Los Angeles Times magazine – October 2009 issue (scans + article)
EVERY DAY IS A WINDING ROAD
The Grammy winner has learned to take life’s turns as they come – and finds well-being the destination
Interview by Carol Wolper / Photographs by Peter Lindbergh / Produced by Kim Pollock / Sudio provided by Milk Studios
She is a natural storyteller. Whether writing a song or having a conversation, Sheryl Crow has a way of communicating profound points with a light touch. Even the most skeptical readers or listeners will be lured into sticking around—and be glad they did. Recently, Crow spoke to us about surviving cancer, becoming healthy, growing wiser and getting better.
ON HAVING A MOTTO
My dad said something to me years ago, which may sound cliché but has resonated particularly in the last few years: “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” It has really served me, more than any other phrase, because there are so many things you can obsess on, especially if you have a personality like mine where you want to fix things and make everything good. Certain things are not that important—most things aren’t important when considered against your health and well-being.
ON GETTING IF WRONG
The mythology I created for myself as a kid was if I took care of everybody, then everybody would love me. If I made myself without needs, they would love me more. I think that’s where I was fragmented all the years before my cancer diagnosis. I think I perfected the art of being right with everyone, earning people’s love by taking care of them and never demanding anything.
ON SELF LOVE
Putting yourself first is not a selfish act. It’s a selfless act. In fact, it’s very challenging to say to other people, “No, I’m not always free of need 100 percent of the time,” and therefore give them the opportunity to show up—to actually be a participant in your life.
ON THE BIG LESSON
Since my cancer diagnosis, I can be in an airport, and before I even get to my gate, I’ll have a handful of women come up and say, “I’m a survivor” or “I’ve just been diagnosed.” It’s a conversation that goes on between strangers and creates an instant familiarity, an instant sisterhood. And one of the stories I hear over and over from these women is that there’s a metaphysical correlation between their breast cancer and their lack of ability to let other people nurture them.
eople in tune with the link between the physical and spiritual will tell you the left breast symbolizes nourishment coming in, and the right breast is nourishment going out. My cancer was in my left breast, and that was very thought provoking. Whether or not I can fully attest to a belief that that’s the way it is, it certainly created a concept for me as to how to live my life.
ON GETTING THROUGH IT
Every day when I went into radiation, I was already in despair because my personal life had taken a crash, and I realized I was being forced to show up for myself in a way I never had to before. I couldn’t have someone else do the radiation for me. I couldn’t have a man come in and save me, save my health, prop me up and make me better. It was me who had to lay there on a metal table with this giant alien-looking machine shooting a beam into my chest. And to lay there and think that this was less about the high-tech machinery, although that was scary, and more about my ability to handle the moment—that was empowering. It definitely jerked me into the reality that we come into this world with an incredible strength, and we learn how to be a victim, or we learn how to approach things from the standpoint that, really, things just happen, and there’s an opportunity in every challenge.
ON HER GO-TO GUYS
I’m lucky. I’m surrounded by amazing people who have been consistent as my life coaches—or as I call it, emotional chiropractors. I sometimes need someone to tell me the way I’m looking at it is not the only way to look at something. My manager is probably my closest friend and my confidant but also one of the wisest people I’ve ever known. The other guy is Abdi Assadi, a healer. He’s an acupuncturist in New York who wrote this amazing book, Shadows on the Path.
One of the things—and this comes from someone who was highly self-critical and a type-A personality—that has changed my life is meditating. The simple act of making my brain shut off for 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes at night may not seem like much, but what ends up happening, besides creating space in your day, is your awake posture begins to replicate your meditative posture.
ON HER TURNING POINT
The moment I said I’m just going to let go of the picture of what my life was supposed to look like and give in—not give up, give in—and let go and see what comes my way, that’s when the real blessings came, when my life opened up in ways I could never begin to verbalize.
My 39th year was my worst. I dreaded turning 40. The moment I embraced turning 40 was the night of my fortieth birthday. I threw myself a big party, had all my friends up onstage, and we played and had an after-party. It went on for 24 hours. It was like a wake. But out of that wake came the best year of my life. I think there’s a wisdom that you cannot have in your twenties. You can be an old soul, but some life experiences you just can’t get until you get them.