I don’t wish cancer on you, just the perspective it brings

hearts

I am in no way at the end of my soul journey nor have I evolved out of making mistakes or needing to learn. But this sage IV cancer diagnosis has given me a certain perspective I didn’t have before.

I speak to friends who circle life stresses in a way I used to and notice that, not only do I not do that any more, but some of my biggest emotional triggers are just no longer there. Of course, I have bigger fish to fry. Or at least I’m aware of the fish in front of me.

We’re all going to die at some point, but the emotional knowing makes it harder to dwell on things I can’t control. Or better put, it makes it easier to live day by day, moment by moment, building a life I can leave feeling like I gave it my all without getting in my own way.

Of course, I still can be my own obstacle. I’m human. I have depressed bed-ridden days and what’s-the-meaning-of-all-this moments. I struggle with the why-me’s although less than you would think, and mostly around scan result time.

So that said, I decided to recount some of the things that used to weigh on me because I’m often surprised that they have little effect on my daily life anymore. And truthfully, sometimes I’m afraid they are just around the corner, waiting to reincorporate themselves into my world. Although the hope is that if they do crop up, their charge will dissipate almost immediately.

  1. Caring what people think about me – This was a big one. I really really wanted to be liked…by everyone. So much so that I would stress about conversations I’d had and wondered if certain inflections in my voice had made me less likable. These days I’m amazed that after I meet someone, I generally don’t wonder what they’re thinking in relation to me. I figure they’ll let me know by their actions or words. And I’m fine with that.
  2. Taking things personally – As part of the caring what others thought package, I would overanalyze the behavior of others and match it to how they must feel about me. In a sense, I was trying to read minds. So if someone didn’t call, my immediate thought was I had offended them or they didn’t like me. Now I just figure people come, people go. And whoever is there, is meant to be there at that particular moment in time. I also don’t have time to focus on others’ thoughts and have come to the conclusion that I’m not that good at reading minds after all.
  3. Getting (romantically) crazy about people before I know them – I used to get attached to men easily and super fast. In fact, I would do that with friends as well. And I would obsess about when they were going to call, if they were going to call. These days I get less attached to people out of the gate. Somewhere along the line I decided I don’t need to get attached unless you give me a good reason to do so. And that reason takes time to show itself. This one is particularly surprising as I date, because if a man, even one I really like, doesn’t call, I’m unphased. Not cut off, not numb, but not all that affected. Maybe it rolls into the idea of not taking things personally. Because if someone doesn’t know me, how can their lack of interest be personal? And if on some level it is personal, good to know sooner rather than later.
  4. Spending time in places or with people who don’t make me feel good – I’ve been in many situations that are the picture of fun, or with people who are the epitome of cool. And in the past, I was concerned with trying to change my inner world in that moment to make it match what was going on outside. So a “fun” party that I was not enjoying would become an exercise in morphing my emotional life, usually with little success. I’d come away from those moments feeling alien or, at worst, really bad about myself. Now, I just don’t bother. When I show up somewhere or meet someone, I listen for my inner voice to guide me. And I’ve learned there’s a difference between pushing yourself to exist outside of your comfort zone (good) and compromising your own sense of self and comfort (bad).
  5. Falling victim to my own choices –  There’s a saying that with one foot in the past and one in the future, you are just peeing on the present. I never had much of a problem futuring (which is another topic all together) but I tended to live in the past. Or lived in the present regretting the past. “If only I had committed to my writing sooner” or “if only I had kept in touch with so and so.” I’ve recently come to an acceptance of what is and that I am where I am based on all the choices I made. They were mine, good or bad and regretting any of them doesn’t improve today. While it’s important to learn from the past and my mistakes, it’s also crucial for me not to live there. Because all we really have is now.
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Single with stage IV

bed

Leaving the security of a long marriage has recast me into the land of the single people. And I have already stuck my toe in the dating pool. It’s a good way to keep busy, meet new people, figure out what kind of person I want to be with, if any. I also have this drive to live and fit in all the things I’ve ever wanted to do into a short period of time. Because who knows when the last grain of sand will make it through my hour glass.

Needless, to say, it’s been wonderful but exhausting.

I’ve gone on a few dates and the question always comes up about when do I mention my situation. I tend to be an honest person and so when I get questions about my restrictive diet or the fact that I have a  handicapped placard, I’m inclined to answer with the truth. And I did that on two occasions.

The first time, the response was great. I was out with someone much like me who cuts to the chase and tends to be very straight forward. I wound up in a matter-of-fact conversation that had a nice give and take.

The second time was last night. Things got physical, one thing led to another and before I knew it he was asking me about my hip surgery. I’m not a terrific liar so I told him what was going on. I included an out, saying I knew this was a bit much but his response was that he wasn’t going anywhere. He even offered to take me to my scan next week. I was a little surprised but pleasantly so.

And then fast forward a day and he has disappeared. In many ways I don’t blame him. I don’t even want to take this stuff on so I can’t imagine someone else wanting to get involved with it all. But I am also terribly hurt. I am also angry. Angry at myself.

Having someone tell me they won’t go anywhere, no matter how unrealistic and silly that is to say on a first date, touched a very deep button for me. And I let that sink in. I let myself and my body believe it.

In a way, I feel like I let myself down and didn’t protect me the way I should have. And now someone I liked is gone. But of course the hurt from his absence has more to do with my voids than with him because I don’t know him at all.

It does make me nervous about my man picker. It makes me wish there were a formula for divulging the cancer thing with dating. But I know there really isn’t one. It also makes me angry that I have to deal with this at all. This is something most people don’t have hiding in their back pockets. And the risk of pulling it out too late is that someone will feel duped. The risk of mentioning it too early is abandonment.

But maybe on some level the Universe is taking care of me. If last night’s guy pushed such a button so early on, he probably wasn’t the healthiest choice for me.

So while I’m a little down, I’m resilient. I already feel a bit better having written about it. And I am going to continue taking the dating and cancer equation on a case by case basis. I am going to listen to my gut about when to mention it and trust that the right person or people wont disappear. As for the ones that do go away, I will just choose to believe they’ve done me a great service.