Last week I had a relatively minor procedure at the dentist. Relatively minor being a relative term for someone who’s had half of her tongue removed and rebuilt with parts from her arm. It’s no surprise the anticipation of a dental visit triggers both a physical and emotional reaction as my cancer journey began in a dental chair 19 years ago. I prepare with visualization exercises and meditation days prior to my appointment. On game day, I put on my power suit including my favorite t-shirt and jeans, my PowerButton™ necklace, earplugs, a special ring, a few lucky charms, and breathing deeply. For years, these rituals have done the trick of helping me manage anxiety for cleanings, fillings or whatever I’m booked for. However, last week, my jitters got the best of me. Dr. Sacks, the kindest, most patient, thorough and professional dentist on the planet could sense my fear. After multiple failed attempts of finding my happy place, he politely suggested an alternative so we could both get through it. Pumped up with Novocain and laughing gas, our mission was blissfully accomplished half an hour later. Relief and exhaustion replaced fear, but I couldn’t stop wondering why I failed at getting through this appointment like before?
I’m tired. I’m physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted. My feet have been replaced by cement blocks dragging me down. Since quarantine began, a thin invisible film lightly coats everything in a shade of haze. My get-up and go has get-up and gone. Motivation is dwindling making even the most mundane of activities take extra effort. I’m pretty sure I’m not depressed, because I’ve experienced depression and it’s definitely not the same. To play it on the safe side, I practice the power packed in my DYP Emergency Kit to keep me as healthy as possible…exercising, connecting with people, conscious eating, therapy, routine, bird watching , wearing my favorite Wonder Woman t-shirt, and working to name a few. No matter how hard I stick to what usually works, I can’t shake the feeling of things just being off.
Off does not sit well with this type A personality. I thrive on being productive and in control. I’m energized by the yellow brick road right outside my front door leading me to the big wide world. I love making a difference. A good day is measured by the number of items crossed off my to do list. But let’s be real, with civil unrest and a universal pandemic, feeling off should be no giant surprise to me or anyone. What’s most frustrating is not knowing when and if it will end and what that will look like.
Here’s a crazy thought…getting through cancer was easier than what’s going on with current events. It’s ridiculous even as I write it on the page. For me, a diagnosis meant only one of two outcomes… live or die. That’s it. So, when I heard those three simple words You Have Cancer, I dove in head-first to this new full-time job and appointed myself CEO. The job was a nightmare, but after three diagnoses, I knew the ropes. I’m pleased to report to the board, shareholders, and anyone who cares, this business venture had an excellent outcome and all my life options are increasing in value. I lived (woohoo!) and as of January 22, 2020, there is no sign of disease. After three diagnosis and 7 years, those doors have been boarded shut and replaced by an exciting new enterprise. Inspired by my cancer journey, I founded DYP - Discovering Your Power, Your Way to motivate others to discover their power when faced with the challenges in their lives.
Here’s the thing…I can’t seem to DYP my way out of this funk I’m in. If I can’t help myself, can I realistically expect DYP to help others? Self-doubt seeps its way into my brain questioning everything. What the heck am I doing? What’s the point? Does it matter? Does anybody care but me? Urgent thoughts required urgent action. Multiple sessions with my therapist Margo and one tear-filled conversation with my good buddy and life-coach extraordinaire Michal led to one similar conclusion…Take a break, Joana!
Take a break! What does that mean? Retreating to the backyard, pitching a tent, and zenning out? Hitting the open road in an RV, exploring oversized balls of twine, enormous thermometers, and dining in greasy spoons? Both scenarios enticed me, but I knew the answer lie elsewhere. An intellectual game of tug-o-war filled with shouldas and couldas drained my brain, but before admitting defeat and waving the white flag, the light bulb went off. Taking a break was all about permission. Permission of letting go of what I thought I should be doing for my family, my work, my home, my community, and myself. Permission that just because I survived a life-threatening illness does not qualify me as an expert on managing a world health crisis, quarantine, political instability, and other big stuff (no one is that powerful). Permission does not mean playing the hero with the required suffering at the dentist or any doctor appointment unnecessarily. Permission to not complete the to-do list. Permission to be okay with not being okay with current events and how this will play out. Permission that I cannot DYP every uncomfortable situation I’m faced with but can still inspire others.
I’m humbled and a little embarrassed that two adults had to give this adult permission to let go, but it is what it is and that’s all right. My heaviness has been validated, and I’m not too proud to admit I’m one of those people who needs an extra boost (or two) of validation. My therapist reminded me many people share similar feelings as myself. I’m taking a break and figuring out what this looks like…maybe it’s less time on building the DYP empire and more time with my kids over the summer; maybe it’s fewer shouldas and couldas replaced with more we’ll see; maybe it’s reading an extra chapter or two in my book instead of a few extra chores. I’m replacing my go to narrative of “I’m a slacker” if I don’t go, go go, with “I am” because I am is enough.
In addition to "Taking a Break" and the “I am” mantra, I’ve packed a few new powerful items into my DYP Emergency kit including cat naps and “The Happiness Lab” podcast with Dr. Laura Santos, based on her popular Yale course “Psychology and the Good Life.” Do I feel better? Yes. Do I still feel off? Let’s call it offish, but I’m truly taking it day by day being mindful of what I need physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Most important, I’m filled with hope, good intention and the possibility my actions matter and make a difference, however minimal or grand the gesture. What would taking a break look or feel like for you?
I DYP – Discovering My Power, My Way by Taking a Break. Could the power of Taking a Break work for you?
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To learn more about DYP - Discovering Your Power, Your Way, visit www.DYPyourway.com and download your free DYP Emergency Kit™. "If we have an emergency kit for natural disasters, let's prepare our emergency kit for personal disasters (no toilet paper or hand sanitizer required)."
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