Ok, write something.... anything! Tell them about your trip to Boston. No, no, this is a cancer blog, not a traveling blog. Right! Ok, tell them how you feel like you are treating this blog as a forum to vent, a place to complain about cancer and that was never your intention. And add the part where you feel like you don't know how to do this whole cancer survivor thing - let them know that you're not good at this, that you don't know your role as a person anymore. Wait! No! No one is supposed to ever find out when you're not good at something, you spend your whole life trying to be great at everything, you can figure out this cancer thing, maybe it'll just take time. Yeah, time, that's what 'they' all say, it will get better in time...
Yep, that's what I've been doing for the past four weeks, thinking about
where I stand in this whole cancer world. I am feeling less defined by it but I
still can't figure out what to do now. And every time I think about what to
write, the script from the first paragraph plays through my head. The thought of
admitting that I am not great at something, especially on a public forum,
terrifies me but it is also the reason that I haven't written anything in over
four weeks. I feel like I can't write about anything else until I write about
I've been asked by a number of people, 'why haven't you been writing your
blog?' and I guess part of me feels like a broken record and I am trying to find
a way that I can convey my feelings without sounding like Debbie Downer.
Back in March, I was talking to one of my girlfriends and she said 'I feel
like I'm a perfectionist who can never achieve perfection.' That has stayed with
me and I think about it quite often. I have always felt this way about myself
but have never been able to but it into words. I am slowly realizing that no
matter how many people tell me 'you're the best (insert blank here) I've ever
met', or 'I've never seen someone (insert blank here) as quickly as you have', I
am never going to feel like I'm enough. I think the same can be said about being
a cancer survivor, I want to be the best cancer survivor there is and yet, I
don't even know what the hell that means.
I'm at this weird point in my life where I feel like I understand 'life' a
little more than the average 28 (just turned 28 on Tuesday) year old and yet
even though I know how precious life is and how important every day can be, I
continue to live my life the way I used to; a boarderline workaholic, constantly
worried about money, insecure, obsessed with weight, etc. I have recently found
out that I am not the only one who puts pressure on myself to be a 'good' cancer
I recently watched a TED Talk that my good
friend Terri Wingham (author of A Fresh
Chapter) told me about. The speaker's name is Brené Brown
and she discusses the correlation between being whole hearted and vulnerability.
Now I'm going to warn you, this might get a little deep...
Brené discusses some of her research and the way the whole-hearted
live. People who were considered to be whole-hearted saw vulnerability as a
necessity - they are the type of people who are willing to say 'I love you'
first, they have the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees,
the willingness to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out,
etc. To be honest, this scares the sh!t out of me. For example, Keith was
the first to say 'I love you' - I mean, what would I have done if he didn't
say it back?... Brené goes on to say vulnerability is the opposite of
controlling and predicting and that is why I am not a vulnerable person -
that is why cancer and I didn't get along so well, because it wasn't part of the
plan, it wasn't predictable or controllable...
She says that vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our sense
of worthiness... but it seems to be the birth place of joy, creativity, of
belonging and love... and that we can't selectively numb portions of
vulnerability so when we numb the shame, the fear, and the pain that's
associated with vulnerability, we also numb joy, the creativity, the belonging,
the happiness and love. That makes so much sense to me. I am trying to
selectively numb vulnerability but how much joy and happiness am I numbing at
the same time? By not putting myself out there, how many opportunities are
flying by me simply because I'm afraid?
People who were whole hearted and who found vulnerability to be a necessity
have a sense of worthiness and have a strong sense of love and belonging and
therefore believe they are worth love and belonging. They were willing to let go
of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were - you have to
absolutely do that for connection.
At the very end of the talk, there is a slide from Brené's powerpoint
presentation that shows a woman with the words 'I am enough' written across her
chest. I will forever remember that image. I am enough. I am enough. I am
enough. I don't always believe it but saying it to myself reminds me that I
don't have to be a rocket scientist or a heart surgeon or find the cure for
cancer to be enough or to be worthy of love.
I guess the reason for sharing all of this is to say that what I am
slowly learning is that there is no right way to do this whole cancer
thing. If I spend 20 days locked in my room, crying, maybe that's the right
thing for me at the time. If I take five weeks off from writing and focus on
relaxing at a cottage or take a road trip with my mom, maybe I need that to
graduate to the next step in survivorship. If I choose to laugh my way through
the hard times, maybe that's the right way (for me) to deal with cancer. I can't
keep punishing myself for doing or not doing things a certain way because of
what I think is the 'right' way of doing them.
Have I totally lost you yet?
Like I had mentioned at the start of this blog, I took a trip to Boston at
the end of July and on the day before we left the city, I saw a billboard as I was
crossing the street and I had to take a picture. (I tried to upload the picture
but it said it was too big and I have no idea how to change the size). Anyway,
it said 'Do More of What Makes You Happy' and it had a cupcake and cross bones
at the bottom. Do more of what makes you happy - why didn't I think of
that? Why am I doing things to make it through the year, why not do things to
fill the year?
About two weeks ago, I heard the following expression three time
in one day 'It's not about the destination, it's about the journey' and it's so
true. What if I'm diagnosed with terminal cancer next year, am I going to be
happy with how I lived my life this year? Will I be able to reflect on 2012 and
think 'I am enough'?