Today I am headed to the Adirondacks for a rock climbing adventure with other cancer warriors through a program called First Descents. First Descents hosts amazing outdoor excursions that bring young adult cancer patients that are in varying phases of their cancer journeys together. I’m excited, and a little anxious, to spend time with other cancer folk and to soak in some of the amazing scenery of these mountains.
First, the excitement. Although I don’t really know what to expect, I am excited for what I will learn and how I will grow over the next few days. I’m excited for the unknown. I have no idea how many people will be there, what their backgrounds or cancer journeys have been, or what they will share with me. I know if I keep an open mind (and heart) this experience can be transformative. It’s really the opportunity of a lifetime, and I’m all about that.
But there is some fear. Not knowing is a little scary. I’m not worried about being around new people, or being in a new environment, or being pushed physically in the great outdoors. I’m worried about learning harsh realities about cancer that I’m not prepared for. I’m worried about upsetting my hard earned peace of mind. I’m worried about losing some of the blissful naivety. I’m scared to death of conversations about reoccurrences, metastasis, painful treatments, tough decisions, loss, and death. I know much worse things can happen to a person than what I’m going through, and I largely keep my upbeat attitude by containing my thinking to the here-and-now and facing down my reality and what I can and cannot control. I do well to keep my eyes forward and in my own lane. I’m afraid to crack the door on the “what-ifs,” and about bells you cannot unring.
But I have to remember that these are the treasures. The beauty in life- the growth, the connection- comes from diving in the deep end. I won’t get to that higher ground by playing it safe, by sitting in the shallow end of the pool eyeing the cool blue jewel tones of the deeper end. No. I’ll have to dive in. Even when I’m afraid of the safety I’m leaving behind, even when I’m afraid of the pain that sometimes accompanies transition and growth. I have to be brave to truly honor my soul, I think. I have to stay curious about what I don’t know and about my own fear if I’m ever going to move beyond it.
And so here I go. Tomorrow we head to the rock and I’ll be doing what I can to haul myself up the mountain. I’ve made peace with the fact that physically things are a lot different than I had originally planned, and I’m even excited to take in a different view that perspective will force. It’s good that I can’t rely on my old “power through” mentality, but instead I’ll be adopting a more subdued, gentler approach to moving through the experience.
I’ll be brave, I’ll be gentle, and I’ll remind myself that I’m okay in the moment. I tend to get flooded when I’m afraid- it’s my body’s survival instinct. Panic and over-react. Works every time. But instead, this time I’m going to lean in to it. I’m going to see what exists in the calmer places, what happens if you slow it down a little and let curiosity grow in place of panic. Maybe it will let me dive a little deeper into those blue waters, reach a little further for the treasure.
So I’m excited. It’s going to be as awesome as I let it be, and I’m ready to have the time of my life.
Give Em’ Hell.