adversity · friends · friendship · growth · laughter · love · opening

Open Sesame!

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I’m still a little giddy from last night’s show with my
band. Our debut and farewell show! (Though, there are rumors we may have a
“reunion show” on Halloween.)
But a friend said something to me after the show that’s been
sticking with me. She said that I am so much more open and confident now, that
I’ve changed so much in the last year.
This same friend sat with me in ERs, cared for my cat while
I was in chemo, and allowed me to bawl on her couch when things seemed so hard.
We’ve known each other only for maybe 4 years, but a lot has
certainly happened since then, and she said she feels like she’s seen me
blossom. And that, especially with everything that I’ve been through, how
heartening it is to see that I’ve become and am becoming more open, and more
engaged.
She referenced a quote she’d read in a book about women’s
aging, that women come to a crossroads in their lives where they choose: become
more open, or become more rigid, and therefore bitter. I told her, I don’t
think that’s just women!!
But, what struck me about her initial comment was that it
echoed something I’d thought to myself only a few days earlier.
I was in my car, and made some kind of comment aloud to
myself, and laughed about it. And I had a flashback to when I was in junior or
senior year of high school, and this one frenemy commented that I’d become much
more relaxed and funny in the last little while.
Which may have had something to do with the fact that I started
drinking and smoking pot… but… She was right. I wasn’t as exacting or
perfectionist as I had been.
I sort of took that “easy-going” train off the rails a
few years later… But I remember feeling then that she was right, that I felt less … not “square,” but serious, I suppose. (I was
a very serious teen!, like most emo children.)
And as I sat in my car laughing to and at myself the other day, I
had a similar self-awareness: I’ve become and am becoming more easy-going. (In
some ways! In others, you have to untangle my brain with a tweezer and a
magnifying glass!)
To have that same sentiment reflected back to me only days
later by my friend was heartening, affirming, and… sentimental.
She said that as she watched me play, she found herself
getting teary, thinking about everything I’ve gone through, and what I’ve made of
it. And then she had to check herself, because you don’t cry at a rock show! 
The same understanding about rigidity or openness I heard on
an audio CD about “Exceptional Patients” from Dr. Bernie Siegel. He said that
after cancer, people tend to go one of two ways: become scared of everything,
because death is just around the corner, or (finally) throw caution to the
wind, because you’ve literally faced one of the worst things that can ever
happen to you. You’ve stared death in the face: Will you now shrink at all risks,
or will you say, Tah, this is cake?
Well, we all know, I don’t think it’s “cake” to say “Tah” to
fear, but we all know that I’ve been doing it anyway. Because, really, there
isn’t anything greater to lose. There isn’t any harder challenge. (Now, yes, there are other challenges that people face that I
cannot imagine, child loss being one that’s top of mind lately.)
I find no glory in shutting down. I’ve lived most of my life
in a state of “flight” and paralysis. I will never call it a gift, but I do
recognize with appreciation and awe that, following visceral horror, I have
become a woman more willing to be open, free, funny, and present than I’ve ever
been. 

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