Bravery

Episode 5: This is Not About Cancer

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How do you fight cancer? With vengeance? Tears? Love? Determination? Prayers? Blame?

My aunt chooses to fight it with fire.

What you’ll hear today is a conversation that takes place just a few hours after receiving her 6th chemotherapy treatment for her third breast cancer diagnosis. I wasn’t even sure if she’d be up for doing it. But after we got home from the treatment center, she went into her room and came back out, freshly dressed, make-up on, and a bright, colorful hair turban in place and said: “Let’s do it.”

My aunt is the epitome of what it means to be brave and proves that just because you’re going through cancer, does not mean it gets to define who you are.

After we finished recording, she looked at me with eyes blazing. She pointed at our audio file and said: “This is not about cancer. This is about hope.”

I smiled. Because she was right.

Listen in at ShapingSapiens.comSoundcloud, and iTunes. And shortly on YouTube. xo

Episode 4: Mountain Lion Time

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I first met Hope Ruiz two years ago at a writing retreat in the Texas Hill Country. We bonded over our shaved heads and her tale of an encounter with a mountain lion in Colorado. But, that, of course, was just the beginning — the tip of her extraordinary life story. From a life as a young monk to a landscape artist to a love story on the Mexican/American border and the inevitable battle with U.S. Immigration, Hope proves that no matter the plan (A, B, C, D, or E), the next big leap may turn into the greatest, most rewarding adventure of all.

Listen in at ShapingSapiens.com and Soundcloud.

And iTunes and YouTube, shortly. xo

Photo Credit: Jöshua Barnett

In Spite of Fear

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As many of you know, I gave a talk this past weekend in NYC about my travels this year. (It was dubbed a “smasheroo” – something I am so honored by and so grateful to everyone that attended and all of you who wished me luck beforehand.) I spoke about my roadtrip in South America, my roadtrip across the U.S., and my recent travels in Northwestern Europe. I spoke about bravery, about risk-taking, about dreams, goals, and about the courage it takes to carry on despite setbacks and the fears that threaten to paralyze us from moving forward.

I spoke Saturday night, barely 24 hours after the Paris attacks, and underneath my spoken words ran a deep tremble in my bones. How could I be standing in front of a crowd talking about my incredible, wonderful year of adventures when such a terrible tragedy had just taken place? Even though I dedicated my presentation to Paris and Beirut at the top of the hour, my spirit was not relieved.

I WAS JUST THERE, I thought. I was just THERE walking those SAME streets… Walking into those same cafes…

That could have been me.

Then, my mind reviewed all the other “could haves” that could have happened this year…

Missing my train from Germany back to Brussels, because of radical right-wingers protesting the influx of Syrian refugees.

Driving through Roseburg, Oregon, a month before the shootings at Umpqua Community College took place.

Leaving the Oakland apartment I was staying in two days before a drive-by took place.

Being at Harbin Hot Springs in California three weeks before it was completely devoured by a wildfire.

Surviving Pike’s Peak in Colorado after a near-death experience of terrifying altitude sickness.

Escaping an Argentinean policeman with rape in his eyes when he saw my friend and I with our hand-painted van trying to park next to a supermarket for the night.

Escaping another man who propositioned me at a gas station in Rock Springs, Wyoming, after seeing I was traveling alone.

Then, I had to stop, because the list could keep going. I HAD to stop, because when I looked at this list… I realized with great clarity: not once did I not keep going. I had to get on that next train. I had to get down from that mountain. I had to leave that gas station. I had to come to New York to do that presentation.

There was no other way.

A friend of mine once shared a passage Charlotte Delbo, an Auschwitz survivor, wrote. It went something along the lines of: “I implore you do something, anything to justify your existence. Learn a dance step, pick up a paint brush, anything at all…because it would be all too senseless for so many to have died while you live doing nothing with your life.”

So, go to Disney World! Drive to that audition! Write that message to that old high school lover you just found on Facebook! Have that baby! Go to the gym! Eat that cheesecake! Submit that book! Post that video! Talk to that cute guy at the coffee house! Buy that expensive couch! Give to that charity! Adopt that elephant! Say “I love you!” Climb that Great Wall! Call that person you haven’t spoken to in years!

STEP OUT OF YOUR FRONT DOOR.

Because fear and darkness lose every time you carry on.

It does not mean that we forget. It does not mean that we ignore. It simply means: honor life by living your own.

Brilliantly.
Beautifully.
Unequivocally.
With kindness for all.

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