After needing some help to remove the t shirt I managed to get on over my head yesterday, I looked hard at my upper body in the mirror last night. The bathroom lights were strong and defining and the reflection was not one I was familiar with. The strange thing about the image staring back at me is that I had a deep feeling of power come over me instead of horror or sadness like maybe I had originally thought the emotions would be. This surprised me and the surprise of it gave me a strength hard to verbalize.
I stood head on intently looking at the transformation of my chest, my nipples, my breasts, my back. I still have the remnants of the markings where they measured for the incisions, still have the vestiges of the bright golden antibacterial liquid they anointed me with during the surgery. I think a doctor mentioned the only way to get it off is with nail polish remover, but the thought of insulting my skin with that smelly toxin in addition to what I have already put my body through offends me.
I paused. I stared. I glared. I embraced. For someone who thought she wouldn’t be able to look at herself without crying, I was surprised at how much power I felt at the body staring back. This goes way beyond boobs. I didn’t even really notice them which would have been the area I thought I’d be obsessing about, as much as I looked at the area surrounding them, my back, my sides, under my arms and then my breasts. I really looked at my décolleté, the area above my breasts that shows much more in a bathing suit. The lumps and bumps and discolorations made me think of my garden blooming. As I write that, the funny thing is that I was not staring at the details of the changes from a vanity standpoint, but really like a spring garden, from a transformational standpoint. I actually felt like I was standing at the edge of a mountaintop after climbing it for days, hands on hips, strong legs, ready for flight, like the climb gave me a set of wings I didn’t know I would be given.
People speak of the “gifts” of cancer. Women who have gone through it have looked at me with a sparkle in their eye, winking, knowing, that I too would be getting a gift that I was not expecting. I usually run for the hills when words like gift and journey come flying at me like seagulls at a clam shack. I wish there were different words, “journey” and “gifts” seem so cliché. The way I feel is like I am at the edge of a monumental force to be reckoned with, it does not feel smooth or clear sailing, but it does feel trusting and open to the powers that await. As I wrestle with the unique struggle it presents, It also feels a little scary. When I find myself in this fearful place of projecting into the future, I can spin into that abyss that can be frightening and debilitating. By now, though, I know this about myself. When I can summon the courage to stay in the present, to be alone with my strengths and release the judgments of my weaknesses, this is my power that I know is within me. This is the force that I create when I am most in tune with my core. No one else can supplement this. No thing can replace this. Only I can call it, drive it, direct it and allow it. I know that this unique change that is the physical in my upper body is only the beginning of what changes lie ahead in the deeper realm of my spirit. I welcome its place in me, but the temptation to control is overwhelming. The practice run of releasing control this past two weeks as I haven’t been able to do the most basic of tasks, making my bed, laundry, folding, emptying the dishwasher, needing someone to give me rides, cook for me and help me dry off from a shower is the warm up. I have worked on allowing and appreciating the gracious help from friends, my Aunt and my partner for the first time in my life.
This has not been easy; I have found that it is not easy to relinquish control. The feelings that arise like guilt and the notion that people may think I am taking advantage of their kindness surprise and jolt me because I know this is not true. I criticize myself for these thoughts, then criticize myself for criticizing the thoughts and wonder how many women who are going through this or something similar struggle with these feelings and why? I know the people who are helping me are doing so because it is their desire and deep expression of love for me. The receiving of love and kindness seem to be the area I need to work on, it just feels foreign in its actuality. This makes me so sad because it feels like I have been working on this for my entire life and when these luscious gifts come at me with the force and magnitude of which they have shown up, it is unfamiliar territory. Will I ever be able to just simply accept and allow love in the way people present it? Will I ever be able to just receive it without feeling like I have to give it back asap. Will I ever be able to understand that everyone shows their love in different forms, but it doesn’t mean that the love is not as strong or as real? Will I ever be able to understand and accept love unconditionally without the proverbial strings attached that I was raised and of course influenced by for the foundation of my early years?
Perhaps this is the precipice I stand at; perhaps this is the transformational element to this experience. The need to know outcome is part of the struggle and I know that staring at my new self in the mirror is the delicious reminder that not only is it out of my control, but that I have none and must accept the changes that are inevitable. Despite the amount of times I stare, the changes are unknown and that this is the lesson. Or maybe for a change there is no lesson and “it” just simply “is.” Is this even possible? My partner has a sign that says, “Don’t believe everything you think.” I sometimes think that this sign was designed with me in mind as the thinking part of me is in overdrive as I muddle through this murky swamp that is transformation. I know from my life experience that the murkiness is the juice that propels me into the light. Without it, the light isn’t nearly as sweet on the other side because there is no darkness to compare it to. So for the rest of today at least (one day at a time, or one minute in this case) I will attempt to stay put in the moment, to embrace the power that my stance in the mirror reflected back knowing that I am safe, I am grateful, I am loved and I love back fiercely with a power that is my deepest truth.
My truth is the best I can do.
My garden growing. I can hear the cardinals everywhere but I haven’t seen one in my yard for a few weeks. They are always for me the reminder that all is well in my world.