Getting cancer makes you think.
Getting cancer makes you think about your life. How you’re living it, If you’re really happy, what makes you happy, and what you want more of in your life. It also makes you think of what you don’t want or have time for... the time you have wasted and what you could’ve been doing with that time instead. You start to think about how you will use your time if you get another chance to control it, that same chance you once had every day that you were healthy that you took for granted. Being “close” to death will make you think of how oblivious you were to the power of your life.
Ultimately, I realized that I don’t regret most of the things I’ve done or spent my time on because they have gotten me here. Exactly where I am now, having cathartic cancer thoughts. But at the same time, I decided that from now on I will use my most valuable asset, my time, more carefully... because life is too short not to.
I realized that in order to live my life to its full potential, I must dedicate my time and energy to things that are productive. Productive feelings, thoughts, people who lift me up and live an intentional life. In order to do so I must let go of the things that aren’t productive and that I will no longer have time for:
Here’s are a few things that I decided to let go of because I don’t have time for them:
Toxic relationships or people
Inevitably in our lives we will encounter or even be born into toxic environments or dysfunctional dynamics. These dysfunctional dynamics exist everywhere and are often hidden deep behind the surface. We are often so close to these situations that we do not identify them as toxic, or are taught to accept these abusive or abnormal patterns that have an impact on who we are, how we see ourselves and even how we treat others. Sometimes there is this invisible force, fueled by idealistic notions constructed by societal expectations that make it hard to accept that these dysfunctional relationships are not healthy, or productive. Thus, making it nearly impossible to let them go or to be liberated from them.
Deep down I always knew that there were elements of my life that were toxic and I had been raised to accept these as normal as unquestionable dynamics that could not be put under scrutiny. Having cancer, going through treatment and going through the trauma post cancer made me realize that, in life being selfless is not a constructive attribute, that it is OK and good to be selfish (to a certain extent) and to put yourself first. And in order to fully put yourself first, you must break out of toxic dynamics. If you don’t let go of these toxic elements that bring you down ultimately just to please others and continue to put yourself last, you will never be able to live to your full potential. And in not reaching your fullest potential you deprive people of ever meeting or being influenced by that person you could be. You will never be the best version of yourself and you will never be truly happy, because your decisions are not entirely yours.They are influenced by ideas of what others want you to be.
Letting go of toxicity in life is the hardest thing I have ever done. For the first time in my life cancer made me put myself first even when others did not. It made me, with the little strength I had, stand up for myself. To be honest some of this was accomplished through conscious, deliberate action on my part and another part happened through others’ actions towards me. Ultimately, it has liberated me and for the first time in my life, I feel like I make decisions solely based on what I truly desire, what makes me tick, who I want to be and what I want my life to become.
Hate and resentment
If you have a grudge against someone, or if you remember someone for something bad they did to you… stop for a moment and really think of the time and energy that you’ve spent thinking about this. Whether you realize it or not, holding a grudge hurts YOU more than anyone else. You are not heroic for holding a grudge, you are not the better person for feeling morally superior in a given situation or to another person and you are not victorious over any battle for continuing to hold onto that grudge or continuing to relive the moments that created it.
The reality is that when you put everything into perspective, whatever, whoever did to you at some point in your life or whatever you felt, is completely irrelevant to anything. On your deathbed you probably won’t even think of this thing that you went through. The reality is you probably won’t feel like a victim or remember the moments that you were wronged or mistreated. Instead you will probably think of all of the things you didn’t do that you could have done. Instead of focusing on the opportunities people stole from you or how others affected you negatively, you will most likely think of all the opportunities you had that you didn’t take advantage of because you were focused on other things, like holding onto these grudges.
At least that’s what happened to me (I wasn’t on my deathbed per se), but I did spend a lot of time in bed recovering from chemo). I realized that no matter how rough whatever it is I went through at some point in my life, when evaluating my life or thinking about what I want to do with my life if I got a second chance at living it, I never thought, I wish that never happened to me. Instead I thought to myself, when I get out of this situation, I will not spend one moment of my time or energy focusing on things that I can’t control or latching onto old feelings of resentment or hate.
I thought of all the things that had happened to me that I thought were important and I realized that they actually were irrelevant. I instantly forgave all of the people that had wronged me... and forgave myself for all the mistakes I had made as well. And with that, I became light. It was as if I had liberated myself from having to remember all of these bad things that had happened to me, from any guilt around how I could have been responsible for or provoked those situations… I liberated myself from the idea that holding onto this baggage in some way protected me from getting hurt again. In doing so, even though I was in massive amounts of physical pain from chemo, it was one of the happiest moments of my life.
I realized that anything bad that had happened didn’t matter… The only things that really matter are that I am alive,I love myself, I love others, and I am loved. When I let go of all of the rest, I had more space to love myself and the important loving people in my life… when I had always thought that the opposite would happen. I thought that if I forgave everyone and everything, it would leave me vulnerable and exposed to more potential damage, when the reality is that all that it did was make me focus on myself, the people and things that brought me happiness and the beauty and power of life.
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” –Socrates.
The thought: Will people like it?
This thought has got to go. And it’s probably the thought I’m most happy to have let go. Caring about what people think about you excessively is the most harmful thought and does the most damage to your happiness, to your success and prevents you from living a fulfilling life. I never really thought I actually cared about what people thought of me, until I realized that for a large part of my life, I had held back from doing certain things because of this thought, will people like it? I realized many times in my life I’ve opted for choices that were not 100% what I wanted, instead they were somewhere in the middle between what I truly wanted and did not want, trying to constantly mitigate the risk of being disliked completely or failing at what I did like and being judged for it. Playing it safe, so that others could feel more comfortable with my decisions. There’s a quote that often comes to mind when I think about it, it goes like this:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Marianne Williamson
And this is exactly it. I often have shrunk myself because I didn’t want to seem too this or too that. I remember being very young and being called a “show off” and for some reason that always stuck. I’ve opted for humility over shining out of a genuine desire not to be seen for who I am because of the thought “will people like it?”. And in doing so I’ve limited myself more than anyone else. And filled my life secretly with things that I love without allowing myself to fully share this with others or dive deeper into my love for those things because of this thought. In the end I’ve ultimately decided, “fuck ‘em” if they don’t like it… if they don’t like me, it has no impact on me. This is who I am. This is what I am.
So here’s the beginning of my cancer revelations…. There are so many more things that I’ve let go of that I want to continue to address. I’ll go into some of these other things in another blog post, but before that I want to go into what I realized of what I wanted more of in my life. So, coming up soon.. What I want more of in life and how I came to the realization that I want to live my life to my full potential.
Would love to hear about others experiences, did you have any revelations? Even if you haven’t gone through cancer or other life changing events? Are there any things that you have learned to let go of with time that have made your life infinitely better? Or even a little better?