One of the things I promised myself that I would make a priority again this year was going to see live shows and concerts. I love them and always have. For many, many years I didn’t go to shows. At all. Then it was just kids’ shows, then one for me every couple of years. There’s no reason for that. Why deny yourself things that you love? That make you feel fulfilled and like it’s all worthwhile. It really doesn’t matter if the show is big or small, in a smokey bar or a giant arena. Live is live. Live is awesome.
My friend and I drove two and a half hours away to go see the Imagine Dragons and it was an incredible show. I’d heard that they were terrific live, and that was no exaggeration. We were close, on the floor, 6-8 people back from the stage at any given moment. It was close enough to see the whites of their eyes. The opening acts, Halsey & Metric, were great, as well. You know how good it was? It was such a great show, such a wonderful time that I lost my debit card & didn’t even freak out. Much. I did panic a little. But it didn’t stop my night.
By the way, if you have the opportunity to see any of those bands live, jump on it. Roadtrip for it. You’ll not regret it.
Did I forget about the 600 lb gorilla on my chest? No. But it didn’t matter for awhile. Not in the same way.
In the mail this week, I received two surprises as well. The thoughtfulness of others never ceases to amaze me. A thank you for helping a couple of friends from my hometown, and a lovely package from a friend who always cheers me up at the most unexpected moments both reminded me in a very real sense that what you put out will come back to you. Sometimes it is just saying the right kind words at the right moment, or making someone giggle or feel like they aren’t alone in their struggles. We need that. It is vital. It’s like breathing, this need to reach out and have others reach out to you.
I always struggled with feeling like an outcast. It was hard to feel like I belonged and I worked hard to make friends. Especially in the small towns where I grew up, if you haven’t always lived there then you are never quite part of it. There is always an “otherness” about you. I discovered, much to my surprise, that what others thought of me when I was in high school was frequently so very, very off the mark. What I thought of myself and the world was usually entirely different from what others saw. When I needed to excel, to be lauded, because it seemed I was always starting with such a handicap, others saw someone who seemed to be entitled, who was so assured of success that it was a given. The truth was somewhere in the middle, perhaps. Maybe I did win too much, did better, was just a bit more and it seemed fair to give others a chance to shine as well. Was I that girl, the one who always got what she wanted? Not even remotely. But it looked that way from outside. I was never the Red Heather. I was always locked somewhere between Yellow Heather and Veronica. I just looked like Red Heather.
The ways that people view us, the ways our interactions are colored by pre-conception, will never align with the way we perceive ourselves. It simply can’t be the same. Some of the most interesting things that, in the last few years, I’ve come to understand are that I depended far too much on the opinions of others and that it was far better to let go of my fear and anxiety (not easily done) and follow my instincts. I judged others far too harshly, ignorant of motive or reasons. When I lamented and struggled with having a much larger family than I was really prepared for, others were struggling with being unable to have the family I was so despondent about. Those moments seem to have defined my twenties and thirties in so many ways, yet it took the openness of others for me to realize it. I’ve thought for many years that my fertility struggles, when I couldn’t stop having children regardless of how much I tried to stop it is a mirror of those who try so very, heartbreakingly hard to have a child. Where I was overwhelmed and did my best to make it through my days and have a Pinterest-worthy life (even before Pinterest), it looked like I was living the dream. Maybe I was. Not my dream, but a dream nonetheless. The point is, I know I’m sometimes a jerk. We all are. And I am so sorry for that. I never tried to make anyone feel badly, it just seemed to happen in ways it didn’t understand.
I got home from my trip and had so many plans, mostly to clean my house-seriously, how is it always, ALWAYS such a mess?!-and did absolutely nothing. I rested. I slept. I dreamed. I had a moment in the silence when I was struck by the enormity of the surgery I’m having. I’ve been working hard to accept that i will never feel my breasts again. That they won’t feel the same, even in my hands. And how do I separate the way they “feel” versus how they feel. In my body versus in my hands. The outside versus the inside. I was quite literally floored by the notion of consciously going in to the hospital in the early morning, of all the pre-surgical routines and signing forms, of having a mask placed over my face and in my next conscious moment being different. Less than whole. Changed. I will never feel that particular part again. Not that it’s the most important part of me, but the reality is sinking in. It feels just like when I was forced into surgeries to have the kids. The abject fear. Having no control. Knowing that physical pain and change lie ahead. The difference is that after those surgeries I could still feel my body, except for a 2×6″ part of my lower abdomen where the nerves stopped regenerating somewhere after the third or fourth surgery. It is becoming less abstract. Abstract is easy.
Reality isn’t always easy, though. Fear feels cold, heavy. It sits in the pit of your stomach, running it’s tendrils up your spine, choking you and turning your neck into ice. Fear is the ache in your chest. It’s standing on the edge of the stage and looking at the audience, knowing they will judge everything about you. Fear is forgoing those things which make your heart leap. Fear is feeling alone. I know that I can do this, that I’m not so afraid of taking the next step that I will be frozen forever in place. I’m not alone. I’ll take that step, take my place on the stage in the play of my life, accept that this fear is temporary. My body is going to be with me for the rest of my forever, my fear won’t. There will be so many moments in the future where I get to be the bright spot in someone else’s day. When I get to see my kids smile, make jokes with them, yell at them, nag and cajole and love them. That is on the other side of this fear. I won’t let fear of the known and unknown stop me again. I will see live shows and dance and meet people and enjoy laughter with friends. Fear doesn’t do those things. Fear doesn’t let you say, “I wish I didn’t have to do this, but it’s better that I go through it than someone else.” Fear says, “CANCER!!!!!” instead of, “It’s not aggressive and isn’t going to kill me.” Fear is the enemy. Even the cancer is easier than the fear that could so easily ensnare me. Cancer is something that happened to me, fear is what I allow to ruin me. It isn’t going to ruin me.
Fear doesn’t get to ruin me.
I’m not the Red Heather, running from my true self, or the Yellow Heather, terrified of everything. I’m more Veronica, really. Taking her power back.
Dancing the night away at an incredible concert, unexpected surprises, being able to prepare my mind, body, and spirit to start the next chapter of my life, these gifts are precious jewels in my treasure box. Fear reminds me of their value, but doesn’t define them. Perhaps the true meaning of life lies in adding to your emotional treasures and in looking at your fear, accepting it and transforming it into your power.
I’m terrified of having surgery, but am ready for it. If this is the worst life has to throw at me, then I’m pretty damn lucky.
If you need a concert buddy, call me. I won’t lose my debit card next time, I promise. Pinky promise.