How much I can relate to those words, growing up with a mom whose thinking was far ahead of her time, yet whose married life followed a very traditional path. In her teenage years she was bright, energetic and a true renaissance woman who loved to break down barriers.
One month after she accepted my dad’s proposal she returned his platinum engagement ring to him for repair. Imagine…the platinum ring was no longer circular but nearly flattened. Evidently she wasn’t supposed to wear it while taking apart a car engine. Who knew? Certainly not my mom!
Once she and Dad married her maverick spirit began to conform. She had dinner on the table the moment my dad came in the door and greeted him with a smile, even though she hated the domestic life. No wonder I learned to stuff things at such a young age — a cowardice that would later cost me dearly when that lump in my throat physically manifested into thyroid cancer!
As far back as I can remember I felt such a deep conflict between my head and my heart. My heart was a free spirit, much like my mom, that enjoyed pushing the boundaries, breaking down barriers and trying unconventional things.
As a child independence was encouraged. At the same time I grew up hearing, “Children should be seen and not heard.” My heart longed to soar while my head would always bring me crashing down.
In spite of growing up in a homogenous neighborhood I was passionate about equality for all. I had a very logical side that was proficient in math and loved to rationalize. Yet, my inner creativity needed expression so I was forever working on arts and crafts projects. I love to cook, which eventually led me to become a personal chef, but hated being typecast as a woman who belongs in the kitchen.
I was quite a mess! I had the drive to succeed while at the same time couldn’t find the courage to take the first step. My head and my heart were constantly competing for control.
At work I was a strong type-A personality who was always eager to please, even if it meant swallowing myself, one gulp at a time. Fear held me back from speaking up — for myself, my ideas, my beliefs…you name it!
I was the ideal employee — work, work, work and didn’t rock the boat. I advanced quickly at every job I tried, only to burn myself out like a pile of cinder. Each time I would rise from the ashes like the proverbial phoenix only to fly too high again — crashing and burning.
Finally something had to give! I could no longer live this duality. It was literally tearing me apart at the neck! Then it happened! I woke up feeling that someone had a hand around my throat choking me. Placing my fingers on my neck, I found a lump. Long story short…the biopsy confirmed my worst fears, It was papillary thyroid cancer.
That was my quintessential point of clarity. Here I was after all the years of waging war within my own body only to find I was the casualty. How ironic! I was all choked up.
The pressure from the tumor on my trachea felt exactly like the choked up feeling you get when you are holding back and can’t find the words to speak. That figurative lump in my throat became full-fledged, metastatic cancer. If that wasn’t a wake-up call for change, I am not sure what else could have been!
I share this story with you to know that we are all very powerful beings whose thoughts and energies do matter. All the pent up energy I swallowed through the years had to go somewhere. In my case this energy did what any energy does. It nourished and grew cells into another form…cancer.
Once I saw the stark reality, I let go of the anger, the disappointment and, most importantly, the fear. I was able to embrace this cancer and thank it for serving a purpose — notifying me that energy will seek its own balance. It could either destroy me or reform me. Thankfully I choose the latter.
It started with a small whisper. When I heard something at work that I didn’t agree with I was no longer silent. With carefully chosen words and in a low voice I dared to ask why. I wasn’t very popular at first challenging the status quo, but eventually my opinion was solicited, even valued, particularly during times of uncertainty. Calm resolve replaced the whisper.
Each day I consciously embrace my fear, pushing myself to break out of the cowardice and do something fearless. That fearlessness can be as simple as sitting next to a stranger in a deli and saying hello. Or, it can be as significant as riding a scary roller coaster at an amusement park. The what is less important than the why.
Acting fearlessly breaks down barriers and turns stumbling blocks into stepping stones. Fearlessness is learning to trust that things will be okay no matter what. In my 6 step strategy fearless is the most important piece to help clients shift their paradigms to move from surviving to thriving: purposefully, passionately, positively and presently.
I challenge you to do one fearless thing each day for the next week, no matter how big or how small, and I invite you to share your comments below.