This blog post is a bit more personal than most. I’ve always felt it to be beneficial for us to share our human experiences with one another, life is not just about green drinks and cleanses, after all. A little over a month ago, I lost my father, Karl Eller, to stage four thyroid cancer – making him the second man in my life to pass away from cancer. I was blessed to have spent the day prior sitting with him, holding his hand, showering him with love. Instinctively, I knew this would be the last time, yet as I hopped on a plane back to Los Angeles full of emotion, it still felt like a surprise to hear, only the next morning he had passed peacefully in his bed.
I’m mourning the loss of my dad and also dealing with the unforeseen resurfacing trauma of losing my husband, Marc. It all came rushing back at a rate I never could have prepared for and I was thrown down a rabbit hole of grief. Watching two of the strongest men I have ever known be eaten alive from cancer was something that is still difficult for me to wrap my head around, never mind accept. But, despite the sadness of my dad’s passing, one thing I found comfort in was the fact that I was left with no regrets.
My dad was an incredible man. The list of achievements he accomplished in his lifetime is nothing short of awe-inspiring. He was an entrepreneur in every sense of the word, and I spent my young life looking up to him as a businessman. Some of his biggest successes include building the billboard advertising company Foster and Kleiser into a majorly influential business of his own, Eller Outdoor, and merging it with radio and television stations and newspaper to form Combined Communications, Inc., which eventually became Gannett. My dad also became the head of Columbia Pictures Communications during which time he helped with its parent company’s merger with Coca-Cola Company. He also built Circle K, the convenience store chain, into the largest publicly owned convenience store chain in the U.S. My dad was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame in 2004 and was the namesake of the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona. But, despite all of his impressive ventures, he was always just my dad to me. We did not get to spend much time together as I grew up because he was so busy with work, but I always had the utmost admiration for him.
Admittedly, I had not seen my dad for a number of months up until recently – you know how life gets in the way sometimes. But, out of nowhere, I had a strong impulse to be with him. I am not sure what possessed me to immediately book a flight to Phoenix to see him, but I will be grateful that the urge came over me for the rest of my life. We spent a beautiful day together, just the two of us. I was able to tell him how much I loved and appreciated him. I let him know that I was so honored to be his daughter. He had been experiencing a lot of pain because the disease was overtaking him, and I told him it was okay to let go. He died at 8 o’clock the next morning. I am so happy that I not only trusted my instincts, but I followed them to Phoenix that day. I am at peace knowing that I got to tell my dad what he meant to me and, even on a selfish level, being able to tell him I loved him was so cathartic for me.
I was working with one of my clients a few days after I lost my dad. She has cancer and is, understandably, extremely anxious. She is unable to be in the moment and is constantly stressing about what is going to come next. Having been in her shoes, I completely empathize with what she is experiencing. The fear of cancer, or any life-threatening illness for that matter, is suffocating. But what I learned from the recent passing of my dad and from my own experience with the disease is that at times when we or someone we love is sick, we have to be even more in the moment than usual. It is all about what we make of the current moment. All of the gurus are trying to tell us that very thing, but it is so hard for us to absorb. Why does it feel so impossible to live in the moment, despite everyone telling us how important it is?
We are not taught to live in the moment. From a young age, most of us are trained to think about our futures and plan out our lives so that we can achieve great things. We are constantly contemplating the next steps that we must take in order to get us somewhere. But I have never once stopped to wonder if I am happy where I am or if I want to be going where I am headed. Have you? I am working with an incredible energy healer who is teaching me how to live more presently and he said something recently that really struck me: “We are renting these bodies, we do not own them. We have them for a period of time and then we must give them back.” When I think about it that way, I realize that I need to take the best care of my body as I possibly can. Being present is one of the best ways to care for our bodies and minds simultaneously. It relaxes the central nervous system whereas obsessing over events that occurred in the past or have yet to happen revs up the central nervous system, leading to all kinds of wear and tear on our bodies and brains. Being fully present is the only way to truly relax. We are also scared to tune into ourselves because we are afraid of what we might find. The future plans that we have been working so hard towards may not be what we actually want or, ultimately, what we need.
When we tune into ourselves and arrive in the current moment, beautiful things, even beyond relaxation, can take place. We can make connections with people that we never thought were possible. We can heal in ways we never would have been able to, had we not been present enough to listen to the instincts calling to us from the bottom of our hearts. I am working harder now than ever before to live my life in the moment. Some of the methods I am using to do so are practicing gratitude – not just for the wonderful people in my life, but also being intrinsically grateful for having my own experiences. Also, letting go of the need to compare myself to others has done wonders for my practice of living more in the now. Nothing takes me out of the present like feeling the need to catch up to someone else.
What I learned through my dad’s passing is that listening to my instincts helps me ground myself into the current moment. I feel intense pain that he is not here with me anymore, but I have no regrets because I was able to say goodbye. Had I not listened to the voice inside me, I would be full of remorse. I feel filled to the brim with gratitude and know that I can move forward now, as long as I keep my focus on today.