He didn’t have to say a word. I could see it in his eyes. The way he pulled away from me was all I needed to know he couldn’t handle it. In spite of his encouraging words, it was all too much.
He broke up with me that day. The day I no longer hid behind fake hair and false pretense. At his bidding I tossed the wig and faced the world with nothing more than an inch or so of hair. He thought wigs were silly. Yet he could not take the stares and the questioning looks. I suppose a girl with barely-there hair, no eyebrows and stubby eyelashes would elicit funny looks from strangers. Let’s face it. I looked a bit odd. It was a lot for me to handle. I should have expected it would have been too much for him.
So he walked away.
And I was crushed.
Not because my heart was broken. The relationship had honestly run its course. I was devastated because I was already vulnerable and my pride took a serious hit. And vanity? Vanity was the real issue.
That was three years ago. Chemo treatments had ended a few months prior. I was also six weeks post surgery and doing my best to embrace the resulting new landscape that was now my body. It would be fair to say my insecurities were at an all time high. Wigs had been the crutch that allowed me to present a fairly normal appearance to the rest of the world throughout my treatment. I had an overwhelming need to hold tightly to any semblance of normalcy. If that meant faking my way through each day with wigs, false lashes and an excellent eye brow pencil, then so be it.
In hindsight it is clear that I spent a lot of energy trying to pretend life was normal. To avoid the fact that my body had been invaded by a sinister enemy and I had no clue if a true normal would ever come again. I became a master of the game. I threw parties. I celebrated. I worked full time. I worked out. I traveled. I tried to do it all. But no matter how masterfully I crafted “normal”, I couldn’t escape my reality. Every night and every morning when I looked in the mirror, my reality stared me down.
And every day I asked myself the same question. How can I keep my head high when all I want to do is crawl in a hole and hide?
I will always remember that time as the hardest part of my cancer journey. I was fragile. My body was at its low point. My ego, was even lower. I was stripped bare and fully exposed. The only way I knew to get through it was to face it head on and pretend. I pretended I felt complete. I faked a “genuine” smile, when inside I was crying. I wanted more than anything to feel like the old me. To be the old me. Yet I knew too many changes had occurred and I was forever more a different me.
Time passed and I survived. That old motto of mine, “Fake it ’til you make it” works like a charm every time. Fake smiles quickly transitioned to genuine smiles. I learned to really like the changed me. With every day that passed I gained strength and acceptance of where life had taken me. My insecurities forced me to look at myself in a different way and in so doing, I learned that compassion for myself and others is underrated. I also learned that reality is often not as brutal as self-doubt would have us believe…that vanity is often our worst enemy.
I can’t say I’ve made friends with my insecurities. Honestly, I hate them with a passion. But I have learned they have value. Without them I would have never realized how important it is to be kind to myself. That is a tough lesson for a perfectionist like me to grasp. At times, I still struggle. My hope is that others can simply take my word for it and treat themselves with gentleness and love. All those funny looks provided a great lesson. Lets let them be enough for all of us.
(Most of this was written a few days ago. Actually, the first part was written three years ago. I wasn’t even sure I was going to share. Clicking the “Publish” button on this one scared me a bit. I’m always open and honest. However, this post reveals pieces of me that I often try to ignore or hide…even from myself. Today I decided to go ahead and post my thoughts. These old insecurities…they don’t play fair. They sneak up on me at times for no apparent reason. I needed a reminder of where I’ve been and how far I’ve come. Yesterday was Easter Sunday. As I stood in church singing of God’s grace and sacrifices made on my behalf, I was reminded of how HE views me. It was through HIM that I was/am able to look past my flaws. And those pesky insecurities…they melted away. Thanks for letting me share.)
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