Would he kiss my back or slam the hotel door behind him? Baring my naked body, for the first time like this, was terrifying.
Way back when, sharing my body with someone new was thrilling, exhilarating and nerve racking. Sometimes all at once. But that was back then, before finding myself in my forties as a divorced breast cancer recoverer with all the trapping that recovery brings; double mastectomy, reconstruction, along with the after effects of chemo.
You think it’d be a walk in the park after everything I’d got through. I left my husband three months before being diagnosed (phew) I went to the majority of appointments on my own much to my oncologist’s distress, I made life changing decisions by myself and I recovered from each round of chemo or surgery alone, with a support network of people ready to jump in if I needed it.
As Lady Gaga said, I was just born this way.Lady Gaga
I’m not the Jason Statham of the cancer world but I did have something to prove. I was not my mother. She had died from breast cancer/brain tumours when I was fifteen. My daughter was four. I was not leaving her in the same way. I was working towards natural longevity, not abrupt loss. Not again, not ever.
Cancer gave me the biggest opportunity I’d ever spotted, and I’d spotted many. My initial reaction was to carry on working. That didn’t last long. My diagnosis created some huge changes overnight in my diet. I stopped eating pretty much anything that wasn’t raw vegetables in juice form until my chemo nurse made me add some actual food into the mix. But these were changes that I’d made before, when I was going through IVF. I’d been given a 15% chance of IVF working, so I made sure I took 100% control of everything I could to make the 15% the best possible. I’d gone this far before, what was I missing?
Turns out I was missing me. The me that had been hiding in plain sight for around thirty years.
“But Alex you’ve been so successful, with the recently extended big house, fancy car on the drive, husband and great daughter and amazing job. You’ve got it all, what’s your problem?”Friend
I had it all. On the surface. Getting diagnosed with cancer helped me see how seriously unhappy I actually was. My marriage had been a disaster, I hated the extension on my house, I was up to my neck in debt and I didn’t want to live like this any more. So I decided to change things. In my time off, in-between surgery and chemo, I worked with a coach who helped me plan a future I truly wanted.
I went into the kind of detail I’d never imagined possible when it came to my personal life, making big decisions about who I’d spend my time with, or not. Learning how to leave toxic compromise at the door, how to relish time with myself rather than dread being alone and ultimately seeing how I can shape my life into anything I wanted it to be. It was the best thing I’d ever done, on the back of a life threatening illness, it changed everything.
So when it came to relationships, rather than falling into the first thing that came along to ease my staggering lack of confidence (that was once me) to being 100% sure of who I wanted to spend my time with. It was a new approach and it was so exciting because if this guy didn’t exist, I’d be happily single. There was a reassuring empowerment in this.
When I actually met the man, the one I’d purposely written lists about (his characteristics, what makes him laugh, cry and everything in-between) I had to double check I wasn’t dreaming. Those lists had been sitting between the pages of my journal for a couple of years. We were drawn to each other like magnets, like he was checking his list as I was checking mine. It was an interesting few weeks as we got to know each other in passing. The passing became dating until one night we were sitting having dinner and I knew it was time to tell him about my body. This relationship couldn’t go further until I knew he wasn’t going to run for the hills at the sight of my deeply scarred and reconstructed self.
You see, the old me would have winged it, felt deeply hurt if it hadn’t gone to plan, been tossed back into the spiral of self doubt, until landing back right where I’d started. Having the same old relationships with the same kind of guys hoping this time it’d be different.
This time it was different. As I was worried generally about freaking kids out in the gym changing rooms with my scars, I was giving him the courtesy of deciding for himself. Whilst being wholeheartedly there for myself. Because I would be okay whatever the outcome.
And there it was.
The newness in me was all about love for myself, therefore I didn’t need it from anywhere else. If he didn’t like my scars, he wasn’t for me.
Being a visual person, I wanted to show, not tell. We had a room booked in a very fancy hotel. I gave him the option to leave, no harm done and no bad feelings, if it wasn’t for him.
In no time at all, I felt him kiss the scars on my back.
The moral of my little life changing (for me) tale, loving yourself is everything.
An analogy; when you have money in the bank, and a secure financial standing, you don’t make emotional decisions about money, jobs or opportunities. You’re not making decisions based on your own financial need. Those decisions usually come off as being needy and irrational at times and have the potential to not turn out as you anticipated.
The same goes for love. When you have a heart full of love for yourself, you stop making emotional decisions about love from others and instead create space to think clearly about what you really want.
After a lifetime of being scared of my own shadow, I started to learn to love myself for being me. Authentically me.
Because just as Oscar Wilde said, be yourself, everybody else is taken.Oscar Wilde