Yesterday, I found out that a girl in my son’s preschool class was diagnosed and hospitalized over the weekend with acute leukemia. As I sent my well-wishing thoughts their way, knowing the deaths and illnesses this family had recently endured, I couldn’t help but think how unfair life can sometimes be.

As this thought rattled around in my brain, flittering in and out of mind as I went about my normal daily routine of work, chores and childcare, I was wholly unprepared for a lunchtime work date. As we politely conversed in a sterile corporate cafeteria, making polite and formal exchanges typical of virtual strangers, our conversation unwittingly slipped into the personal as my former client mentioned that she’s a breast cancer survivor. In return, I told her the latest news from my three year old son’s classroom.

As we talked, she shared her experience of living with cancer. Although I would normally have found this type of conversation sobering, leaving me with a feeling of how hard life can occasionally be, a couple of minutes into her story I realized that I was laughing. And, more to the point, that she was encouraging it.

The more she described her journey and the more I laughed, the more I realized that although she’s had a radical double mastectomy, major surgery, early and permanent menopause, and undergone four years of breast reconstruction, she doesn’t define herself by the loss she’s endured and the threat of relapse. Instead, she’s like a tightrope walker who balances with ease on a heightened thread of silver, simultaneously fearless and mindful of the ever-present danger. While continually and fully engaging in the dance of life, she allows for expansion and pushing of boundaries while delighting in the minute shifts rooted in balance and serenity that are intricately interwoven in each action resulting in forward motion taking place with joy, grace, and desire.

As I went back to my cubicle to finish my day’s work, I couldn’t help but reflect on how much I could learn from this woman’s attitude. Although outwardly successful, I sometimes play small. And, the more successful I become, as measured by a healthy bank account and thriving career, the more I’m aware of how fear is often the final arbiter when making decisions: fear of not making enough money, fear of not having enough in the future, fear of not being able to take care of my son, fear of being rejected or not loved enough with the final outcome my decision not to engage in the course of action that I’m contemplating or seize the opportunity that lies before me.

Thinking back on my past, I’m struck by the fact that my most fulfilling moments are those in which I immersed myself in the moment, fully embracing life while exploring the potential of the unknown, clear in the fact that the present doesn’t impact on the past or immutably pave the road to the future. Essentially, it was when I stepped through the invisible barriers of my fear, risking it all by laying my preconceived desires aside and opening myself up to being vulnerable, confident in the fact that any possible outcome would only add to my participation in the dance of life that I had the most intense experiences resulting in intangible but long-lasting rewards of laughter, joy, pleasure, growth, self-awareness, self-confidence, and love.

As a parent, it’s my hope that by honouring my commitment to playing large on the field of life while simultaneously acknowledging my fears and placing them on the passenger’s seat in my quest for richness, fulfillment, love and pleasure that I’ll instil in my son the same desire to make the most of his life’s journey, enabling him to face his fears head on and take the risks that are a part of life but integral to growing as a human being, exploring his own dimensions, and ultimately finding peace and harmony within himself.