It can be incredibly hard to be open and authentic about who we really are. By opening ourselves up and sharing our own stories, we also open ourselves up to criticism, rebuttal, and embarrassment.
I am continually amazed at the inspiring women who sit down for interviews for the Women Inspired! podcast. They share their stories so openly...the good and the bad. They tell us about their struggles, their achievements, and their deepest fears.
Now it's my turn to do the same.
If you're a regular podcast listener, you've heard me talk about how passionate I am about taking intentional action. You've heard the excitement in my voice every time a guest says she quit a job, left a relationship, or ditched an activity that was no longer serving her in favor of one that better aligns with her heart and her life. That passion for living life to the fullest is real, and I live every single day of my life fueled by it.
I want you to understand where that passion comes from.
But to do that, you have to know about 2 life-changing experiences that forever altered my views about life and how we spend our time.
Early on, I lived a very normal, middle-class, midwestern life. Things were simple. Slow. Easy.
Things changed when my Dad was diagnosed with colon cancer. I was about 6 years old.
Suddenly, our notion of "normal" included endless doctor visits and new treatments. The way my dad looked changed drastically as he lost more and more weight off of his 6-foot, already slender frame.
Then one day, five years after our family's journey with cancer began, we had to move our couch out of the way in the living room to make room for a hospital bed. My dad was very sick. Despite my young age, I knew it.
I was sitting on that very hospital bed at 5:00 a.m. on May 3rd, 1991. My dad was in the real hospital, and I woke up for unexplainable reasons and came out to the living room.
The phone rang.
My grandfather who was staying with us answered it, and I heard him pause and then say, "He's gone."
I was 11 when I met mortality face-to-face for the first time.
The year after my dad died brought an understandable whirl-wind of adjustment and emotions. But, people are remarkably resilient, and each small adjustment we made brought us closer and closer to our new "normal" without my dad.
The year after my dad died also brought a whole host of weird symptoms for me. My body went numb, my smile grew increasingly lop-sided, extreme temperatures were physically painful.
The doctors we saw nodded sympathetically and diagnosed me with "grieving adolescent, with a side of hysterical girl."
A few years passed, and the symptoms got worse - much more numbness and difficulty walking.
Then I fell down the stairs at school. Books in hand, eyes pointed at the ground because I was so shy, rushing to get to my locker, hobbling along as best as I could, and I just tripped. I couldn't move my leg the way I needed to move it, and I fell down the stairs.
My mom took me to the ER that day. We got in to see a doctor, and he began his physical exam. And, in a moment that I will never forget for my entire life, the doctor asked me to lift my toes up off the ground.
I couldn't do it.
The reality of what was happening hit me for the first time. This was actual paralysis!
That very first ER visit kicked off a year of intense tests and exams. MRI's of my brain that revealed large lesions, inconclusive spinal taps, EEG's showing anomalies in the way my brain was functioning, and more negative and inconclusive blood tests than you can imagine.
Finally, my neurologist sat me down and said, "We don't conclusively know what you have, but I think it's multiple sclerosis. The only way we're going to know is if we treat you and the treatment works."
The "treatment" he spoke of was a weekly injection of interferon deep into my muscle, that I would have to give myself, and that would make me wildly sick for a few days. And I'd have to do it forever, as there were no other options at the time.
Oh, and the treatment was almost $3,000 per month. Not an easy thing to afford for a single-parent family.
We went home to think about what to do next, but then my illness made its next move. I went blind. We decided to take the medication.
And an absolute miracle happened - the medication worked.
Years went by, and I remained remarkably healthy. Then one day when I was in graduate school, a thought occurred to me, out of the blue.
I'm wasting so much time. There is so much that I want to do, try, and experience, and I'm not doing it.
The experiences with my dad's death and my own illness brought me face-to-face with the absolute, indisputable facts that:
- Our life is finite. We are all going to die someday.
- Our health is not guaranteed to us. It can be taken away in an instant.
Then, I asked myself the question that changed my life forever:
What would my dad give for the days I'm wasting right now? What would I, as a sick, paralyzed person have given for the days I'm wasting right now?
A Life Experience Junkie is Born
In that moment, I became a life-experience junkie! I decided that I wanted to experience everything!
Fuck fear! I was going to do it anyway!
And for the first time, I started paying real attention to that little voice in my head who whispers to me that she wants to try something new. I started feeding my motivation to go out and explore. And, I firmly decided that the potential for failure was no where near as scary as the potential for regret someday, if I didn't do the things I really wanted to do.
Life is short. It is finite. It is NOT GUARANTEED. We need to live like our lives depend on it...because they DO!
Live Your Life
So, in closing, I'll ask you to ponder the same 2 FACTS that I came to terms with.
- Your life is finite. YOU are going to die someday.
- Your health is not guaranteed. It can be taken away in an instant.
Go live your life. REALLY live it.
Feed that inner voice of yours.
Be intentional about how you choose to spend your time and who you choose to spend it with.
Your life is precious. You're only getting one. Take advantage of it.
Ready to take the First Step?
I'm so passionate about helping people intentionally live their most fulfilling, regret-free lives, that I've put together a FREE resource for you.
My Life [by design] Life Experience Blueprint will help you take the first steps toward designing your life around the things that matter to YOU.
I designed it using theory from the fields of Psychology and Design Thinking, and it will absolutely help you gain clarity on the areas of your life that could use the most work.
It's time to take the first step toward intentionally creating your best life!
Here is a small selection of the life experiences I chose for myself. I hope they inspire you to think about what YOU want to try next!