When survivor B was in the 3rd grade, she loved to curl up on the sofa and read for hours on end. At home she was encouraged to explore books of all kinds, so much so that she was reading like a 6th grader.
She loved to explore the school library, too. One day she lost herself in the 6th grade section, choosing a few precious books out of so many she was interested in.
Finally she carried her choices to the checkout desk. To her surprise, the librarian stared down her nose suspiciously.
“Third graders can’t take out books from the sixth grade section,” she said.
B was bewildered and sad. What was wrong with exploring the 6th grade section? Why couldn’t she take out books she knew she could read? And why would a librarian, of all people, discourage her from reading as well as she could?
But she didn’t venture over to the 6th grade section for another three years.
B now sees she absorbed some unhelpful lessons that day: that curiosity might get her in trouble, that she needed a grownup’s permission to explore new choices. She wonders why she wasn’t brave enough to keep exploring, when what she heard didn’t make sense to her.
B realized that what she learned that day has limited her thinking ever since.
She hesitates to make choices that might call attention to herself.
She’s afraid of ruffling other people’s feathers with her choices, even though they make sense to her.
She feels like she needs an authority’s permission to make significant choices about her medical treatment…or about her life.
The upshot is that her life became smaller than the one she’d really love. Her writing talents and passion for social causes haven’t yet found voice in the world, because she’s been looking for approval that will never come.
What’s painful is that I see lots of survivors thinking this way. After handing your body over to a medical team without time to really consider that decision, and enduring without question the physical and emotional rollercoaster that follows, you too may have been left feeling overwhelmed and powerless. It’s hard to make authentic, informed choices when you’re in that state.
But put off making authentic choices too long, and you may find that parts of your life look nothing like you’d wanted. And any prospect of changing things seems well beyond your reach.
Have you questioned the recommendations of your medical team, but not explored other avenues because they might disapprove?
Have you gone along with what people around you want, even though you didn’t want to, because you didn’t want to hurt them?
Have you been putting off important choices because you’re afraid of making the wrong choice?
If cancer has left you doubting your ability to make choices you feel good about, let’s talk. We’ll dust off your inner compass and look at how you can get back in charge in every area of your life (and kick out that mean old librarian).
Believing in you,
PS – I love hearing what you have to say. What choices have seemed hard to you since you had cancer?