I’d apologize for not blogging more, but I’ve been way too busy living life! I decided to purposely focus on being in the moment while I channeled my writing energy into some other specific projects for a while.
I shaved my head in June. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but I needed a little more of a reason than “I just felt like it” to actually go through with it. I’m not the kind of person that likes to be obnoxiously different just because. I like to be obnoxiously different for reasons! And as it turns out, the whole shaving my head part is so trivial and minimal in the light of what it reminds me of every time I see my reflection, touch my head or feel the wind on my baldness.
Three months ago, one of my loveliest, long-time besties was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer. (Ugggggh, I haaaate cancer) She lives in Colorado (not close to me anymore). She has an adoring husband and three active, young, fantastic children. She has been my hair stylist for 15 years. She’s my children’s godmother. She’s a pretty big deal in my world. So when I heard her hair was going to fall out with chemo, it was roll call. I was the one for the job. I would shave mine too and share in whatever experiences come after a 35 year old mother suddenly loses the only frame that the world has ever seen her in. Yeah, sign me up. I mean, seriously, I don’t say this with humility, I say this with absolute sober understanding: in the grand scheme of all things in life and death, who cares about your damn hair? Not me.
But I do care about my friend. She’s more than a friend. She’s the one who flew to be by my side after suicide rocked my family. She’s the one who picked up the pieces of my heart when my world crumbled during my divorce. She’s the one who put up with me during my religious, hyper-judgemental phase. She’s the one who planned my baby showers, took care of my kids, welcomed me into her family when mine was ripped to shreds. Good heavens, she’s so much more than a friend. She’s in my blood.
And really, I didn’t do it for her. I did it for me. So when people say “You’re such a good friend!” I feel guilty inside, because I’m actually the deepest level of selfish a person could be. I live too far to do the things I want to do: make her organic meals everyday, watch her kids, and clean her house. I want to sit with her during chemo treatments and do all her grocery shopping for her. I want to scold her the moment she tries to put too much on her plate. I want to hold her hand and shake my fist at heaven with her on hard days. I want to hug her and be at her beckon and call. But I can’t. And it absolutely rips me apart inside. And because I’m so far away and I don’t get to love her the way I want to- the way she’s always loved me- I shaved my head. I did it to be able to share a teeny, tiny (absolutely meaningless) part of her journey in kicking cancer’s ass. I just want to feel close to her. I want her on my radar every day. I want to consider what looks, conversations, and daily realities she’s facing.
See how trivial it is? Being bald doesn’t actually support her. It’s not tangibly soothing any of the disarray that cancer has caused in her family. Nope. It’s just for me to get a pseudo-sense of closeness with her in these months of hell. Because what I did took no bravery. It was one-dimensional. There was no cause and effect. I had hair and now I don’t. That’s it for me. For her, baldness is only the tip of the iceberg. It’s only a symbol of the layers upon layers of side effects, collateral damage, unanswered questions, fears, pain, agony, heartache, sleepless nights, and stress she is experiencing. And that makes me just want to slap my bald head. I want to relieve her somehow, but I can’t. I feel helpless. For a “fixer” like me, that’s torture.
But it’s not about me! And if there’s one thing I am familiar with now, it’s grief. I know she’s grieving (or putting it on hold) her old reality. Her life before cancer came and fucked everything up. That’s where I meet her. I share the amazingly never-disappointing drama of my life every three weeks during her chemo treatments. I swear it’s like I’m reading the tabloids aloud or something… except it’s my life… and no one else cares to know this stuff except her. It’s become a little game. Beneath all the amusement each classic episode of my life brings, in the end, I know we both just wish this wasn’t happening. Or maybe it would be more accepting and mature to say, we wish we were past this part of the story. But it is happening now. And the only way to the other side is through it.
Grief, trauma, pain, tragedy, disappointment, catastrophe… they all require a one way passage- right through the middle of it. It’s a seedy game and the rules are unpredictable, but you have to play because other people in your life depend on your participation. If you give up, you inflict pain on those you love the most. It’s cruel, really. But if we choose to see it, these horrific experiences can actually teach us a few things. Like how precious a heartbeat is. My own heartbeat. Her heartbeat. My children’s heartbeats. It is no small thing, a beating heart. A bald head is a very small thing. But recognizing your own beating heart and those hearts around you… well now, I think that’s the most beautiful thing we humans could ever do.
If only we could hold on to that awakening for a lifetime, how might that change the world around us?
From my beating heart to yours, whether you are in the thick of it yourself or walking alongside another one, I sincerely wish for you to see there is hope in the breath and blood still flowing today.