Not everyone sees or hears you the same way. It’s most comforting to be near those who really see you, as you are and accept you for that. I’m a pretty imperfect person. I am opinionated and sensitive. (Which is a bit of an oxymoron). I am kind and humble and at the same time can certainly be bold and assertive. I can be crazy and emotional and yet strive to be grounded and balanced. I am not one thing. I don’t think anyone is, but we do have expectations that people be a certain way and when they surprise us by stepping out of those expectations, we are often disappointed or sometimes pleasantly surprised. Think of that friend who is passive by nature, but then suddenly takes a grand step and boldly stands up for herself against someone or something that has bowled her over for a very long time. It is both shocking and yet wonderful at the same time.
cancer (a word I will not capitalize, even if it comes at the beginning of a sentence), changes you. I have tried to put into words just how it does so, but it is hard to explain. Even amongst survivors, we can’t really explain it to to one another. We simply nod in agreement that our after diagnosis selves are different than our before diagnosis selves. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am still me… still opinionated, sensitive, kind, humble, bold, assertive, crazy, emotional, grounded and balanced and yet I am different. I feel it most when I am alone and when I am with those people who I know don’t really see me or accept me as I am. Those people who maybe never did.
In many ways, we are chameleons. We can adjust to the social situation or work environment as needed to make those in the room feel comfortable. I am good at this, in fact I have a couple of friends who have said to me, “I sure hope you can make it, you are such a good mixer.” In the chameleon cloak though, it is often everyone else who feels comfortable in your presence and you who simply feels “mixed up”. After diagnosis, the biggest change for me is this. I just don’t want to and honestly, am not even good at it anymore. I just am who I am and the energy it takes to be someone different for the sake of making others feel comfortable, is gone. Not sure which surgery it was removed, but it is gone. I have said many times that the two c’s in cancer, for me, mean crystal clear. It is crystal clear to me that I do not want to do things with people I don’t care to spend time with in places I no longer want to be. That is so clear to me. Life is too short,
The gift of this insight is that I don’t. It’s the best gift cancer has given me. I just don’t shift suits or adjust plans or bend over backwards. Take me as I am, or don’t take me at all. It’s fine with me either way, I am still going to like you the same and I hope you can respect me too but let’s not change for one another. Finding acceptance for myself has been a long road and now that I am hear, it is impossible to go back.
There are those who love you who just feel like sunshine. That random call from your grown up daughter that says “I was going to text you but thought I would call instead. How are you Mom?” That feels like warm ray that hits you direct in the heart. The call from my son in law Eddy who says “How’s going? Want to meet for a beer?” The random note from a stranger that says, “Thanks for your blog. I had a diagnosis recently and am feeling so much of what you have, can we chat?” Facetime calls from my beautiful granddaughters Ruby and Lola, those are amazing amounts of vitamin D straight to the heart. I have a friend Delia, who has this wonderful way of checking in. I don’t know how she does it as she has so many friends and family that she is close to, but she is funny and kind and so consistent. Her friendship is accepting and her ability to see you as you are and love you for it is simply beautiful.
In my sunshine filled days at Clear Lake, which is where I spend my summer, I can feel the warmth of friendships that are carved out a little deeper each summer. We are never afraid to stumble with one another. I mean this literally and figuratively. We would, and sometimes do, stay with one another all day and night. We laugh and cry and encourage each other. (see attached video for my accomplishment this week. You will hear and see that cheering.) Sunshine friends for sure!
We are a lake family here and we have watched one another’s children grow up, and even shared our challenges and all of our celebrations in raising them. Some of us have seen each other go through marriage, divorce and even 2nd marriages. We have lost friends and we have gained friends and through it all we are accepting of one another, just as we are. Most of us don’t really know the ins and outs of our lives as we just see each other in the summers but we always share the highs and the lows. Those would be the times that we reach out to each other over snow covered Canada by telephone or text to just check in or let each other know that someone in our group is struggling or is worthy of an accomplishment worth celebrating. The reason that I want to tell you about this community is that in the alone times, I have come to realize that I am most myself with this crew. It is why this place feels so much like my happy place. There is no chameleon suit here at my cottage and when I feel myself needing it, for one reason or another, it is so uncomfortable.
Last week Paul and I went golfing and I am super happy to report that I have been golfing really well, but on this day… not so much. I started out with a 7, 7, and in the middle of the third fairway I could tell that it wasn’t going to be much better. I instantly had these thoughts going through my head. I was telling my self this story that was making me wish I was someone else so badly. The dialogue went something like this:
“Paul needs a wife who works on their golf game. Someone who goes out and practises and really takes the game seriously. He is so disappointed in you. Shelley, come on.. you have to be better.”
Then resentment would set in and my outside voice would say things like:
“I don’t know why we had to golf today. Why do we always have to golf? I’m not like you, I don’t want to golf everyday.”
How confusing for Paul as I was the one who called that morning and made the damned tee time. So now my inside voice is asking me, “Did you make this tee time because you wanted to golf or because you knew Paul wanted to golf?” I honestly didn’t know that answer but the mere thought that I wasn’t doing something for genuine reasons or that I was trying to be what someone wanted me to was so incredibly uncomfortable. The day never really got easier on the course, it continued with the same kind of dialogue I have described. What became “crystal clear” to me once we were back to the cottage and I had sometime alone is that Paul loves me even when I am stumbling. Even when I feel so confident in who I am, there are still times that it is confusing for me. When I feel like I am disappointing someone, that is when I wish I could be different. However, my ability to be different for someone is now gone. It is this that draws me to those who are sunshine to me. Those who can watch me stumble and just love me for it. Those who I don’t have to wear a “suit” for, or be anything I am not. These are my people… I love you for that.
We all stumble and need some sunshine to pull ourselves back up. I hope that my post diagnosis self is better at this than ever before; better at it for me and for you. Forgiveness, acceptance and honesty is what gets us to that point.