I have a friend who beat breast cancer over 5 years ago (she is, unfortunately, dealing with recurrence right now). The weekend before my first reconstructive surgery, she invited me to her home to chat, during which time she stated that she considered her breast cancer to have been a gift, one of the best things that ever happened to her — it had given her the opportunity to evaluate her life and make changes to be better and happier. (I’ve heard that sentiment from many people and I am waiting for the day I will feel this.)
But then she said the weirdest thing to me. She said that she thought of her cancer as a spiritual disease. Huh? We met in yoga, we are of the same kula. I’d been a dedicated yoga student for over three years; I could ROCK the chatturanga push-ups and had mastered several pretty sweet hand balances. I said “om” and “namaste”. All that shit felt great and spiritual. How in the hell could cancer also be “spiritual”? She elaborated, but it made no sense. That was five months ago. I’ve frequently rolled those words around in my brain since then, still wondering what she meant, figuring I must be a really crappy yogini if I couldn’t find something spiritual about this disease. This weekend, I finally grasped what she meant.
I have struggled with anxiety and anger on and off for the past several years, mostly triggered by issues related to my stepchildren, my husband’s ex-wife, and a certain female whom I have recently realized I need to cut completely out of my life. My stepkids and their mother have been the cause of an unimaginable, extraordinary amount of chaos, drama, and anxiety in my life and my marriage for the past 12 years. I’m not talking about the normal blended family challenges. I’m talking about the Jerry Springer kind of drama; the holy-shit-people-really-do-that-kind-of-fucked-up-shit kind of drama. The kind of drama that made me want to hide in a locked room with my own little girls to shield them from all the insanity and chaos. Things that caused my husband and I to fight a lot and drift apart (though we have mostly found our way back to each other.) The aforementioned “certain female” has also caused me considerable angst and contributed to further erosion of my marriage over the past three years. The anger waxes and wanes, and I think I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping it at bay for the most part. But the anger I have felt has, at times, owned me. Really, truly been the boss of me – dictating whether I will sleep or if I am going to be pleasant towards my husband and children; forcing me down very ugly paths full of ill tempers and hatred, eventually leading to shame and self-hatred. It has been toxic.
Anger has been taking over my head and my heart a lot lately. I’m not sleeping well, I lash out at my husband for grievances of 3, 5, 8 years ago, I have a general feeling of discontent and anxiety. I suppose I have reasons to be angry. I was diagnosed with cancer this year. My mom died of cancer this year. My stepkids did this, that and the other. This other certain female did what she did. Etcetera. I feel like I am vulnerable to becoming a slave to the negative emotion again.
I am forever trying to figure out why I got cancer. I read labels with fervor, I avoid chemicals, I am vegetarian, I eat natural, organic foods, blah blah blah. But it hit me this weekend that getting cancer had nothing to do with not eating, drinking, inhaling, or otherwise consuming cancer-causing chemicals. I was toxic enough already: I had allowed my body to be a vessel for all of this toxic emotion. Apparently, I wasn’t doing a very good job at following a spiritual, yogic path. And now I realize that and it’s time to find a new path. I am going to be the boss of my emotions; I am not going to allow toxic people into my life or my head; and I am going to stop blaming them and the past for causing the problems I am facing today.