One nod. For some, that’s all it takes. That one nod that says, “Hey, you matter” or “I see you” or “What’s up?” Take it a step further – that one “hello” or that one smile. That one small moment you use to acknowledge that you’ve noticed someone exists. That one small moment that makes someone think, “If I wasn’t here tomorrow, that person might notice.”
At the place I work, we’ve had a wonderful and emotional few days as we’ve explored ways in which our own actions –however small — can change the course of someone’s life. We’ve been talking, as a community, specifically about folks who have hidden identities, and how bullying/teasing/harassment have led to emotional desperation for young people in the recent months.
I can only imagine the thoughts of those who were close to those young people. “I wish I had say ‘hi’ to that kid more often” or “I wish I told him that it was okay to be gay” or “I wish I reached out and told him that it’ll get better.” I wish. We live in a world of I wish.
Well, it’s obvious. I wish I wasn’t BRCA positive. I wish I didn’t have to worry about whether my children carry this gene. I wish my sister didn’t have cancer. I wish my daughter didn’t have cancer. I wish I didn’t have to have a mastectomy just to reduce my risk. I wish my grandmother didn’t die from cancer or that my aunts and cousins didn’t have to battle cancer in their young lives.
I can wish all I want, right? It’s not going to change. But, I can change what I do to make my life – my time – matter. I can commit to moments that help another life breathe easier. I can commit to moments that help another person stand taller, believe in oneself a little bit longer, and realize I’d notice if that person wasn’t there tomorrow.
At work, I’ve slowly been coming out of my BRCA shell. While I’ve publically blogged about it, posted it on Facebook, and talk openly about it in cancer related classes, there are still so many people who don’t know — don’t really care to know — about this journey. Then, there are folks who give me “the nod.” When they ask, “So, how you doin’?”, they follow it up with that “I mean, how you BRCA-doin’?” type of nod. Somtimes, wondering if I’ve mistaken a “nod” for a “head shake”, and answer, “Uhmm… I’m … you know… good…. uh… how are you, … you know… doin’?”
The friend or colleague continues to dance with me and says in paused tone, “Oh.. uh.. you know.. good.”
And, inevitably, I’ll just say, “Do you want to know about work good or anything-else-good?”
Response: Your surgery and stuff.
And, then the conversation can finally take off and we can go down the surgery, mastectomy, recovery, silicone, reconstruction, etc. etc. etc. route.
While the first few moments are awkward, there is something very freeing about “the nod” moment for me. I’m trying to wrestle with the cultural part of my being (don’t put your laundry out there!) with my activism part of my being (step up.. speak out). I’ve heard from lots of women, mostly women, who have said that my journey here on Marathon B4 Mastectomy has helped them become stronger. Some have taken up running. Some of found their voice in this taboo subject of boobies. Some have decided to take charge of their lives before their lives took charge of them.
When I’ve reflected on those bad days — those days when I was pissed off that I have this genetic risk, days when my cancer survivor daughter was dealt another card in the deck of life, or days when I question whether karma will come back for me — the thing that turned them around was a “nod.” It was a smile from someone unexpectedly. It was a comment or note from someone with just the right words. It was a text message with a simple smiley face. It was a warm hug; it was a kind voicemail; it was a knowing look. It was the vision of a student, who I knew was struggling, walking a little bit taller today than yesterday. It was that look that my friend Jacqueline gives me right before she says, “Querida, Liza” and then her eyes fill with tears. It is someone remembering my name; and it was being able to remember someone else’s. It was the little extra squeeze in a hug and hearing someone whisper to me, “I’ve been praying for you.”
The nod. It’s so easy, right? It’s so simple. And yet, the nod can change the course of someone’s day, someone’s life.
Thank you for all the nods you’ve given to me. With just under 5 weeks to go, I realize that “the nod” — that knowing look of “hey, I’ll notice you’re gone tomorrow” — is one of the most precious gifts we can give someone. Anyone.
I’ve committed that each day, each and every day, I’m going to do something to make 1 more person in this world feel they mattered today, for that moment. A nod. A smile. An unexpected ‘hello’.
I know those moments have changed the course of my own days; they have helped me walk taller, live stronger, and serve more compassionately.
Will you join me?
Peace, love, and mattering each day,