Oh Facebook! You are both a delightful way to pass the time and the bane of my existence.
As I did my normal morning trolling of various status updates, I came across a poster a friend had on her wall. It read, “Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” Ouch. I stared for a moment and took a deep breath. “Is that what I’ve been doing?”, I thought. “Am I running from my life?”
A cancer diagnosis followed by two and a half years of chemotherapy certainly engenders a life of roller coaster emotions. Any sane person would want to run from the horrors I and so many others have faced. I’ve had my share of tears and victory laps followed by tears once again. At times, the enormity of it all will hit when I least expect it to.
Seeing my hair on the bathroom counter made me remember when I lost it all. Suddenly, I became unsteady, memories crashing around in my head and I fell to my knees on the cold tile floor, tears streaming down my face, hands balled into fists. I accept this will happen from time to time. I can’t imagine anyone coming out of this unscathed. But run from it? How would I even try? It was then I remembered why I started my “F*ck-It List”. It wasn’t to run away from life. It was to run to it; arms wide open, ready to embrace it all.
In my bedroom, I have a vision board that contains the many things I want to accomplish in 2014. One night, as my husband and I were watching television, he asked me what one of the pictures represented. “Sedona,” I said. I’ve always wanted to go there. I’ve heard it is a magical, mystical place and God knows I could use some magic in my life.
“Do you have any trips planned for March?”, he inquired. I explained how I was beginning to feel bad about traveling so much. Lately, I’d been getting a lot of responses from people questioning how my husband could “let me leave” so often. As if I were chattel he loaned out from time to time.
When I came up with my “F*ck-It List” it was my husband who was my biggest supporter. Only someone who has witnessed the daily atrocities of cancer can fully understand the value of taking your life back; full ownership, and living it how you choose to.
And only someone who loves you and is secure in your love for them will pick up the phone, call the airline and book your flight while you sit there, mouth agape, and start to cry. It would be a solo journey this time. Just me, looking for the magic.
Leaving the harsh New York winter was not a tough decision. As I exited the airport in Phoenix, I tore my jacket off and let the warm sun touch my skin. This winter has been brutal and I was in desperate need of some sunshine and warmth.
The two hour drive to Sedona was a beautiful introduction to Arizona. Desert as far as the eye could see. In the distance I spotted a sign, it read…In-N-Out Burger.
Yep, I made a pit stop.
The menu looked so bland, I wasn’t sure I was in the right place. Why do people rave about this place? I ordered a burger and fries and waited. The girl called my number and there, on the counter, was my order. “Umm, excuse me, Miss? Am I missing something? Shouldn’t there be stuff on my food?” She motions for me to come closer. She mentions “the secret menu”. Huh? Is this some Skull and Bones shit? Fast food Illuminati?
“Please just give me what most people get,” I pleaded. This was my introduction to what is known as “Animal Style”. It was also my introduction to the importance of carrying Tums with me. Moving on…
As I approached the Sedona exit, it was as if the gates of Disney World opened before me. Glorious rust and gold colored mountains appeared everywhere. The sky seemed bluer, the air clearer.
I pulled the car over and stepped out, I needed to take this all in. As I looked out over this breathtaking view, I began to cry (first of many tears shed on this trip) I cried for all I had been through and for the power in manifesting one’s dreams.
Through sheer force of will (and modern medicine) I had arrived.
Sedona is a mecca for New Age thought. Healers, shamans and mystics from all over gravitate to this wondrous place. On a friend’s referral, I contacted a company called Sedona Soul Journeys. After a lengthy conversation, they created an itinerary for my stay based on what I was looking to get out of my visit. Already being somewhat familiar with the New Age lexicon, I became excited reading what was in store for me; Soul Journeying, Breath work, Intuitive healing, Angel Guides, meditation, Reiki. I could not wait for my journey to begin.
That night I went to a restaurant, sat down and waited for the waitress to bring me a menu. “Hi”, she said. “Do you need a menu, or are you psychic?” “I’m home”, I chuckled to myself. Then I laughed even harder at the epic eye roll my husband would have given. I told her I did indeed need a menu. Only three hours in Sedona, so I’m not psychic—yet. I dined on an amazing organic meal. No Tums necessary.
The area lends itself to an atmosphere of quiet meditation. Everyone seems to move a little slower, hold your gaze a little longer, talk a little softer. While waiting in line for coffee, my New York sensibilities kicked in when the girl working the counter took what seemed like forever to get my coffee.
In reality, it was only five minutes (I know this because I kept checking). I grew tense. Agitated even. But what was the rush? Why am I always in such a hurry? I chatted with her about organic peanuts and soft baked versus regular cookies. The person behind me didn’t care one bit. I felt my shoulders loosen up. As I settled into an overstuffed armchair, I thought, “I can do this.” And then I exhaled.
Even though it was a chemo pill week, I was determined to get in some climbing. I’d heard about a church that is built into the side of a mountain and decided to head over. To try to describe the beauty of this place is pointless. My words couldn’t do it justice. Even though there were many tourists outside the walls, once inside, everyone fell silent.
It’s a simple church, nothing like the Catholic churches I’m accustomed to seeing. There were no gilded walls, no ornate statues. Just a simple cross and a painting of Jesus. There were pews to kneel on and when I did, tears began to fall. I thanked God for sparing me, for bringing such love into my life and for lifting the veil from my eyes so that I could see my life clearly. I’ve been given a chance to correct past mistakes, to right some wrongs and to move forward in peace and true joy.
I walked outside and sat on the rocks that overlook the canyon. I watched the sun set over these majestic mountains and I knew in my heart that I was part of something greater. I knew that whatever was in store for me, I had to trust the process.
It took centuries to carve out the canyons, for the minerals to deposit their gorgeous colors; certainly it was going to take more than my 38 years to become my best self. I would need to face the wind and the rain; allowing them to reveal my true beauty. I began to see the gift of it all and I was grateful.
Each day brought me closer to an inner peace I never knew existed. I took long walks between sessions. I chatted up strangers. I shopped at a grocery store that was so organic, it made Whole Foods look like Wal-Mart. I stepped out of my comfort zone and grew richer for it. I wasn’t constantly checking my phone for texts or trolling Facebook. I found comfort in the quiet.
As I traveled back home, carrying with me all that I had learned and leaving behind all that I had let go of, I felt immensely lighter. I am grateful for my loved ones who support my decisions, for a world I will continue to explore and for a life I don’t need to escape from.
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