Tape, tattoos and tapestry (Or, I took off my bandages today.)

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There’s been a lot of talk about ‘selfies’ lately. The word sparks a great deal of debate. Some feel that they’re pretentious, or egotistical, and that taking a photo of oneself automatically makes you seem self-obsessed. Some would condemn selfie-takers as narcissistic. Others acknowledge the power of being able to take a good picture of oneself. To take a shot that shows you to the world in a way that you want to be seen, rather than being caught in a mushy-faced-mid-confusing-conversation-at-a-coffee-table candid shot that someone immediately posts on Facebook for all to see. 

I recently read an article floating around online called Under the Red Dress. It began with a photo of a drop-dead gorgeous, glammed up blond woman wearing a fabulous red dress – I paid attention, having a bit of a weakness for the colour (even post-red-devil). There was a series of photos that followed – full of courage and shock and relief – that revealed the woman under the dress. Her scars. No photoshop, no gentle lighting, just a real hard look at a body that has seen some tough times. I admired her. Found myself wondering if I had the courage to join the ‘red dress’ movement. I don’t think I do, but I decided I loved the concept. 

I took off my bandages today. Carefully pealing off steri-strip after steri-strip along my newest scars took some prep, it must be said. For the past few days I’ve been tentatively removing one or two, getting a little glimpse of what my body’s going to look like. Today, the day before my follow-up appointment, I decided to get rid of the rest of the tape. Did so, had a shower and then did what we’ve all done at some point in our lives. Stood in front of the mirror in the cold light of day and took a look. There’s a story to be told, I realized, on all of our bodies. Scars help tell that story. 

Scars on my knee tell the story of me falling into gravel on a run whilst attempting a flippant wave at a student. That was a good one. Two small scars, one on either hip, show where fat-grafting was done recently. C-section scars, both earned through the emergency life-saving births of my sons. The tattoo full of its own story just above them. PICC line, drains, and lymph node removal have all left their mark on my body as well. These scars tell the story of saving my life. A small white line on my forehead tells the story of running into the corner of a wall as a small child, running to greet my ‘Matante’. A few stitches there. A deep line on my right hand, reminding me not to put a hand on a hot element. Learned that lesson. Countless other little nicks and nubs whose stories are long forgotten. The removal of today’s bandages revealed the newest scars, ironically there as evidence of my rebuild. 

It’s a scary time, this naked mirror time. It’s scary for all of us, I think. We wonder how other people will see us. We can be hyper critical of ourselves, looking for flaws rather than beauty. We can forget about the stories our body tells. 

I just happen to have a few stories. 

Lashes, Lace and Laces (Or, loss, longing and luck)

I am cranky today. I know I’ve had a pretty good run with this whole cancer thing thus far, and for that I am grateful. And I have some good longevity (at least in the keeping-my-head-up department) and I am thankful for the strength I have found when I had to over the past year. But when my computer’s up and down and I can’t write, and my Netflix is speaking a different language and I can’t play outside and I’m girdled from head-to-toe and I can’t have a good long soak in the bath and then I realize that my eyelashes are falling out for the SECOND TIME, it’s time for a little rant. 

Really?? Just when I was starting to say things like “I’m starting to recognize the person I see in the mirror, and actually feel like my hair feels “on purpose”, and my chemo weight is gone, and my follow-up is near and the light is actually visible at the end of this long, brutal tunnel, my eyelashes decide they’re going to fall into the ‘cyclical loss and regrowth’ category I find on the internet thanks to Mr. Google. Can I join a different group? I have stuff to do! Who do I speak to about this? To whom do I send the memo that reads “You know that thing they say about being given what we can handle? I’M GOOD. Give me a few months of uncomplicated (and by that I mean no complications) healing time. Let me plan a trip. Go to lunch. Leave my house without makeup. Meet up with people I haven’t seen in awhile without them looking shocked and sorry when they see me. I want to feel normal, just for a few days. Thank you. And piss off.”

Okay. Rant done.  (and I do realize that my failing Netflix and confused computer fall neatly into the category of ‘first world problems’. I get it. In the big scheme of things, all I need to do is put on some damned eyeliner and get on with my day. Not helping.)

The funny thing is, these are. 

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I got these for Christmas this year, and after some confusing size-exchanging they are finally home. My sister once mentioned a pair of boots that changed her life. These are the ones that are doing what I need right now. These boots bring me back to a cocky, fearless, sexy, all-about-the juxtaposition, late-night-slam-dancing me that I really need to connect with right now. So I’m lacing them up. Putting on the Ramones, and having a vivid fantasy about slam-dancing on a dance floor full of angry. Because this middle-aged, lash-losing cranky woman just isn’t doing it for me today.