I’ve always loved words, it’s no secret. After my lobular breast cancer diagnosis last November, I started writing every day. I came across one of my first entries a few months ago and it made me laugh. I found a to-do list I had written for myself, something to focus on each day, to get me through. It read like this:
1. Drink carrot juice
3. Act normal.
I actually wrote that. I wasn’t being sarcastic. I remember writing it, in earnest. And thinking,
well, that's only three small things... If I can just appear normal...all will be well.
I’m not sure about the normal thing, not convinced that ever got a satisfied tick! And it
would take another blog post - or book perhaps - to unpack the reason why I wanted to ‘act normal’ – what I want to write about today is the power of the words.
Like fresh air; writing helps me churn over the soil, stops the compost of my thoughts going
mouldy. In between the words on the page and in my mind, I started to notice the profound
power of language. I call it the language of love. The words you use, silently, to talk to
yourself. This happens all the time – please don’t say it’s just me?
My work with affirmations (see previous blog) had revealed the unlimited potential creating
positive mantras could make to my thought processes. Writing them down, aerating them;
allowing breath into the cracks showed me a new way of thinking about the words I was
saying to myself and, very importantly, the words and ideas I was allowing other people to say to me, think about and ultimately believe in. The words we use create pictures and these create our reality.
Picture the scene with me, I had just shaved my head and was feeling daunted by the
relentless nature of chemotherapy. There was a part of me that was scared about going into
my local Coop. Really. But these words shifted something, viscerally for me:
‘They whispered to her, ‘you cannot withstand the storm’. She whispered back, ‘I am the storm.’
I am the storm. Even saying it now to myself produces serotonin. The relief. The expansion
of self: heart beat slowing, shoulders down. I am the storm. I would say it over and over.
What a chasm of difference there is from ‘having to weather the storm’ to ‘learning to cope with the storm’ to being the actual storm. All the fury. All the passion. All the hurt. All the
relief – being all of it, having it all inside of you. Not as something to endure, but as
something to be proud of, emboldened by.
Much of the narrative surrounding cancer is
combative – fighting, battling. Fighting is exhausting. I’m not a fighter. Thinking about myself being the storm helped me shift away from some invisible war, to a place of quiet peace.
If I was the storm, I could do anything. Words and imagery helped me reclaim my power. I’ve always loved words, it’s no secret.
I realised my mountain in the distance to climb, to conquer, was not the end of
chemotherapy or radiotherapy. I realised how scared I was of the surgery. I realised the
'waiting and seeing' for scan results, pathology results is a rockier road than I thought. And I
realised that is OK. I'm not brave or strong. I'm not inspiring. Sometimes I'm just
about making it out of bed. The school run you see me sailing to and fro – some days that
took a lot of - I was going to say strength, but vulnerability is perhaps more apt. And that's OK.
When you don't feel brave, is, I think when you are bravest.
When you can be quiet, stop amidst it all and think to yourself: 'Never mind clambering up the mountain, I AM the mountain. Never mind looking up and being daunted by the mountain. I am the mountain.’
And when YOU are the mountain, the dark clouds, the grey clouds, the stormy clouds, can and will – roll on over your beautiful head. Words matter. What we say to ourselves
matters. Here's to being the mountain. Not looking up at it - as an obstacle, a thing to beat, to fight against, to conquer. And that path, that long road ahead of you? Well, how about being the road, the path yourself; all the twists and turns are part of you. You are the path. The steep bits, blind corners, sheltered coves, sun-dappled canopies overhead – it’s all part of the path. Your own path.
There is enough pressure and surreal events happening outside in the world. Our internal
world though, we can protect that. With words said, silently. Kindly. And with love. In your
quiet moments what are you saying to yourself? Here's to just being.