I can’t picture myself dead. My mother said that to me the other day. Given that she is 89 years young, I was thrilled to hear it! It got me thinking, though. I can’t picture myself dead either, which is a beneficial mindset when emerging from the back end of breast cancer treatment. Normally I’m not a fan of exploring what I’m not, preferring to follow the lead of umpteen gurus, self-help masters and positive thinking aficionados in holding positive thoughts near and dear. So what if, just this once, we veer from the tried and true path and dabble on the wild side. What if we explore what we can’t picture …
I can’t picture myself dead, either. It’s a black and white concept, you can or you can’t, but in the world of breast cancer, or any cancer treatment, the picture can turn Escher-esque in a heartbeat. It’s important to hold onto the picture you want, not let your fears take over and skew your bucolic, agrarian, rolling-fields-of-wheat life into a post-harvest apocalypse. Picture yourself alive. Picture yourself as you want to be. Armed with new life experiences, keep the sun shining on your perfect world, but be thankful for the rainy days. Bucolic settings don’t thrive on sun alone. They need a healthy balance of sun and rain to make those perfect rolling hills lushly green.
So now that I’m not dead, and don’t picture myself that way, the sky is really the limit. Maybe it’s because I went for a physical retooling, opting to go sans breasts rather than try and recreate something that could never be the same again. Maybe it’s because I found the prospect of navigating the world physically different quite exciting, and still do. Early on I asked a friend for his opinion as to whether he thought I looked odd or not. Facts are facts, I’m as flat as they come. Think pre-pubescent girl flat, that’s me. He said no, didn’t even hesitate, and the reason he gave was because I’ve never gone through life leading with my chest. Wise words. (Thank you, Jeffrey!) I try to lead with my head, but since this blog is brutally honest, I will add that I have always been more invested in my legs than my breasts. Not that I didn’t have a perfectly nice pair of breasts, I did. They suited me well. I have long, lean legs, though, so they are the first thing that gets noticed. More honesty – as I got older, I spent years wearing pants, because my legs didn’t look like they used to. They didn’t look twenty. How could they? I was fifty! I eventually got over it and am back in sundresses, but I’d been sans breasts less than two months before I was back in a tank top. That was eye opening for me.
Life is about change. It happens all the time, all around us. The seasons change, the weather changes, our bodies change. I’ve tried to embrace all aspects of my life, never wanting to be older or younger, just marinating in where I was. Sure, I look forward to things, days and events other than the one I’m inhabiting, but that doesn’t have to detract from my current state. I find that in many ways, looking forward to another point in time can enhance the one you are in. If we have nothing to look forward to, then we have, well, nothing. It can be as simple as looking forward to the rain expected tomorrow that will water your garden, or fall because you like to see the leaves change, or the concert or performance you bought tickets for. Firmly moored in the here and now, I like to look ahead and glance back, to see how far I’ve come and to jazz myself with what’s to come. It got me through chemo and surgery and radiation, being firmly in the moment, embracing everything that I was going through, and knowing that time will pass, it’s a given, and eventually this will be behind me too.
One thing I learned early on in life is there is a huge difference between what I want and what I need. Time and time again, when I thought I wanted something to happen and it didn’t, looking back, I always found I was exactly where I needed to be instead. Every job I didn’t get cleared the way for a better one; every relationship that didn’t work out cleared the way so I could marry the most amazing man in the world (for me). Even having breast cancer has opened me up in ways I never imagined. Day in and day out, I have experiences that give me pause to consider what orchestrations the universe went through for paths to converge, for lives to be touched. That’s when I thank my lucky stars I’ve learned to get out of my own way, to let go of the reins and give life the freedom to run free, run wild. No, I can’t picture myself dead. Who has time for that when there is a great, big wondrous world to experience, one delicious moment at a time.