Right before Soulcation Newport, I wrote a blog about power and my frustration with hypocritical people. I never published it because it was terrible. The entire essay was a whole lot of me pointing my finger at “them” and very little of myself on the page. Gretchen tried editing it like 75 times. I was shoving mouthfuls of humble pie trying to make it work. It was so bad that I sent it to a fellow yoga teacher who is an editor by trade. I said, “Sharon, what the fuck is wrong with me? I’ve never had such an issue with writing a piece!” She wrote back with professional edits, and gave insight and help with some of the content. Later on that night, l called her and said, “I know why it’s shit… It’s because I’m not saying what I’m thinking and I’m just being a dick without trying to sound like one.” She said, “Jaime, why are you letting what other people say and do affect you?” She was right. I let the blog go and scratched the whole thing. I had another resurgence of “just be me, focus on being my best self, and that is enough.” I knew I had more to learn.
The next morning, I left for Soulcation. As I got into the car, I opened up a text from a well-meaning friend that had a link to a social media post written by a 28-year-old woman who died from cancer. He said, “Sounds like you wrote this.” I had seen the post already. A few other people had sent it to me and when I had initially opened the page a few days before, I reacted like a seizure dog. I could practically smell the fear come bubbling up from my throat and I exited out of the post immediately. The reason this woman’s voice “sounded like mine” was because she was afraid she was going to die and miss out on the life she had expected to live. She DID die. And her words are what you write when that becomes an immediate possibility. THAT’S how it feels. THAT’S not an inspirational essay to me; THAT is my reality. It was my fear standing there in a clown suit, reciting her words over and over again while stabbing me in the gut.
I had a full blown PTSD panic attack while driving to Rhode Island to lead 15 women closer to their truth. I was SOBBING uncontrollably and an old friend I don’t talk to very often, picked up the phone when I called. Her voice was peace. She was loving. She listened, she offered no direction, no help, no words of wisdom. She was everything I needed. She just said, “I’m sorry Jaim” and let me talk, cry, plead, and scream without interruption. I relived the scariest parts of my treatment and had flashbacks of slowly walking out of our little house to go to the hospital while my mom packed up baby Sam to bring him to Maine, away from me. And then I calmed down. Those tears were a rain dance with fear and then a cleansing flood of a much needed baptism. I let it be. I was somehow new afterward. I had more to learn.
At Soulcation, Jen and I preach Love. We may use different writing techniques, discussion prompts and meditations based on what the group needs, but the final destination is always Love. Our goal is for everyone to be able to say, believe and trust that “I am Love, You are Love, and We are Love.” The weekend was full of energy and life and tears and laughter and realness. It was beautiful. It was so easy for me to see and feel that the weekend was Love. The connections we made with each other were Love. Our connections still exist. I believe that I am Love, They are Love and We are Love. Before we left, Jen gave me Marianne Williamson’s book, “A Return to Love.” It’s sitting on my bedside table waiting for me to crack open its pages.
A few months ago, Gretchen started offering an Ayurvedic oil massage treatment at her massage studio. I got to be one of her guinea pigs. It was two hours of Love. There’s no other way to describe it. It felt like I had been thrown back to Biblical times and I was Jesus (YES) and she was lovingly washing my head and my feet with oils. Her hands were Love, her soul was Love, the blankets were Love, the air in the massage room was Love. When I was leaving, I noticed that she had lit a candle titled, “Love.”
Every three months at Dana Farber, I get scoped with a long camera that goes up my nose and down my throat. I get scans every four to six months. Last Monday, I had a CT scan with contrast which is a fancy name for dye. The week before scans is always the worst. It’s part of cancer code. You convince yourself you are dying. Thankfully, the scans came back clear, just as they have been coming back for the last year and half. I left the hospital and felt the short-lived freedom I usually do after a clean scan. But I noticed this time was a little different; it felt special. During my appointment, I told my doctors I didn’t want any more routine scans. One of them was very hesitant and the other said she was fine with only doing the scope every three months and maybe a chest X-ray once a year. I’m going scan-less. I decided to choose Love. I’m tired of being afraid. I’m not throwing caution to the wind. I’m still very on top of my post treatment care. I just want to stop living in four to six month intervals of fear. It felt like I was being released from prison when my radiation oncologist agreed to my plan. For some reason, I went home and started redecorating my home. I realized that I had stopped adding anything to the walls and shelves soon after we moved in a year ago, because I subconsciously thought I wouldn’t be around for much longer. (Eye roll) I know, I know, but really, it was deep, deep down… I didn’t even realize what I had been doing. So I bought plants and a bulletin board and a Polaroid camera. I’m going to fill my home with even more Love than what already exists there. I’m choosing to invest in Love. And I’m hoping that these choices, these acts of Love, will make changes to my brain. My heart wants Love. My brain wants safety. I can’t control my safety (when I’m going to die). But I can choose Love.
Of course, Jerry randomly texted me this morning and said, “I can not feel love and fear at the same time. I can not feel love and anger at the same time. Every moment is that choice.” He’s 100% right.
I hadn’t talked to Sharon since our breakthrough about my original piece-of-garbage blog. But on Wednesday at yoga, she brought me a children’s book. She said, “It’s for Sam, but really it’s for you.” The book was called, “LOVE.”
When I was sick, I read a Facebook post from someone who wrote, “My daughter said ‘I love you,’ for the first time today!” I even took a screen shot of it. At the time, it made me weep with wants. I longed so, so badly to stay alive so that I could hear Sam say those words to me. Last week, clear as day, Sam Soucy yelled, “I love you Mommom!” as I headed out the door to work. I died a thousand deaths of gratitude and this beaming feeling of life and Love showered over me. I happy tear-cried when I got into my car. I had heard a new sound of Love. It may be the greatest Love I will ever hear.
I can give Love pretty easily to other people. I like to be kind, generous and compassionate. I genuinely enjoy helping other people. It makes them happy and fills my heart at the same time. Giving Love to myself is a much harder practice. Not because I don’t think I’m worthy of it, but because I’m essentially rewiring a lot of my old thoughts, actions, and patterns. I save money to spend on other people, but rarely spend it on myself. I say encouraging words of Love to big groups, but have a hard time offering myself Love and encouragement after eating an entire box of crackers before bed. I feel like an idiot and a failure when I do that. But when I look at something like eating crackers before bed WITH LOVE, I know that my eating is emotional and covering something up. Maybe dark. Maybe light. It’s mine to uncover… but gently, softly, without calling myself names, and with lenses of Love. I’m choosing to acknowledge that we are all just doing the best we can. And that furiously pointing my finger isn’t helping anyone, including me. That’s not Love.
My friend Muffy and I talk about Grace all of the time. We love Grace. She is a second chance, the grey between black and white and a smile instead of a sneer. But you know what keeps Grace going? Love. Grace doesn’t exist without Love. In fact, Love is Grace’s Mother. And she is EVERYWHERE. She’s in my hands that I use to type on my computer, in the graphic of the tab on top of my screen, in the cappuccino that is sitting next to me, in the man’s heartbeat to my right and in the pink hair of the girl to my left. Love is in the laughter between the college kids in the corner, and the panting tongue of the dog being walked outside down the street. She’s in the music. I’m literally surrounded by Her. She is omnipotent. And when I think she might be lost because I hear something awful and tragic, I am reminded of her existence within myself because I am still breathing. And I know that I am Love and that I AM LOVED.
On Sunday, I brought Sam for a walk in the woods by the river marsh near our home. I posted a photo of him climbing on the rocks, and captioned it, “We made the 11am service. #naturechurch.” My friend Esther texted this afternoon to tell me how beautiful she thought the picture was. She said, “I loved loved your picture of the 11 o’clock service.” I texted back, “It was a good day at church. We watched the birds, listened to them talk to each other, smelled the salt-air smells, balanced on the stepping stones in the path, and threw sticks into the woods. The message was simple and so powerful. The lesson was Love.”