Almost six years ago to the day, I made a silent vow to myself to start looking after ME. It was a beautiful fall season, much like it is right now. I had spent so many years pouring every single ounce of my energy into everyone else but me. I had young children, a husband, a job....you know, the usual "stuff" that most 30 somethings have. I was happy, yes, but something deep down was missing. I had sort of forgotten what made me happy. Meaning, what was it about me, my interests, my passions that I could pursue besides being a mom and a wife and a friend that could make me feel whole on my own, not in part to some role I was fulfilling for someone else. Really think about that for a minute...what do you do, that makes you feel whole all on your own? Not because of a relationship or job or anything like that, but just you, on your own, filling your heart up because you are you? For me, it started with running. I discovered this path of self discovery that lead to goals, challenges, a changed mindset and this confidence that came from out of nowhere. I felt so alive. Running gave me confidence in myself again and it was as if the road spoke to me, encouraging me to rediscover more interests that I had tucked away somewhere along the path to adulthood. My love of music, travel and adventure soon followed. I then discovered my voice that I had also seemed to have tucked away somewhere because I had decided somewhere along the way that not speaking my truth and sharing my ideas was easier than if someone were to disagree with me. I don't know why I ever got to that point, because I wasn't brought up that way. If anything, I think my confidence just took a backseat to the life path I was on. Quickly, I was figuring out how to balance, hell, USE this truly authentic version of myself in my everyday life. I don't think I changed so much, as, I think I came back to who I really was/am. On the inside I was feeling so alive. On the outside, I was achieving fitness goals I had never been so proud of. I remember getting to a point a few years into this new way of life and fitness where I could finally fit into this pair of designer jeans that I had been lusting after for about 5 years. I never felt worthy of them or that my body looked good in them up to this point. I was finally in that place where they fit like a glove. I remember trying them on and feeling so proud and truly like a million bucks. My next move might surprise you...I put them back thinking I should wait and see if I can get to maybe one size smaller and then buy the even hotter pair....I walked away.
A few months later, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer. No longer was I focused on which jeans to buy, I was worried about which wig would make others not realize that I had lost my hair. My long runs were no longer for fast split times and race prep, but replaced with a slower pace and a time for me to release all the tears that I had kept inside when I was at work or at home raising my family. This "me" time became life saving and the most important part of my treatment plan and recovery. My love for myself and my fitness was still a priority, but it wasn't to fit into the jeans, but to keep my body healthy and give me a fighting chance at beating this dismal cancer diagnosis. This cancer thing has been so confusing for me. On one hand, I've been challenged like no race could ever challenge me and I've come out victorious! I'm so proud of my courage, my grit and my resilience, but I find myself disappointed that I couldn't come out completely unscathed. My body's appearance, my difficulty figuring out why some things that were once easy are now hard for me to do, my scars....they all haunt me. As much as I'm working on healing and getting myself in the healthiest state imaginable, my confidence has hit rock bottom. I'm truly in a state of trying to be better or more than I am and not giving myself permission to enjoy the journey of rebuilding. I'm feeling like I won't be good enough until I feel like "me" again. I'm forgetting that the climb often is even more important that reaching the top of the mountain. This is a tough position to be in, because even though I know better, I''m not trusting my ability to be better. Meaning, how do I celebrate when I feel like everything is so out of my reach? Admitting that makes me feel like an utter failure, but I know that I'm just human. Allowing myself time, a break and just some freakin grace is really hard for me to do, but I also know it's absolutely justified and completely necessary. I think the thing that I"m most upset about, is that so often, I've allowed myself to NOT buy the damn jeans because I have felt like I don't deserve them...yet.
Of course I'm speaking metaphorically here, or wowza, I'd have a closet even more full of jeans that it already is! What I mean, is, I've spent too much time in my life waiting for the perfect time, perfect fit or perfect reason to do something or feel like I've accomplished something. What if I had purchased those amazing pair of jeans...I would have felt like a knockout and owned that damn moment! Instead, I thought I could wait for a better time. Sure, I still might get into that smaller size and you better believe I'm buying the freaking jeans, but why wait? Why not embrace whatever jeans, moment or situation I find myself in NOW? Why not celebrate the fact that I found that great wig, that my hair has grown back, that while my running time isn't my best, I haven't ever quit? That I'm here now, giving this recovery thing my all, despite setbacks and about a million and one reasons to just curl up in my bed with the blankets pulled over my head. I show up and I keep looking out for me, my passions and my personal happiness. My cancer journey has felt like literally encountering a giant on my path pushing me off in various directions consistently since I was diagnosed. It's like this monster who doesn't let up.....he just keeps pushing and pushing and doing everything he can to undo all of the good I have ever done for myself. What that giant doesn't realize, however, is that as strong as he is....as consistent as he is at showing up...I am stronger. I am even more persistent at showing up for myself. I am challenging myself, however, to stop waiting for the giant to leave me alone before I embrace and enjoy what is happening right here, right now. To think some stupid voice in my head told me to wait to buy those jeans until I was a different version of the beautiful reflection staring at me in that dressing room mirror is ridiculous. I had done hard things at that point, too. I just didn't give myself enough credit for them. The same is happening now. I'm quick to tear apart all that I haven't achieved post treatment and as hard as I've tried not to, I've been focusing on all that needs to change, not all that I have already improved. If you need this post to give you a reason to treat yourself to something you've been holding off on, well, yes...this is it. Go on. But more importantly, I hope you use this as a reminder to look at yourself in the mirror and give yourself some credit for all that you are right here, right now. Beautiful, strong, resilient, empathetic, honorable, determined, optimistic...alive. Celebrate all that you are and don't let your imaginary short comings deter you from enjoying your life. I also hope if you take nothing else away from this, it is that you are worthy of finding your own version of peace, independence and happiness. The kind that is not contingent on anyone else but yourself. Enjoy discovering it, have a blast pursuing it, always reevaluate it and never, ever stop doing what sets your soul on fire! You are worthy of time for yourself. You are definitely worthy of celebrating how amazing you are and you most definitely deserve those damn jeans, whenever you see fit. -M
"We all have "issues" because we all have a story. And no matter how much work you've done on yourself, we all snap back sometimes. So be easy on you. Growth is a dance. Not a light switch." -Awaken Healers