Sometimes this blog is hard to write. Sometimes I don’t feel well and the actual act of sitting and writing is a challenge. Sometimes I feel really good and I don’t want to sit down long enough to let the gravity of what I’m going through sneak in through the cracks and upset me. Sometimes cancer sucks so bad that I don’t want to write about it because writing about it would give cancer a little victory. Then I get frustrated with myself that I am not more. I get impatient myself for not being braver, more optimistic, more resilient. I know that seems a little ridiculous to say but I’m willing to bet everyone I will lay eyes on today has had those struggles with themselves. So I’m going to stand by that unreasonable frustration because it’s true.
Sometimes I hate that I don’t have the time to craft the words and the message the way I want. I get disappointed by my own writing because I feel like I finally have an opportunity to be heard and I don’t want to blow it…or at least I want the best of me to come out here. Then, if people don’t like it I can say “Well, that’s my best. Take me baby or leave me” [Rent] and I won’t have to hedge thinking about what if I could have done a better job. Plus, I’m a perfectionist. I don’t like people to see my raw, unedited, clumsy attempts on projects that I care about. So the fact that I can get out of my head long enough to share my draft work with you really speaks to the invitation I am trying to offer. Which is: Come. Come be with me when I am not perfect so that you can be with yourself when you aren’t perfect either.
Finally, I also feel a lot of pressure to get this right. I want to say something important because I am standing with an incredible opportunity. But cancer really isn’t that glamorous. My life really isn’t that special. I’m just another person with a computer and Internet access who is willing to be vulnerable.
But maybe vulnerability is special.
We live in a world where we are trying to create these false, glossy images of what life is supposed to look like. We have Facebook to tell us who to keep up with, Pinterest to remind us how to do it, and filters on our photos so we can overstate just how close we came. It’s exhuasting and it leaves everyone feeling alienated because we think we fell short of the imaginary bar set for us.
But I believe vulnerability is the thread that ties us all together. I don’t have the perfect words for it yet, but I think standing confident in your own self (even when it’s a broken down hot mess) is one of the most magnetic and enigmatic qualities. I can remember times as a child and young adult when one of my peers was brave enough to be unabashedly authentic. It was like a ripple of energy flowed out around them. It took my defenses down and I suppose in that moment I felt love step in for fear. I believe vulnerability communicates a safety and security that almost nothing else can accomplish on the same level. To me, when you love yourself first and you accept yourself, your heart is whole enough to love others. So by admitting to the world that you aren’t perfect or maybe even that you aren’t “okay” you take down the defenses that would normally stand in the way of making room for others to be loved. And really, I think that is what this journey is all about for me.
If I’m going to die, I want to love as many people as I can before I go.
While my heart fully believes I will survive cancer, there is an irrefutable (and higher than I would prefer) risk that I won’t. While I really don’t spend a lot of time thinking about that dreaded “what if?” my diagnosis certainly has crystallized my vision for my time here.
I want to leave this world in a better condition than I found it.
I want my girls to know how incredibly fantastic I think they are and I want to fill their hearts to the brim in the event they have to walk along without me. I want my husband to know that I first fell in love with him when he was unabashedly authentic and playful with me on our very first date. And that even though we’re both learning and making mistakes together, he is by far the easiest and best decision I’ve ever made. I want my family to know that I am who I am in large part because of their contributions to my life, and that I wouldn’t trade them for anything (except maybe you, Chris*). I want my friends to know that they are the family I have chosen and that their love is what makes me feel like I’m mostly okay.
I also want to touch the lives of people I am not close to. Everyone I know is hurting. It is rarely the foot we lead with, but the avoidance of hurt, or the reaction to it, is what I see most behind people’s conduct. Everyone has suffered and everyone is trying to figure out how to suffer less and how to avoid the next disaster. But it’s bound to come. So what do we do to steady ourselves against the next crashing wave?
For me, I’ve chosen to steady myself by linking arms. Cancer or no cancer, my life was going to be challenging right now. I just started a new practice, withdrawing from my former partnership has been painful, and Tom and I found ourselves seriously and unintentionally disoriented for the first time in our marriage just days before my diagnosis. You throw cancer in there and it’s almost comical. But everyone has a story. And so, I’ve chosen to be the first clown to tumble out of the clown car we’re all riding in. I’m standing here looking ridiculous and silly and not at all perfect and bunch of other yahoos have shown up in the same space. I have cards and messages and gifts that are helping me lean in to the solidarity created by this vulnerability. It is real and it is comforting.
And so, I’m turning up the volume on that message.
I’ve decided to lead with love.
I want other people to feel what I have felt this past month. I also want to be a lightening rod for anyone with a broken heart or hurt ambitions. For every month I am in treatment, I am going to participate in a race. I’m doing it to be unabashedly authentic (and probably as a total hot mess) and to hopefully carve out some space for love and strength to show up in other people’s lives.
This month, I have decided I will toe the line for the Run to the Pub. This is an important race because our family has raced it for years and this year it is going to feel like hell on earth. It takes place Marchc 12, 2016 which is 3 days after my 2nd round of chemotherapy. I will likely be battling some of the mental demons from the last time. I will certainly feel like I am wearing a 50 pound vest with an extreme case of the flu. I don’t know if I will make it one block, one mile, or to the finish line. But I am going to try. And I am trying because I want to send the message to my girls and to everyone else that there is real beauty in pain, strength in weakness and that love grows out of vulnerability. And maybe if I can be strong enough to walk a few blocks after chemotherapy, anyone else watching might be reminded of the thing they are fearing and might have the courage and self-love to scramble up whatever mountain they have in front of them.
I also want to remind myself that I am strong. But I’m not doing it alone. I carry your support with me wherever I go and for each step I take on Saturday. I will get through cancer and whatever life throws at me by linking arms with the good people around me. And I’ll take it one step at a time.
Give em’ hell.
*denotes sarcasm and is the general language of love in my family of origin.