Two short stories
There’s a Rumi quote — what you seek is seeking you — that is so reassuring. To me, it means what you want is yours, what you need, you’ll have, what is best, will be. And what you need to learn, is yours to know.
Part 1 — We had Cancer
Last year, we took a dream trip, a trans-Pacific cruise. We started in Seattle and cruised to Sydney via Hawaii, Fiji, Vanuatu, and a handful of other beautiful tropical islands. It was memorable for so many reasons.
It was a celebration of 10 years of marriage, and a milestone in our children’s lives. It was their first international trip to mark all three starting school for the first time. And, it was a journey of delineation, from my old life to my new, from executive to entrepreneur.
It was also a milestone for my husband’s 10-year cancer remission. For those of you who have experienced cancer, you know how terrifying a diagnosis can be, how devastating a prognosis is, and how traumatizing the treatment. You also know what a big deal survival is, and that the intervals matter.
If you can survive one month without a recurrence, then one year, then five years, then ten years, at each stage, the odds of it coming back decrease. You don’t exactly exhale, but you do move farther away from the nightmare.
To celebrate, we planned a chef’s dinner, timed to correspond with the 10th anniversary of my husband’s last chemotherapy treatment, while we crossed the equator. It was symbolic. It was our first time crossing the equator, and we imagined ourselves leaping into our future. The ship’s concierge paired us with four other couples that night.
One of the couples, Susan and Martin Fisher, are the founders of 9Energies, a non-profit dedicated to researching, teaching, and identifying natural energies. We enjoyed dinner, shared great conversation, delicious food, and too much alcohol.
We scheduled time later on the cruise for the Fishers to observe and lead us through a series of activities that would categorize us into one of the nine energies.
During our first meeting, as we were discussing my healing nature, and my husband’s cancer experience, Martin interrupted to say, “not his cancer, your cancer.” I thought he misunderstood. I didn’t have cancer, my husband did. No, he replied. You both did.
We didn’t both…Wait, oh, I get it. We did. Wait, did we?
My husband shared his diagnosis, over the phone, less than a month after our honeymoon. I was in New York on business, listening to Susie Essman, of Curb Your Enthusiasm, deliver a private stand-up routine when he called. Everything changed in that moment.
Through it all, the days, weeks, and months afterward, I was utterly devoted to him. I kept thinking, if this was my last day on earth, what would I want today?
It wasn’t something elaborate or a fantasy, it was what we already had. I would want my newlywed husband to look at me like he loved me the same, even though the treatment was ravaging my body. I would want my newlywed husband to continue to plan our future with 100% certainty, despite 50/50 odds. I would want life to feel somewhat normal, despite everything.
And I would want a puppy.
I’m embarrassed to admit now that it was my wish-list that he got. I didn’t actually ask him what he wanted because I knew I couldn’t stomach that conversation. Someday, I’ll ask if what I did was right, if it was enough.
Now, I’m a big believer in manifestation, of co-creating reality, of synchronicity, and of something bigger than we know. So, I’ve always looked at that time as confirmation that I was meant to save him. We were meant to find each other, fall in love, and survive, together — it was meant to be. It never occurred to me, until that moment, that the cancer was mine too.
I don’t know why anyone gets cancer. I mean, I understand the hereditary factors, carcinogens, and lifestyle risks. I also know that some things that happen in life reflect your vibration. Some people believe cancer is a manifestation of resistance to something, or some part of yourself. Do I think that? Do I believe that my husband and I could have prevented or cultivated his/our cancer?
I don’t know.
For now, I’m paying attention to the notion that the cancer was both of ours, seeing where that insight leads.
The realization has started seeping into everything. It’s galvanized my gratitude, amplified my empathy toward my clients, and transformed my parenting philosophy.
I see reasons to give thanks everywhere, and appreciate everything. I recognize my clients’ potential immediately and see their gifts more urgently. My children’s challenges aren’t mine to solve or theirs to endure, they are ours to discover, and our journey is by design.
I am planning to follow up with 9Energies too.
You might think it would be important, discovering this answer right away, and it is. And it isn’t. So much of life as a wife, mom, and business owner is urgent. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Right now, I’m doing my thing, being open, honoring where I am. Everything has divine timing, right? For now, I hold the question.
Part 2— My Ego Made Me Do It
I was listening to an Amy Porterfield podcast. Do you know her? She’s prolific. I’m attending her entrepreneur event in San Diego in October, and my goal is to listen to all 250-something episodes before the trip.
I listen on dog walks, on car rides, and while gardening. Even my kids recognize her voice. Mooooooooooom, no more Amy Porterfield today, ok?
Her story is inspiring, and her advice often directly influences my business strategy. She’s expanded what I thought was possible, especially as it relates to impact and profit goals. Yet, what I love best are the life lessons she’s tucked inside.
Even though she’s focused on digital marketing, there’s a little something extra. You can take her expertise at face value or apply the marketing lesson and address the inner work that it takes to play on her level. And I want to play on her level.
I also identify with Amy’s corporate background. We both had dream jobs, learned valuable skills, discovered what we were and weren’t good at, and what we didn’t want. So, we aren’t exactly starting from scratch, and that makes her relatable, even though she’s a decade ahead in her business.
I don’t listen to her episodes in order, but instead, choose a lucky number, or read the titles until one jumps out. Unfortunately, that means I’m not sure which one I was listening to when I heard her say this: “I stayed at Tony Robbins too long, because of my ego.”
Thank God, I didn’t…Wait…Did I do that too?
My neck hairs stood up, and the phrase kept looping in my head.
It was a comfortable job, with a six-figure-salary, and generous benefits. Those are understandable reasons to stay, right? The trouble was that when it wasn’t challenging me anymore, I stayed. That when there wasn’t a clear trajectory for me anymore, I stayed. That when it wasn’t a good fit anymore, I stayed.
At one point, I blamed the organization for holding me back, but now I realize I was holding myself back. It was my ego choosing comfort over progress, buying into the myth that I was too young and inexperienced, and blaming my clients for being too bureaucratic.
I share this, not to air my dirty laundry, but to provide a real-life example of how insidious the ego is.
It won’t feel like you are choosing the safe or easy route until you’ve already rationalized the decision.
You’ve got to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Choosing the hard thing isn’t just about pushing yourself; it’s staying the course to your highest purpose. It’s finding what you’re meant for, instead of settling. And settling doesn’t necessarily mean a sub-par choice — sometimes it’s an amazing choice — just not the right one for you. So decide, maximize the opportunity, but know when to move on.
I was at HBO from The Sopranos through Game of Thrones. Hello, I thought I was part of the cultural zeitgeist. And my ego felt entitled to it. It was easy to pretend like I was a part of the sexy stuff, but I wasn’t. It was easy to pretend like I was essential, but I wasn’t.
My ego said, but this is a good job, these are good people, it’s easy, you have the flexibility to pursue a life outside of work, it’s a trusted brand, it’s well-regarded, it’s opening other doors, it’s respect. My ego loved the prominence — the travel perks, the gold airline status and hotel loyalty rewards, the number of direct reports under me on the org chart, the steady income, and the programming — it was seductive.
Justifying our path is so easy to do, because it’s in our self-interest, and there is value there. I was learning, I was growing, I was building my toolbox and my network. But also, I was learning bad behaviors, I was growing lazy, I was building specialized skills for a job that wasn’t part of my future, and my network was as complacent as me.
It’s easy to think of ego as offense: starting shit with other people, demanding look at me, needing something, or making everything a big deal. But ego is also defense: can’t do that, won’t work out, too risky, too visible, too vulnerable, what will people think?
Oh, and one more thing about ego? Perfectionism? It’s ego too, and it also holds us back.
Part 3 — Homework
I like to talk, write, learn, and coach about mindset. Mindset is the difference maker between the life we lead and everything we’ve ever wanted and more. It’s hard to explain how to change your mindset though. I hoped these stories helped.
And, in typical coaching fashion, I’m ending this post with homework.
First, check your ego. If you are feeling inferior or superior to others, that’s ego. Accept your wholeness, not in relation to your ideal self, or relative to others, but just you, imperfect, amazing you. In this moment. Feel the lightness, expanse, and freedom of that.
Second, be open to ideas that can shift your perspective, potentially even opening up the world in a way you never even knew existed. What you’ve seen, done, experienced and imagined to date is nothing compared to what’s possible.
So when you hear something that you know is going to be important in your life, that resonates for you in ways you may or may not understand, capture the statement or question in your notes app, and hold onto it. Trust that the why will reveal itself later.
Finally, don’t try so hard. There’s an easier route, and the universe is always showing you the way. Trust it. Trust this: What you seek is seeking you.