Tuesday, September 17, 2013

An Honest Reflection

Well hello there friends, loved ones, and beautiful strangers:

I am writing this post because I looked in a mirror today. Okay, to be honest, I look in the mirror every day (fine, sometimes several times -- I'm a girl, after all), but today was a little bit different. Today was different because today I was caught off guard. And again, to be fair, I probably should have expected to run into a mirror or two when I walked into Bed, Bath, and Beyond. It seems like the kind of store where mirrors would be plentiful -- bedroom mirrors, bathroom mirrors, and, well, beyond. So, yeah, I probably should have been expecting to turn a corner and get hit with a random mirror attack, but I wasn't. I was surprised.

The first thing I noticed when I saw myself today, besides the fact that my jeans were somewhat dirty (to be expected after a day of trying to help unpack my new apartment), was my new scar -- the one from my melanoma removal last week, which also happens to be the one that currently is full of stitches until tomorrow afternoon. And this was probably noticeable at least in part because this 2.5 inch beauty is, in fact, on my face. Or, rather, on my chin to be exact. Oh, yeah, and did I mention it still has stitches? Also, that said stitches are surrounded by a bruise that makes it look like I slammed my chin repeatedly into some immovable object? Because yeah, that would all be true.

And this might also be the time to mention that I'm recovering from a cold, and that my lung function is such right now that walking to the store without O2 is enough to make me breathless. Because that's all the truth also -- for right now, at least -- and that's what I came face-to-face with this afternoon on aisle 4, right next to the rotating fan I was planning to purchase.

One word, guys: Ouch.

So, dear friends and strangers, let me say one thing in response to the mirror in aisle 4. Let me be the first to tell you that even when I'm standing there tired and breathless and sporting war wounds on my face, there is one thing I want more than anything else in the world.

Please look past all that. Please see me, instead.

Please see a woman who is smart, adventurous, playful, and even, on occasion, kind of funny. Please see the person who is stronger than facial scars and damaged lungs -- the kind of gal who pushes boundaries, who fights back as hard as she knows how, who just in the past year has come through some pretty tough stuff and has done it with as much patience and humor as she knows how. Please see someone, if you can muster the imagination, who has completed road races and raised literally hundreds of thousands for charities, who has a randomly silly laugh and a puppy who still thinks she hung the moon (shhh, don't disillusion the poor guy!). See someone who is loved, who is happy, who is not afraid of the future (not really, anyway) because she has faith in herself and in God and in all the wonderful people who surround her -- like you, for example. See someone who is a lot like you, actually, because she laughs and cries and gets overly excited about little details and votes and likes ice cream and she, too, wishes she could be on a beach somewhere instead of standing by the mirror in aisle 4. See a woman who could tell you all about living life for 3 years with breath and energy and health, because she had that and she knows deep down that she will have it again soon.

And how much of a gift that truly, truly is.

She could tell you about living your dreams and making a difference, about medical miracles and the selfless gift of organ donation. She could tell you about loving someone and feeling loved back, and why we should never take that for granted. She could take your hand and put them on her other scars -- the ones you can't see, the ones on her chest -- and let you feel what it's like to feel the breath of a beautiful stranger giving life to another. She could tell you about speaking in front of crowds of hundreds for a cause you believe in or she could make up stories and rhymes to make you smile, because that's what she's best at in the whole wide world. And she would ask you about your life, too, because hearing the stories of others is one of her favorite pastimes. She could make you believe in something, anything really, because we all have the power to share that with each other.

Or, if all of that is too messy (and believe me, it can get messy) then please just see a person, any person, who is trying to make the best of whatever life throws at them, and who is grateful, even for her scars. 

That would be enough, I promise. 

And mirror, mirror, on the shelf
Shine past our scars, and show our selves.

With love and light, beautiful people. 


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The 10 Commandments of Life with CF (or Anything Else)

Well, this was quite a week. Beyond flying to NYC for transplant clinic and a meeting with my surgeon (both went well, by the way) and having the small and thankfully superficial melanoma removed from my face tmw (thank you, immunosuppression drugs!), I've been pushing myself pretty hard. Thankfully the push has not been without rewards -- getting to see my sister, for example, and learning that I am not yet at the stage where my transplant clinic wants to relist me immediately for transplant. And, of course, another reward that I think is always a hard won achievement in the world of CF and lung disease: a little insight into who I am personally and who I would like to be as I continue progressing through this crazy, beautiful journey we call living. 

In particular this weekend, I was inspired by the grace and style of some of the fabulous people I'm lucky enough to have in my life. People like my friend Ali, for example, who recently lost a beloved family member to illness after herself battling through a rough summer. Ali, you are the classic example of someone who always thinks of others, even when you have every right to be selfish or tired. Or my sister, Erin, who held steady through a truly crazy week and never once lost her confidence or grace under pressure. Erin, you remind me how important it is to be confident and proud. My boyfriend who encourages me to go with the flow and let it unfold, my folks who remind me of the importance of family, or any number of all of you, who never fail to set the bar for how much complete strangers can love and support each other through absolutely anything. And so, it is in honor of all of these people, and everyone else, that I offer my own insights into the amazing lessons you all have taught me. Or, in other words, "The 10 Commandments of Life with Cystic Fibrosis (or anything else)."

Thanks for the inspiration, beautiful people.

10. Thou shalt not compare thy life, thy coping skills, or thy appearance in the hospital to others, or to what thou hast witnessed on TV or on the Internet. Grey's anatomy is just a sitcom, and no one's hair or makeup looks like that in the ER. Honest.
9. Thou shalt not measure the day's success solely by activities completed, but also by smiles shared, quiet moments of reflection, and small kindnesses given and received. Some triumphs, after all, are small. 
8. Thou shalt honor thy mind as thy body; and thou shalt remember to appreciate both for what they can do, not to disparage them for what they cannot.
7. Thou shalt be kind to thyself and others whenever possible.
6. Thou shalt forgive thy mistakes and the mistakes of others, even if it takes a little time. This stuff is hard, and no one is perfect.
5. Thou shalt feel, even the hard stuff. No, really. That's okay. 
4. Thou shalt allow others to feel. Also okay.
3. Thou shalt strive for perspective. Thou shalt also know it's not always easy to keep. 
2. Thou shalt remember that thou wast made as thou wast made -- it is not thy job to apologize for thy thyself or thy body. It is a gift, not an inconvenience. I promise.

And finally...

1. Thou shalt love others as thyself, and thyself as others. Really.

And now, the age old question: what would you add? 

With love, light, and learning,