YOU LOOK REALLY NICE
I was shopping in Whole Foods this week stocking up on all kinds of delicious food when a complete stranger, a soft looking, fair skinned woman about my age came up to me out of the blue and said, “YOU LOOK REALLY NICE in that. In that she meant this lovely patterned summer dress I had bought over five years ago in Spain. (I know that sounds incredibly pretentious, like I fly all over the world to buy summer dresses) I had on a bunch of my favorite necklaces and earrings and my hair was silvery and messy in a good way. I actually felt really great. It was also my first foray out into the planet on this super hot day with a sundress and no bra. I have struggled with the no bra thing, but this dress worked without one and since my every expanding breasts are also completely upright, bras are simply not necessary. I was taken by the random compliment by a complete stranger. Even more so since the latest date since DAY ONE is now NINE WEEKS.
NINE WEEKS since I had a seven hour surgery, had a double mastectomy, had reconstruction at the same time, took drugs for two straight weeks and here I am at Whole Foods on a beautiful day getting a super kind compliment from a complete stranger. Of course I said thank you with a ginormous smile, and I was so happy to feel that heartfelt energy boost from a compliment. I started to consider how easy it is to make someone feel better just by saying something nice. If anything, a complete stranger makes it even sweeter since it is pure and unfiltered.
The beauty of this compliment is that I didn’t need it. Don’t get me wrong, a genuine compliment feels terrific at anytime of the day, but a strange feeling has happened to me since I have had this mastectomy. I haven’t really come up with an easy word for it, but my insides feel a power that seems to match my outsides.
For many years since I have owned my own company, there has been a perception of my outsides. I think this is true for anyone. We see someone’s life and we have a definition for our perception of it. Success, lucky, powerful, sad, traumatic, happy, good marriage, bad marriage, great mom, etc. Sometimes this is with judgment or criticism, sometimes it is just observations with no feelings one way or the other. Nevertheless, these words are descriptors of our own perception. No one really knows when looking at someone’s outsides if their insides match.
We humans put up good fronts for the world to see our glimmery side. Photos are a great example of this. We smile for the camera hoping to capture the beauty, the light, the happiness and years later we see the photo not remembering if what we are seeing is the truth or fiction.
We all have perceptions from other people about who and how we are. I am about truth and honesty and have been for sometime. I think the more we talk aloud about what the hell we are feeling, the more permission it gives others to do the same. Marianne Williamson said this best in her famous quote, Our Deepest Fear.
The two time breast cancer diagnosis coupled with finding out I fell into the 12% of possibility that I have the BRCA2 gene has changed me. Having a double mastectomy has changed me. For some strange reason, having my breasts removed removed the old bullshit unhelpful mind speak. The chatter head, the voice of judgment and criticism we all deal with at some point in our lives. My regular morning voice was that I am a slacker, that I don’t do enough. I know that this is not true when I go through the lists of my accomplishments both exterior and interior, but it is that small wee voice inside that is the core. This interior head has moved on. It’s like I received a gift when I had reconstruction. It is not empowerment because let’s face it, if we live in America, we are born with empowerment possibilities. The feeling inside for me is more than this, it is a sense of self worth and depth of spirit and I am changed. The cape metaphor is my favorite. The cape was the outside power, the perception of strength and glory, but when I put my head on my pillow at night, the cape is not with me. I am with me and this is when I know where my level of power is. This is when the chatter and the talk have the biggest voice and sound. This is when my changes are most obvious. The power to stay and communicate this moment, now. This is where I have been living strongly and most importantly calmly and I feel good, accomplished at peace.
The gift of this experience which likely sounds cliché is that it has allowed me to stand at the precipice of my own mortality. This sounds so dramatic because my cancer was caught so early twice, but I refuse to minimize its possibility. I was born into a resilient attitude and resilience is my answer to trauma. This time around, I have allowed myself to wallow, to worry, to be afraid and by allowing myself to feel this fear I have been carried through the eye of the tornado where it is messy and chaotic. Where I have landed is a place I didn’t anticipate, but am forever grateful for coming out alive. For landing on my two feet not needing the cape for immortal strength but knowing that my life is today and today is what matters. No one gets out alive and a good portion of the shit that goes on in our squirrelly heads is nonsense. You know when you hear a word that you never heard before and then you see it and hear it all over the place for the next few days? Or when you think of someone that you haven’t seen in a long while and then you hear from them? Cancer seems like this for me except magnified. Everywhere I turn, someone I know is either getting diagnosed or getting diagnosed again. Doctors love to give out percentages and we love to hear them. After my reconstruction follow up appointment, my beautiful breast surgeon reminded me that there is a 2% chance of recurring breast cancer even with a double mastectomy. I was speaking with some clients who are also friends last night and she mentioned that a friend of hers was one of those 2%. I really got to thinking again even more so about living today for today.
All day long in my business of beauty I hear women say, “I’ve had a gift card to your place for years. I am so busy…or so whatever. I’ll get there sometime.” This used to make me laugh with them in a knowing way as we women consume ourselves with busy-ness. Now it makes me sad with them because so often the busy-ness is a distraction from something inside that refuses to be taken care of. To procrastinate joy and feeling good is not helpful to our health.
I live my life a little differently now, a little sweeter, a little less busy. I want to gather with people I love more -not less. More get togethers on random days, more evening jumps in the ocean, more walks in the garden.
The excuse of breast cancer has taught me this. Being in a small 12 percent of people who have the BRCA gene has given me a much clearer sense of urgency in getting shit done. Cleaning closets, basements, cabinets, getting rid of old crap that is not useful to my house or my soul is part of this process that has allowed me to face the reality of the possibility. My grandparents gave me the gift of pragmatism. There is immense power in this because it is the opposite of putting my head in the sand, it is facing what lies ahead with my hands on my hips, feet firmly planted on the ground, hair blowing in the wind. Like Wonder Woman but without her cape. I am the cape. And I like the fabric and I do look really nice.
Some things I have around my house that are making more sense to me now.