Re­flec­tions on a year of liv­ing life to its fullest.

Stephanie Gil­man fi­nally dis­cov­ers what’s on the other side of fear.

Elle (Canada) - - Insider - By Stephanie Gil­man

’m float­ing in wa­ter in­side a pod­like ves­sel, en­gulfed in dark­ness. I hear noth­ing ex­cept the sound of my breath­ing and the rip­ples of the wa­ter as I glide my hands across the sur­face. I’m in­side a sen­so­ry­de­pri­va­tion tank, and, ac­cord­ing to the peo­ple at Float Toronto, I’m about to ex­pe­ri­ence “pro­found peace and re­lax­ation.”

I’ve wedged a small towel in the door of the tank—it’s enough to al­low a sliver of light to get through so I can keep track of the door and get out if I need to. (I’m not fond of en­closed spa­ces, but this year has been about try­ing new things and test­ing my lim­its.) Af­ter float­ing on my back for sev­eral min­utes, I de­cide I’m ready for the full sen­sory ex­pe­ri­ence. I re­move the towel and al­low the door to close. I’m plunged into pitch­black dark­ness.

I take some deep breaths to try to calm my nerves as I bounce gen­tly in the salted wa­ter. (The salt changes the den­sity of the wa­ter, so it pre­vents me from sink­ing.) As I push my­self back and forth, from end to end, I feel weight­less—like I’m float­ing through space. The si­lence is eerie yet calm­ing. I don’t re­call ever ly­ing in to­tal si­lence for an hour, and I revel in this op­por­tu­nity to get away from the noise of the out­side world. “This isn’t so scary,” I think. “I kind of like this.”

In­stinc­tively, I raise my arm up above me to feel for the door han­dle. I can’t find it. I run my hands along the walls and still can’t find it. My heart be­gins to pound. There’s no panic but­ton in­side the tank. What if I can’t get out? I have lost my sense of di­rec­tion; I’m not sure which way I’m fac­ing.

I fran­ti­cally feel my way blindly around the edges of the tank, un­til at last I find the door han­dle. Now that I know there’s an es­cape, re­lief washes over me. I’m afraid to let go of the han­dle in case I lose track of it again. I weigh my op­tions: keep my hand on the han­dle for the re­main­der of the hour or let go and trust that I’ll find my way back to it. And then I make a choice. I let go. I let go of it all. Of all the un­knowns and ques­tion marks. Of all the fear and anx­i­ety and stress. Of all the pain and anger and emo­tions that have been toss­ing and turn­ing in­side of me since the day I heard the words “You have can­cer.” h

For a short while, I de­cide to just be—away from the wor­ry­ing, the what-ifs, the phys­i­cal and emo­tional scars that I al­ways carry with me.

I float on my back with my eyes closed. I feel a sense of tran­quil­ity, and my heart is full of grat­i­tude for hav­ing this mo­ment of peace. I don’t know what the fu­ture will bring, but in this mo­ment I am alive; it sud­denly hits me how amaz­ing that is—to be alive.

Af­ter a while, the lights in the tank grad­u­ally come on and calm­ing mu­sic be­gins to play, sig­nalling that the hour is up. I sit up in the tank and let my mind ad­just to the fact that it’s time to come back to re­al­ity. I open the door and re-en­ter the world, feel­ing re­freshed and re­ju­ve­nated.

I know now that I am ready to move on. Re­gard­less of whether my can­cer re­turns or not, I will never fully leave it be­hind me. It will al­ways be trav­el­ling along­side me, a dis­tant mem­ory that I can’t quite shake. I’ve come to ac­cept that. This past year of my #lifereboot jour­ney has been full of ad­ven­tures and chal­lenges, and I’d like to think that I’ve made huge strides in my abil­ity to cope and re­main grounded in the present. But I know that the life ahead of me will still have road­blocks. It might not be the per­fect life I once imag­ined, but it’s my life, and I am ex­cited and grate­ful to be able to live it.

And when­ever I stum­ble and lose my way, I will re­mem­ber that door. I will pause, take a mo­ment and have faith that I’ll even­tu­ally find my way back, cling­ing tightly to the han­dle and push­ing it open, anx­ious but al­ways hope­ful about what awaits me on the other side. n

I know now that I am ready to move on. Re­gard­less of whether my can­cer re­turns or not, I will never fully leave it be­hind me. It will al­ways be trav­el­ling along­side me, a dis­tant mem­ory that I can’t quite shake.

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