I am struggling to write at the moment.
I don’t know if this is a result of chemotherapy (chemo brain-is an actual thing) or just that I am having trouble finding the words for my understanding over the last couple of months.
I’ll give it a whirl but I could probably show you in interpretative dance form easier ????
Talking about dance, I went to a salsa night recently. In between chemotherapy cycle two and three. Bald. And flat. And there was some serious anxiety leading up to this moment. Fear of not looking attractive. Fear of being ignored. Fear of being turned down for dances. Fear of looking like I was attention seeking.
But I chose to go bald because, the same reasons for me remaining flat, my dancing came before my need to conform to a societal concept of beauty and ultimately a compromise of who I am at the core. With a wig, scarf or hat I wouldn’t be able to dance freely without my mind and unhelpful negative chatter gate crashing the party. I just needed to get to the dancefloor with someone who would validate my presence as worthy, even when stripped of all my garnishing. I had also decided that even if I didn’t get to dance as much as I would have liked to, I could just sit and enjoy the music and watch others, grateful to be there. So whichever way the night would go I was OK. I was just pleased that I was entertaining the option of being in a room with a couple hundred other dancers just as I am, no hair and no breasts. But with courage running through my veins deeper than the chemotherapy designed to reduce me to nothing.
Back to being bald. Being bald isn’t easy but it could be worse. It was just another element that allowed me to gain more perspective. Being bald means I am colder but it means I have more time on my hands in the mornings. My kids don’t know which version of me is going to pick them up from school. But they know that hair is just hair and that mummy is still mummy with or without eyebrows.
What I know now is that I have always believed hair was part of what made me pretty. On some level I have wanted to be found attractive on and off the dancefloor, I wanted to be wanted and liked and this allowed me to compromise my me-ness without me even realising.
Before cancer I would say that I fit a typical mould of what one would describe as attractive. I had the ability, given the right tools and good lighting to make myself the best physical version of me, with the trimmings to go with it. I didn’t know that actually my real beauty, as everyone’s does, lies within. I have heard this corny cliché obviously and would nod in knowing agreement but I definitely didn’t understand that. Not really.
Because real beauty actually has nothing to do with what we look like. It is not measured in the lack of life lines on our faces, nor the symmetry of features.
To cut this part of the story short, I got to salsa, danced my ass off and had the best night. Nobody put baby in the corner and people chose to be in my physical space just as much as I chose to be in theirs.
This evening felt significant. Without knowing it, by me going out without hiding, I not only accepted what I looked like but I liked the person who was underneath. I accepted her in her vulnerable physical state and I would vouch for her. It no longer mattered if anyone else accepted me or found me attractive. Because I accepted and loved myself.
That old nugget of wisdom that if you don’t love yourself, no-one else will, I am finally starting to grasp. I didn’t worry about dancing with someone and sending out the ‘wrong’ signal because my innocent smiling may be mistaken for flirting. I just smiled because I was happy from the inside out. Not because I was trying to ensnare a male counterpart with my manic ‘choose me’ grin. Every cell in my body that the previous week had been under attack by the cruel and catastrophic chemotherapy drugs, was full of appreciation.
I have a tendency to merge into my partner for three minutes when I dance. If the vibration, energy and chemistry is aligned, the connection is, at the same time, ethereal as well as so tangible you could touch it. I love to dance. I love to create synergy with someone who loves dance and music as much as I do.
Dancing bald on Saturday night was like having my understanding of acceptance shattered into a million fragments to open me up to a whole new level of knowing only obtained through personal experience. I’m not sure that you can learn this from someone else’s interpretation, a meme or a book.
There are increasingly more experiences that I am finding myself unable to describe in literary form. Chemotherapy is indescribable, in physical side effects and the mental ones, grief is indescribable. The pain in every cellular organism is out of this world. When it feels like the body and mind can not bear the load anymore, you are proved wrong. Just as the bleakest times can not be compared to anything on this earth. The brightest most pure love laden experiences can not be given justice in words.
Life, for me, is about contrast. Light would not be so appreciated if there was no darkness to illuminate the way. So yes I am having a ‘tough’ time in my breast cancer journey but I am also experiencing an undefinable contrast because of the prior.
Regardless of cancer, I don’t want to die. But when I do die from whatever life has in store for me then I want to know that I have lived. There is so much more of life I want to experience. I feel like I am doing that to the best of my ability right now given the circumstances. That is the biggest gift I could possibly give to my children. The understanding that you don’t have to fight. You just have to love. Love what you do and do the best you can do at the time.
I didn’t know that I don’t have to fight to win. If I have to fight then it is not my game to play.