Earlier today I posted a different picture of me on Facebook. It was an image that didn't take much effort, in any way. There was no make-up, no wig, no "help," really.
When I looked at it, I saw a pale me. I saw where my hair has thinned at the hairline. I noticed how much my eyebrows had thinned out. I tried to think good thoughts when I took it, but all I could do was smirk.
I know it is not terrible. But not terrible is not great, either. The difference between that picture, and the one on this blog post I think is significant. And, quite frankly, I am not sure of what I think of this one.
People have tried to tell me that they think all is fine. They tell me I still look good, nice, and so on. But the thing is, I don't see it for myself. I am not thrilled about wearing wigs these days, but I feel like they come closer to the me that I used to know.
And I miss that person. I really do.
I realize that there are those who go through chemo, and have less, or no, hair. I have myself been one of them. Some might think I should be grateful for what I have because others have less. I am sorry, but I do not agree.
Many people will downplay whatever they are dealing with when they talk to me - because it's not cancer. I ask them to please not do that. Their reality is their reality, and whatever they are facing is real and legitimate for them. In the same way, what I face is real and legitimate for me.
I have been through so much at this point. May 14, 2012 was when I was told about "the" tumor. It is almost 3 years ago now. I am battle-fatigued in so many ways at this stage in the game. While some would want me to focus on the good, the positive, the things I do have, there is much that has changed not only considerably, but irrevocably, in that time.
There are parts of me that are still likely mourning. Every time I look in the mirror I see stuff I don't want to, and miss the things I'd like to see. There are some times I am better than others about how I process what has been, and what is.
There are times I share my experience of being me because I feel like I "should." Some seem to think I look just fine for a person dealing with cancer. And that is supposed to be a good thing. But the fact that I can look "that" way to others (as in "fine") given what docs believe to be my prognosis could be misleading, to say the least.
I did not post the image to get all the great remarks I got. I posted it to share a reality for me. I posted it to show people what I am facing in the midst of facing it. The "only" problem is that it seems very few (if any?) see what I am facing the same way that I am. They obviously have a different perception of my reality.
How does one share a version of a reality in such a way that it will be received as expressed? That is probably The Milliion Dollar Question. How do we have others see us as we see ourselves?
Some might argue that others sometimes see us better than we see ourselves, and that that is a good thing, and perhaps we should forego our perceptions for theirs. But I am not so convinced. I think we need to be wherever we are for as long as we are there. I think we need to acknowledge our moments - of all kinds.
I think that when others try to tell us things that don't fit our own personal version of reality, it isn't always going to be helpful - at least not when it practically demands that we deny ourselves in the process.
My reality is not going to change just because someone shares with me a different version than the one I am currently working with. There is no magical perspective. If there was, I would be able to show people the things I do about what I am dealing with, and they would be able to see it without wanting me to alter how I view things.
Most who want me to be different have not dealt with the many issues that I have faced. Hopefully they never will have to. But that doesn't stop them from thinking they can offer some helpful perspective. I am not sure their perspective would be the same, if they were to ever have a first-hand opportunity to be in a position like mine. But, even if cancer did show up for them, it would still be likely that they would never know just how I felt, since our experiences could still be very different.
For some, hair might never have been a big deal. As for me, it was always a part of who I was. It was a part of my identity. It was something people always commented on, always liked. For me, losing my hair was a huge deal. I was devastated. I am no longer devastated as I once was, but it does affect me in several ways. It is why I take the efforts I do to look as I do on occasion. I need that extra something - for me.
It is easy to make it seem like something should not be a big deal when it is not something you intimately have to deal with. But for the person in the deep end, it can be quite a different story. I think we could be a lot kinder to each other by allowing others to be wherever they are in any given moment in relation to their reality instead of trying to overlay their situations and emotions with our optimism, practicality, and positive attitude.
After all, when you are on the receiving side, it isn't always welcome...is it?
Having said that, I want to acknowledge, and appreciate all that was said. I know it comes from a good, supportive and loving place.
It just really is hard to just keep going in so many regards at times. I wish the good words and thoughts could make everything "all better," but the only thing that really comes close is my willingness to be wherever I am at the time I am there.
I realize it may not be as positive and wonderful as the words many say, but that really is Ok. Our human experience seems to be rigged this way, and there are times I learn a lot from where I am, and where I am not. I have learned a lot about myself, too.
And you know what? I think a lot of it is pretty cool. I am not sure I could have learned what I have any other way.
I told a friend yesterday that he always asks my opinion, but then seems to do his own thing. I said I felt that he "uses" me to figure out what he likes/wants.
I do not think that is a "bad" thing. I think, in actuality, that might just be what a lot of us do. We learn a lot by how we bounce off, react, to others.
I debated about how to write about the picture, and my response. I know there will be those who will not hear what I am saying. There will be those who will be uncomfortable, or take offense to my reaction.
This has been an on-going situation/conversation from pretty much the beginning. The whole "looks" thing is very much a thing.
But, like a lot of life, this is a thing that exists - even without cancer in the mix. If it wasn't a conversation before cancer, it would less likely be a conversation "during" cancer.
I have wanted to write about the whole physical thing, but have never been sure exactly what I wanted to say, or how to say it.
I still don't know what that piece is, but I feel like there is one.
It sure is interesting to see people's responses to the things I share, though.