Thanks to cancer, I’m now living a “both/and” life. And maybe at some point everyone gets to leave “either/or” behind and join the ranks of “both/and” living. Perhaps it’s a natural byproduct of getting older. All I know is, before cancer I was definitely an either/or gal.
I was fairly sure life was simple and people and things were black and white. Either/or. Easily categorized and compartmentalized.
I’ve learned people, situations, days, places, and life are rarely, if ever, either/or. Even if (especially if) they are seemingly contradictory.
Being an adult is awesome and terrible. People are inspiring and disappointing. Friends are life savers and heart breakers. Kids are soul filling and headache inducing. Life is amazing & beautiful. Life is gut punching & dark.
For me, post cancer, this means: Everything is simultaneously more important and not important at all. I am more invested in life and more prepared to let go. I am more okay with who I am and more motivated to change. I am more concerned with details and more able to forgive the little things. I am more concerned with how people feel when they’re around me and less concerned with what people think of me .
To be honest, it’s that last one I’ve been grappling with of late. I’m a lifelong people pleaser with an irresistable urge to not give a f*ck. It is this aspect of both/and living that has been giving me trouble. How do I embrace my most real Ashley-ness with pride without stepping on peoples’ toes-es? (that was way too many plurals and possessives for me to navigate well, sorry).
To be clear, I’ve never been particularly concerned with being cool and any inclination in that direction went flying WAY out the window after cancer. The latest, hottest, greatest? Whatever. Not on my radar. In fact I’m rather repelled by trendiness which is kind of an obstacle when you own a business. Particularly a consumer-based business. Tell me what the next craze is and you will find me running in the opposite direction with Milagro tucked under my arm. And I’m okay with this. I’m not building Milagro to ride the waves of consumer opinion. I’m building Milagro to be the place people NEED.
Where I run into problems is when I worry my life or my choices or my opinions may hurt someone’s feelings.
I had a conversation at The Maker Counter around the holidays with a friend who doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas in traditional ways. She, her husband, and their kids go to Korma Sutra for Indian food on Thanksgiving and they love it. It’s THEIR tradition. They celebrate Christmas but they don’t do Santa Claus. Their choices make their extended family (and some of their friends) CRAZY. Why? I thought for awhile about why anyone would care how another family chooses to spend their holidays.
And then I realized I do the same thing all the time, just about different things. I see someone else’s choices as their opinion on my own choices. A judgement. In other words, I make it about me. Gulp.
This was a pretty big “aha” for me. When I decide how I want to live, or what I’m going to eat or not eat, or how I’m going to spend my days, my time, my energy, I’m not judging anyone else’s choices. I’m simply deciding for myself. So why do I look at other people’s decisions as commentary on my own?
I’m done fretting about stepping on toes. Because I see now that’s more about the toe steppee and less about the toe stepper. I’m going to do and be what works for me and mine. And you go do and be what works for you and yours. Then instead of worrying about toes, we can just congratulate each other on dealing with the horrible loveliness of life in ways that (at least for now) keep us from being institutionalized.
Thanks, cancer. For being BOTH the ultimate bitch AND a great teacher. I’m grateful and I hate you.