It was my first “opening weekend” in a year. Sure, I have had spits and spurts of the theater world: I did VDay, I emceed a cabaret show, I did some storytelling and poetry gigs, but I didn’t allow myself the pleasure nor assign myself the responsibility of creating collaboratively over the long term. I didn’t say yes – nor did I audition to create any possibilities of the pleasure and the sadness I have come to know intimately during my last decade in local theater.
I was on a break from theater when I noticed the changes of what I thought was just another mole taking up real estate on my face. It was pink and therefore in the “not scary” category, but when it started puffing out I became curious. I almost didn’t go to the doctor about it, though, because I thought I was (literally) making a mountain out of a mole hill.
My doctor told me I was smart to come in to get the mystery mole checked. I didn’t realize there would be a parade of people photographing and measuring and clucking about my face as I sat there, somewhat inert, eyes wide and more than slightly curious.
I was sent to a dermatologist who informed me over the phone a week after biopsy that it was, in fact, melanoma, and to meet with the surgeon asap, they had set a date for me where I went and then a few days of testing for surgery prep – in which I also was sure to get my overdue mammogram. It seemed like I had time enough to sneeze between my first appointment and when I sat in the operating room saying to Ash the anesthesiologist, “This feels sort of like a massage table,” and waking up almost simultaneously staring at the ceiling back where it all started, a big bandage across my face.
That was nine months ago. It is equivalent to the time spent in pregnancy. Like pregnancy, no one tells you exactly what to expect mostly because while there is a vague blueprint, each patient and each cancer is different. My scar is finally maturing now – I can feel all of my face again and the glory of my smile lines disappearing is now more like my smile lines assimilating themselves into the heart shaped scar I now wear.
You might wonder what any of this has to do with opening weekend.
It has a lot to do with opening weekend for me. It has been my season of playing Sisyphus, the mountainous impossibility I believed cancer created yet no one else, it seemed, could see. I read the words of Albert Camus which read, “Where would his torture be, indeed, if at every step the hope of succeeding upheld him?”
I couldn’t, in the early days, imagine hope or success being intimates with me again.
Instead I had more than one verbal sparring match with friends I loved, lots of tears shed, intense disappointment of myself amidst some people reassuring me my scar was “practically invisible” to others curiously wondering, “Is that scar a result of trauma?” and probably hoping for a more dramatic story than noticing, doctoring and waking up as a cancer survivor.
Somewhere within the mishmash of experience I came to forget, most of the time, that I wore a heart shaped scar on my face. I started making conversation with strangers again, for example, even though they weren’t always as smooth as in the past. I started laughing loudly in public again. I even started agreeing to have my photo taken again.
I started giving myself permission to miss theater again, to long to be on stage again.
I was in the Berkshire Mountains when I got a text from my friend, Tim, saying he needed to find a wife for the play “The Nerd” and the director had asked for suggestions. He suggested me and I thought about it and said, “Hey, if they want me, I’m in but I can’t start for another week.”
I returned to rehearsal the day I returned home from my east coast travels.
The second day of rehearsal I decided I needed to give my directors a way out from under my scar. “If you want to find someone else who doesn’t have a scar, its fine with me. I understand. I wasn’t sure if you knew before asking me about my melanoma and surgery, so I just wanted to be sure you are comfortable…”
They said they were so I chose to believe them.
I survived worry about losing my abilities on stage. I survived worry about getting more corrective notes than I usually do. I survived worry about my daughter, Emma, who had a personal crisis throughout which came to a dramatic climax on the second day of tech week.
I remembered the lost art of getting back up. And getting back up. And getting back up.
It is Sunday morning of opening weekend.
I am exhausted and satisfied. I thought I wanted to get away to the beach or something similar today, but that just felt like too much effort. Instead, I am here, writing these words, processing all that has happened and allowing myself to continue opening more doors of possibility.
I am peeking in without attachment.
I am listening and accepting and growing without judging.
I am willing to dangle my feet into the flow without flinging my whole self back in until I feel “good and ready.”
I am even comfortable not coming up with “tying all of these thoughts in a carefully crafted red bow” and bringing it all to you in a caravan of word-pleasure.
I am here. This morning. You’ve read a snippet of what I have been doing.
That is more than enough.
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© 2013 Julie Jordan Scott