I've had breast cancer three times. As a child, as a young adult, and as a married mother of two small children.
I had my first lumpectomy when I was 14. My right breast was removed when I was 17, and my left when I was 27. I've had two mastectomies, reconstructive surgeries and chemotherapy.
I've spent half my life either as a cancer patient or as a woman healing from cancer. I carry around the grief of having lost my natural breasts, and of never realizing how very important they were to me, to my definition of femininity and womanhood, and to my self-esteem.
For years, I've gone through therapy, healing sessions and yoga classes in an attempt to learn and grow from these experiences. And through that process have healed immense portions of my soul that have now allowed me to release my victimhood and live the life I have always dreamed of living.
I'm still human, though!
I have moments of sadness; several months ago, I drove by a billboard picturing a model with breasts that reminded me of my natural ones. I was simultaneously jealous and grief stricken, and burst out crying in the car.
I also have moments of joy; I realize I have a second chance at life, that my surgeons did an amazing job, and that when I'm old and gray I'll still have perky boobs!
All of which is why I, as much as anyone, felt compelled to talk about Angelina Jolie's much-discussed decision to undergo a preventative double mastectomy. Look, I understand the influence celebrities have. I also understand our culture's fascination with them. But let's take a step back from the bickering and opinion expressing, and think for a minute. What can we learn from this?
As I thought about Angelina Jolie, and how strongly I felt she was being ungrateful and reckless, I realized something. I had been ungrateful for my own breasts when I was younger; I never fully appreciated them. I had also been reckless with my body (that's another post!) when I was younger. Angelina Jolie provided me with a beautiful mirror. She reflected back to me my triggers, and my vulnerability. And that's all she did.
Take a deep breath, and ask yourself, "What about Angelina Jolie’s decision triggers me?" And then, "What is that trigger revealing to me about myself?"
Angelina Jolie's decisions about her body are actually irrelevant to our individual healing journeys. Our reactions to them - and anyone else's decisions - are great sign posts pointing us in the direction of our personal evolution, however. We can label Angelina with adjectives like: brave, reckless, pioneering, etc. But in reality, we are labeling ourselves. We are actually verbalizing our thoughts and feelings about ourselves. What word or words have you used to describe Angelina Jolie?
I used the words "ungrateful" and "reckless."
When I realized this, I placed my hands on my chest and felt a deep appreciation for the breasts I have now, and for what they've taught me during my healing journey. I also felt contentment because I'm no longer reckless with my body. I treat it with loving respect and gentle care. I gave myself the healing response I needed. And as Joy Adler, my healer, says, "It is never too late to give yourself the healing you've always longed for".
What happened next was that my opinions of Angelina Jolie faded away. I no longer saw her from a place of pain, but from a healed place. And what I saw was a beautiful woman and mother whose journey is similar to mine. I felt compassion for her. I felt camaraderie.
So, the next time you're triggered by someone’s decision — especially about her body — stop and consider that your reaction may be pointing to something deep within you. Consider what your feelings are revealing to you. And think about what type of healing response you need to bring yourself back into harmony.
I guarantee that if you do these things with honesty and integrity, your opinions of other people will shift dramatically and in a very positive way.
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