Days 264 to 274 Full On Gorillas and Rebels

20121111-164103.jpg“Excuse me, could you please ask him not to point the gun at my husband while we’re driving?” I asked, thinking of the numerous – and massive – potholes we were about to hit. I was referring to the Congolese rebel in the back of our truck.

Our friend translated. “No problem!” replied the rebel with a smile. Then he shifted the gun towards the other side, which ended up pointing at our friend instead…so we asked him to point it out the back, please. He then realized we didn’t want the gun pointed at anyone’s head, and smiled graciously as he proudly shifted the rifle out the back window.

It took a good week to get to the Congo after a short stop in Seattle and a nice overnight in Amsterdam, then a flight and night in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, then a long drive across the equator to our new home for the next month. The whole time the plan was to work at the same refugee camp, called Nakivale, that Thai had worked at 2 years ago. However, as soon as our driver picked us up in the 4-door Hilux (Africa’s diesel version of the Toyota Tacoma), our agency had changed plans and we were heading to a new transit refugee camp right on the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Since June of this year, the rebels in Eastern Congo had taken over a large part of Eastern Congo north of the city of Goma. There had been a new influx of refugees, some 10,000 or so. A new transit refugee camp was set up in July in a town called Kisoro. Since then, waves of refugees have come across the border here. The camp, run by the UN High Commission for Refugees, was set up with the help of MSF, or “Doctors Without Borders.” After the first couple months, the medical portion was taken over by our agency, Medical Teams International, whom Thai and I work for.

The refugee camp is just down the road from our hotel. The road to this town of Kisoro crosses over high mountain passes and volcanic peaks, winding and twisting.

Our first weekend off, we planned to climb a volcano, a steep one called Sabinyo, meaning “old man’s teeth.” We hired a boda boda – a Ugandan motorcycle taxi. We gave the driver 10,000 Ugandan Shilling to use his motorcycle to scout out the access for the mountain on our Saturday off. We drove through beautiful terraced terrain. The base of the volcanoes were dotted with multiple volcanic cinder cones that were terraced for abundant agriculture dotted with small Ugandan villages.

After a nice ride and some views, we decided to take a look at the border crossing into Congo, where the refugees were coming from. Thai asked the border guard if we could go across to see the Congo side for an hour or two. To our surprise (especially because we didn’t have passports on us), he said yes and let us by. That was the most pleasant African border crossing I had ever experienced (I think at that point it was my 8th such crossing). I was surprised at how friendly and easy-going it was. Then I realized it was rebels that were manning the border crossing. These are some of the benefits of rebels at the border instead of government workers, I suppose. They’re more lax on the bureaucracy;)

We went onto the other side to check things out. To make a long story short, we met a French camera team and a photographer from Reuters who were heading into the Congo to film the mountain gorillas. Could we come along? Yes! We acted quickly, ditched the volcano plan, ran back to our place, grabbed gear and passports and went back across the border into Congo with the camera team. This time we got visas. We spent the night, and the next morning jumped into a two Land Cruiser convoy.

This is where I asked the armed guard with us to change the position of his AK-47. We headed on a two-hour, bumpy, muddy, 4-wheel drive adventure to the start of our walk to find the Mountain Gorillas in remote Congo.

The French film crew was putting a documentary together for France Deux, (France channel two) about the tourism industry returning to see the mountain gorillas in Congo. Ironically, no tourist had really returned to the Congo since the rebels had taken over the area in July. There hadn’t been any tourist in the last 6 weeks, the film director had been waiting for about 5 weeks to see if any were coming. He thought there might have literally been a handful in August and September, and none prior due to the insurgence of the rebels in July. So instead, they found two French guys working and living in Kampala to be their “tourists.” When we showed up at the border, they were pleasantly suprised to see us and happy for us to join in so that they had real tourists to film (I even landed a speaking part in the final cut!).

There was also a Ugandan photographer working for Reuters on a few projects in the DRC. He lived in Germany, but spent a lot of time shooting photos in southern Sudan and eastern Congo. He sat next to us in the Toyota, with the aforementioned soldier in the back.

“The last time I came through here, I didn’t come back the same way,” he said.
“What happened?” I asked.
“I was arrested by the Congolese military.” Suffice it to say, he favored the way the rebels treated him.

He was on assignment earlier in the year and was following a group of rebels for several days. On his way back, he passed a military check point and they nabbed him. This history explained the bullet proof vest and helmet he had along. Thai tried them on for fun, of course. It fit, of course;) This journalist was a great source of info on eastern Congo, and we riddled him with questions. His personal knowledge base was refreshing since first-hand information on the confusing “African World War” that has been tormenting this side of Congo is hard to come by.

After two hours, we came to a trail head and climbed up the edge of a remnant volcanic cinder cone through the terraced crops of bananas, corn, onion, millet and many other greens. We topped out and crossed a cow pasture that was the volcanic crater of the cone and reached the edge of the thick Congolese jungle. There were 6 in the group: 2 Congolese guides, the 2 of us, the Ugandan Reuters photographer, and we were accompanied by about 12 armed men, presumably part of the rebel army in control of the area.

We entered into the thick misty Congolese jungle. Bamboo forest intertwined with crazy thick African vegetation. The trackers were ahead and knew more or less where the gorillas had been. As we got closer, we found clues of recent gorilla activity, bamboo shoots freshly eaten, matted down vegetation, a gorilla “nest” where they had slept, and the occasional fresh pile of not-quite-steaming gorilla poo.

Unlike the fancy gorilla tracking in Rwanda or Uganda – where they use radios to let people know where the gorillas were – in the Congo, our guide followed hash marks made with a panga (aka machete) left in bamboo stalks by the trackers ahead, who slept near the gorillas and protected them from poachers. They kept them habituated to tourists by doing this, since with the lack of activity, they would have potentially grown wild again, and this valuable educational tool and source of income for a very poor country would have been lost as a consequence of a civil war.

Moments later… we came upon the famous Mountain gorillas

Here’s more photos from the Reuters photographer already on an Italian news site (they’re quite impressive!)

Isn’t that full on?! And that was just our first weekend off;) I can’t catch you up on the rest of the past month yet because Internet access has been hard to come by, and there is too much to tell via thumb-typing on my iPhone. Thanks for your patience!

Another note about this Congolese adventure: something I have learned is that the word “rebel” in warring countries means a lot of different things. It doesn’t always mean a pissed of armed person.

In the DRC there are 14 rebel groups at this time. Some are thuggish and violent (like the ones scaring our refugees over the border), some are just trying to keep themselves (and their families/villages) safe like gangs, others want to make money. Some want to save the gorillas and some want to poach them…you get the point.

Some people (not rebels;) that we spoke to even feel the Ugandan military is more aggressive than most rebel groups they have encountered. To confuse this further, rebel groups can even dress like the military, so it’s hard to visually tell them apart.

I am saying this because a lot was new information to me, and it reminded me – once again – to always question what you hear. Even from the UN. Even from CNN. Even from the BBC (I feel like pointing out Fox News as a dubious news source would be insulting to your intelligence, so I won’t). I’m not saying all I heard was the truth either. I’m just saying that it is valuable to ask real people who are experiencing it directly yourself when you can!

This whole adventure reminds me once again of the power of travel – not just to adventure and learn, but to UNDERSTAND, one layer deeper, about what others experience. I find that overall, travel keeps me more open-minded and less judgmental.

And this world could use a whole lot more of that, shugah!!!!

A quick synopsis of the rest of the month:
* motorcycle safari through Lake Mburo National Park, where zebras crossed our paths and cute little warthogs ran from us every time (yes, they really are cute!)
* lounging on a tropical island in massive Lake Victoria during an eight-hour electric storm (!!!!!)
* getting proposed to in three countries at the same time on the top of Sabyinyo volcano, whose peak borders Rwanda, Uganda, and the DRC (yes, we finally climbed it – and there were steep, rickety, wooden ladders for the entire last bit of the summit)
* a romantic evening at a lakeside eco-resort on Lake Bunyoni (the only lake in Uganda free of the disease bilharzia!)
* a trip to Queen Elizabeth National Park where I stared at a massive elephant as he trumpeted at us
* …and more goodies that I’ll share if we end up fireside with a glass of wine in hand at some point! Deal?

All in all, Uganda was epic. Now we are off to explore Southern Africa, where we will pass through Cape Town, then head into Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, and Malawi (that’s the short list, at least!).

I’m thinking about you, my fellow Freedom Junkies! And don’t worry- while I’m here, I am also loving creating the next adventures for YOU in 2013. In addition to awesome new Jedi Juice topics (for those of you that are new here, those are my free monthly calls), I’m also nailing down the details for the 2013 Freedom Sessions Mastermind group, which will rock the next year for a small group of lucky peeps! Stay tuned for more juiciness.

And lastly – but not leastly (new word!) – because I care about your freedom, I have to ask: What are you going to do differently today? As we know, doing things differently frees your mind, and that’s epic shizzle;) Shoot me an email. I’d love to hear from you!

To Your Freedom,


Days 200 to 213 Loving Getting Older

the motley crew on Tustumena Glacier

This has been my birthday month, and I have just turned 39 awesome years old! For the 5 weeks after my birthday and before my boyfriend’s, it appears I am robbing the cradle – or maybe just borrowing from the cradle – when he says he is 37, which sounds like 2 years younger, hee hee;) I quite revel in it.

It has been important to me to spend my birthday in the mountains. I have been in the mountains in one way or another every August since I was 18. However, last year, when I went to the Palisades in the Sierra Nevada and my bestie, Kristen Cates, and I frolicked in alpine lakes and scrambled up glaciers wearing Chacos sandals, I realized I fill my cup most when I am with my girlfriends in the big mountains. Suffice it to say, Kristen graced me with her presence by flying to Alaska for a couple of weeks. It was awesome!

After she left (and after our adventures of sailing, hiking, crossing cable bridges over rivers, yoga in the forest, etc) my friends Monty, Ole, and my boyfriend Thai and I went to the Tustumena Glacier and explored this area on the Kenai Peninsula, accessing the infamous Harding Icefield and making out way to Truuli Glacier. It was epic! We took an armada of boats to a seasonal island (otherwise an isthmus) in Tustamena Lake where 10 of us hung out together for the eve. We grilled halibut on the top of the wood burning stove and played music late into the night…and the cabin was a surprise! An uber- nice blessing for sure.

Only two of the boats were “sea worthy” enough to make it through the rough waters of the rest of the lake traverse the next day (I think the lake is near 25 miles long!). This left 8 of us at the base of the Tustumena Glacier, where we cooked moose meat loaf (!!!) over a fire, and had other amazing meals as well. Yes, we had more than one meal in less than 6 hours. It was awesome. In fact, we may have had three meals.

The next day, our friends Don, Burt, Shane, and his son, Simon, dropped us off at the mouth of Tustumena Creek, and we hiked up to the base of the glacier. It was gorgeous! But seemingly impassable. Steep rock walls lined the sides of the glacier, and at the base was its terminal lake and steep ice fins and ice walls, with the lake filled with icebergs and silty slush.

Well, I lied. We did have the option of bushwhacking at least a mile, through the usual Alaskan up-and-down terrain, which takes hours in the thick alder. We were up for it…but mañana.

But wait! Thai says, “OR, I can get energized and run back to basecamp and get the packrafts and we can paddle around and find a way to get onto the glacier. Maybe.”

That sounded way better! For us at least. What took us 4 hours one way took Thai 2.5 hours round trip. He ran most of the way, and slept well that night. (The pic of the lake at the base of the glacier is above).

A bit of perspective on paddling around icebergs in the terminal lake

The next morning, we loaded two to a packraft and explored, finding one finger of morraine at which we thought we could safely dismount the packrafts and get onto the glacier. It worked! Shuttling the gear took another 2 hours, then we were off towards the Harding Icefield and Truuli Peak. The packrafts saved us hours. Love them! And Thai;)

I’ll keep the story short: it was freakin’ gorgeous! We had epically good weather (rained once and we were asleep most of the time), and the views were utterly spectacular. Truuli looks stout. We would definitely need better alpine gear as we were only prepared for a snow-slope or moderate ridge options, of which there were neither. Two of us had Kahtoola microspikes which were THE gear of choice for this trip. The others had less-than-ideal crampons and we all agreed the Kahtoolas rocked for glacier travel and even some moderate slopes for experiences peeps.

We ate like divas (sorry guys) and had warm soups for lunch, and scrumptious dinners, and even an Asian coconut custard birthday cake for Ole. That’s a long story.

On the way out the boys did a little sheep hunting. Sited six, but they were too small. I was somewhat thrilled about that. I scattered my dad’s ashes in the most surreal of places, spots where lush alpine tundra meets views of the stark and dramatic Harding Icefield, and another where two glorious glaciers parted like a frozen sea past the rock outcrop we were camped on, above an ephemeral lake jumbled with blocks of ice, like the eddy of the glacier if ice could indeed swirl in geologic slow-motion.

There’s more, but this is my “Full On 365” blog, and not an Outdoor Magazine article, so I’ll save more juiciness for another time.

Suffice it to say: it rocked my world. The whole month. All the people in my life. My boyfriend. My mom. My friends. My family. My self.

Indeed, myself. I am glad – and even a bit proud – to know I am still adventuring, and also still growing spiritually. Life is amazing. I truly love my life.

During this month, I have to admit I did notice that I wasn’t 24 anymore. And not all of that is bad.

Here’s what I notice is different now that I am 39 years old that is a little inconvenient:

  • I seem to need more sleep. I used to feel “fine” after 5-6 hours now and then. Perhaps what it really means is I expect more out of how I show up in the world, and that requires a cup that is more full
  • I need to stretch and do yoga. Before it just felt good and I thought of it as a great part of my workout. Now I neeeeeed it.
  • Slower metabolism.
  • Coffee gives me worse panic attacks than ever. I am learning to love tea more and more.
  • I have to hear, “OMG you SO don’t look 39! You look, like, 32 at the most!” all the time. As if I was supposed to be haggard at 39. As if the possibility of someone being youthful in their late 30s is such a shock to a 20-something who you also have to talk to all night and keep hearing, “I can’t believe you’ve done so much! Oh, I keep forgetting you’re SO MUCH older than me!” Funny thing is I used to do (kinda) the same thing. Karma’s a bitch. I know, I know…if I really had my shit together I’d see all that as true compliments. But its rather like saying to someone, “Oh! You’re still skinny! You’re supposed to be fat by now.”

Things I like about getting older that are freakin’ awesome:

  • I like to read before bed
  • I have a growing acceptance of doing nothing and feeling good about it
  • I am less controlled by a need to impress others
  • Sex keeps getting better. Who EVER knew!!!! Yay!
  • I am happier
  • I have more skills with which to help others
  • I am still sexy and pretty and am growing into my womanhood more and more, with grace
  • I am more in love than I have ever been. Ever.
  • I trust the Universe
  • I am a better person
  • My body’s new “needs” keep me aware of how I treat it, and I take care of it better and better
  • My friends are still around, and still love me and celebrate me – and they know me even better!
  • I have a better understanding of my shit and how to deal with it
  • I have a better understanding that we all have our shit, and how to help others deal with theirs
  • …and more
Thai started building this woodshed while I wrote this blogpost. No shit. In like, minutes.

If you ever fear getting older, don’t. Take care of your body, your soul and your mind. Show up in the world with integrity and compassion. Do the right thing. Have fun! It gets better. For realz!

BTW to the left is a photo of what my boyfriend did while I wrote this blog post. Men are awesome;)

Note: Ana Neff is a personal life coach, guide and Freedom Junkie™ She helps passionate people awaken their lives of freedom, adventure and purpose. Her monthly Freedom Junkie™ eZine goes out to hundreds of subscribers. Her “Full-On 365” blog posts stem from her commitment to living full-on, every day, for 365 days in a row. If you are ready to take your life and your world to the next level, you can learn more about her coaching programs and download her FREE Getting Clear Guide by visiting (note: it’s new look will be up to rock your world soon)!

Days 183 to 189 Full On Family – An Ode to Nana Verzone

Nana’s Antipasti

I thought I could dance. At least freestyle. But then I met my boyfriend’s almost 90-year-old grandma (aka Nana). We went to a wedding in

Her homemade ravioli

Vermont, and it was also a good reason for me to meet Nana since she wanted to suss me out after learning that Thai and I were “serious.” She was supposed to have died over a month ago, according to her doctors. They told her 8 months ago that she had 6 months to live due to a weakening heart valve and her poor candidacy for surgery. But, as she puts it, she showed up at her doctor’s office and said, “I’m still here!” Thank goodness for that!

Suffice it to say, she wasn’t supposed to be gardening or cooking. And she does both. Her garden is prolific with freshly picked flowers adorning the house. She cooks multi-course meals despite protestations with full Italian flair. And I mean homemade raviolis. Gluten shmuten – I had 3 servings.

Nana certainly isn’t supposed to dance. She has passed out a few times gardening (albeit that was before a few med adjustments). However, after watching Thai and I swirling on the dance floor at the wedding, she asked for me. I walked up to her, curious as to what she wanted and wondering if maybe my underwear was showing when Thai spun me around. To my delight, she came out on the dance floor and we danced and danced. She even swirled! (see video here – if the link isn’t active, come back as that means it is still uploading). After a bit of feistiness, she stopped and said she needed to stop. She was feeling

Thai and Nana after she almost passed out. Still table dancing!


Oh shit. I refused to be a partner in crime for Nana’s last dance. Not on my watch! With an eagle’s eye I tried to act nonchalant, noticing how she was

Homemade cannoli!

still smiling as she sat down. She was breathing hard. She was a little concerned in the brow…but then she started laughing. We all started laughing. See, it takes chi to laugh, and she still had lots of it.

Thank freakin’ God.

I thought about it later, how she had been told what not to do to stay alive longer. And how all these things – cooking, gardening, dancing – brought her such joy. I thought about what I could only imagine her thought process was – “Hmmm. That dancing sure looks fun. I really want to dance. I probably shouldn’t. But I really want to dance. And this wine feels good! Oh what the hell. Why not!? Just for a little bit.”

Would it have been worth it for her? I don’t know. I think maybe it would have been worth it, to be honest. For her, at least. To not stop living just to live. She wasn’t dumb about it. She just lived at her edge.

What’s your edge? What do you do to keep feeling alive? What do you do for pure FUN? Share below with the tribe – let’s LIVE!

Note: Ana Neff is a personal life coach, guide and Freedom Junkie™ She helps passionate people awaken their lives of freedom, adventure and purpose. Her monthly Freedom Junkie™ eZine goes out to hundreds of subscribers. Her “Full-On 365” blog posts stem from her commitment to living full-on, every day, for 365 days in a row. If you are ready to take your life and your world to the next level, you can learn more about her coaching programs and download her FREE Getting Clear Guide by visiting (note: it’s new look will be up to rock your world soon)!

Days 101 to 105 The Good Fear – FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)

Well dog my cats! I went pack rafting today and didn’t shit my pants! I have this thing with drowning…and the way I tend to address my fears is dive straight into them. Inevitably they seem far less freaky than what my mind was making up. Buuuuut with whitewater kayaking or pack rafting, it feels a little harder to embrace being dumped into a rapid, upside down. It’s that “airway” thing, I guess.

The depths of the ocean freaked me out, so I learned to scuba dive. It was much prettier and mellow down there than the dark muddied world of ugly gray breasts that I’d made up whenever a strand of seaweed would brush against my leg at the beaches in Santa Cruz.

Heights made me dizzy so I learned to climb, and discovered that getting over that fear for the kick ass views was well worth it.

Here I am after packrafting Clear Creek, where it runs into the Klamath River

I was afraid to have my heart hurt again, so I flung it wide open for my soul mate, who is – as I write this on my iPhone on the banks of Clear Creek – on my mountainbike riding uphill 8 miles to go get the car, which we left at the put-in upriver. We’re uber happy, to say the least;)

In any event, until recently, I allowed myself to be afraid of whitewater, because I figured it’s ok to be afraid of <em>something,</em> right? But then whenever my friends did it, I felt like I was missing out. They’d come back all tan and happy, and with this cool shared experience. And deep down, I knew I could do it. And deep down, I wish I was better at it. So, I did it:)

Hey! There is it again! That fear I’ve written about a few times: FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out.

Well thank God for FOMO. Without it, I might be better rested and comfortable, but because of it, I keep having amazing new experiences, meeting absolutely amazing people, playing in the wilderness, getting stronger in body, mind, and spirit…and heart. And I feel ALIVE!

Of course, you don’t have to be on whitewater or a mountain to feel alive. We all have our own thing for that.

What is yours? What helps you feel alive?

And what are you fearing you might be missing out on? What could you do to drop into it and have a cool experience?

Does it require you to call a friend, or go on a date by yourself and check out that new wine bar and hit up that long yet awesome movie you’ve been wanting to see? Does it mean you need to stop protecting your heart so much that you don’t take anymore risks?

FOMO is a good fear – at least for me. The fear of missing out often overpowers the fear of whatever it is before me. And I grow as a result. I mean, I’m with my freakin’ soulmate!!!

It keeps me on my toes, taking inner and outer risks, and opening to the opportunities that the Universe present before me.

This planet is so utterly, epically, über amazing. Being human is such a precious gift. Our spirits and hearts are so much more resilient and magnificent than we can ever imagine them to be.

So, what’s your FOMO? Please do share below! I’d love to hear from you.


Note: Ana Neff is a personal life coach, guide and FreedomJunkie™ She helps individuals awaken their lives of freedom and personal success with confidence, clarity, self-love, and passion. Her monthly Jedi Juice ™ eZine goes out to hundreds of subscribers. Her Full-On 365 blog posts stem from her commitment to living full-on, every day, for 365 days in a row. If you are ready to take your life and your world to the next level, you can learn more about her coaching programs and download  her FREE Getting Clear Guide by visiting (note: it’s new look will be up to rock your world soon)! Sign up for her next FREE Jedi Juice Training call on the Law of Attraction at

Days 50 to 53 – Loving and Receiving Fully Kicks Ass

Living Full-On Every DayWow…so sometimes when you live full on, the Universe reminds you of exactly how happy this makes her, and how much more beautiful the world is because of it.

When I was facing a serious cancer and going through my inventory of possible regrets, I had but one major one. I was pretty happy about that. I had learned enough to attempt to appreciate life regularly, and had spent all of my 20s adventuring all over the world. I had begun deep healing in my relationships with my parents. I was a whacky but fiercely loyal friend and partner. And I had learned to be compassionate with myself about using the word “regret.”

I had a general rule that if I learned from the experience and made amends for it, I could call it a mistake or a lesson, rather than a regret. But let me tell you this: when looking at not being able to do anything about a regret cuz you may die, even one regret SUCKS.

So…I am guessing you’re wondering: What was my ONE major regret? It had to do with LOVE, of course! I had one great love that I had not fully appreciated or done everything I could for. We met in Kathmandu in our 20s, and all sorts of social “rights” and “wrongs” (too soon after a breakup so maybe I wasn’t clear…having to do the responsible thing…yada yada) kept me from saying “yes” when he asked, “Will you come ride a motorcycle with me through Cambodia and Laos?” Or months later when he came to visit me en route to Antarctica.

Us in our 20s, stuck in Baja during to 9/11(after sea kayaking Isla Espiritu Santo)

We kept in touch, regularly. We had 2-3 hour phone conversations (even until recently!). We tried to date but were always on different continents. Not different continents like North vs South America. Like Antarctica vs North America. That made it challenging.

Then I pushed him away by doing some hurtful things that I didn’t know were hurtful at the time…probably because my heart was closed off after hearing he was dating a woman in Antarctica, or dating a woman in Alaska. Sheesh. How embarrassing. Apparently those things kind of kept him from opening his heart to me anymore then. Fair enough. You can’t expect someone to open their heart to you if yours is squeezing shut.

We talked about “us” and resigned ourselves to the fact that while we both wanted to be together and give it a go, perhaps it just wasn’t meant to be in this lifetime. It was too difficult to make it happen. So we became “just” friends. REALLY good friends. Like he called me from the South Pole, or sent me little trinkets from Egypt or Bolivia when he would barely email anyone else, and called me when he was having a really hard decision to make. Or like I would call him when something awesome happened in my life…like, oh, say…when I got engaged.

We had promised each other we’d tell the other person – not matter how distanced we may ever become – if either of us got engaged. I can safely say we both assumed this was to give the other person a last chance to go for it.

So I called him. And he sounded surprised, then…he congratulated me.


I hate to admit it now, but I was indeed disappointed. It might have been wise to listen to that. It could have spared me my later divorce (albeit an amicable one, for my ex was indeed a super awesome man). However, I was young on my path to understanding my intuition then. I had chalked it up to “grass is greener” syndrome. Plus, he had a girlfriend he met in Antarctica that swam to islands in Fiji with him with a plastic bag tied around their ankle full of their belongings. WTF. How can you top that when you’re stuck doing 12 hour shifts at a hospital while in graduate school in San Francisco (albeit also squeezing in Yosemite walls and climbing trips to Australia, alone)? You don’t. You just are happy for him, that’s what. Sheesh.

In any event, as I was preparing for my cancer excision and renal auto-transplant in 2004, wondering how sick I was (or how sick I was going to be), I thought of HIM. That relationship was my one “What if.” HE was the one thing I had wished I had gone for fully. Not pushing him away. Not making up stupid excuses. Not waiting until it was convenient or easy. And now I was married, and he was about to be engaged (although I didn’t know that at the time), and both our partners were totally amazing. Fuck.

So I let it go.

I KNOW, right?! But I wanted to do what seemed like the “right thing” then… and a big part of me still feels good about that.

In any event, I tell you all this because the Universe is supposed to have come in and given me props for all my full-on living thus far. And she did.

The past few days when I wasn’t writing here, I was fully experiencing love with HIM. I am 38, and I am finally with him. I know now that the decade+ delay was all for good reasons. We appreciate each other even more now, that’s for sure. We learned to love one another as friends. We REALLY know each others’ crap, and knowing that the other person still wants to be with us after all that is rather lovely. And we learned many things in our other relationships that we didn’t have to learn with each other, which surely spared some heartache. And there are many other things to celebrate about having surrendered to the Universe back then. But no matter what, all I know is I am absolutely receiving love from him, fully and completely. And dishing it out.

Yes yes, we are building our lives together, and making all those plans and talking about kids etc. But for me, the point is that I AM FINALLY ABLE TO LOVE HIM FULLY, LIKE I ALWAYS WANTED TO. And I am receiving his love fully, like I never let myself do before. To be honest, even if we don’t stay together “forever,” I can die knowing I experienced my great love. And that is so much better than a “What if.”

Many of you could call my bluff…if you’ve truly been dealing with dying before you were ready before. I have to admit, there’s nothing like that to get you to realize exactly HOW SHITTY it feels to have “What ifs” when you are possibly going to die much sooner than you ever thought possible.

And now I got a second chance. How often does that happen? Probably not often, because actually we also have a huge part in CREATING those second chances ourselves, and we often give up too soon. But having said that, THANK YOU for this second chance (to all involved)!

It wasn’t an easy peasy “I’ll call you and let’s meet up for coffee” kind of thing. We were still almost a continent apart. When we both first opened up to this possibility again, he was heading off to China, and after that trip he returned to his home-base in Alaska (I was currently in Oregon). Getting to be with him took some balls this time around too. I really had to take some risks, and so did he. But it was so worth it. So very, very worth it.

I was talking to a client the other day about wanting to protect our hearts, and I was reminded of my new willingness for it to get hurt again as long as I am honoring my truth all the while. It is NOT worth protecting it at the price of possibly not loving fully again (there are wise ways to do this, but that’s another post;) The risks, while scary, are part of the dealio.

So the past few days have been me receiving fully and loving fully. And I find little notes from him in my stuff, and I watch him sleep and I’m like, “HOLY SHIT! I am with him! Like I always felt I should be! This is SO WEIRD! And so incredibly cool.” Talk about patience and faith and trust. And risk-taking. And … who knows what else.

Us in Mali, West Africa – on a different adventure in our late 30s;)

But what I DO know is that had I not been committed to living Full On, to not making excuses, to not wasting any more of my precious life energy doing anything I do not want to be doing, to being willing to take the risks…I could have missed out on this. All of it.

If you’ve vomited after this, I completely understand. For me, it is The Notebook in real life, after all. Well, The Notebook minus the horse races and white picket fence and white people and one of us being an aristocrat part. Well, minus lots of things from that…but PLUS many more of our own flavahs.

I’ll admit that I own The Notebook, and everyone told me it was Hollywood bullshit, by the way. And yes, I know many of you are devastatingly disappointed by my admitting that, but oh well;) It is the only love story movie I own. The rest are Kung Fu flicks and the Star Wars series. However, I bought it because when I watched it, it reminded me not that my true love was still out there “somewhere,” but that life was too short to make up excuses for not living fully.

I liked being reminded of that, because for me it did so not in a woo woo way, or in a bullshit “Hollywood is trying to make you feel bad about your life” kind of way, but in a “Cut the BS and get off yer ass and go get it, even if you end up disappointing others by staying true to yourself. Life is too short!” type of way. I think it was because I KNEW that was true for me, and I needed to be reminded not to make up excuses anymore. I wasn’t waiting for my prince charming. I just had to have the balls to stop getting in my own way about it.

I still really do believe that it is not about if we stay “together forever” that defines true love, but rather this expansive wholeness that I feel in my heart. To feel this, even only for a brief while, is kissing God. So although I have every reason to believe this is a continuation of another lifetime and will continue to be so, this really, truly, for realz, is enough.

So have you not told someone you care for about your heart? Have you not forgiven someone who desperately wants you to? Have you not apologized for hurting someone, even if you didn’t mean to? Today, PLEASE do something about one thing that you would regret if you put it off. You never know what second chances might open up for you.

PS: I also skied up Near Point and watched cool sunsets;)

At the top of Near Point, Anchorage, AK


Note: Ana Neff is a personal life coach, guide and FreedomJunkie™ She helps individuals awaken their lives of freedom and personal success with confidence, clarity, self-love, and passion. Her monthly Jedi Juice ™ eZine goes out to hundreds of subscribers. Her Full-On 365 blog posts stem from her commitment to living full-on, every day, for 365 days in a row. If you are ready to take your life and your world to the next level, you can learn more about her coaching programs and download  her FREE Getting Clear Guide by signing up at! Sign up for her next FREE Jedi Juice Training call at