What To Do With A Spinning Compass

“The insurance company approved the right breast, but hasn’t approved the left yet,” the surgical planner announced to my husband and me as we sat in the waiting room.

Walking into The Miami Cancer Institute that morning, this was the last thing I had expected. A couple of months of uncertainty had lead me to this point. An excisional biopsy. And an answer.


“I’m so sorry,” she said, her mask muffling the words.

“They know I have two, right?” I asked. The young woman looked stricken. This whole thing had turned seriously unfunny.

She offered another surgery date over a month away. There would be no pathology report for ten days after that. More waiting, more uncertainty.

Something about this continued upheaval rang familiar.

When I was a kid, right after my parents divorced, we became nomads. Mom left and my dad uprooted what was left of our family. We moved from our home in Albuquerque across the country and kept right on moving. No sure footing for years. Over and over, I’d ask if this time we’d be staying, desperate to regain a sense of belonging somewhere—like I had in New Mexico. Actually, I didn’t know I had that until it was gone.

The constant uncertainty left me feeling unmoored, not just from my home, but from everything.

My internal compass had started spinning once again.

As I sat there, listening to Mark curse the no good thieves at our insurance company, it dawned on me. Yes it sucks to wait more, it really does suck. But. This was found time. I had planned for my recuperation. Post surgical orders had me wrapped in tight bandages for ten days, no exercise or even a shower. No swimming in the ocean for thirty days after that. This further delay handed me back all that time.

But what to do? I could hardly feel the vinyl bench beneath me, let alone figure out what I needed.



We drove home. I snipped off my hospital band and went about my work.

It took a couple of days to sink in. Running my favorite route under the trees helped put me back in my body. It became clear that I needed to go off somewhere and take care of myself. I had options but felt overwhelmed with the decision. Coaching is great for this so I reached out to my fellow coaches and swapped sessions.

A compassionate witness asking powerful questions without giving advice brought out the answers that were already inside me. I will share those great questions with you in case you have a big decision to make. At the end of this inquiry, I had a plan:

What do you really need? 

Peace. I had to get away on my own. But deciding where to go was a whole thing. We have a big family trip in two weeks. I have to treat my body with care, especially in the run up to this operation.

What will help you decide? 

Being sure everyone would be okay at home and all would be peaceful in the place I chose to go. I have three teens here on summer break, one of whom I have been stealthily hovering over since the pandemic started. Adult eyes would need to be on him.

What are the options?

A group of friends were headed to a big lake house at the foot of the Alps. On paper, that seemed like the easy answer. Plenty of room, spectacular nature, and I was invited. Travel would be a full day or more. And another option. All these tests had required me to cancelled plans to go to Sedona. A dear family friend had suggested it. She is like a sister but without all the actual family history and lingering complications. On my last trip to New Mexico we decided we would stay in better touch.

What would peace look like for you? 

Mountains, green chile, and my dear friend.

I called her yesterday to float the idea of my coming. In the span of five minutes, she had cancelled her holiday weekend plans to spend it with me. I found an idyllic, seventy-seven acre property in Santa Fe with lovely casitas and hiking trails. One miraculously became available. There would be mountains, green chile and my dear friend. I’d spend the rest of the week down in Albuquerque, popping in on other friends who are like family. One little room at the inn on a lavender field would be mine. At the end of the week, I have no idea what I am doing. It is a welcome uncertainty—one of my own making for a change. With those remaining days, I will do what suits me.

When your compass is spinning, nature, movement and powerful questions will help slow it down. 

“Security lies in adapting to constant change.”*

When you are finally pointed in the direction that is right for you, you get the sense that it’s all going to be okay.



POWERFUL QUESTIONS: What do you need to bring peace? What helps you decide what that looks like?

*Martha Beck said this in Finding Your North Star: Claiming the Life You were Meant to Live. I highly recommend it. She is brilliant.

I’ve started a coaching practice. This work leads to uncovering what is holding you back and how to overcome those obstacles. With the right questions, you will figure out what you might tweak to direct yourself toward what you really want. If you are interested, I invite you to email me to schedule a Discovery Session at This work will change your life.

Do my weekly stories come to your inbox? If not, you are invited to sign up. Click on and subscribe today. And if you like, come find me on the socials: on Instagram and @heiseelizabeth1 on Twitter. Happy reading!


Notice What Is Hiding In Plain Sight

A story about a woman who didn’t know why she suffered panic attacks has stuck in my head. Out for a run, she collapsed to the ground, short of breath and full of terror. It had happened over and over.*

Her therapist asked if she’d ever experienced anything traumatic.

“No,” she said.

Sometime later, she blurted out, “Once a man broke in and robbed me at gunpoint.”

“Why didn’t you tell me about this before?” the therapist asked.

“I forgot,” she said.

“You didn’t forget,” The therapist said. She explained that the woman had never allowed herself to process the emotions of that night. Instead of feeling them, she had stored them in her body. Now every time she went out for a run, her racing heart and shortness of breath triggered the thought, you are not safe. Her body panicked. And it was getting worse.

The therapist invited her to tell the story and experience the feelings again and again in that supportive environment. Every time you let the memories come and you do not die, you send your brain the message that you are safe. That a very bad thing happened to you once upon a time, but that thing is not happening now. She recommended that the woman openly share her story until her body finally registered the truth: she is safe.

Why am I telling you someone else’s story? Because that story told me mine. And maybe this one will tell you yours.

To fully know ourselves, we must be aware of what we are holding on to, and where in our bodies we are holding it. We all process emotion differently—the important thing is to actually process it. I spent twenty years in therapy, but was never asked where in my body I had felt pain.

During my own runs, I have wondered how someone as healthy as I am finds herself with a high risk breast disease such as this “radial scar.” I have three of them in my chest and they will be removed this Tuesday. The need to know how this happens stopped me in my tracks the other day to google it one more time. Localized inflammatory reaction. Chronic ischemia. Slow infarction. Something terrible had been taking place in there and it had escaped my notice altogether.

And then a friend asked what emotions I have held in my chest. Sometimes we don’t see something right in front of our face because it has always been there. Luckily, I have actually written my entire story. I’d find the trail of breadcrumbs if there was one.

I did a word search of my completed manuscript and it came up over and over.

regret tightening my chest

longing pierced my chest

my chest burned with rage

a weight settled on my chest

an ache filled my chest

As a literary device, I had totally overused it. And, until now, I didn’t realize I’ve been utilizing one spot in my body for grievance storage. In all that time, only one thing has allowed me to stop doing this. A particular technique of inquiring into painful thoughts and asking where do you feel it in your body—describe the sensations. I have always said, I feel it in my chest. That too had escaped my notice.

The Work of Byron Katie seemed absurd to me when I first heard of it. I’ve referred to it so many times you might be getting tired of it, but hang in there. I promise it’s worth it. It’s all about questioning our painful thoughts that create our emotions. If it’s my own thought, why would I question it, you might wonder. I didn’t get it either.

It can be simply explained like this. Our circumstances, of which we usually have little control, create our thoughts, the thoughts cause our emotions, our emotions shape our behavior.

Just because a thought forms, that doesn’t make it true. Unless you have done some work on this, you might assume that because you are a rational person, your thoughts must be true. I did it my whole life until I opened my mind to the idea that there are alternative ways to look at our own thoughts. Byron Katie’s “thought work” has allowed me to let go of lots of the painful ones. I feel infinitely better and I’m grateful I found it when I did. Regret for not finding this method earlier wouldn’t make sense—I just wasn’t ready. You may not be either.

If you don’t believe questioning our thoughts is worthwhile, take a second to reflect on all the nutty ideas to which people become attached. Recent presidential elections bring this to mind. Crazy or not, they are all just thoughts, it’s not who you are. You can detach from them. With the right tools, you can even release them.

Why would you want to detach from your own thoughts? If they are painful, they are harming you. That thought may be rooted in an old belief about yourself that formed from difficult circumstances. Most of mine happened in childhood when kids tend to blame themselves for the bad things that happen. After those painful thoughts take root, we don’t really have a reason to go back and question them.

All the painful thoughts I carried came from circumstances beyond my control. I took these painful thoughts through this inquiry and have found, lo and behold, they aren’t true:

To be loved, I must constantly prove myself.

It’s not okay to speak my truth.

I can’t trust anyone.

You end the work by asking, who would you be without that thought? My answer is always I would feel free. What better feeling is there?

The Work may sound a little culty to those unfamiliar, but it’s valuable work you can do on your own or with a coach.

When you question your painful thoughts and let them go, you get the sense that it’s all going to be okay. And it will be, I am totally sure of it.



POWERFUL QUESTION: Where do you feel difficult emotions in your body? Have you told your story? Do you need to let go of any painful thoughts?

*It’s great writing:

** You can do the thought work of Byron Katie on your own at or with a coach. In coaching, we use additional subquestions, focusing especially on where you feel it in your body:

1. Is it true?

2. Can you absolutely know it’s true?

3. What happens to you when you believe the thought? Where do you feel it in your body?

4. Who would you be if you no longer had access to that thought? What does it feel like now?


Have you heard? I’ve started a coaching practice. This work leads to uncovering what is holding you back and how to overcome those obstacles. With the right questions, you will figure out what you might tweak to direct yourself toward what you really want. If you are interested, I invite you to send me an email to schedule a Discovery Session at

Do my weekly stories come to your inbox? If not, you are invited to sign up. Click on and subscribe today. And if you like, come find me on the socials: on Instagram and @heiseelizabeth1 on Twitter. Happy reading!



How Can One Degree Turns Change Your Life?



Here we go. Surgery confirmed for 6/28/22.


“Did you purposely draw the left boob smaller?” I asked Dr. Mendez. She laughed.


The light mood of our surgical planning meeting can be explained by one factor.* Excisional biopsy of these masses is the right thing to do. When her recommendation settled in, my body relaxed.


But that doesn’t mean I have no feelings about it. At times, I am nervous and scared.


I’ve never had surgery, nor have I been to the hospital but for attending to someone else. Childbirth took place in my home with no fluorescent lights, scalpels or meds from which to regain my whits. Not a doctor in sight—only my capable midwife.


And then there’s the wait for final results. Another holiday weekend will delay my post-op appointment until July 6th. In total, nineteen more days until I find out whether I am free to go or if this will be a whole other story. I do my best not to think about that.




In these eleven days before I lie in a gurney draped in medical grade blue, I’ll rely on nature and movement to deal with this nervous energy. Maybe I’ll discover the reason why I am here, despite the yoga and organic produce.


I think a lot about what Dr. Mendez said to me the first time I sat in her exam room.


“No matter what the outcome, this process changes you. You aren’t the same person on the other side.”


I have a theory about that. I believe difficult experiences bring out who we really are. It changes how we choose to live. When comedian Mark Maron decides whether to commit to something, he asks himself, “do I want to die doing this?” It’s a great question.


For a long time, I allowed the “shoulds” to rule and still do to some extent. I’ve taught my kids to do it too, both in modeling how I have lived and in nudging them to conform to what the world expects of them. If you do that often enough, you end up not knowing yourself. Then you are fully reliant on others to decide for you. And it is absolutely not good for your health.




That isn’t to say I think we should shirk all responsibility and just eat doughnuts. The true self wants to work hard, but prefers to do what it was meant for. 


Whether or not living out of alignment has the power to threaten your health is a whole other topic, but to sum up, when you live on your own terms, it definitely boosts your immune system. The opposite has also been true for me.


There was a period when I routinely gave away my time to organizations with little to no support for my efforts. I fought to the point of physical illness, so sure that sacrificing my health for the greater good was expected. Twice, I got really sick for months, despite multiple courses of antibiotics.


So, what’s the solution? Some people reach a point where they just set fire to everything. This can be traumatic, obviously. During the pandemic, however, we got an easy out. I took full advantage and changed so much about how I live and work. But every annoying thing in your life spontaneously canceling doesn’t come along all that often.


Martha Beck recommends “making one degree turns.” She uses the nautical metaphor of turning a boat one degree each day towards what brings you joy. Ultimately you’ve charted a completely different course than if you just kept going in the same dreary direction. Making small, steady changes creates a big impact.


I’ll leave you with a tool we sometimes use in coaching to gently introduce folks to making one degree turns. It’s called The Three B’s. Take a look at your daily schedule. For each action, ask yourself how completing the task feels in your body. You can even give it a number on a -10 to +10 scale. For example, this surgery is around a -6 for me. For the items that register lower on the scale, you ask yourself three questions: whether you can Bag it, Barter it, or Better It.


“Bag It” just means you choose not to do it now. You’ve decided the consequences of not doing the thing aren’t as bad as actually doing it. For my example, I can’t really do that.


“Barter It” means you trade the task with someone who likes to do that stuff or gets paid for it. No one can do this for me, so that’s a no for this one too.


“Better It” means improving the conditions while you do the work and/or rewarding yourself afterwards. I can’t take a shower for ten days after surgery. I’m going to get my hair blown out at the salon during that time. Dinner will be managed by takeout and others in my family. And I’m going to read and write and coach to my heart’s content.


When you make small changes toward improving your life, you end up in an entirely new place. Creating the habit of asking yourself what brings you joy puts you in better touch with what you really want in the time you are here on earth. It doesn’t just give you the sense that it’s going to be okay. You feel genuine excitement that it’s going to be fan-freaking-tastic.







POWERFUL QUESTION:** Take a look at your daily schedule. What brings you joy? How could you turn more towards that?



*Okay maybe two factors. There’s an 80% chance this final biopsy comes back totally benign. Those lower stakes have surely taken the stress down a notch.



**With the right questions, you can uncover what is holding you back and how to overcome those obstacles. If you are interested in doing more of this work with a trained coach, I invite you to send me an email for a Discovery Session at


Do my weekly stories come to your inbox? If not, you are invited to sign up. Click on and subscribe today. And if you like, come find me on the socials: on Instagram and @heiseelizabeth1 on Twitter. Happy reading!


Asking For What You Need: A Beginner’s Guide


If you don’t rely on anyone, they can’t let you down. That philosophy served me well for decades.

But now that my own setback has extended into months, I’ve taken a stab at learning how to ask for what I need. If I don’t figure it out, the coming weeks will be too annoying/lonely to bear.

To be honest, I detest asking for anything. When it comes to personal pain, I prefer to work alone. So. I started from square one and workshopped the concept. Six weeks in, here’s my step by step.


    1.    Avoid it. Assume that if people didn’t spontaneously do the thing you need, there is no hope they ever will and hence, no point in asking. Believe in your bones they wouldn’t get it right in any event. Harbor resentment against the very people who haven’t met the needs you’ve chosen to keep secret. If you ever do ask, choose folks you know are wholly incapable of showing up, thereby reinforcing your original theory.

For years, I chose unavailable partners and friends who were takers. People guaranteed to ditch me when I needed them. This habit solidified the belief that people suck so who needs them? Banging my head against the wall in this way eventually got old so I have stopped doing it. (Mostly.)


    2.    When no one reads your mind about what you need from them, tell them off.

Making dinner while on the phone with a friend, I lamented how mainstream medicine treats women.* “I am still in the diagnostic phase, yet I will be cut open. How is that possible in 2022? If men had breasts, it would be better, guaranteed.”

“It’s not going to help you to rail against the medical system,” my husband chimed in from across the room.

“Who asked you, oh my God. I’m pissed. It’s called being human. Try it sometime,” I fumed. When I got off the phone, I told him he had no right to tell me how to f-ing feel.

3.    Realize that before asking anyone for anything, you must first take care of yourself. Included in that is feeling your feelings. Begin to recognize when emotions arise. Allow them to flow. Notice that when they aren’t pushed away or stored up, they don’t detonate later on. Learn that sometimes when you don’t process your feelings, they come out as different emotions—fear can be expressed as anger, for example. If you don’t process your feelings, they may also be directed at others. (See #2 above)

Yesterday on my walk I wished so hard for a parent capable and willing to come take care of me during the scary times. The thought of going without one for this experience brought tears to my eyes. In the empty streets of the early morning, I sobbed my way down the road. The feeling passed. I felt lighter. Just this one insight alone is worth this entire thing.



4.    Practice asking for what you need in small ways. To prevent anticipated work interruptions from your family, maybe try a sign on your door.

My work feeds my soul and it has become even more important to me right now.

5.    At a time when you feel grounded and centered, try asking for what you need out loud. Assure the scared, sensitive kid inside you that it really is acceptable both to have needs AND to ask for them to be met. You will be just fine. If you are like me, the closer the person is to you, the more difficult the conversation.

While my husband laced up his running shoes, I took a breath and let it out.

“I have tried to ask for what I need and so far, it hasn’t gone that great. I’m going to keep trying and hope it comes out right on one of these attempts. So, here goes. I don’t need advice. I don’t want pity. I just need you to believe in me—that I can handle it. You don’t have to say anything. When I have moments of being scared, angry or whatever, just be there. If you feel the need to talk me out of the feeling I am having, please don’t. Your urge to shut me down is about your comfort, not mine. Okay?”

He smiled.


    5.    After you ask, surrender the outcome. If people don’t give you what you have specifically asked for, it’s just information. When you have been super clear and they cannot deliver, it’s not about you. It may be that they are having their own moment. Perhaps they are not your people. Either way, it’s okay. Tell that uneasy part of you who will take this personally to keep going, keep taking up space as yourself. The world needs you.

For me, this one is tricky. If I have worked myself up to ask only to get shot down, it’s mildly soul crushing. I’m just not used to it yet. It happened recently with a friend and I am still trying to let it go. So much work left to do, honestly.

6.    Bonus tip for anyone with a friend or loved one going through something: ask the person how you can best support them. Do not offer your own or someone else’s war stories or condolences. No one wants to hear I’m sorry your life is f-ing terrible. That’s what they want the least. They may be too focused on holding their sh!t together to stop you from putting your foot in your mouth so take it from me, ASK.

Here’s an example, “what can I do for you right now? Do you need to vent or can I help in some way?” Before you offer feedback, check in with them. A friend reached out yesterday to ask how I was doing and asked to share a similar experience. Before she told me, she checked in to see if it was okay. I told her that carrying my own unfolding story is challenge enough, I didn’t have room for hers just now. I felt guilty saying no. We’ve been conditioned to prioritize other people’s comfort over our own. I told her how much I appreciated that she asked first. After we said goodbye, I was so proud that I had taken care of myself. (yay)


It’s uncomfortable not to know what to offer someone in pain. We have all been in that position. But you know what asking is? That’s what love looks like. It’s deep respect for the other person. Anything else is about making YOU feel better. It has nothing to do with them.

When we learn to love ourselves and each other better, we feel more connected and truly seen. We get the sense that it’s all going to be okay. Take excellent care of yourself.



WRITING PROMPT: How are you at asking for what you need? Do you find it hard? Are you a lone wolf like me?

P.S. I’m all trained up on Martha Beck’s Wayfinder tools and I’ve started a personal coaching practice. I have an introductory package, maybe for you. If you have begun to do some work on yourself and are looking to level up, I invite you to schedule a Discovery Session. Email me at  For more information on these methods and to sign up for this newsletter, go to You can also come find me on the socials on Instagram and Twitter @heiseelizabeth1. Thanks for joining me!

*This is a real thing that I don’t want to gloss over. And, since once a lawyer always a lawyer, here is my evidentiary record:

“A 2019 analysis in Denmark, for example, found that in 72% of cases, women waited longer on average for a diagnosis than men.”

“I’m not sure how we end up in a place where there’s 20-odd years of data pointing to how important sex differences are in health and disease and there’s not more attention to this across all fields, disciplines, journals, and so forth. No one wants to call it sexism but where else is it okay to ignore the basic facts?” Dr. Paula Johnson, Executive Director of the Mary Horrigan Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston

“The study [of a female sexual dysfunction drug Addyi] enrolled 92 percent men for a drug intended only for women.”

“According to the Mayo Clinic, fewer than 1 in 10 residents in family medicine, internal medicine and gynecology told the clinic they felt “adequately prepared” to manage the care of patients in the various stages of menopause. Add to that the well-documented bias against female patients — one that exponentially burdens women of color, as well as trans, intersex and nonbinary people who experience menopause — and a vast information vacuum persists.”

More than 1 billion people worldwide will be in menopause by 2025. Today, there are 55 million in the United States alone, nearly 75 percent of whom report not receiving support or treatment for its effects. This database provides doctors in your area who have sought special certification to help their patients manage menopause.



No Way Out But Through


It is widely claimed that in 1899, the head of the US Patent Office urged President McKinley to shut down their operation because, “everything that could be invented has been invented.”

Sounds ridiculous, right? I thought so too, so I looked it up. The only evidence of this statement appears in a humor magazine from that time. Somehow it became attributed to the patent guy.*

Obviously there will always be new discoveries in every area of life. But when it comes to our own health, we’d like to know everything up front, thank you very much.

After reading about my health mystery these last weeks, some of you shared your of own close calls. The vivid details suggest those memories remain fresh. I do hope that the one lasting fact from my four biopsies, three mammograms, two MRI’s, and the month in limbo, will be that it added up to zero cancer.


Despite a second benign pathology report, we are still in the diagnostic phase, according to my oncologist. How can this be? Some masses are more benign than others, apparently. Mine are considered “radial scars.” I had never heard of such a thing, but evidently twenty percent of this type of mass contains an underlying malignancy. Unless you examine the whole thing, the possibility remains. So, the seemingly conclusive results I’d gotten excited about guarantee nothing. Surgical removal and a full biopsy is next. I’m experiencing mild shock as I really believed I was done. I even drank three margaritas.

So what could I possibly learn in month two of Who Has Cancer Bingo? Remains to be seen but for starters, trust and vulnerability are taking center stage. I am no fan of either.

That may sound crazy since I clearly have no problem disclosing all the personal details in this very forum. It may look like vulnerability. Take it from me, it is far easier to duck behind a keyboard than to talk to anyone face to face. I am terrified of people saying anything that will scare me or cast my situation in a negative light.

I illustrate my point with the example of the person closest to me, my dear husband. When this all began a month ago, he tested positive for Covid. The vulnerability phobic in me was relieved he couldn’t talk to me or touch me. All alone in quarantine during my scariest moments with extra responsibilities and no support? That tracked. Your people will only let you down and leave you when you need them the most. Welcome to my comfort zone.

When my doctor called, the trust phobic in me considered rejecting her advice out of hand. I feel perfectly healthy. I am not a statistic. It’s organic, non-toxic central over here. Doesn’t she know I meditate?!

“What if I don’t do it?” I asked.

“That would not be my recommendation,” she said, refusing to spin any nightmare scenarios with me. Okay, she is pretty great.

not her but you get it

When we first met, I talked a big game about trust. Now that we are at the cutting stage of our relationship, I am side eyeing the whole arrangement. Allowing anyone, no matter how highly trained, to wield a sharp instrument over my most tender bits is a level of faith that strikes me as entirely unreasonable. I have a few weeks to learn how to do that.

So here we are. With trust and vulnerability to guide the path forward. There is no way out but through.



WRITING PROMPT: What is your comfort with vulnerability? How about trust? 

Do my weekly stories come to your inbox? If not, you are invited to sign up. Click on and subscribe today. And if you like, come find me on the socials: @elizabethheise.writer on Instagram and @heiseelizabeth1 on Twitter. Happy reading!

*An 1899 edition of Punch Magazine offered commentary entitled “The Coming Century” wherein a “genius” enters a patent office and asks, “isn’t there a clerk who can examine patents?” A boy replied, “Quite unnecessary, Sir. Everything that can be invented has been invented.” Somehow this statement was attributed to Charles Duell, head of the patent office at the time. But also, how is that funny.


Curiosity Could Save Your Life


No matter what, life is uncertain. But when you are curious, you are unafraid. You aren’t filling your body with stress hormones that, and we all know this by now, could for sure kill you. As a culture, we are driven by fear and obsessed with control. Today, I make a pitch to embrace uncertainty and cultivate a life of calm curiosity instead.

Also, interpersonally speaking, expressing curiosity about other people instead of thinking you know everything about their intentions allows you to really see them. It helps you live in reality instead of in your head which, for a lot of us, can be quite unpleasant. Lastly, curiosity gives you access to what your true self needs to live a happy life, simple as that.

How can I be so sure? Because an experience this week brought it all home to me in a way that was unmistakeable.

For about a month now, I’ve lived in the uncertainty of a health diagnosis so scary we speak its name only in whispers. Honestly, I am too superstitious to even write it. Since I still haven’t yet received any definitive news, I’m not even going to call it over here. Luckily, I’m not a doctor or I’d have to mime my patients’ test results. From the start of all this, I knew if I stayed curious instead of devolving into fear and self-pity, I’d pick up some gold nuggets as a souvenir to take with me.

I’d waited weeks for a diagnostic test I understood to be extremely painful and hours long. I’d heard your body goes into fight or flight and that you come out feeling like a bus hit you. My very kind doctor offered the good drugs to disconnect from the whole thing. Fully expecting something cool to happen, I wanted to be in command of my faculties, so I resisted the temptation.

If I had my head right, I could stay out of fight or flight, so I started prepping weeks ago. The energy work was key. If you aren’t into that, do yourself a favor and try it. It’s also widely understood that when you change your energy, you change your life. It’s easy. I walk out in the sun, visualize white light beaming down through the top of my head, shooting down my body and out through my feet, continuing to the earth’s core. Then back up the same path and out again. I do it until I feel sparkly. Then, I bring in the light, turn it pink for love and send it out to everyone who pops into my head. The giving is the receivingthis benefits me too. At the end, I keep some pink cotton candy light just for me.

The plan was to allow my right brain (the present, calm, connected side) to take the lead on this experience. That part of our brain is stimulated by emotionally stirring music, singing, poetry, dance, and laughter. Friends who’d asked what they could do to help have been sending jokes, which I am enjoying. I sang in the car everywhere I went. Some nights, I danced while I prepared dinner. If a piece of poetry showed up, I read it.



The morning of the test, I got up at 5:30 to meditate and exercise. I’d show up to The Miami Cancer Institute with the highest possible vibes. I stashed my journal in my One Story At A Time tote, Linda Carroll’s amazing charity. She gives me great mom vibes which I really needed. I wore my light blue Zia T-shirt to remind me of the beautiful skies over New Mexico and my white Birkenstocks that had caught a bit of the black paint my son used in the garage a while back. All dressed up like a vagabond hippie, I was ready to go.


Here in the exam room, I am present for whatever this is going to be. I lay face down on the MRI platform, arms awkwardly positioned overhead. Within moments, strain in my shoulders sets in. My breasts are compressed in a vice just one blip before they are crushed completely. There I remain for so long it feels like time gives up and leaves the room without me.


Instead of being with the pain, I visit my favorite Royal Poinciana in full bloom. The nurse holds my hand. “I am okay,” I tell her. “I am going to the ocean.”

“Standing here, I have been all over the world,” she says and I am sure she is an angel.

I relocate my beautiful tree to the seaside and give myself a comfortable chair—the MOST comfortable, soft, supple leather. And San Diego weather. No bugs. French pug puppies play in a pile next to me. My friend’s kitten Mei Mei and her cat friends frolic in the grass. A great book opens in one hand and a wonderfully tart, sweet lemonade shows up in the other. A gorgeous grand piano for my older son to play Chopin appears nearby. My baby son does tricks on his skateboard without getting hurt in front of me. My daughter flops down next to me to tell me all about her formal last weekend. Her descriptions are so funny the laughter gives me an abs workout. Mark brings Starbucks and sits down to enjoy the soft breeze and watch our kids together.

Pain radiates down my shoulders. The poinciana limbs reach down and pull me in, the flowers and branches somehow cushioned and comfy. I feel better. The seagulls line up at the shore and take off into the brilliant blue sky.

A woman’s voice, a doctor I have never met and can’t see, begins to speak. Expect a pinch, then burning. If anything feels sharp, I need to know right away. Match your inhales and exhales. Only through your nose. You’re doing great.

As I stare down at the polished white floor, she pierces my skin with three incisions and injects a billowing cloud of anesthesia. I can tell she is kind and trying to work quickly. We will go back into the machine and then I’ll start the biopsy.

A few loud, searing minutes in the tube and back out again. Three stabs and an internal vacuum. We are going back into the machine to make sure I got all the spots I intended, she says we like she’s coming with me and I believe her.

With noises blaring, my mind runs a memory of a bike ride through the streets of Paris, along the Seine. The morning sun dapples a sparking path across water as I slice through the cool morning air.

I am whisked out of the tube.

How are you doing, the doctor asks. “I’m good.” And I am.

I have been here too, she says. I think God gave me cancer so I could relate to my patients. No family history, nothing. I think it was all the worrying about my kids.

“That third one,” I say, in a muffled voice.

THE THIRD KID, I can’t believe you just said that. YES. Ok, one last time, back in.

The shoulder pain intensifies. And then a voice.

Forgive Everyone. They are all perfect exactly as they are. What they are doing isn’t meant to hurt you. They are just being themselves. It isn’t about you. Most importantly, forgive yourself. 

Tears fall from my eyes and I try to confine the sob just to my head. I bring the healing light of the universe into my shoulders and through my body. I relax. As long as I can hold onto the light, the pain stays away. I try my best to retain it.

The machine pulls me out again and the team immediately flips me right side up. One nurse on each side compresses a breast to stop the bleeding. There is a lot of it.

I lay eyes on the doctor’s kind face for the first time.

“In the last few minutes when I couldn’t take the pain a voice spoke to me. I knew it was God.” I told her what I heard.

The doctor nodded and her smile reached her eyes above the blue mask.

“I let everything go now,” she said. “I had a conflict at Thanksgiving. My son’s girlfriend, not fiance, girlfriend, insisted he stay with her family instead of joining ours on a trip to South Carolina. Instead, they came up on Friday and spent the weekend. My son told me she was worried I would be pissed off with her the whole weekend. He assured her it was over. As a strong, Cuban mother, that’s not easy but it’s what I do now.”


Now that I am home in my soft leather chair writing this, I ask myself, was it God or the projection of what I believed God would say to me in that moment? Why can’t it be both? It’s the answer coming from within. Only we know what will serve us. We all carry God energy. It is the force for good in each of us.

This is my most important message, one that will save me from holding harmful negativity. I am super sensitive and sometimes assume people are doing things to me, not just living their lives. I take things personally. Apparently, it’s bad for your health. Message received.

Thanks for coming with me. Pretty cool, right?

Wishing you the best of health and to love yourself just as you are,


WRITING PROMPT: How can you stay in the calm, curious part of your brain today? What helps?

Do my weekly stories come to your inbox? If not, you are invited to sign up. Click on and subscribe today. And if you like, come find me on the socials: @elizabethheise.writer on Instagram and @heiseelizabeth1 on Twitter. Happy reading!


An Ode To My Girls

 An Ode To My Girls


And by my girls, I mean my breasts. Ahead of this next biopsy where even more of you will be taken away, I thought we should have this chat.

It occurred to me that I have treated you the way I have treated myself—with not enough love. I say this with as much self-compassion as I can muster because it’s not like I meant to. Just conditioning, I suppose. What’s done is done and I vow to do better.


When you didn’t look good enough for the world’s gaze, I squished you with some figure-enhancing silicone cutlets. I push-upped, padded and waterbraed you, trying everything short of cutting into you. It’s only now that part of you is already gone—and more still to go—that I realize you were perfect exactly as you were.

Back in college, I bragged about not even needing a sports bra to go running and sometimes even did that. You needed support and I denied you. I forced you to toughen up. It makes sense that the doctors describe you as fibrous and dense. There was no other way to survive me.

At the beach, I covered you up in 1920s style bathing costumes with the false belief that you weren’t pretty enough for a bikini. Sorry about that. My Brazilian friends tried to talk to me, but I didn’t listen. When all this is over, I promise to get you a cute swimsuit. You’ve waited long enough.

At our first meeting with the lactation consultant, she told me an improper latch had turned you into hamburger meat. Honestly, it barely registered. I believed everything, absolutely everything, should hurt and I should shut up and learn to bear it better. When she suggested ways in which the baby’s dad, who slept soundly mere inches away, might be of help, it surprised us. We’d been so well trained to have me on duty 24/7 literally destroying myself.

Especially you, Lefty. No one notices I don’t think, but you were always the smaller one. The yoga instructor said ‘we mother from our left side.’ There was less of you to meet the demands. You needed even more care to do a hard job for which you didn’t feel adequately prepared. Despite that, you mothered with everything you had and still do. You are now the one the doctors are worried about.


I didn’t know that 1.7 centimeters of tissue would be removed from you, Lefty. For a small breast, I note the difference and of course, you feel it too. I’m sorry no one prepared us for that. So much for informed consent. I wrote to the female physician who performed that last biopsy. Perhaps she will take it to heart and other women won’t have to make this discovery on their own once the swelling goes down.*

After that procedure, I was told by the techs to expect 3-5 days of mild discomfort and then nothing. But you continued to hurt. Sharp, shooting pains. I didn’t want to upset anyone or acknowledge it myself, so I didn’t say a word. Again, well-practiced.

Instead, I feared the worst about you and kept it to myself. Only when the kind surgeon mentioned that I should expect exactly these symptoms did I release one muffled sob. I didn’t want her to think I was one of “those patents” who had no ability to control her emotions.


Ahead of this next biopsy where now three bilateral masses will be sampled, I want to say thank you. I’m sorry for how I treated you. And Godspeed to you in this second, high stakes test, girls. You were always enough and after this is all over, you will still be enough, no matter what. I appreciate you hanging in there, literally. I love you and I will miss you.


And finally, I offer us all a bit of grace from Divinity Professor Kate Bowler who begins by saying, “if you are like me you feel guilty and weird when you have needs, so here is a little blessing to take what you need.”

The feeder is empty again, and no one is claiming that the birds are greedy for taking what they pleased.

Look at how the fat pink flowers are weighing the end of each branch, sucking nutrients into each velvet petal. How selfish.

Nature hungers, takes and needs, God, why can’t I?

Blessed are we learning to take what we need. Sleeping past our alarms, reaching for another helping. Staying a little longer, when the evening is unwinding.

Blessed are we, ignoring the rising anxiety that our needs are somehow silly because we have survived this long without the pleasures of this wanting.

God let these needs be the good sign of the greening of my life.


If we ever want to love and be loved well by others, it is up to us to love ourselves well enough first.



WRITING PROMPT: How can you take better care or yourself emotionally? Physically? Spiritually? We deserve better. All of us are hard on ourselves. 

*Let me just take a hot second to address you, Diagnostic Center For Women, with your nearly all-women staff and doctors. Your front desk needs a pep talk. None of you looked me in the eye, either time I visited your offices. You claimed not to have received my prescription and said you’d refuse service even though it was my doctor’s office who sent in the script and scheduled the appointment. You sent the lady ahead of me away because her doctor allegedly didn’t send her biopsy script in either. Make a phone call, it wouldn’t kill you. But it might kill her. Also, DCFW, may I call you that since we are so close now? The biopsy physician did not inform me that I would definitely miss the breast tissue she would be taking. Like literally. 1.7 centimeters is a lot to remove from a small breast. That’s .669 inches. Imparting such information is legally required informed consent, if you want to get technical about it. Women are not cattle. Also, you mentioned, super casual like, that you would insert a titanium marker inside my body, mere seconds before you did so. You are leaving something inside me forever. SAY SO. In sum, do better. Acknowledge us. As women, many if not most of us already discount and deny ourselves as it is. Stop being part of the problem.

**Thanks for the sketch, Erica.
Your are an awesome breast friend.

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Weeding The Garden Of Your Mind


One morning a week, I take a brisk walk to a public patch of mini roses growing wild on the roadside. The heady aroma and tiny bundle I bring home makes this a favorite ritual. Over the last months, however, this gift to myself has become something else.

At the stop sign just beyond the rosebushes, a line of cars wait to cross. I avert my gaze to avoid the hot plunge of regret that comes when I spot the decals on each bumper. The trick hardly works—I know they are there. This street leads to the lovely little school where my son was kicked out a few months back. I blame myself for letting it happen.

Making fresh anguish from old news does me no good, especially now. Covid finally caught up with my husband and he feels like hot garbage. I am standing at the door of an alarming diagnosis. Our house is in lockdown with dishes and laundry piling up. All just for me.


It wasn’t so many years ago that I’d wake up to a feeling of dread every day. Then, I’d match the feeling with a thought about what I had done wrong or what bad thing someone had done to me. Next, I tried to go back and fix it in my head. Shockingly, it never worked. After a huge shift in mindset, I don’t do this to myself anymore. It has changed everything.

I now have tools to weed out painful thoughts when they spring up. If you spend time ruminating over the past or obsessing about the future, I’ll share what helped me this week.

Waking up in the morning, I get in front of the uneasy realization that I have some STUFF going on right now. I intentionally take over the self-talk before it begins. Instead of allowing my mind to default to worry, I play a positive mantra over and over. My simple favorite is, I’m okay I’m okay I’m okay I’m okay.

That may sound looney, but trust that I am training my brain to spend more time on the right side, i.e., the peaceful, creative side, not the fight or flight left side. I won’t ruin the present moment with angsty thoughts about the past or future. These days, meditation, exercise and a gratitude practice ensure a positive start to the day. If worry pops in, deep breathing and a mindfulness exercise put me back in my body. It works.


Last night during dinner prep, I wondered why I blamed myself for my son’s predicament. As I chopped broccoli flourettes, Oprah and Michael Singer’s May 11, 2022, podcast interview played in the background. They discussed his new book, Living Untethered. He says the only time we are bothered by what other people do is when it triggers old pain we haven’t let go of inside ourselves.

That rang true with my son. When the school so easily tossed him out, I felt deeply wounded. Definitely more than the situation warranted. It brought back the rejection I had experienced at his age. Back then, I blamed myself. Kids naturally make themselves wrong as a survival skill. Blaming the adults is far too dangerous territory. Now that I am an adult, I realize that attempting to controlling my environment or other people is impossible–even making the attempt brings me misery.

Singer teaches the only way to get past this is to make a regular practice of letting go. By doing so, we find our way back to our true self—the part of us who is always calm, despite the storms.

“Letting things go” didn’t make sense to me for a long time. It sounded like somehow agreeing that what had happened to me was nothing so I should just forget about it. Let everyone who had failed me off the hook. As if.

Now I understand that holding onto a painful past ruins the present. Right at this moment, I feel like the scary unknown of my health is allowing me to release old pain I never felt safe enough to process. At times, I am suddenly gripped by sadness. Instead of pushing it away, I let myself cry. I have Pearl Jam and carpool to thank for stirring that ancient pot of emotion. I will let it go, one teary-eyed post-drop off at a time.

Singer had a few gold nuggets that I will take with me on this unfamiliar road. When thoughts that fight with reality come in, I will consciously correct them. This shouldn’t be happening to me. I am so healthy, WTF. Who should it happen to then? Illness happens. We trust our caregivers and we get through it.


As for my son, I didn’t have it in me to spare him the consequences of his actions. An older, bigger boy hit him and ran off. My son found him and hit him back. Only one kid was punished. It wasn’t fair. But just like the mother hen who won’t help her baby chick poke his way out of the shell because it may kill him, I resisted the urge to fix it. Giving him the false belief that when life treats him unfairly, his mother will solve the problem won’t serve him now or ever. If he belonged at that school, he’d still be there.

The next time I take my rose walk, I will run a positive mantra in my head and not leave any space for regret to take root. It will be something like this: I am meant to live in peace. Everything is exactly as it should be. My son is on the path that is meant for him. And I am too.

When you intentionally fill your mind with peaceful thoughts, you will cultivate a beautiful life.



WRITING PROMPTS: What helps you keep cool during stressful times? How does spirituality play a role if at all?

Do my weekly stories come to your inbox? If not, you are invited to sign up. Click on and subscribe today. And if you like, come find me on the socials: @elizabethheise.writer on Instagram and @heiseelizabeth1 on Twitter. Happy reading!


It’s Okay Even When It’s Not


Accepting my husband’s offer to come with me to the doctor made me feel weak. But I knew it was better to have another set of ears at a time like this. Emotionally it seemed doable on my own, though. I had navigated far worse alone.

Mark and I entered the elevator behind a woman with sparse white hair seated in a wheelchair. The older man pushing her leaned down.

“You okay, Mom?” She nodded.

Without warning, my throat caught. We arrived at our floor and the doors parted. It was as if this same pair had multiplied—older women in ill health being steered around by others—all on their way with an air of reverence and resignation.

We followed the signs to our waiting area. Beneath enormous round light fixtures riddled with tiny spheres, we found seats. For the interior design of a breast cancer clinic, the metaphor was almost funny.

Being in this place made the stakes clear. People showed up here because they didn’t want to die. And I was one of them. Tears spilled over and soaked into my mask.

Mark asked what I was thinking about.

“Nothing. I’m just feeling what it’s like to be here.” After half a lifetime of running from hard emotions, I finally let them in.

The jarring effect of all this shouldn’t have surprised me. The time lapse from routine check-up to Miami Cancer Institute had happened in fast forward.

I’d been putting off the mammogram. The need for all natural everything ruled it out. My midwife suggested having one as a baseline along with thermography.* Every year, the thermogram report landed in my inbox: “low risk,” the latest one two months ago.


For me, the roots of alternative choices run deep. In my home growing up, goldenseal and honey fixed a sore throat. Babies were born at home. Halva was the only candy bar we kids bothered to ask for at the store. And by “store” I mean co-op. These choices connected me to my home, to my mother, to an uncomplicated time before anything bad happened to my family. Natural options gave me back that sense of safety.

When I switched out of my midwife’s busy practice, my new doctor recommended a mammogram. At my next annual visit, she asked about it again. When I admitted I hadn’t gone yet, she left the exam room and asked her staff to schedule the exam for me.

I am not quick to put my faith in doctors. When I looked for someone for my college-bound daughter, Dr. Karmin came highly recommended from patients and friends alike. Jane loved her. It just made sense to see her myself.

When I asked who knit the soft, colorful booties on her stirrups, she said, “I did. I want my patients to be comfortable.” Anyone who cared that much deserved to be trusted.

I went for the mammogram.

Stepping out of the shower a few days ago, the screamy caps of DIAGNOSTIC CENTER FOR WOMEN flashed across my phone. I snatched it from the dressing table and played the voicemail. The soft-spoken radiologist asked me to return the call on his cel. My body stiffened.

I stepped out into my backyard buck naked and tapped in the number. A three centimeter mass with “spiculations” had caused concern. He ordered a biopsy.

The procedure was scheduled immediately. They pulled a good size sample. Negative results were found to be “discordant” with the features on the images. The radiology staff conferred and recommended re-biopsy or excision of the entire mass.

And now here we were, waiting to see the Chief of Breast Surgery, a former colleague of Dr. Karmin’s. I was glad Mark had come. Waiting alone would have been hard.

Dr. Mendez introduced herself and asked about my health, my family, my work. She wanted to hear what I understood of the situation. Then she walked me through it herself. She needed more information. A benign pathology report and the jagged borders of the mass didn’t match up. An MRI with contrast would show whether there is blood flow to the area, which she referred to as “vascularity.”

“It sounds mysterious. Obviously, I would prefer not to be an interesting case,” I said.

“But we are all different. It is our differences that make us beautiful,” she said.

A surgeon who views her job that way is exactly the right person to be doing it.

“No matter how it turns out, going through this changes you. On the other side, you are not the same.”

We left the office with complete confidence in her.

She was right about what this does to a person. In the short time I have been in this liminal space, I feel it. From the second I received that first phone call, my life snapped into sharper focus. In these brief couple of weeks, I have realized some things:

  1. I can be okay with not being okay. If I allow myself to be human, I will have the capacity for extending that grace to others. People may unwittingly say hurtful things. The more I accept myself, the more capacity I will have to see their good intentions.
  2. I don’t have to tough it out on my own. As my friend Erica reminded me, I have people now. I can accept a kind offer of support. I can ask my husband to come with me. If you are reading this, you probably care too, so thank you.
  3. My dear friends who have gone through this with courage and humor are wonderful guides and I am so lucky to have them. I don’t have to open myself up to the opinions of the whole wide world.
  4. I can ask for what I need. It isn’t pity. It isn’t hearing I’m sorry. Or how hard or scary it must be. I am managing my “what ifs”. Whatever this is, I know it is meant to happen exactly this way. As my smart friend Lisa says, “breast cancer is a highly treatable disease.” I have a team of brilliant women in my corner. The one who will make the calls carries the name of my own brilliant daughter Jane. Tell me that’s not magic.
  5. We are all beautiful. This process will simply show me more of who I really am.

Thank you in advance for sending me good thoughts. I know I am going to be just fine.

When you stay curious and calm, allowing yourself to be fully human, you get the sense that it’s all going to be okay. Even when it’s not.




Have you had an experience that made you present to your life unlike any other? What was it like? What did you learn? Have you hung on to the lessons?

* In case you aren’t sure what thermography is, here’s how I learned about it. Not that I endorse them, obviously:



Unsolicited Advice Feels Like Criticism


Unsolicited advice feels like criticism. 

Man, that one hits. In my personal life, I have most assuredly been guilty of this. I have given it and received it and it sucks on both accounts. My hope is that my writing does not come across as criticism of you, dear reader.

If it has, I offer you my sincerest apology. My intention is not to tell you how to make choices in your own life but rather to share my own conundrum and chosen path through it. In the event you run into a similar problem, my mission is to provide useful tools to find a way out. Not the only way, or the best way, just a way. I am a wayfinder, simple as that.


When I ask the questions at the end (the writing prompt), that is meant as an opportunity to discover an insight of your own. There is one expert on your one wild and precious life and that is you. Asking yourself questions, not taking a poll of other people, is the only way to your truth.

If you are a regular reader, you might be wondering why this “Friday Story” is rolling in on Saturday afternoon. Well. At 8:46 on Friday morning, I received a phone call that changed the whole story. I must have had a sense it wasn’t over. This piece usually goes out first thing. For some reason, I couldn’t wrap it up. Then the caller quite literally told me it was not over.

I admit to feeling some level of relief that I didn’t have to share that story yet. Why? Because the decisions I made are definitely not the norm. In my social circle, my past choices around this are unlike anyone I know with the exception of maybe one or two others. I was concerned about being judged.


When this has happened in past stories, I sometimes receive feedback about how I should have done better and how I could make different choices in the future. To these folks, I have taken the time to explain my thinking and provided further facts. I have defended myself. While I totally appreciate readers sharing their thoughts, my aim is to serve as a jumping off point for your own insights, not to invite you to convince me to live my life differently or to regret the past. If it had been the right thing for me to do at the time, that’s exactly what I would have done. As Byron Katie says, defense is the first act of war. I don’t wish to be at war with anyone, not even with myself.

The lawyer in me does love to be right, however, so I have engaged in a back and forth with readers whenever the opportunity has presented. Here is what I ask myself and you: what would be possible if you didn’t have to be right? What if you could openly listen to someone else’s perspective and just let it be their perspective? It doesn’t mean you have to take it on, nor does it mean they have to accept your version. It just means you are able to hold space for someone else to be who they are.

That may be all we ever really want in this life. For someone to be silent long enough to hear us out, resisting the urge to offer suggestions. To actually listen and understand what we are experiencing. To get it right. To ask questions to make sure we are understood. To be curious. To be the compassionate witness for what is happening inside us. And, when we are totally done sharing what we have to share—you will know because you’ll have asked if there is anything else—to assure us we are okay and loved just as we are. We resist the urge to say this is just like someone else I know and this is what they did. We didn’t ask for that. When we want advice, we ask. Unsolicited advice feels like criticism. 

So that is my message today, dear reader. You do not have to defend yourself. If people disagree with you, that is their right. You do not have to fight with them. (If you are a lawyer you kind of do, but not in your personal life, Mark Heise, and all you attorneys out there. Love you!)

The Friday Story I allude to will likely come out in the next week or two. When it does, you’ll know it. It’s a hard story to tell and it’s been difficult to live. I’m still living it. When it is over and all my lessons are learned, I will happily share them with you.

Until then, I wish you peace in making the hard decisions in your life and good people to support you through them. I am lucky to have those people.

Know that ultimately, enlightenment feels exactly like freedom.

When you make choices that are right for you in the moment and you do better when you know better, you get the sense that it’s all going to be okay.



WRITING PROMPT: Do you hesitate to share your decisions for fear of being judged? Who are the safe people in your life to share what is true for you?

Do my weekly stories come to your inbox? If not, you are invited to sign up and feel free to share with friends who might be into it too. Click on and subscribe today. And if you like, come find me on the socials: @elizabethheise.writer on Instagram and @heiseelizabeth1 on Twitter. Thank you for reading!