On my weekly trip to Trader Joe’s I ran into Y, one of the leaders of Breast Friends, a wonderful cancer support organization headquartered here in Portland. Y and I became friendly last winter when I presented to her Warrior Women support group.
It seems something I said at that presentation really resonated with the women, so much so that Y reminds me of it every time we meet. Since it meant so much to them, I thought I’d share it with you too.
My workshop was about coping with fear about cancer. The fear that has you asking questions like, “Am I always going to have to worry about when the next shoe is going to drop?” And “What if this Christmas is my last?”
You’re hard-wired to feel fear. It’s what keeps you aware of threats and spurs you to get out of the way.
The problem is that your fear response doesn’t know the difference between a real threat (like an oncoming car) and an imagined one (worrying that something bad is going to happen when you’re sitting safe and sound at home). Even when the threat is imaginary, your body produces fear hormones and you can spin off the rails with anxiety.
So what can you do?
I told the Warrior Women the most important thing they needed to know about dealing with fear:
Fear about cancer can’t be eliminated…but it can be replaced.
You can’t stop your fear response, but you can replace it with something far more powerful. You do that by turning on your light.
If you go into a dark room and you want light, you find a way to create light. You know that when you turn on a lamp, the dark goes away automatically. There’s no need to get anxious about darkness if you know how to turn on a light.
If you find yourself in the dark space of fear, you can also turn on a light. Not a lamp…but whatever lights you up.
What makes you forget about time and makes you feel alive? That’s your light.
The more “light” in your life, the less chance fear has to worm its way into your attention.
Is it letting your creative juices flow by painting, dancing or writing?
Is it immersing yourself in discovery: travel, attending the theater or seeing the world anew through the eyes of a child you love?
Is it giving back: being of service in a way that makes your heart sing?
Find what lights you up, and keep it lit. Your light will conquer fear every time.
In this season of celebrating light – Diwali, Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa – know that you are the light, my friend.
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