Breast Cancer,  Life After Cancer,  Traveling

Big Things Happen in Texas Y'all

When I decided I wanted to start blogging, the first thing that crossed my mind was how my perspective had changed over the course of the last two years.  What I had not yet grasped was how much my actions had changed in conjunction with my perspective.
A few weeks back, a local (well he lives 45 miles from here, but in rural standards that is local) photographer was working on a series he entitled “Land of 10,000 Homeless.”  Matthew Brieter,* a wonderful young (yes, I can say that because he looks way younger than me) photographer had traveled to the Cities and provided food for some of the area homeless in exchange for their photo, and the opportunity to hear their story.  (You can find WCCO’s news story, “Photographer Captures Struggles of Minnesota’s Homeless,” by clicking the link).
It is not uncommon for a photographer, an artist, to obtain a series of photographs to share their point of view, their perspective, by sharing their captured moments in a heartfelt, compelling way that will hopefully sway and perhaps ignite feelings within the viewer.
Last week, Rodney and I traveled to Smithville, Texas visiting a long-time friend of Rodney’s.  We were quite fortunate to have our very own tour guide and ended up visiting several different locations in Texas:  San Antonio, Austin, Smithville, Bastrop, and New Braunfels.  We were able to witness a true Texas thunderstorm, Texas humidity, and of course big ol’ Texas sunshine.  I have no clue what it is about Texas, but I have to agree the horizons look bigger, the gas stations are larger, and so is the availability of Sweet Tea.  As a young cashier reminded me on our first day there, “Everything’s bigger in Texas ma’am.”Continental Club_web-3661
On one of our days in Austin, we were heading towards The Continental Club to hear ”The Peterson Brothers Band.”**  As we strolled along down the sidewalk, we passed several homeless gentlemen sitting on the ground and Matthew’s photos flashed before my eyes.  In the past, I would have maybe tried to look the person in the eye, to let them know I knew they were there; but never would I have verbally said anything.  The fear was too great – what if they became upset, or wanted to talk more, or did something to embarrass me, or what if they began to follow me?  (That last one I feel quite silly sharing, but it is real and it is honest).
As we passed one of the gentlemen, I noticed his sign:  “Homeless and Deaf – can you help?”  You may not know this, but I have had several semesters of American Sign Language (ASL), and without even thinking about it I signed “sorry” as we were passing him – and then I stopped dead in my tracks and I just stared at him because the light shining from his eyes as he raised his face to me and asked “you  sign?” reminded me of the many Christmas Angel Tree Toppers we have lit over the years.  Just as the Angel radiated its light throughout the room; the light in this man’s eyes radiated throughout my soul and I found myself beginning to converse with him.  It was not a lengthy conversation, or even a very enlightening one. I think we discussed that I had several semesters of ASL, I was from Minnesota, I was not able to practice ASL much; he had been born deaf and lived in Austin all his life.
That was it.  That was the extent of my conversation with him.  I did not ask his name, I did not ask if he was hungry, I did not ask a lot of questions in hindsight I probably could have and/or should have.  But in that moment, it did not matter.  All that mattered to me was the look of pure joy, excitement, and happiness when he found out he could communicate with me.  For that brief moment, he was not someone people just walked by and if he was lucky they gave him money.  In that moment, he was any other gentleman talking to a slightly cooky looking tourist from Minnesota wearing pink cowboy boots.  (Okay – maybe I am not cooky looking, but I most definitely was wearing pink cowboy boots).
I realize this may not seem like a very big deal to some of you.  However, studying Deaf Culture, I do know what a big deal it was for him to be able to communicate with me.  I also know that considering the fact two and a half years ago I never, ever, ever would have done that, even knowing ASL as I do, it too is a big, nay, HUGE deal.  I stepped out of my comfort zone – and I find myself doing that a whole lot more these days.
Things that I never would have done; for so many reasons I cannot possibly post them all here, I am doing.  I am talking to moms and dads about their kids while out and about.  I find myself talking to the kids and trying to entertain them.  I find myself stopping to talk to people, just because.  It may be insignificant or trivial babbling, but I know I have started more conversations in the last nine months with complete strangers, than I ever did in my previous lifetime.
In case you are wondering, for the most part there are smiles and conversation back.  Sometimes it is a very short, curt response; and who knows, when I turn my back they may be laughing or smirking or looking at me like I am crazy.  And that is okay – because I am walking away with a lighter heart, a smile on my face, and just the slightest, undetectable bounce in my step.  I am bringing myself joy.
When life throws you a curve ball, or life turns itself upside down in a matter of moments and can never go back to the way it was; you spend a lot of time internalizing and performing a lot of self-examination.  It changes your perspective.  Whether it is cancer, a heart attack, a death of a loved one, a long-term illness, a crippling accident – it does not matter – they all change who you are.  And sometimes in the midst of all that change, you realize the person you once were, is not who you wish to be – and I am here to tell you that that is okay.
Embrace the new you.  Embrace the emotions that are sometimes so overwhelming you can barely make it out of bed that day; embrace the devastation, the sadness, the worry, the fear.  But do not forget to then find your joy, your passion, your purpose, and embrace that as well.
The only way we can move forward, move past the shock, grief, and fear; is to fill ourselves with the opposite emotions – happiness, joy, love, passion, compassion.  Good does triumph evil; for every action there is an opposite reaction.  Learn to love yourself, just as you are; and learn what it takes to make you feel that joy, passion, and purpose to push away the dark, depressive days that will come.
We may not be who we were before our diagnosis, but that does not mean we cannot embrace who we are now.  In everything I do, I do it because it brings me joy and fills my soul.  That way – when the darkness comes, and it does, my bucket is over flowing – and the darkness gives way faster because I have too much joy.
Until next time – Capture Life Kreatively!
P.S.  If you have not already, you may want to sign up for email notifications as to when new posts have been written!  I have a fantastic series planned about the town of Smithville, Texas – you know, the town where the movie “Hope Floats” was filmed?!?  It is my new all time favorite city. and I cannot wait to share it with you!  By signing up for my blog, you will receive a download for four FREE original motivational screensavers, taken by yours truly!
Check out Matthew’s work on his Facebook page!
** Check out the Peterson Brothers Band on their Facebook page – these two young men are 19 and 21 and incredibly talented.  You will be sorry if you do not go listen to a song or two!

At 50 years old I was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer. I am currently NED (no evidence of disease), and trying to spend every day reviewing the world through the new lens I wear as a breast cancer survivor.

One Comment

  • Brandy

    This has to be one of my favourite posts of yours to date. You are a true survivor and inspiration. You should consider motivational speaking or visiting groups of people currently undergoing chemotherapy. It is obvious that you can have, even in a mere few minutes, a profound effect on the lives of others. It must be something in your soul.

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