LETTER FROM A FRIEND : APR 2023
♡ Hi Friends ♡
I haven’t written since February, and it feels like since then we’ve all been through a lot – swimming (or flailing) in a collective sea of late-winter waters (aka confusion, or "all the feels at once"), finally reaching a shore and climbing the mountain ahead (even if we’re not 100% sure what’s up there), and now as May approaches, arriving at a pretty spot to rest and survey the view. When I say a lot has happened, a LOT has happened. We've swum, we've climbed, we've merged and emerged, we've refined and redefined our identities with each step we took, whether we realize it or not. Being human is a lot of work. But there are rewards along the way, and I'm noticing the bounty on the other side of our collective journeys just beginning to appear, not unlike the first dandelion heads of spring pushing optimistically through the rocky path.
Everywhere I look, creatives in my community are finally sharing the first tender fruits of their labor and time: Albums are being released, performances are being ushered into production, seasonal businesses are opening up, stories are transforming from idea to draft to fully-realized narratives sent to pub. Like peepers finally crawling out of the mud and rejoining the ancient and mesmerizing chorus of the forest night, the world is brimming with creation once again and spring reminds us of this miracle every year. It is a special moment, and I hope many of you are harnessing this energy to push your dream babies into the world, in whatever form they may take.
While spring is a time of renewal and newness in general, it is not without endings. In order to become the next iteration of ourselves in the next era of our lives, we must also leave some things behind. Perhaps this accounts for the particular mix of excitement and nostalgia that spring often evokes. The smell of earth thawing or the choral rush of swollen river rapids have the power to awaken our animal selves. It is in these threshold moments when the natural world around us shifts that we not only know but feel the changes afoot. And this particular feeling seems to show us that what is thrilling and what is terrifying are in fact not so different.
Survival might just be our ability to hold one in each hand, and trust the process.
In the spirit of transformation and all that is both thrilling and terrifying, today also marks my very last day of radiation for breast cancer. It is truly a threshold moment: A marked ending of 10 months of “active” cancer treatment, and the beginning of what – in the cancer community – is called survivorship. I feel like a peeper myself, crawling out of the cold mud to realize that I’ve made it through another winter. There is so much to be grateful for. I want to sing and proclaim my joy at this. I am thrilled to be here, and so grateful. I’m excited for what’s to come.
I am also terrified. As most of us know, it's so much more difficult to manage fear or pain that is invisible, especially to the world around us. Most people who haven't gone through this experience assume that once treatment is over, you're all good. Normal life can resume. In truth, there is no way to come out of an experience like this and not be changed. My body has been carved like a Thanksgiving turkey, and my scars remind me of the cancer each and every day. My hair is growing back curly and darker than before, and for the rest of my life I will be scanned and tested to watch out for the ever-looming threat of recurrence. There is no forgetting, and there is really no end in sight. How then can one take the gift of “survivorship” and experience it as thrilling when you’re up against the fear of the nightmare’s return? There is no true moving on, but rather a living with. And while the rest of the world seems to chug along around you, it can be hard to stay curious and compassionate about this process.
We are not meant to go it alone.
No one knows this better than Tara Elmore, whom I was lucky enough to connect with this month as I crest into the uncharted phase of renewal and what now? Tara is a fellow breast cancer survivor, a NYC-based creative director and producer, the co-founder of Complex Creatures, a company devoted to breast health for all, and now the leader of The Recreation, an 8-week coaching program for breast cancer survivors that bridges the gap between treatment and survivorship. Whew! What a human. She is warm, funny, and so tapped-in to what matters most about surviving not only cancer, but the fragmented state of modern life.
In the interview below, which really feels more like a chat between old friends, Tara tells us about her journey with breast cancer, including the realizations and hurdles it presented, as well as why she decided to start Complex Creatures and now her own coaching and wellness program. Sometimes when you go looking for the thing you seek and it's nowhere to be found, you have to start it yourself.
If you're a cancer survivor, someone who has breasts, or you know someone who has breasts or cancer, you won't want to miss this conversation. So sit back and watch or listen while you contemplate the landscape of your own life, from your own metaphoric mountaintop. Take a moment to appreciate all the work you’ve put in. All the struggle. Take a moment to rest. To breathe. And take in what Tara has to say: You’ve made it through some incredible struggles. You are still here. You are in it. And now as you survey the view, it’s time to listen to your innermost voice, the voice that never lies but rather always tells the truth of who you are and what you need most to take “the next best step.” ♡
As always, friends, you’ll also find some playlists below. I’ve included one for March and all its watery, murky feels, as well as one for April, which I have to admit is filled with bangers that Millennials will probably enjoy. I know it pumped me up on my way to radiation everyday this month, and if that’s not something to celebrate, I don’t know what is.
+ swimming in the watery murky sea + all the feels all at once,
nothing more, nothing less +
+ no overthinking, just feel the spark + you're alive and
flaming in the dark ♡♡♡
If you're interested in learning more about The Recreation, Tara's 8-week coaching cohort that helps breast cancer survivors through the transition from treatment to survivorship, click the link below. She offers one scholarship spot and is urging those who cannot afford the program to reach out. Send to your friends who are in treatment. DM her if you want to talk. She's so warm and lovely, and I can't speak more highly about the work she's doing and how invaluable it is to survivors.
Here’s to heeding the call within and taking time to survey the view from where you’re at now… trusting that you always know, deep down, where to take your next best step ♡