Every now and then I catch myself expressing my opinion and realize, mid-rant, that I’m not comfortable with my own perspective. I typically don’t make this discovery until I’m in too deep to pivot. Consequently, I either commit to my own bullshit idea or pretend to be distracted by something shiny and quietly disengage. There are also times, like this one, when it doesn’t hit me until much later that I was off track.
In my first attempt to talk about my feelings related to breasts I cheated myself by approaching the topic from a superficial place. I allowed insecurity and doubt to guide my thinking, which disallowed me to find truth in my issue and end-resulted in a vacuous, uninteresting post. Not exactly the provocative content I’m going for here.
One thing about committing to a life of perpetual growth (I’ve done this, by the way, or have I mentioned?) is that, with practice, it becomes increasingly more comfortable to acknowledge my shortcomings. It’s actually amazing how much power is in, simply, the desire to be better. Listening, communicating, questioning, and re-thinking with open-mindedness and humility lead to revelations and revelations are liberating. It is through this process that I’ve managed to clear away destructive habits and absolute garbage that has been accumulating within for years, making way for positive energy and healing.
Speaking of liberating (and then we’ll get onto the topic alluded to in the title), I would like to suggest the practice of giving yourself permission to be honest. I bet there are a thousand times more “to thine own self be true” tattoos in existence then there are people being true to themselves. It may be very difficult at times to truly examine yourself at times, to take a hard look at the person in the mirror (it’s more difficult when you just wake up and your hair looks like mine), but it’s where you have to start. You have to ask yourself to change your ways. Honestly, there’s no message that’s going to sound any clearer: take a look at yourself and make that change, y’know? Someone should totally write a song about that.
I’d like to pause for a sec to examine my obviously liberal use of punctuation, specifically the excessive commas and awkward syntax of which I’m sure you are acutely aware and possibly even annoyed by. A year ago I may have adamantly defended my choices and maybe even provided material to support whatever parts of it were interpretive enough to argue, perhaps even referencing stream of consciousness aficionada Gertrude Stein, or ee cummings, master of distinct and non-traditional poetic form. Today I embrace my style, thankful for the way it contributes to my expression. Liberating.
Now, back to the boob post. When I think of breasts, which I will from hereon refer to as boobs because the word breast reminds me of chicken, I think of them first as something men look at. I know . I have TWO kids. I should definitely be thinking of boobs/breasts as the essence of life itself and symbolic of the bond between mother and child but, I’m not gonna lie, I just don’t so what are you gonna do. I suspect that most men have been staring at magazine boobs since the first time they got their hands on a porn mag, pacifying themselves with Playboy’s finest until they got their first real look. They seem to really like them. Not being male, I’m not exactly sure what the big deal is. Sincere appreciation of the female form? Mommy issues? Or perhaps just plain old sex stuff. I really don’t know.
Women, on the other hand, seem to chime in on the topic with decisive, albeit varying. opinion. I suspect we may be largely influenced by our innate desire, or lack of such, to be appealing to men. Some women could care less about size, some want them huge, some maintain them like car tires, replacing, rotating, making sure they have plenty of tread. Others want them small and manageable, cramming them into sports bras so they don’t flop around. Seriously, I have a friend who wears a sports bra with everything, including cocktail attire. She could care less. Incidentally, I have another friend who I like just as well who spends more on push ups then groceries, constantly striving to go bigger and better. And then there are women like me, who I think probably comprise the majority regarding our breasts. For me, historically at least, they’ve always just kind of been there, hanging out, so to speak. They started small, got bigger, and bigger again after kids. They changed shape so I changed bras. I honestly didn’t used to give them much thought. Sorry, boobs of my past.
Clearly, things have changed for me. For months I’ve been thinking of little else. Ironic, right? Lately I’ve been having an inordinate number of conversations involving my boobs with doctors and clinicians, friends and family. Everyone wants to chime in about my reconstruction – how big they’re going to be, whether silicone or saline, that kind of thing. I have heard from several friends that I am sooooooo lucky to get a boob job out of this deal. They are sooooooo totally jealous. It’s actually pretty humorous.
Can we pause again for a bit? I need to add a little side comment here because I don’t know where else to put it. If you are one who is fortunate enough to still have your boobs, please try and refrain from bitching about them so much. At least they’re yours. Love them, or if you don’t, get a boob job and move on. Either way, pretty please, show a little gratitude for the fact that they are still attached to your body and not removed because they were chocked full of nasty cancer cells. Can we agree?
It’s hard to focus on boobs right after a cancer diagnosis because you’re probably pretty likely to be focused on death. And then life. And then life and death. And then test results. Good news. Bad news. Delays. Appointments. Reactions. Hospital bills. Drugs. The boob aesthetic, on the other hand, doesn’t really factor in at this point. After my diagnosis, I felt about my boobs as I would a venomous spider latching onto my neck. I just wanted them off. Vanity what? Boyfriends what? Sex what? Loss of femininity? Not my particular focus at the time. I wanted to live and the stupid, disease-ridden things were trying to kill me. They just needed to go.
A few months later, no longer having my original boobs but, in their place, an expander (think instrument of torture over-filled with 450 cc’s of saline). The spider had now been replaced buy a boa constrictor and I started missing the old me, (not the cancer part). It’s not like they were so great, not at all perfect given the mileage, and average size, but at least they were reasonably comfortable. And (bonus) they pretty much looked like everyone else’s so they blended. I blended.
I obsess a little more now regarding the significance of boobs. I suppose they are pretty iconic, adorning everything from statues of ancient Greek goddess artsy fertility symbols, National Geographic photographs from Africa and housewives of the OC. Coming of age heroines have agonized over growing them, headlines have highlighted the injustices of exposing them while breastfeeding, and plastic surgeons have made their careers customizing them for the dissatisfied lot.
It would be awesome to say it doesn’t matter – that my health is everything and I’m not concerned with the superficiality of reconstruction. It would be awesome but it would be bullshit. It matters for a few reasons, the first of which has something to do with the role breasts play in how I identify with my own femininity. The second is that men, clearly, prefer that women have them. That also matters. It’s my blog. I can say that so don’t even go there.
I guess I’ve been feeling a little left out of the boob game lately. I vacillate between feeling frustrated at the long process of expanders and injections and surgeries and feeling like my life is a little bit on hold because I’m not totally complete. I know…it’s petty and ridiculous considering the context, but reasoning with insecurity is truly a beast of a proposition. The good news is that my plastic surgeon is an amazingly talented doctor and promises that I will have a great outcome. That being said, as I sort through my feelings about all the boob stuff, I arrive at a point where I reflect on gratitude. I am deeply grateful for so much these days, for life itself. I am thankful every day for my health, physical and emotional, and the moments that take my breath away, from the simple to complex. Most of all, I am grateful that through all that has happened in the past six months, my ability to love is approaching superpower proportion. I think about it all the time, reflecting on its healing power and positive energy as I continue to learn and grow. I think of how blessed I am to have people in my life to share my superpower with and, even more so, how cool it is that they love me back.
LOVE. PEACE. GRATITUDE. 4LIFE