If I go more than 3 days without a mohawk, it’s hard to get back to it. Maybe I flap my hair down pixie for a day, maybe I fluff it tall and puffy for two, but along the way I lose my confidence. I struggle through a few minutes of impostor syndrome, anxiety about being a mohawked mom, a mohawked businesswoman, a mohawked coach. Do I seem irresponsible? Inappropriate? Un-myself? In the end, I style it up and leave the house. Within a few hours I’ve learned to own mohawks again.
The past six months have been a lot like wearing mohawks. Mostly I own the story about my brain tumor, but every so often I lose my power behind it, nervous to admit that recovery is over. The state of recovery is like a rented shade. Everyone’s mission is to keep you comfortable. But at some point, you’re ready to step back into the heat.
Time brings forth a new normal. Lots of my new normal resembles the old normal. I have two sons, I’m married. I run Plucky. I cook dinner most nights. But underneath the inch or two of new hair on my head, there is still a scar. And underneath the woman who helps to run a family and a business, there are scars, too.
I’m more emotional at the change of seasons. The fall! Pumpkins and leaves and chilly mornings. I’m so grateful that I get another one of these. A plane ride with my son. I’m so grateful I get to ride next to him. My baby’s first haircut. I’m so grateful I am here to gather up a few curls to keep.
After I turn off my light every night, I say three prayers. “Thank you for my life. Thank you for this day. Thank you for my body.” I don’t know who I’m praying to, but I had a few experiences during surgery and afterwards that have convinced me of something greater. I’m shyly learning to absorb this into my new-normal.
Though I didn’t realize it at the time, having a brain tumor required my body to compensate. I was always unable to do yoga because the down dogs made my eyes swell after class. Turns out that was the brain tumor. Now I do yoga several times a week.
I stopped swimming underwater a few years ago because my ears always blocked right up. Turns out that was the brain tumor. Now I swim underwater like a little fish.
I don’t need reading glasses anymore. Turns out the brain tumor caused blurriness as it pressed on my left eye. Now I’ve got eyes like a hawk!
It’s like getting a new body. Jen 2.0. Physical traits that were part of me are just… over. Last month I decided to stop caring about what size tee-shirt I wear. It’s endlessly dull to mourn a pre-pregnancy body. Feeding anxiety about what one should look like is the worst use of energy I can imagine. So now I give zero fucks. This body kept me alive during brain surgery and it kept me alive for many years with a foreign tumor camping in my left temporal lobe.
This body is great. I defer to reality and order whatever size fits me best.
Life. As much life as I can live. I’ll have a MRI every 12 months to make sure the tumor isn’t coming back. Some days I do too much and mix up my words at dinner, saying “pasta” when I mean to say “noodles.” That’s called aphasia. It’s only happened a handful of times since surgery but it does trouble me. What if that damn tumor grows back? What if every huge ambition I’ve had becomes a could-have-been? I feel the pressure to accomplish even faster than before because time isn’t a given.
But the truth is, time isn’t a given for anyone. I’ve found it is useless to hold onto anger towards circumstances outside your control. Mourn, punch a pillow, then get on with it. You need your full attention to attend to whatever you do control for however long you’re here.
Other things I’ve learned
Trade expectations for gut reactions. Retire what others have imagined for you and admit what you imagine for yourself. A gut only has an audience of one: you. Listen and advocate for it.
Don’t be afraid of change. Change is the hallway you go through to access newness. Newness is what makes you feel alive.
Recognize when things are broken, even (especially?) if they are your own things. Apologize. Set things straight. Then keep going.
And for crying out loud, wave to your neighbor. People are people are people are people. No matter how long we’ve got, we’re all in this together.