Sunday, June 08, 2014

Fake Boobs, Lipstick, and Stretching Myself

I'm about to work on the next video and realized I haven't shared with you this last one. Inching toward present time.... More of my videos here.
Things are happening!

Gifts for my Spark*Letter subscribers.
More on this (coming soon)
at LifeCraft (my art/design blog).
Between the books I'm writing, graphic design work for clients, the garden, the dog, and my over-the-top need to spend long hours on a bicycle (Jim and I rode 114 miles together yesterday—7.5 hours in the saddle—plus I went out for another 35 this morning) I'm busy, to say the least. I also started my Spark*Letter newsletter, the first issue of which was far more enthusiastically received than I dared imagine, which makes me eager to write the next one. Which is awesome. I'm inspired to inspire. What could be better?

Perhaps the biggest news is that I have a new job in the fall, teaching graphic design at a nearby university. I'm sure my feelings will change once I get into preparing my syllabus (I plan to start this week) but at the moment, I'll admit it—I'm scared! What if my students hate me? What if I'm dreadfully boring and can't get them to engage? What if I say something mean by mistake? It's not that I haven't taught before and done just fine. But in the past, I wasn't scared like this. Then again, I want to connect with and inspire and serve my students in a way I haven't before. It's going to be a stretch.

I'm convinced this is a good kind of scared, jumping off the high-dive kind of scared, expanding the parameters of who I am kind of scared.

I'm also planning to wear my prosthetic when I teach.

This was a difficult decision, still subject to change.

It's coming up on four years since my mastectomy. I didn't even consider reconstructive surgery (though the surgeon who did my mastectomy worried I'd regret the decision and made me promise to at least talk to the plastic surgeon—I never got around to it). In all this time, I haven't felt the slightest regret. I've worn my prosthetic breast in public for exactly one hour.

I like being my authentic self in the world. I've never been the can't-leave-the-house-without-lipstick kind of girl. In fact, I've never been able to leave the house with lipstick. I feel increasingly ridiculous in makeup, haven't worn any in years. I rarely shave. I feel so privileged to see how, to the people who know and care about me, my hairy legs and lopsided chest matter not in the least. And I'm constantly surprised and touched by strangers who are not repelled by my body. I wish all women had the opportunity to see that their true selves are just fine. We're all so tortured by the beautification industry exploiting and aggravating our insecurities to the point that we're convinced we're intolerably unattractive.

If we're ashamed of our bodies, no wonder we struggle to show our minds!

Don't get me wrong. I'm not immune to this conditioning. I notice people's reactions to my asymmetry. I'm vigilant around strangers. I hate when I'm caught off-guard, talking to someone who is unable to pay attention to my words, they're so busy frowning in confusion as they stare at my chest, trying to comprehend the enigma of my torso. (Come to think of it, this feels less bad than when I'd catch someone staring at my chest back in the day when I had two breasts. It's just that this new kind of staring happens more often.)

I don't want to deal with that while I'm standing in front of a classroom. I don't want to distract my students from the work at hand. I don't want to distract myself wondering if my body is a distraction. It's probably no big deal either way, but I'm ready to try a change of pace.

Just don't expect me to put on lipstick.


Anonymous said...

I get it!! The only time I wear my fake boobs (double for me) is when I teach - exactly so it is a non-issue - non-distraction. Cancer comes up fairly often as I teach biochemistry and I tell them I had breast cancer - and I run into students in the real world and they see me without but in class I want the material I am teaching Instead of me as a person/patient to be the focus. It seems to work...

Amy said...

Ah thank you for this! So good to know this thought process is not one I'm having alone in the wilderness, if you know what I mean.

Paula said...

So excited for you! I had bilateral mastectomies in January of this year, and sometimes wear prostheses (but more often don't). Do what feels right to you. (I also teach, and follow the same pattern there--sometimes I wear them, sometimes not; I prefer not to, but some clothes need a little more filling-out than others.)

Amy said...

Thank you Paula! :)

Unknown said...

I have to share something funny. I don't always were my prosthesis. One day I decided to wear "her" and was still tired while getting ready. When I glanced down, my left boob was still missing. I had put my prosthesis in on the wrong side! LOL.

Peregrinations said...

(A different Paula!) I'm a professor and I recall having a wonderful youngish prof. who mentioned that he had aphasia. I actually googled it after that class. It was good to put out in front something that would be otherwise distracting. He sometimes stuttered slightly or couldn't come up with the right word because he'd had surgery for brain cancer (and sadly died a few years later). It was a good way to deal with it and made the confusion not a distraction.

Perhaps in introducing yourself on day one with your syllabus intro you could mention that you love to bike, have done triathalons, and are a cancer survivor or breast cancer survivor. That would make the issue less distracting in the long-term, I think. A friend/colleague of mine who wrote a mindful communications book mentioned doing the same thing if you're walking into class after an unpleasant encounter to be assertive and say, "I'm having trouble shaking off an unpleasant conversation, but I'm hoping we can ..."

Thanks for the Spark Letter. The beautiful post cards are hanging on my office wall!

I'm not your student, but you inspired me a few years ago to include "This I Believe" essays in one of the courses I teach and my students chose to include them in our campus literary journal and partner with TIB. Consider yourself already inspiring! At some point we'd like to have a reading (and perhaps you'd come).

Congrats on all the exciting happenings in your life!

Amy said...

Thank you Paula (the other Paula). I remember you, and I remember the This I Believe connection. I'm honored to think a little thing I did touched you and through you touched so many more! Please keep me posted. I'd love to come to your reading! :)

Donna said...

My best friend went through a similar process after her double mastectomy. It's inspiring to hear the freedom you describe in showing who you are. You go girl!