Breathe In. Breathe Out. It’s a Gift. And It’s Called Life.

Admission #1: As of precisely 1:32 P.M. this afternoon, I committed the very same trite, mainstream, and unoriginal act that just about every other 20-something female in the English-speaking world (and beyond) has been guilty of during these past several months.

I finished reading The Fault In Our Stars. 

And it was perfect.

Admission #2: I still haven’t seen the movie yet, and maybe I won’t, considering how masterful the book itself turned out to be. It’s rare that cinema can top literature, after all.

Admission #3: I didn’t cry while reading the book either, which is slightly disappointing. Especially since all I’d been hearing from this TFIOS  phenomenon’s onset is how Hazel and Augustus’ love story would reduce any mere mortal with a semi-functional soul into a waterfall of big, sloppy tears.

I, however, was dry-eyed. But I do have a semi-functional soul. So, there must be something else wrong with me. TBD.

Admission #4: My rather unfortunate tearlessness is in no way a negative reflection on the novel’s pure and astonishing genius.

Like I said, it was perfect.

Admission #5: TFIOS was a sobering read. That rare slice of humble pie, which stares you down silently, unblinkingly, disconcertingly nose-to-nose until you just can’t handle the guilt anymore. Until you’re forced to show some gratitude for your own health, wellbeing, and relative normalcy. 

Because that’s the thing about Life. It could always be worse.

Someone’s reality is shittier than mine. Truth. Undeniable truth.

And so, the only option left is to be grateful my body doesn’t suffer in the same way a chronically ill body would. Grateful that I’ve never reached a 10 on the infamous “pain scale” Hazel frequently references. Grateful that my physical capabilities run the gamut from back flips off a diving board to the “cha-cha slide” at wedding receptions. Grateful that I’m not acutely (and constantly) aware of my own fragility…abnormality…

Mortality. 

Admission #6: I’m rarely grateful for any of those blessings. I have every reason to be. But I’m not.

Instead of legs that have never been replaced by titanium steel (like what Augustus endured), I see flabby thighs that must be punished into lean, sinewy submission. Instead of a chest that inhales and exhales without needing oxygen tubes, I see boobs that just barely fit into the string bikini I bought last weekend. Instead of intestines that digest my meals with painless efficiency, I see a bloated belly that didn’t give 100% during today’s ab work-out.

Failure. All I see is FAILURE.

What would Hazel see though? Physical strength and stamina, like she may never experience. But enveloped in an attitude, undeserving of said strength and stamina.

Admission #7: If Hazel was a real person and that’s indeed what she saw…well, she’d be right.

Here’s the fundamental difference between me and someone, who’s chronically ill: s(he) never chose to get sick.

Whereas I did.

Not consciously, of course. I do believe that my particular disease is complicated and psychological and hard as hell to control. But it’s also curable and avoidable. Throughout my entire ordeal, I retained the freedom to make a full recovery. Whenever I was ready, health awaited.

That’s not the case for Hazel. Or Augustus. Or the countless actual cancer sufferers, survivors, and warriors.

REAL names.

REAL faces.

REAL stories.

REAL heartbreak…

And REAL capital-C courage.

They can’t simply flip the “recovered” switch. But, God, I wish they could.

So, this is the lesson I’ll take away from The Fault In Our Stars (an important read…perhaps the most important read I’ve stumbled upon in years): “Live your best life today.” And take no breath for granted.

the fault in our stars     (image courtesy of pinterest.com)

What I’m Reading and How It’s Changed My Thinking

Recently, while meandering through the aisles at Barnes & Noble, I stumbled upon one of my favorite actress’s – Cameron Diaz – latest endeavor: The Body Book. Intrigued (and admittedly, a bit skeptical…she is in the business of flawlessness, after all), I snagged a copy off the shelf.

And I was hooked.

We’re talking instantly. I devoured that book in just a few days…and I do mean “devour!” Both my mind and body were STARVING to absorb the information leaping off each page. Never mind that Cameron graces the world’s most glamorous stages. Reading her words, you’d think she was just some unassuming girl-next-door. She was speaking to me. She was speaking to every woman’s innermost body-image struggles. Hell, she WAS every woman. She’d faced those struggles too. And she vanquished them. How could I not be inspired?!

Throughout my later years of adolescence, I harbored a shameful secret: anorexia nervosa. Then, upon entering young adulthood, I undertook an arduous yet fulfilling journey toward both physical and emotional recovery. And these days, I’ve become outspoken on the subject of eating disorders, freely sharing from personal experience in hopes that someone – anyone – might avoid falling prey to this illness because they heard my story.

However, the temptation to slip back into those destructive patterns is an ongoing occupational hazard. On a good day, I can easily tune out the nagging voices that tick off my failures, like a Justin Bieber song on repeat.

On a bad day, I can’t focus on anything else.

But this book altered my perspective on common misconceptions about the human body, which I’d blindly accepted as fact. For the first time, I finally learned the textbook definition of a “calorie.” This thing, which makes even the most self-assured women tremble, is actually not a villain. It’s a unit of energy that the body stores while at rest, then converts into fuel while in motion. Ahem…so, I DON’T need to fear the dreaded calorie?! Simple. Straightforward. Yet revolutionary. Mind blown.

As if that eyeopener wasn’t enough cause for celebration, Cameron went on to crush another fallacy I’d once sworn by: hunger is not a sign of weakness. Au contraire! Eating sustains life, which makes being hungry a biological trigger for our survival instincts. And furthermore, by responding to this urge, we’re fueling ourselves with energy rather than cellulite.

Why did we lose sight of these 6th-grade science basics? Why do they sound radical and groundbreaking, when they should have been our bread and butter all along?

Sometimes it takes an influential force (say…Cameron Diaz, perhaps?) to aim her star power toward setting the record straight. Once and for all. Because women – regardless of shape, size, or bra cup – have been conditioned to loathe every curve and contour, when they SHOULD be skakin’ what their mamas gave them.

Reclaim the right to love your body. And take my advice: crack open The Body Book.

Do it. Like yesterday.

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