world to me. I’m continuing to write, and share, because you are out there.

Thank you for that.

Much love.

 

Waiting for remission

This afternoon, my mom will find out if her cancer is in remission.

Right now, I have no doubt that she is in bed dreaming of a faraway, happy place. In fact, I assume that when I pick her up at 1:30pm she will have just woken up. She’s incredibly skilled at hiding when she doesn’t want to admit what’s really happening.

Maybe that’s a family gene. Ten minutes ago I rearranged the furniture in my office.

What’s troubling me is a feeling that she isn’t in remission yet. I realize the fact that ‘yet’ is even in that sentence is a blessing. The doctors have been talking about its eventuality since she was diagnosed in September. It’s a great goal post to have.

That doesn’t help today’s appointment though, or what it means in the short term. If cancer is still present, she’ll have her seventh round of chemo, and probably an eighth for good measure three weeks later.

And more chemo means more waiting. Another PET scan in a month to determine if it was successful. Another long sit in a doctor’s office to find out the news.

It feels like this waiting will never end.

There’s a reason for that — I’ve been waiting much longer than the eight months since a swollen lymph node first appeared on the bone behind her ear. A round, dense marble underneath her skin that she shrugged off at first until four more appeared on her neck over the course of a couple weeks. Some growing to nearly an inch in diameter. By the time she begrudgingly agreed to have a biopsy, she had lost count.

My mom doesn’t take care of herself very well. Eating poorly, smoking, avoiding the doctor…bad habits that tend to bite you in the butt at some point.

For what may be my entire adult life, I have been waiting for something to happen to her.

It’s terrible to say that, I realize. She is a good person. She raised me with lots of love; called me cutesy nicknames like Tinkerbell; practiced my spelling homework with me while making breakfast before she left for work; drove me to slumber parties, and sometimes picked me back up in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep. To this day, she has never let me leave the house without a twenty dollar bill in my pocket.

Strange how I forget those things while waiting.

I also forget that this is a gift.

It wasn’t until I wrote about my brain tumor diagnosis eight years after it happened, that I realized the gift that I had been given back then. How I had an MRI in December 2004 after an ear infection wouldn’t go away, and when the doctor called me, days before Christmas, he said nothing about the results except that we could discuss them in person in January. I assumed everything was fine.

I have no idea what I did that holiday, but I can tell you what I wasn’t doing: waiting. I was blissfully unaware of what was about to happen, and I’ll be forever thankful to the doctor for granting me that stretch of time.

My experience back then isn’t all that different from where my mom and I find ourselves today.

If it’s true, which it is, that something will eventually happen to all of us and the people we love, the minutes, days, and years of waiting between now and then are a big deal. They’re our whole lives.

I feel sad that my mom is sick. Writing this makes me more sad, actually, because I’m reminded how much I love her. How immensely sad it will be when she’s no longer here for me to worry about.

Today likely isn’t that day, though, no matter what her doctor tells us.

It kind of opens it up then, doesn’t it? No matter what happens, we have this afternoon together. We are buying groceries, driving to the appointment, and then having dinner.

That’s a pretty good day. One I will treasure in the future when I think back about all the time we had to wait, together.

Which means I might as well start treasuring it now.

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He sees you when you’re sleeping

Those were nightmare-worthy words to my four year-old self.

My five, six, seven, and eight year-old self, too.

I was scared to death of Santa.

Like many children, I barely slept on Christmas Eve. There was anticipation for the gifts, don’t get me wrong, but I took literally that line from “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

Tucked tightly in bed, my ears were tuned for the slightest floorboard creak or gift wrap rustle that would indicate his arrival. I worried that in addition to placing a sleigh-load of shiny packages around the tree downstairs, he’d sneak into my room and hover over my bed. Several times that night my eyes would pop open, staring through the soft glow of my nightlight to see if it glinted off the white trim of his furry coat. If I had to pee, I would hold it. There was no getting out of bed.

By the way, Jesus’ omnipotence was just as terrifying to the younger me. You’d think I was a deviant with so much to hide. Nope. Just a freaked out goody two shoes. I can only imagine what would have happened if Elf on the Shelf existed during my childhood: a Xanax prescription for the month of December.

I cringed when my mom took me to the mall, and begged her to avoid the lines of rambunctious, sugarcoated children eager to take photos with the jolly ol’ fella. In retrospect, I was probably doing her a favor.

Roving Santa in a department store was the worst. At least seated, I knew where he was. His ho-ho-ho-ing from aisles away was like an air raid siren. Hearing it, I would frantically search for places to take cover.

One time I toddled myself right out of Sears, leaving my mom hurrying behind me to catch up. I had learned the hard way that cowering behind her wasn’t any use. Santa — also true for the Easter Bunny, Disney characters (Disneyworld wasn’t exactly the happiest place on earth), and pretty much anyone who was tall, loud, and approached me like I couldn’t wait to greet them — would see me hiding and think I was playing a game.

Don’t you see the anguish in my eyes?
Dear God, I do not want your candy canes!!!!

For all the terror, I loved Christmas, and still do. The flickering lights and yummy cookies; the stories of peace, love and good cheer.

I’ll leave you with my first, and perhaps only, photo with Santa ever, taken when I was 13. Note the attractive braces and ridiculous perm; clearly it was the 80’s.

I gifted this to my mom that year as a somewhat-serious attempt to laugh at a joke everyone else already found funny. It has graced the mantel ever since.

Merry Christmas from Santa and me to all those who celebrate!

Santa baby

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