I so deeply do want to do better health-wise, but since better health isn’t trying to do me, I settled for a retreat – Kalani Oceanside Retreat in Hawaii. I basically just wanted to attune myself to nature and be left the F alone.
But of course, the universe ironically surfaced awesome people at Kalani that I was compelled to get to know. We had so much in common and so much not … organically finding ourselves in meaningful conversations about life’s highs, lows and in-betweens, against a backdrop of nocturnal jungle symphonies and the low whooshing of ocean waves in the close distance – as if to awaken compassion and inspiration. I’m grateful for these new friends and humbled that our paths crossed.
“I’m recovering from lymphoma,” I told the yoga instructor, and asked for a modification to an asana. This was the first time that I had depicted my cancer treatment aftermath as a period of recovery. “Remission” has become one of my least favorite words, along with “moist” and “spew,” although the latter two are more simply pet peeves. Anyway, I don’t know why I said it to her in this way this time. I surprised myself when I said it, and surprised myself again when I felt the comfort of its validation.
Near the end of the yoga class, and during the final Shavasana (corpse pose), the instructor dropped essential oils into the palm of each student for aromatherapy. When it came to my turn, she did the same, and additionally wiped oil onto my arms and chest, leaning down to whisper, “I recovered from Lymphoma 34 years ago.” A chill coursed through me with the rush of fragrant lavender, as I heard her words and simultaneously recalled her earlier remark to the class about her 70-year-old spine.
I’m 36 years old. She was me before, and she’s thriving. I lay there and wept.
“Five years,” she said, when I asked how long it took to break up the concrete in her torso. “My husband used to pound on my back everyday.” I didn’t really care what the answer was or whether it was directly relevant to my own situation. She was beautiful, quick-witted and peaceful. I had to keep talking to her, so I would keep knowing her. I was her shadow.
Continuing on the theme of rejuvenation, I spent the rest of my time wandering the island, breathing clean air, playing, reading, writing, resting, digesting … and savoring human connections up to the final hour.
The night before I left, I said to a new friend at Kalani, “From now on, if I think something might make me happy, I’m going to go after it.”
This friend looked at me hesitantly, then said, “I know your situation might be different, but if you do that, you’re already thinking too much.” I was puzzled, but kept listening. “Before you ever think, there’s a feeling that you get … I go with that feeling, because whatever the experience is going to be, good or bad, if I get out there, I’ll go to bed knowing that I went for it and got the most out of that day.”
With that insight, it occurred to me that trying to surround myself with only rainbows and unicorns may be necessary protection in my most vulnerable moments living with cancer, but it’s no way to really live.
I didn’t plan to meet wonderful people, nor to find abundant inspiration. I wouldn’t have even known how to ask for it. But it all happened, when I followed my intuition to seek healing in this new place and new way.
Perhaps, the only way to experience life is to walk out the door each day into uncertainty, allowing the universe to work its magic.