Looking into the mirror after my chemotherapy treatments wasn't nearly the most unsettling thing about losing my hair. That award goes to a little encounter I had on the way to the post office.
It was a spectacular spring day--the kind when you can finally sneak outside without a coat and can't wait to lower the windows in your vehicle. I had parked in a nearby lot, taking a moment as I always did to peek in the rear view, making sure the wig I had on that day was straight.
I thought of my head coverings as part of my wardrobe: I had some fun hats and scarves for relaxing at home and with friends, and a wig that looked very much like my hairstyle before I had it buzzed in preparation for the day the bald spots started to appear ... a light-brown shoulder-length shaggy bob with bangs. I usually wore that one to work. But my favorite was the long red wig. My hair had never looked like this, but it made me feel confident, strong and beautiful at a time when I was just hoping to make it through the day. Plus, wearing it always made me smile.
So as I straightened my knee-length skirt while waiting for a break in traffic, I barely noticed the convertible with the two middle-aged women who stopped to let me cross the busy street, no doubt enjoying the day as much as I was. In fact, I didn't so much as see them as heard them, because the driver took the chance to yell, "Bimbo!" before flooring it to leave me in a cloud of exhaust and cackling laughter.
I stood there for a moment, incredulous, as thoughts raced furiously through my brain. Why in the world would she think that of me? Was my skirt too short? The hair too "much?" My face too made up (I had to draw in my eyebrows and create the look of lashes with eyeliner every morning, after all)? I stood there for a moment, and fighting back the angry tears starting to build. Until I burst out laughing myself.
It was all just too much: dealing with chemo's side effects, camping out in doctor's offices, getting used to my new prosthesis (which I considered whipping out at that moment, but I never would have had time to fling it at the car for maximum shock value) ... What else could I do? So I shook my head and bounded across the sidewalk and up the stairs, trying to control my giggling.
I finally listened to The Four Agreements last year, and it occurred to me why I was able to take that insult in stride. In my heart of hearts, I knew that whatever happened that afternoon wasn't about me. The second agreement is Don’t Take Anything Personally:
Bingo--a light bulb moment, for sure. And a concept that came streaming back to me when I recently found myself in the elevator of a local apartment complex, face to face with a (newly doctored) poster promoting my semi-private yoga classes there:
You're laughing too, right? I thought about taking it down but it was too good not to let others enjoy as well. I know it was probably kids or teenagers, or someone with some Stuff going on. Whoever it was, I certainly wasn't going to be the "victim of needless suffering" over something as silly as that.
I'm glad Agreement #2 has been relatively easy for me ... #4 has been pretty doable as well. I'm still working on #1 and #3--those two I wrestle with every day. In the meantime, I'll just be over here trying to hold it together. I mean, just look at those teeth!