“To Thine Self Be True”
This is for those of you who have ever written to me with sincere words of gratitude for inspiring you. In return you inspired ME. And, now, as part of my healing process, I feel compelled to share my thoughts and experiences with you all as I move into “life after cancer”. That phrase could be replaced with anything that pertains to your life after something tragic takes place. A death of a loved one, a near fatal accident, a divorce, a wake up call if you will. It’s my wish that anyone not living in complete authenticity may take something away from this.
I always found myself rolling my eyes when I’d hear the young contestants on IDOL or some celebrity spilling out familiar words when asked the broad question “do you have any advice for people out there?” And they’d all say the same thing: “just be true to yourself”. I mean, could they conjure up any other creative thoughts and somehow not be so lazy? But…who knew…someday I would experience the total meaning of that and would answer the same way. These four words I’ve heard my whole life had forced its way up from the depths of my soul right there in front of my eyes to see and along with it came a lot harder questions to answer than that. Questions like Who the heck am I? Why am I here? What really matters? Do I matter? Who really loves me? Who doesn’t? What IS love to me? What isn’t? How do I want to spend the rest of my days? The simplest of questions I’d never asked myself because, as I’ve come to realize, I had a fear of answering them with the absolute truth. If I was truthful I might have to face something that could unfathomably be worse than anything I’d already been through. Possibly worse than the 18 chemotherapy treatments that had been delivered straight into my abdomen just 5 months before. This could change who I had known up until now….throw me into unfamiliar territory. But somehow it seemed more frightening to stay in which I knew wasn’t right than to take the risk of finding what is.
It was time. I had no choice. I call it a God thing, but it was as if He spared my body from dying, and was now giving me the chance to spare my mind and my spirit from the same. I “broke open” as Elizabeth Lesser’s incredible and life changing book so perfectly defined. And, so, I undenyably took the painful plunge to the inner layers of my wounds (we all have them!) and sought answers. The truth about what had transpired from my childhood up until now. Who contributed what to it and where that landed me. Who had shown me their true colors numerous times and why I allowed it to remain in my life. The truth about my past and present relationships and what really supports who I want to be from here on out. What will lift me up, not bring me down. What makes me smile, not frown. What I want to teach my son through example. How I want to live. Yes! That was it! I want to live! However, it wasn’t till then that I admitted I had actually been headed in the opposite direction.
I had endless enlightenments, awarenesses, and “ah ha” moments. Every song I sang, sermon I heard, episode of THIS IS US (seriously that show had a huge impact); every interaction with the people directly in my circle had all come together to answer my questions. It was nonstop. The tears I shed (and there were millions!) were a realization that there were things in my life that were toxic and I needed to clean them out. I had to address and deal with the matters of the heart just like I did at the oncologist appointments with my disease. No matter how long I had been in this role, it was time to break the pattern. What will stay and what will go in order to survive.
It all revealed itself just the way it needed to to help move toward the authentic me and stay on a healing path. By keeping my eyes, ears, and mind open, the evidence I needed to back up my unhappiness and “icky feelings” was right there. It was there all the time. The struggle between others’ perceptions of me with my own was very real. But so was the clarity now. I was clear about everything. I could see the whys of everyone’s behavior, including my own. I just never trusted me. ….well, I never did before. …….Before cancer.
During my illness I felt amazing love and support I had not known since my mother’s passing 22 years ago. 22 years! That’s a long time without that kind of love. A love that just is. Like the love I have for my son. I felt uplifted by those who somehow knew my spirit. That’s what I’ve concluded love should be. When someone cares enough to know your spirit and who you are deep in your soul and accepts you for it. (And heck, even likes you!). I’ve discovered that the words “I love you” don’t mean a darn thing without action behind it. And that it’s ok to rid (or set proper boundaries with) the ones that, on the contrary, exhibit the opposite of what I believe it should be.
It is a real good question. What do you know about yourself that you aren’t honest about? What’s really hiding behind your Facebook wall? What I know now is my wall is transparent. I’m there for myself to see. I know that the tragic events of having cancer is what brought me to be vulnerable; to believe and trust in myself and I thank God for that hard lesson. I know that as this most trying past year ends it will be the start of a new one. One that feels free from the toxicity that I let reside in me all these years. I slice my life in half. The old me and the new me. The new me can spot what’s not healthy for me and won’t tolerate it. The new me knows what real love should look like and is ready and willing to share it with those who will reciprocate and embrace it.
“Be true to yourself “. Age old words of wisdom! I’d give that advice to anyone now without hesitation. Life is too precious; too short; too amazing not to!