We met at the corner of 8th Avenue and 40th Street in New York at a Dean & Deluca coffee shop. I recognized her immediately from her Facebook photo, a beautiful woman in her late 40s with long brown hair and a radiant smile. She looks like my cousins. She said I look like her sister. We had instant familiarity, even though we had only met a few weeks ago online.
Cyndi Freeman found me on the internet. Her story is similar to mine in that we both have sisters who battled breast cancer and have been told by doctors of our high risk of getting the disease in our lifetime. Cyndi lives in New York and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I just happened to be heading to New York the week after she contacted me, so I suggested we meet in person.
Cyndi and I are not just alike in our high risk of the disease, but more importantly in the path we have chosen with this knowledge. Despite being told by doctors that we should consider preventative surgeries and toxic medications, we both have decided to live our most healthy life with active surveillance. It is not an easy road when you make a decision contrary to what doctors tell you. And, unfortunately, there is not an active support group for our course of action, but rather for the recommended course. Thus, finding and supporting each other was a big deal for us.
(Note: This is not a blog about my high risk or course of action, so I won’t go into detail here about it. However, if you want to know more about my story and choices, you can read about it in my book or on my website).
Cyndi and I connected immediately and talked for the next hour with such comfort, as if we had known each other for years. Both of our lives changed from finding out about our high risk. Cyndi had been working as a comedian and actress. When she found out about her high risk, she decided to combine the two and become a burlesque dancer (her stage name is Cherry Pitz). Cyndi describes burlesque dancing as a combination between comedy and striptease; she says it is fun and artsy. She decided she wanted to celebrate her breasts. Cyndi says, “I want my boobs feeling so good about themselves that they don't want to get sick.”
When I returned home, I sent Cyndi a copy of my book since it was the tangible product of my journey and I knew she would especially relate to a few chapters that were personal to our story. Cyndi thanked me for the book and offered to make me some breast tassels in return—the tangible result of her journey!
I never even knew what a burlesque dancer was before I met Cyndi. I had to look it up on the Internet. And, I’ve certainly never thought about wearing tassels on my breasts. In the past, I would have thought “What?!” but instead, I replied , “Sure!” What other opportunity would I have to get tassels? I don’t plan to wear the tassels publicly, but why not say yes? Why not be open to and embrace all ways of life, even if it seems outside of my comfort zone or what I know.
For most of my life I have been a very private person. I don’t share a lot of what is going on in my head or heart with others. When I began writing the book, there was no mention of my story. As I got further along in the publishing process, I received feedback from early readers and agents that it was important to share my story to help people connect to me and what I was writing.
At first I felt very uncomfortable with it. I shared a little at first, became comfortable with that, and then shared more. With the publishing of the book, my story is out there. I’m out there. For someone who has been as private as I have for 40 years, it still seems surreal that I wrote a book, have a blog and website, and share myself the way I have.
What I have gotten in return from my sharing and opening is such an unexpected gift. I find myself connecting with people on a much deeper level than I ever have. I realize that as I open up to people, they open up more to me. And the connection goes so much further below the surface.
My word for this year in my 2-0-1-4 Plan is “Openness.” I chose that word because I want to continue on this journey of being open to everyone. Not judging anyone. Sharing my full, authentic, imperfect self with others and letting them share themselves with me.
Being friends with a burlesque dancer is not something that would have come my way if I had not opened myself up and shared my story. We never would have known we had common ground by the outward showing of our lives.
I’ve only just begun on this journey of connecting with people on a new level and I’m looking forward to what is to come.
Are you someone who puts your guard up or finds yourself judging others without knowing their story? If so, come walk with me on this path of opening your heart and mind and let’s see where it will take us.
Please share your questions and comments below.
Dina Colman, MA, MBA is an author, healthy living coach, and founder of Four Quadrant Living. Dina has a private practice helping clients live healthier and happier lives. Her Amazon Top 100 book, Four Quadrant Living: Making Healthy Living Your New Way of Life, guides readers to make healthy living a part of their daily lives, leading to greater health, vitality, and happiness. Contact Dina at
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The end of year is a great time to reflect on the year behind and look forward to the year ahead. A great way to do this is with The 2-0-1-4 Plan. Last year, I created The 2-0-1-3 Plan and it resonated with so many of you! It was fun to share our plans for the New Year, so it's time to do it again. Be sure to comment below with your plan. For those of you who did it last year, you can see your plans here at the bottom of the blog.
The 2-0-1-4 Plan is about starting off the New Year with intention, motivation, and accountability for health and happiness. It's okay if some of your items from last year are still on the list this year. I didn't quite master one of my "2" items from last year as you can see in the comments below, so I'm putting it on my Plan again this year.
Forward this on to your friends and family and let's see how many people we can get on board to join in. Here's how it works.
2 Come up with TWO actionable and doable healthy living ideas. Be specific. Make them very customized for you. Think about your weakness areas. How do you do in the areas of stress management, having fun, sleeping well, eating healthy, exercising, having nurturing relationships, and living in a nontoxic environment (this can be related to your emotional or physical environment)? Are you pretty good about working out, but don't take any time for stress management? If so, don't put exercise on your list, but rather, put something that will reduce your stress. Commit to work on the areas that receive less of your focus. You will see in the examples below that the ideas are both manageable and quantifiable. Try to be as specific as you can, and don't over-commit. You can always over-deliver.
Here are a few ideas:
- Meditate for five minutes three days a week first thing in the morning to start the day grounded.
- Spend less time with those people in your life who make you feel worse about yourself (you can be specific with names, if you want).
- Do not drink alcohol during the week, only on Friday and Saturday nights.
- Get 7,500 to 10,000 steps at least four days a week (wear a pedometer to track it).
- Go to bed by 11pm every night so that you get at least 7 hours of sleep.
- Make one fun plan a week that makes you happy.
0 Commit to doing the ZERO "do it now" item. What is the one thing that has been on your list to do for years that you know would benefit you in some way—career, health, relationships, personal—but you just have never done it? Commit to it to do it this year.
This one is really important! So many of you reported in that you did your "0" from last year. Way to go! Mine was to join Toastmasters which I have wanted to do for TWENTY YEARS! I finally did it this past August and it has been one of the best things I've done. Setting the intention of doing it at the beginning of the year and stating it publicly helped to finally make it happen! Trust yourself. You know your "0". Let's make it happen this year.
Here are a few ideas:
- Get out of a toxic relationship that has been bringing you down.
- Make a change in your job if you feel miserable every day. (Sometimes this may not be possible due to financial constraints, but oftentimes even if we believe this to be the case, we do have choices that we have not allowed ourselves to believe in. Now's the time to believe in them and explore them.)
- Go on the trip you've been talking about taking for years. If your spouse doesn't want to join you, go with a friend, by yourself, or an organized group.
- Hire a health coach and lose the weight for good.
- Find a workout regime you like so that you look forward to exercise rather than see it as a chore. For some ideas, read Movement by Gypsy.
- Join a support group (e.g. AA, Al-Anon, loss, cancer). If you need help, there are groups out there for you. Sharing your pain with others does help.
- Write your memoir.
- Take classes.
1 Choose ONE word for the year. Come up with one word that you want to represent you in 2014. Give it some thought because you want it to really encompass what you want for the year. When you have decided on your word, write it out in big letters and put it somewhere you will see it everyday. Put it on your bathroom mirror, by your computer, on your vision board, at work, in your wallet. Last year my word was "confidence". I still have my word staring at me on my vision board right next to my computer that I have seen for the past 365 days. (It was also pretty cool that my friend, Tracy, gave me a necklace for my birthday with my word on it, so I had it as an empowering reminder that I wore daily!). Now I've replaced last year's word with this year's word, "Openness".
Here are a few ideas: faith, love, forgiveness, dream, health, peace, strength, hope, play, truth, trust, imagine, and share.
4 Take FOUR minutes every day to ground yourself in the day. This one is a little different from last year. Last year it was to write 3 things you are grateful for every day. This year, I'm changing it because I've heard from so many of my clients about the importance of starting or ending your day with purpose. One of my clients said they feel that every day runs into the next, so we talked about creating a closing day ritual. Another one of my client starts every morning lighting a candle and setting an intention for the day. Whether you want to take the four minutes in the morning, afternoon, or evening, be sure to take them. Ground yourself in the day. You can do this by taking a few deep breaths allowing your mind to free itself from the mental chatter. Set an intention for the day (such as being mindful, grateful, open, strong, playful). Do a ritual if you choose (light a candle, share with your spouse one highlight from the day, write in your journal). I talk more about this in chapter 9, "Losing My Mind(fulness)," of my new book, Four Quadrant Living: Making Healthy Living Your New Way of Life.
2-0-1-4 Take some time this week and think about your 2-0-1-4 plan. Be sure to comment below and let us know. It is helpful to share it with others to make it more real and to help hold you accountable. I've shared my 2-0-1-4 plan in the comments below. If you want to share some of your plan, but not all of it, that's perfectly fine. This year, I chose not to share my "0". Share what you feel comfortable with and keep private what you want.
I look forward to hearing from you. Let's make 2014 a year filled with health, happiness, and ... (insert your word here!).
And, of course, if you need help with making any part of your 2-0-1-4 plan happen, 4QL can help you!
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My "1" word for 2014!