Put Away Your Scalpels

Tonight I went walking with my daughter.  It was great to be outside; strolling in the sun and the breeze.  It’s been some time since I’ve felt myself really move, felt alive, watched her laugh and live beside me.  I would have missed out on today as well, if not for a little white lie.

This morning I had an appointment with my dermatologist.  Just a regular checkup, though it seems like my checkups are never really “regular”.  I am blessed on my father’s side with a large Irish bloodline.  This also means I am somewhat un-blessed with very fair Irish skin; pale, burns easily, lots of moles.  I very frequently have irregular moles removed.  Almost always, they end up benign, and we’re good to go.  This past April, however, was my 3-year cancerversary.  Having a melanoma removed from your thigh at 37 is an experience, let me tell you.  So I take my checkups seriously, and when my doc sees something he thinks should go, I listen.  But today was different.

The reason?  I have just come out of the other side of one hell of a migraine cycle.  It was basically an entire month of pain, grouchy wife/momma, weekends trying to rest, meds, early evenings, rinse, repeat.  It happens; you take it a day at a time and get through it until it fades.  But while you’re in it, it’s crap.  There’s no way to sugarcoat it; it just plain sucks.  Not only for me, but also for my family.  It’s draining on all of us.  My husband carries the extra weight, my daughter (age 7) has to give up her Momma to this mystery ailment she can’t see or fight against, and I just try to endure while my body depletes until I feel like there’s nothing left for anyone let alone me.

Since I’ve rebounded, the last several days have felt like a cloud has finally lifted.  My energy has started to return, I’ve been able to exercise again, I’ve been enjoying time with my girl and my family, I’ve just been able to breathe.  So today when my doc said he wanted to remove another mole (from the top of my foot, no less, inhibiting my mobility for a couple of weeks to heal), I was surprised how my logic voice of ‘probably a good idea’ was so loudly drowned out by my inner spirit screaming out “NO CUTTING!!”  All I could think was ‘not today; not now; I need more time to feel good, more time to breathe, more time in between hurting and being the Mom who can’t play on Saturday because she’s trying to heal, more time to be human and whole and just….ME‘.

Thing is, I didn’t think I could explain that to my doc without sounding like a raving loon.  And at that point, he was already readying the scalpel and lidocaine; I didn’t have a lot of time.  So I blurted out the only other thing that came to mind.  “Uh, I have a wedding to attend this Saturday, and I think there will be dancing.  Is your concern level pretty high on this one?”  Not very smooth; but it worked.  He said it was only a minor concern, and that as long as I had it taken care of within 4-8 weeks, we’d be fine.  He then said it was probably better to enjoy the dancing and nice shoes without the foot incision, and to have fun.  That smarted a little more than the cut probably would have, but don’t fool yourself thinking I spent a lot of time dwelling…I hightailed it out of there as fast as my mole-covered legs would take me.  (After responsibly scheduling my return appointment for 4 weeks out; I’m not completely throwing caution to the wind here, people.)

I will say I fully enjoyed my walk this evening.  Guilt free, headache free, even if it wasn’t mole-free.  I’ll hold on to this one for a little while longer.

I Am Not My Hair

Hair

Hair. Everyone has it. Short, long, straight, wavy, fine, thick, colored, grey. Some people have their “signature” style. Others are experimental, always switching it up. Often, it reflects a person’s personality. Or for some, it reflects inherited features (or a lack thereof).

For me, at forty, I guess you could say I have a certain style. (Well my sister, who owns her own salon, would say I have a boring style, but I digress…). I’m not one of the “switch-it-up” types, really; that’s not my personality. I’m used to how I wear and style it. I’m used to how thick it is, how long it takes to wash and dry. I’m used to how it feels when I run my hands through it, when I hold it in a pony altogether, and when I let it fall loosely against my bare shoulders.

What I’m NOT used to, however, is losing it.

It’s not uncommon for everyone to lose some hair every day. Particularly when washing, hair comes out. And when your hair is longer, as mine is, it’s noticeable at the bottom of the drain. But over the last month or so, the amount I’ve been losing has been steadily increasing. As you may have noticed by the photo with this post, the amount I’m losing as of now closely resembles a small forest animal. To say it’s unsettling is an understatement.

Causes of rapid hair loss run the gambit. For women, it can be anything from stress to thyroid issues to sudden dietary changes to bodily system trauma, and on. In my case, it is likely related to the shock to my body combined with the lack of nutrition experienced with my appendectomy/infection back in December (explained more fully here). Upon discussion with my med contacts, it’s the likely culprit. My naturopath actually likened it to the way animals react to severe sudden stress; they rapidly shed all their hair. Only they don’t freak out about it the way humans do, because it’s part of their normal cycle. It seems more acceptable when you think of it in those terms, though it’s still a little harder to accept for me, personally.

As I mentioned, I’m used to my hair. I like my hair. I’m fond of how I look with my hair. I’ve been trying to accept that we’ve resolved the reason for it falling out, and I’m fairly okay with that. But it’s not slowing down. And while I can see some regrowth in it, it doesn’t regenerate nearly as fast as I’m losing it. And I’m concerned with what I may see in the mirror a month from now. When I sit with that thought too long, I’m most certainly NOT okay with that.

All emotion aside, there is no arguing the reality I can see in front of me every day. My body has changed significantly over the last two months; I am continuing to heal. It is a process; and my hair, or current lack thereof, is a strong reminder of that. I am also reminded that embracing change is much easier than fighting against it. Which is why today I visited the salon for a much needed cut and re-style. Instead of hanging on to the old damaged hair that is quickly losing ground, I opted instead to cut a lot of it off and work more closely with the newer hair coming in. I was surprised how much I like my shorter, cleaner bob; it actually looks more like “me” than my older style.

When I think about it, though, I’ve been sinking into this newer “me” for a while now. Newer, starker, thinner, more awake to life, less hair, more clarity, me. No, I am certainly not my hair; but there are similarities. Because in a lot of ways, I am also color and thickness and curl and length and growth. Sometimes, I lose myself and fall. But I always find my way back.

What Do I Stand For?

Most of us know ourselves pretty well.  We’ve spent our whole lives growing into who we are; living inside our own heads, cataloguing our experiences, making decisions on why we believe the things we do, what we hold important.  For many of us, we get to a certain point in our lives where we feel we’ve finally and fully grown into our own skin; it rarely happens in our twenties, perhaps in our thirties, but often it’s into our forties and beyond, when our experiences are truly outnumbering our years.

But what happens when you unexpectedly encounter a shake-up in your sense of self?  When the course you thought you were chartering towards becoming “you” gets blown wildly off-track?  What do you do when you’re faced with the fact that you are slowly realizing that who you are is not who you thought you would become?

It’s probably more common than we think.  It may not even be that significant of an event, really.  Maybe just a nagging feeling, an inkling that occurs in a random conversation when you start to agree with someone on a topic you normally would and suddenly realize you actually don’t.  Or maybe you find yourself going through the motions of your daily life only to wonder when they became more motions and less life.  Perhaps it’s the time when a colleague comments how good you are at your job, you must love it so much and you find yourself amused because you couldn’t possibly feel less engaged.  Or maybe you’ve been promising yourself you would change something in your life for so long, you don’t even notice years have passed and you’ve stayed exactly where you were when you started, with no change happening at all.

For me, it hit me in the words of a song not too long ago.  Currently, on various radio stations around the country, I am prompted with the question “What do I stand for?” courtesy of the band Fun. in their recent hit ‘Some Nights’.  I immediately liked the tune when I heard it because of the melody and the beat, but the lyrics are what caught me most, as the lead singer repeatedly questions himself about the importance of his life.  I find that every time I listen, I can relate more than I would care to admit.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I just crossed the forty mark, myself; certainly it’s a banner year not to be trifled with.  The big 4-0 can cause some serious re-evaluation for even the most stalwart of females, or so I’ve heard.  But I think it’s more than that, really.  Forty was never really looming, for me, so I don’t think that’s the key to this tremor in my thought process.  I think this is more of something that’s been brewing for longer; probably more like a decade, I suppose.  We all change constantly, do we not?  And perhaps it’s been that long since I really turned the internal lamplight on brightly to see where all the shadows and reflections landed.  I know my internal daily voice but, really, where am I on the overall path?  What do I bring to the larger life-table?  Is this really where I thought I would land, and am I holding up the banners and brevity in the manner I thought I would by now?  And of all that I have learned, lost or sacrificed along the way, has it been worth it so far?

So this is it? I sold my soul for this?

Washed my hands of that for this?

I miss my mom and dad for this?

I guess I find it surprising that I have so many questions showing their faces that I don’t immediately have answers to.  Large, life questions; sand-shifting ones.  It’s not that I’ve been plunged into the complete depths of mystery; I still have a good handle on my morals, my beliefs in spirituality, parenting, etc.  It’s more of a life-direction type of re-evaluation that seems to be happening.  Now that I’m here, in this soul-space, is this really the place I want to inhabit?  Do the choices I made years ago still fit today?

In the immediate, I’ve decided to befriend the questions.  Uncertainty is not always the enemy; questions lead to learning.  Accepting that I don’t necessarily have all the answers is also key to moving forward to finding them.  The next step is to take some time to really look at the landscape and decide what parts of it need to change to suit who I’ve become; and to know that the scenery will keep changing over time.  When I finally figure out everything I stand for today, I’m sure ten years from now I will find that, again, I may not know.  But at least then the question will be more familiar…

Here Comes The Sun

Renewal is a funny thing.  It’s different for everyone, I suppose; the way we recharge, find strength, move forward.  For some people it can take a weekend or a full-on vacation to feel completely rested.  For others, it can be as simple as a small little ray of light…

I was reminded of this today by a link someone shared to the well-loved Beatles song celebrating the sun.  I’ve long had a fondness for that tune.  I often sing it to my daughter at bedtime, and it frequently pops into my head as I leave my office for the day, oddly enough.  Because of the juxtaposition of the entrance of my building to the sky, when I leave every evening I find that I am walking towards the sun.  This wasn’t always the case; I previously left on the opposite side of campus, where I would exit away from it.  You wouldn’t think that the simple shift of turning towards daylight to end long hours of toiling behind a computer would make such a difference (wouldn’t the act of leaving, alone, be enough?).  But I will tell you, it’s really somewhat monumental.  For me, it evokes a feeling of peace – freedom, almost.  Not because I’m leaving for the day, but more because I am heading into brightness.  It’s as if the act of walking towards that brilliant glowing life force in the sky somehow reaffirms that I am, indeed, also alive.

I suppose it’s similar to the feeling of renewal every morning when the sun first rises on a new day, reminding us that we have another chance for new experiences, new choices.  Or the way, after grief and loss (marked in their similarity to the darkness of a storm) the rising of the sun helps us to believe that our world is not ending; life will continue, and we can truly move forward because there is proof in the cycle of the light shining above.  That singular radiance also uniquely reflects our joy and capacity to embrace life, as I am so often reminded when my daughter simply tilts her head back under the sunshine and laughs, happy just to be outside.

That unmistakable golden glow…it means different things to everyone.  But for me, it is a luminous reminder of renewal and strength.

“…it’s all right.”  Indeed.