02/21/2013 03:37 pm ET Updated Apr 23, 2013

Sleep and 'The Fourth Instinct'

Do you recall a year when life's challenges
arrived in a cluster so large it took your breath
away? Remember? I do.

In the spring of 2005, my seemingly healthy mother-in-law was
diagnosed with leukemia. She was gone five weeks later. She was 68.
Six weeks after her death, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. One
month after completing treatment, I went to a physician to look at
the spot on my nose, which turned out to be basal cell cancer.
Through two surgeries to remove the cancer, I lost half the skin on my

One of my challenges was sleep deprivation during this process. I
was working full time during my breast cancer treatment and
scheduled radiation appointments for 7 a.m. so as not to miss work
time. I denied myself the 'luxury' of any daytime naps. Although my
company was supportive of me taking the time I needed to rest, I
refused, fearful I would be perceived as weak.

As the year was winding down, my husband and I were still grieving
the loss of his mom and I was brittle with fatigue, physical and
emotional fatigue.

This deep level of fatigue proved to be a barrier to learning and
growth. I was STUCK in fatigue and resisting rest. At that time in
my life, REST was a four-letter curse word to me and not part of my
Type A personality. I didn't have time for this!

My body responded differently. My body demanded rest. I'm not sure
how to describe it, other than to say it was my personal 'hitting
bottom' experience. I had to rest and pay attention to my need to
recover and heal. So, finally, I rested.

Upon reflection, over time, I realized a few lessons:

1. The best family in the world cannot compensate for care you
do not give to yourself. (They can't even take a nap for you!)

2. Passion for what you "do" can ebb and flow and ebb and
dissolve over time. That's OK.

3. What you "do" is not who you are... no matter how much $$ you
make or how positively you impact other's lives while doing
what you "do."

4. The choice to grow allows for the discovery of new life passions
and PURPOSE. Arianna Huffington refers to this as 'the call of the
soul' and "The Fourth Instinct."

Was it necessary for me to experience this cluster of loss, disease and
pain to learn these lessons? I don't know. Perhaps. I guess so.

I learned that taking care of oneself not only contributes to one's
own happiness, it deepens loving relationships in your life and opens
you to more... of everything. Truly taking care of oneself allows for a
spiritual evolution. Getting enough sleep is critically important to
the success of this process.

I learned we are complex, talented human beings, capable of feeling
passionate about doing lots of things.

I learned who we are is enough.

Since then, there have been other challenges. I'm certain I've met
those challenges stronger and better prepared due to that growth

What have you learned from your tough clusters?

How has your growth served you since?