Journey Learning #7: Mind-Reading

Mind-reading got me through my young life — constantly scanning faces, words, inflection and situations for the teeniest clues of disapproval, displeasure or impending danger, and then adjusting my actions accordingly.

It helped me negotiate volatile and irrational authority figures.
It likely improved my software analysis and design.

But I’m learning that, when dealing with fairly decent human beings, my hyper-vigilance often backfires.

Disguised fear may look like dismissal. Extreme sympathy may be disguised as awkward rudeness. Colossal insecurity may be disguised as arrogance and (in the grand scheme of things, harmless) hostility.

And that, disguises or not, I’m safe.

So, thank you, Mind-reading, for getting me to safety.
Enjoy your long-overdue retirement.

Journey Learning #6: Family

This journey has led me to think a lot about family.

My Family Is Not

My family has not been my sister, Linda, from whom I’ve heard word zero for months, despite my email updates and her easy access to this blog.

My family has not been my brother, David, who popped into my life briefly following my diagnosis, who is, apparently, able to send me good vibes but has not bothered to follow this blog or to correspond.

My family is not my parents, Keith and Josie, whose only reaction to my journey has been self-pity, blame, hostility and poison.

My family has not been Mark’s sister, Barb, whose correspondence has been a total of two terse email responses to two of my email updates in the early days of this journey.

My Family Is

My family is Mark, Lucy, Bayla, Mark’s parents, Rhoda and Bert, my cousin Kelly and her family, my Aunt Barb and Uncle Wilf, our dear friends near and far, those of you out there with whom we’ve shared friendship, support, laughs, ups and downs before and during this challenge, and those with whom warm friendships have recently started to sprout.

And with whom we’ll continue to share friendship, support, laughs, ups and downs for years to come.

It’s been a painful learning but I am grateful for the realization and the healing which I hope will follow it.

And I am grateful for my family.

Related Posts:

Journey Learning #5: Braving Eye Contact

Christopher was a large crab who lived as a pet in one corner of a pull-out lobster tank at the generous and friendly Butland’s Seafood, just outside Fundy National Park.

Surrounded by lobsters of every size and colour, and occasionally picked up and showed off to lucky customers, he dealt with the terror by closing his eyes. If he couldn’t see us, then we couldn’t see him.

I’ve always done the same.

When faced with the terror of possible judgement, rejection, criticism or the source of a deep and open hurt, I simply refuse to look.

Family gatherings, group activities, crowded school yards, you name it, I protect myself by averting my eyes. If I can’t see them, they can’t see me. They can’t judge me, reject me or hurt me. They can’t see into me.

Reading this post by our friend Daniele Rossi, I realized this is another hamstringing habit that has to go.

To let go, to connect, to be fully alive, I need to open my eyes. I need to take in what’s really there.

I need to touch the burner.

Part of me knows I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Journey Learning #4: Releasing Resentment

Being bullied, belittled and abused from birth definitely didn’t make me the most carefree of characters. It left me raw and responsive to random nastiness. It made injustices cling — each incidental injury tearing into the stinging wound within.

And the clinging hurts became cancer.

I’m realizing now that I have to let go. That to flush the cancer from my body, I need to flush out the pain. I need to expel the anguish I feel every single day. I need to release the resentment towards the handful of people who have hurt me most; who continue to hurt me, through snipes, spite or snubbing.

I must.

But how?

Journey Learning #3: Wow

Scrambling through a stuffed slate of commitments, from the wee hours of morning til the wee hours of night, we often glimpse others while they’re scrambling just the same.

This challenge has provided me with the opportunity to stop, spot and soak in the real goodness of the many people who have squeezed, and continue to squeeze, time into their own busy schedules to shine light on our family.

My life is brimming with good, good people.

I am immensely grateful.

Journey Learning #2: I Count

Years of early indoctrination infused in me an unshakable sense of worthlessness and, as a result, self-loathing. Despite huge efforts throughout my adult life, this injury kept me distracted from the great good that surrounds me and left me raw and reactive to the snipes and whims of every toxic family member or acquaintance.

The unabating care and kindess of friends, family and community members during this health challenge is providing me with a steady stream of invitations to boot my belittling beliefs, to accept and focus on the good, and to let the saboteurs slide.

Will I accept the invitation? I’ll certainly try.

Journey Learning #1

Whether or not we believe this disease has intentionally presented itself to do so, it’s definitely encouraging me to learn and grow in ways that my stubborn adherence to justice, fear and inertia has always prevented.

So, while the medical gurus cut, stitch, poke, scan, radiate and infuse me, it seems my role in building a new, improved, bionic me is to grasp the many opportunities for learning and then to choose and use new beliefs, patterns and perspectives that will build a stronger, happier, healthier me.

Journey Learnings.

I’ll track them here, one at a time, in no particular order.  Let’s start with a big, small one:

Journey Learning #1: I can survive without coffee, sugar and red wine.