In 1984, Disco Diva Patti LaBelle released a song called “New Attitude.” I can’t remember the lyrics, but if I close my eyes and think about it, I am quickly transported back to the mid ‘80s when I taught aerobics. I always had a routine to that song. It was so uplifting. Still is. I can see my 19-year old self jumping and hopping around wearing a striped leotard (vertical stripes makes your torso look longer), pink leg warmers and a matching headband just in case I broke a sweat (I never did), shouting “only 4 more ladies; 5-6-7-8!” It makes me smile just thinking about it.
I was a late bloomer and at 19, I looked like a filly. Five-feet something and all legs. My classes were always full of middle aged women at various levels of fitness who were sure that if they just hopped around like I did, as often as I did, in no time they would have a figure like mine. Looking back, it all seems like a mind f****. But then again, I’m in that same space now sometimes except I’m the middle aged woman trying to keep up with some nubile 20-something fitness teacher and wondering how many more Zumba classes it will take for me to look like her. The answer of course, is none. I’ll never look like her because I’m not 20-something and I’m not her, and that’s okay. I can’t help but smile at the full-circle nature of it all. I heard someone once say that youth is wasted on the young! Have truer words ever been spoken?
The other day, a friend/coworker and I were talking about what to do with our hair. Actually, we were talking about work and as she was talking all I could think about was how great highlights would look in her hair. So I blurted out “highlights—you would look great with highlights.” THEN we started talking about what to do with our hair. She has thick, gorgeous hair, mid-length that she said she’s cutting shorter. It looks cute on her either way—just add highlights, I said.
So, I’ve been thinking about making my hair darker I told her. I’ve always had dark hair—almost black. But once I needed to wear wigs because of shiny bald head (thanks chemo), my wigs were always dark brown, then they were light brown with highlights, then kind of golden honey, and now, although I don’t wear a wig anymore (#blackgirlmagic) it’s light brown with blonde highlights. That’s not really a natural look for a Black woman so I’ve been thinking about going darker. The thing is, I look back at pictures of me with dark hair—closer to my natural color— and I don’t recognize myself. Dark hair was pre-cancer me. The lighter hair is post-cancer me. I don’t want to go backward. I mean that deeply, not superficially. As someone once said to me, there is a reason a car’s rear view mirror is so small and the front windshield is so big. It’s more important to look forward than backward.
I’m lighter…I’m happy…and I’m focused on the future. I’m a little bit unsettled—there are things that are out of my control occurring. But strangely enough, I don’t think I really care. A gift of cancer is perspective. And perspective is a beautiful thing.
I titled this post “New Attitude or New Day?” because of a change I feel in myself. It’s a lightness I haven’t felt in a long time. I’m not talking about my weight because Lord knows (as my mom would say), I’m still carrying a good 20 extra pounds from cancer treatment. Good thing I have an incredible trainer who is kicking my butt three days a week. But I digress—again. Since cancer, this happens a lot.
Back to this lightness I was talking about. I’m no longer thinking about my new normal—I’m so over that phrase. This is different. Really different. Maybe it’s something I’ve never felt before. It’s a lightness…of being.
So, to answer my original question—is it a “New Attitude or New Day”? I think neither.
It’s a recognition. Yes, my cancer is still a bummer, but you know what? Everybody is going through something. My something is no better or worse than someone else’s something is to them—even if it is a life/death thing. When you’re in it, it’s overwhelming because…well…it is. It hurts inside and out and for a long time. But sometimes you just have to breathe. And remind yourself that yes, you. are. still. breathing.
It’s a realization too. Maybe the greatest realization: Time is finite. Cancer or not, your time on this earth is finite. I remind myself of this everyday. My. Time. Is. Finite.
Friends, take a moment to breathe. And revel in the fact that you still can. Find your light. Your lightness of being. And let it shine…brightly.