On Being Bald

My son covers his eyes anytime he sees me with my head uncovered. My baldness makes him uncomfortable. I don’t blame him, and I do my best to wear a hat in front of him. But part of me wants him to get used to this new me. To be at ease with me no matter what. Plus, I think his averted eyes touch the part of me that isn’t entirely comfortable—and I want to be at ease with myself no matter what.Image 4

The other night I went to a dinner party with mostly close friends. Getting ready, I was tempted to wear one of the wigs I bought several weeks ago but have only worn once or twice. Once again, I chose not to because somehow, wearing a wig makes me feel like an imposter. Like I am trying to pretend I don’t have cancer, that I’m not in chemo, that I don’t have a hairless head (not to mention a hairless many other things). Mostly, I don’t want to pretend any of those things. So once again, I wore one of my “cancer scarves” instead. I “owned” my cancer.

Until I was at the dinner party with one of those infamous hot flashes. Part of me so desperately wanted to bare my head. Not because the heat was so unbearable, but because I wanted to really own my cancer. I even slipped into the bathroom and slipped off my scarf to try it out in the mirror. Did I have the nerve to do it? To walk out of the bathroom fully unveiled? I didn’t. I felt too exposed. Too naked. Though I’m not even sure whether my discomfort had more to do with me, or more to do with how others might feel in my naked presence. Would my friends want to avert their eyes like my son?

IMG_5128Today I took a bath with my six-year-old daughter. “You don’t feel uncomfortable seeing me without my hat?”

“No, but I still think you look weird.”

I love weird and I love her six-year-old honesty and I love that she is just as at ease with me now as she was before cancer changed our lives. Maybe the next time I want to take my hat off in public, I’ll think of her.

Being Apart (Who Am I Now?)

I walked with my friend Keegan today, and as I talked with her about the snow day on Tuesday, and how, sitting around Hannah’s kitchen table, I felt like my old self for the first time since the diagnosis, I realized how much I haven’t felt like my old self.

Neither of those experiences—feeling my old self on Tuesday nor not feeling like my old self over the past months—has been negative. Quite the contrary, I absolutely loved sipping vodka and sodas and talking the afternoon away with a few of my closest friends. Just as I’ve been quite content spending the last many weeks on the fringes of my old social scene, showing up here and there when I’m up for it, leaving when I reach my threshold far earlier than I’ve been used to, not feeling obligated to anyone or anything other than my body and my mind.

But I don’t know that I’ve put words to how much I’ve felt apart from my old life, my old friends. How different I feel when I walk into a room now – not so much from everyone else, though I’m sure that’s there, too; but from my old self. I feel so changed, in ways I haven’t begun to realize yet, ways I haven’t yet named. But I feel it. I feel the shift, like the earth has moved beneath me and I am now standing somewhere else. And that somewhere else is apart from almost everything and everyone I knew before October 22. My friends and family no longer know the same person. (Do they know me at all?) I no longer am the same person. (Do I know who I am? Other than changed?)

IMG_0513I know I love the new space this experience has created, and that I want to hold onto as much of it as possible. To not fill my days with plans. To not fill my body with that racey, I-need-I-want-I-should-I’m-going-going-doing-doing-everything feeling.

I love the freedom to do what I want—and that I am working hard to figure out what, exactly, that is from moment to moment; and then, to honor it. To not live by habit or by reaction but from my own, authentic self.

I love that I don’t feel the same urgency to be a part of everything. That I don’t feel any urgency at all. A twinge here and there, yes, but nothing that doesn’t slide off of me with a breath, all that new space, the new-felt freedom to be and do and discover what I want.

I love that this experience is mine. That I get to be changed. That I get to be apart.