So a few days ago, I found various lumps that may or may not be cancer. I went into the understandable emotional nosedive. I was on the phone with my doctor’s nurse and heard myself crying and saying, “I’m scared! I’m so scared!” I’m already on my way into that nebulous world of clinic visits, testing, waiting for test results. I’ve been there before. It’s not a fun place to be.
I’m also here, putting my thoughts together to write a column on booth design.
So why am I writing about how to display your work when I should be focusing on whether there’s a chance I won’t be here in a few short years?
Because the cancer can wait.
I don’t mean I’m in control of that. In fact, I’m NOT in control of that. I either have it, or it’s something else. Whatever “it” is will involve weeks of testing, pain, discomfort, waiting, no matter what…and probably there will be no clear answers or final resolution.
But I’m not here on earth to have cancer.
I’m here to do a lot of other things. And I’ve got to focus on doing them as much as I can, as long as I can, until that’s no longer under my control.
I pitched my old column recently to a new magazine editor. I was asked to describe it. I wrote, “I write how becoming an artist has made me a better person.” I meant that.
Focusing on making art–and being becoming a martial artist–with passion, and honesty, has helped me become a more authentic person. Someone who things carefully about what I want to say and who I want to be. It’s made me want to share the process, so others, if they are so inclined, can do it, too.
The desire to continue this process, and writing about it, has made me not only a better artist, but a better wife, mother, friend, person.
The threat of cancer has only made that desire burn more fiercely yet.
I wasn’t going to tell anyone, not yet. I hate the drama queen approach to life. I don’t want to drum up a ton of sympathy when it’s not even certain what’s going on.
Yet the last time I tried to carry something like this alone, it got weird. People knew something was terribly wrong–and assumed it was our friendship. Then I had a lot of back story to give out, and a lot of explaining to do. Painful.
And of course, there was the resentment that I hadn’t considered them enough of a friend to tell them. Ouch! In trying to spare people anxiety, I had increased mine (by going it alone) and insulted them.
So this time I’m letting people know. And letting them know what I need right now.
And letting them know what I don’t need.
I don’t want a lot of cancer stories. Yet. Maybe that will change. But right now, I don’t want to hear the long, involved, courageous battle stories. I don’t feel very courageous. And I’m sorry, but I’m totally involved with MY story.
I don’t want a lot of sympathy, either. A quick hug will do it.
I don’t want people to disappear, either. Some people don’t know what to do. (I’m always one of those people.) They don’t know what I want. Hey, I don’t know, either.
Last night, though, I thought of one thing I do want.
I want authentic moments.
When I’m with people I care about and like, I just want them to be their own selves.
If they are being whiney or pissy or silly, I now have the freedom to tell them that. I don’t mean the cancer trump card–like, “You don’t get to complain, I might have cancer” thing. That’s selfish. People are entitled to their own lives.
I mean I get to encourage people to be their authentic selves. Like “You are so incredible and you have such wonderful gifts–what’s holding you back in this situation from you being the most wonderful “you” you can be?”
Life is short. Life is achingly sweet. Why spend time and energy digging a hole any deeper, when you can dig some steps and get out of the hole?
(I’m so compulsive about my metaphors being perfect, I have to add, “Unless your goal in life is to dig holes”, in which case, keep on digging.)
So this ordeal is not the hole. It’s just a little water in the bottom, encouraging me to dig those steps a little faster.
P.S. I wrote this a couple weeks ago, when I first got the scary news. I’m through the first round of testing, and so far the results are encouraging. Looks like there’s nothing to be scared of, for now.