Sometimes, life imitates blog and this past month that is definitely the case. I am far more in touch with my inner tween than I ever thought or wanted to be.
I previously mentioned that I was diagnosed in May with basal cell carcinoma. I'm having Mohs surgery tomorrow to remove it from my face, during which I'm awake while layers of the skin near my eyes and nose are removed until I am cancer free. While I'm very grateful for the fact that I'll be cancer free tomorrow night, the upcoming surgery has caused a disconnect between my rational, adult self and my emotional self. I have shot right back to where I was when I was 12 years-old. I'm not proud, not at all. But I am reminded first hand that the tween years are tough.
Here are the 12 ways I am like a bad version of my 12 year-old self, and how my rational, adult self responds:
- I worry about being different, and standing out. Part of me wonders if this stems in part from being new in town, wanting to fit in and not be that chick with the scar, but sadly, I think I'd still not want to be noticed for a facial nonconformity. (Rational self: You know they aren't paying any attention to you, right?)
- I am way too concerned about my appearance. Regardless of what other people think, I want to feel like I look pretty, and that seems tough with what I'm told will be a red, lumpy scar. (Rational self: You're not really going to forget that beauty comes from within, are you?)
- I'm emotionally all over the board. I cry more easily. Sometimes I don't know why. My husband thought last week I was angry at him. I was angry, but it had nothing to do with him. I was angry that our summer vacation got put on hold. I was angry that I had to deal with taking time off work. I was angry that I was told I have to sleep sitting up for 10 days after the procedure. I wanted to have the plans we had made and a good night's sleep. (Rational self: You'll be sleeping in your own fluffy bed flat on your back by the 4th of July. It's not a long time.)
- I have been dramatic about things that aren't all that dramatic. I've been told to plan on 8 hours for the surgery and pack a lunch. Normally, not a big deal. With this, though, I'm thinking of packing a lunch like it's some kind of BIG DEAL. I mean, who has to do that? No one. It's weird, just like I thought everything in my tween years was strange on some level. I'm worked up about a getting several shots in my face very close to my eye, and I would love to be knocked out for this whole event. (Rational self: You're worked up over peanut butter and jelly? And you've had a baby, and she was 8 lbs 8 oz. That hurt. This is nothing.) The fact that I'll have a hole the size of a quarter in my face still seems dramatic to me, rational self or not.
- I feel like no one completely understands. This is not a common surgery for a 35 year-old. I've found a few people who have it, actually, my mom has found far more for me, and they've all been fine, but the fact that they are at least 20 years older than I am makes me feel like I'm the only one dealing with this at this life stage. I know intellectually that it is far from true. But being told to bring my knitting or a crossword puzzle makes me feel like this something older people deal with, not young moms. (I know at 35 I'm stretching it with the young comment, but humor me.) At my petulant worst, I feel like everyone else who is calm and fine with this would feel differently if it was a piece of their face being cut out. (Rational self: Yup, tween behavior at it's worst on display here. Look away, people. You know several 30-somethings who knit and a friend told me her husband packed a crossword puzzle book for the birth of their third child. And millions are diagnosed with this every year. You are not special.)
- I'm convinced that boys have it easier. As a tween, the idea of dealing with a cracking voice and getting taller seemed like nothing compared to the changes girls go through. I'm pretty sure that if I was a guy, I'd think a scar would be cool. It's somehow distinguished on a guy. As a girl, a scar seems very far from distinguished. (Rational self: We all have challenges, silly.)
- I'm scared of the unknown. Everyone tells me I'll be fine, but I'm also aware that everyone is different. I fear the worst case scenario, even though I know it's not likely. As a tween, I knew that at the end of puberty I'd be fine, but no one could tell me just what I would look or feel like. It's also a process - the surgeon's "after" photos were from 20-24 months after the surgery. It's like puberty - your body is going to change but it's going to be gradual, no one can tell you just when you'll be done and it doesn't matter because you're along for the ride, like it or not. (Rational self: Clearly those control issues are unresolved, work on that. Don't be scared.)
- Similarly, I want it to be done. I want the procedure over with, I want the recovery finished, I want to be back to feeling like happy me. I remember as a tween I wanted to be a teenager, and the process of getting there wasn't something I relished. I never once thought, "Oh, I'd love to stay in middle school." I would've been happy to go back to elementary school, or fast forward to high school. This feels like junior high - a weird stage of limbo that has me searching for the fast forward button. (Rational self: Each day is a gift, don't rush through any of them. You're going to miss something if you don't fully embrace the moment.)
- I feel like it's personal. I was way too sensitive as a tween and took everything personally, and anything bad was a result of my imperfections. Twenty-three years later, I'm the same. I never had bad skin as a tween, was this payback for being vain about that? If this is unusual in someone my age, I must have been done something to deserve it. (This time Rational self came in the form of my mother, who very kindly and patiently told me I was being ridiculous and said, "Sometimes life bitch slaps us for no good reason." Point made. I think she has patiently made this point several times before, and eventually I will catch up on that it's not what happens to you but how you respond to it.)
- Makeup is good, but on my own terms. I liked make-up as a tween, but wanted to decide what and how to wear it. I've never, ever liked foundation. I have particularly hated the way it feels. It will be necessary to cover the scar that I don't want anyone to see. Intellectually I know I'll get used to it, but right now it feels like a training bra - necessary, but not fun and feels funny. (Rational self: So you're not just glad that there are products out there that can help with #1 on the list? Go to the makeup counter and shut up.)
- I've clearly completely lost perspective, as evidenced by all of this, but especially #10. (Rational self: Really? "Makeup feels icky" is my problem? I am continually reminded that I fortunate beyond measure. This was diagnosed on my first-ever trip to the dermatologist. I can go to a dermatologist, both because there is one near me and my husband has good insurance. I have been diagnosed with something treatable. I have a work environment that has been supportive. I have friends who have beaten caner that kills. I know they would've loved to have traded chemo or a bone marrow transplant for a one-day surgery that leaves a scar on their face that fades. I know parents who have seen their children through transplants. Those are medical issues. This is not. It's a blip. A very small blip.)
- I'm driving everyone I love crazy. See above. My husband and parents have been awesome and patient and eager to help. As I was as a tween, I have a family who loves me, even when I don't deserve it. (Rational self: Boy, you are a lucky to be surrounded by loving people. Get a grip before your insanity drives them over the edge, too, okay? Thanks.)
I realize that my tween self needs to get a grip, and fear not, my rational self will be driving the bus from here on out, I promise. I've tried hard not to pull any of this crap in front of my tween and instead act like a responsible parent. Really, why give her a road map to being your worst self as a tween?
This experience has been and will continue to be a positive. It is a catalyst for discussions with my tween about the source of beauty, what really matters, and why it is important to take care of our bodies, at any age. I'm going to take a deep breath and get through this as rationally and as adult-like as I can, and be grateful for all the wonderful good fortune and blessings I have. I'll be off from blogging for a few days, but hopefully not long!