One of my biggest struggles, up until now (did you like that Nancy?), has been how I define myself. There’s no theme in my life, even on this website, that appears more than my quest of finding myself, trying to define myself, trying to figure out parts of me I can keep and that which I should discard. The past several years, even decades, of my life have been centered around who I was, who I am and who I am supposed to be.
I imagine this post will likely end up all over the place, but only because right now, right this very second, I can see how so many things are intertwined and relate to each other. I can see how all the little, and some big, things all add up and create some big story. I can see how despite how hard I’ve tried, I’ve become defined in ways I’ve never wanted to be.
A few weeks ago, I was in a conversation with someone and they asked, “How can I keep from getting sucked into the sickness and know that I’ll pull out of it?”
I played the cancer card, again.
As I answered, I bragged some great authority on the subject. I told him, “For me, I never owned it. I never let it define me. It was a condition I was faced with; I overcame the condition and I moved on.”
But despite the audacity of the statement, I see that I’ve been wrong all along. I’ve been far too wrong. I’ve owned that son of a bitch since day one and held onto it and made it me. I chose to cling to the cancer, bury it far deep down, and let it dictate every move of my future life. Yes, I was absolutely fabulous at overcoming it, but since, I’ve not only owned it, I’ve let it own me.
This past Saturday, in the middle of a crazy, busy day, when I had very little time to even stop and breathe for a second, I shared a Hodgkin’s Survivor video on my Facebook page and boldly claimed, “Hodgkin’s was not the end for me. I overcame and survived. It’s so precious to see others who’ve survived for decades – it’s so helpful and uplifting to see that I have no reason to doubt, no reason to be scared. I didn’t let the illness define me and I have a long life to live.”
But even then, I was wrong.
I can see the contradiction in the statement itself. I have let it define me, I have let it wreak havoc on my emotions and my anxiety. I let it keep me scared. I let it keep me small.
A few moments after watching the video and giving such a great testimony, the truth slapped me in the face. I was instantly overwhelmed at how much around the illness I’ve suppressed and not worked through. I was instantly overwhelmed in the details of that circumstance – of that story – that I made me.
Just then, despite not having any time to spare, I started writing. I started writing on how I’ve not processed any of it. I started writing on how all of it has broken me, how I’ve lost myself, how I’ve turned on myself. It was all the more evident that I’ve always owned it and refused to let it go. I’ve used it to define myself. And once again, I let it control me and shut me down.
Since Saturday, I’ve weaved in and out of sadness and happiness; between contemplation and the desire to let it all go. I’ve pondered and meditated. I’ve laughed and cried. But, it’s now that I realize that this isn’t a story about being a victim and being overtaken with some traumatic event (or events in my life).
This is about who I am now and is completely irrelevant to who I’ve been and what I’ve been through.
After this weekend’s mental whatever-the-hell-it-was, I decided it’s really time to let go of all of this. How can I even try defining myself when I only use past events to do so? I decided it’s time to do the work, whatever the work happens to be, in order to finally let all of it go.
After leaving a meeting this afternoon, I committed to myself that I would be open to signs and Guidance, getting what I need out of each experience I have so I can move on, and learn to let go. I came home and immediately got on the Internet. I scrolled Facebook for a little while, browsed random webpages, went back to Facebook. I was searching for Guidance, I was looking for signs. In my newly found openess to Good, I was looking for inspiration and meaning.
It was then that I saw a link on my Facebook newsfeed for a Ted Talk. And, at once, I found it. This was precisely what I was looking for. What better place to find inspiration than a Ted Talk? I searched through the various available Ted Talks thinking that maybe I was putting a little too much into it. I’m known for trying to find the coincidences, for trying to find meaning where there is none, trying to make something out of nothing. And there it was, a talk on finding the coincidences.
Helder Guimaraes, while performing magic tricks, demonstrates in his talk that we never find the coincidence in things because we stop thinking too soon. If I liken a coincidence to a sign, a God wink, a foundation for continued faith, how many times do I miss them because I stop thinking too soon? I allow my past experiences to take over my thinking, I allow my past experiences to interfere and keep me small, while dismissing any faith because I can never
find it look hard enough.
Who cares if I look for signs? It’s not a bad thing, it’s an attempt to keep reaching for what it is I want and who I want to be. It’s a begging for a sign when I’m wavering from faith to remember that I am always supported in everything.
This felt great. I wanted more.
After the magic show, I continued browsing the Ted website knowing I was being led, knowing that I would find exactly what I was meant to find, so I could hear exactly what I needed to hear. I searched page by page, and after a few minutes of not finding anything, I started thinking of how all of this was silly. Maybe, again, I was grasping, trying to make something out of nothing, even though I just decided that seeking is okay. And of course, again, there it was: the talk I was led to. Debra Jarvis: Yes, I survived cancer. But that doesn’t define me.
Debra Jarvis was a chaplain at a large cancer center and survived cancer herself. She tells the story of a patient that was at the facility for her one-year check up and, instead of filling the chaplain in on her new life, retold her cancer story as if Debra didn’t already know. That’s when she looked at the prior patient and told her, “Get down off your cross.”
It was about being crucified by the experience, but not letting the crucified-self die.
And then it finally sunk in. Having cancer is not who I am. It’s done. It’s over. It happened. But that was a past circumstance. And being a survivor is also not who I am. Surviving is something I’ve done, but it’s not who I am. None of it, none of it, defines me. I haven’t been allowing myself to heal. I haven’t been letting go of that old story entitled My Lymphoma Story. Debra Jarvis says that we need to identify ourselves with what we’ve become and who we’re becoming. None of that is my identity.
As with so many things, this is an easy concept for me to understand, but requires conscious effort to embody.
How can I ever expect to move on if I cling to the identity of being wounded, of suffering, of ever having cancer or surviving it. And it’s not just cancer – it’s any traumatic event I’ve ever been through. That’s what I’ve been through, but it’s not me. None of that is me.
I’m not broken, I am whole and complete. I’m not dirty or tainted, I am pure and perfect. I’m not alone and unloved, I am always supported and loved.
Here and now, finally, I release it. The sickness, the depression, the anxiety, the fear and doubt – I let it go. It no longer serves me and falls away. I embrace me, as I am. I embrace the life that I’ve been afraid to claim. I know that I am receiving nothing but Goodness and perfection at this very moment and it can never be otherwise.
And finally, after over a year of being called to do so, I define myself:
I am someone who lives life to the fullest, knowing I deserve and receive nothing but good. I am love, to myself and others. I am inner peace and harmony. I am a learner of lessons that are needed to become the person I am intended to be. I am faithful knowing the only thing there is is God’s perfection. And more than anything, I am a person so very, very grateful for this knowingness of who I am and for those in my life that help pull me to my highest and best when I fall. (Thank you <3 )