My intention this year is to be someone worth knowing. To do that you have to contribute. To get in the arena, to be vulnerable, to be willing to get dirty and maybe even a little bloody.
I confess those last two scare me. I don’t like conflict. I want everyone to like me. I have the disease to please. I don’t know if I’m strong enough to get bloody to sustain the verbal body blows that inevitably will come once you step out from behind the curtain, onto a bigger stage, into the arena for all the world to see.
To put myself out there and know I’m open and vulnerable and raw and available for the world to find fault with, to critique and scrutinize and pass judgment on is terrifying. But then, the alternative is staying closed, staying small. Passing judgment on myself for living in my fear is worse. My own loser anthem that clangs in my brain will just continue to amplify if I don’t grow, open and blossom.
I watched from afar as my mother endured countless indignities. No one tells you that you will lose your eyelashes, your eyebrows, that your face will virtually melt off. That your nose will run constantly because those hairs have also disappeared. That your fingernails will fall off and ache and
throb. That your hands will feel like oven mitts and your dexterity will go. That your feet will ache and be numb at the same time. That rashes will appear, that wounds won’t heal.
When you inquire you are met with little patience for such trifles as the medicine is, in fact, keeping you alive.
Or is it?
It takes every ounce of strength and courage to not let this stuff break your spirit. It’s breaking your body in unimaginable ways. You, in fact, need a team of caregivers and healers to bolster you up, but none are offered. I knew that my mom needed more so, I did what I know how to do I encouraged
and took on the role of head cheerleader ( probably to the point of obnoxious).
In my quiet, private moments on the days that I had a minute between clients and children, I would go to my mother’s beach condo and lay on her floor just so I could feel near her. I felt broken and helpless and laying on her floor seemed to infuse me with strength. I could feel her. To me, her suffering was palpable, which is odd as she never complained, never shared side effects unless I prodded, but I knew the suffering was there. Her strength was stronger than her suffering and that’s what I found on those quiet moments stretched out on the wooden floor. Strength is a tricky thing to ask for. Before you can claim it or step into it you have to earn it.
Strength is defined as the capacity of an object or substance to sustain great force or pressure.
People who have withstood great force or pressure are interesting, they often make history, you want to sit next to them because they have something worth saying.
Fear is defined as a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil pain whether it is real or imagined.
No one wants to sit next to fear at the party.
Strong women and strong men are flawed, scarred and vulnerable. They are people worth knowing.
So, while I’m likely to get bruised and bloodied I’m going to step out of the fear and into my strength, my power, and vulnerability.
That’s how you become worth meeting.
Below is a letter I wrote to my mom after her last round of the first set of chemo. Aptly nicknamed the red devil. It scared us all, but she conquered it while I cried with dry eyes on her floor.
This is it. The last time you have to do this. I know it doesn't make it any easier. I hate what you are facing and that the next few days will be so hard. We are sending lots of love and good energy hoping to combat the effects of the chemo.
It was so wonderful to see that your fighting attitude and beautiful spirit are still strong. You look amazing and radiate energy and strength. This is it. You can do this. We will be waiting in the wings for you to reemerge strong, healthy and beautiful. We will be holding vigil while you go through this wishing we could take the pain away.
You are the strongest person I know.
You inspire me every day to try and do better.
Eleanor Roosevelt said a woman is like a teabag you have to put her in hot water to see what she is made of. She obviously had never heard of chemo. You've been put through the worst test and dunked in the hottest of water. The stuff you are made of is incredible - the tea you brewed is a love potion that all of your family gather around to soak up.
This tea is of course sweetened with honey. You've got this bee charmer. We love you. We are with you every step of the way.