Today marks a year since my double mastectomy, and the all clear from my oncologist. Happy New Year, to me!
I’ve spent some time reflecting, as one does, when the calendar reminds us to. I was looking through some paperwork from last year, and found a folder from February when I went digging for dharma on a yoga retreat with friends. While I was there we did some written exercises. We created tension arcs on a large sheet of paper. As I unfolded the paper I saw words I had written on my tension arcs. Part Time Flexibility vs Full Time Pay, Teaching vs Writing, etc. In the center of the page in large letters is Reconstruct vs Deconstruct.
At the time I wasn’t quite sure what to do after my surgery. I was leaning towards not having breast reconstruction. But this was the first time I had used the word deconstruct in direct opposition. And that word struck me as my word. It seemed to be in line with my dharma. That was the moment I realized I definitely would not have reconstruction.
I love to deconstruct things. When there’s a project to be started, the demo is my favorite part. Chipping away at the paint. Ripping out the weeds. Throwing things away. Tearing down walls. Making empty space. It’s what I love to do.
When I sit to talk with someone I don’t want to make small talk. I hate small talk. I want to chip away, tear down the walls, rip out the weeds, watch the bricks fall, make space.
Deconstruction is fun!
I’m reminded of the story about a Buddha statue. A bunch of monks were relocating, so they were taking their giant clay Buddha statue with them. During the move one of the monks noticed a chunk of the clay had broken off. Upon further inspection he realized there was gold underneath the clay. It seems that generations before, some monks had covered the statue with layers of clay to protect it from being stolen by enemies. Most of those monks were killed off, and over time the golden Buddha statue was forgotten. There was only this clay statue.
Throughout our lives so many things get piled on us, like so much clay covering the gold. Every experience, every interaction, every thought. Piling up. Every defeat, disappointment, heartbreak. Piling up. Every word spoken to us, every story, every conversation. Piling up. Every thing we ingest through every one of our senses; sounds, images, flavors, scents and sensations. Piling up. Our skin thickens, like clay. Piling up. Protecting us. Covering us over.
So much clay is piled on, and so much time passes, that we forget what was underneath. We forget the golden shining child we once were. If we are lucky, bits of the clay will fall off and we will catch a glimpse of what was inside. If we are very lucky, we will realize that all of the clay can be removed.
In order to comfortably live this breast-less life I’ve been chipping away at clay, and digging through the weeds. I’ve had to deconstruct my ideas of femininity, sexuality, beauty, even humanity. It has been a challenging and interesting year full of vulnerability.
One year ago today my breasts were removed, and another chunk of my heart was exposed. My breasts were like two pieces of clay. My heart beneath is golden. And now there is more space for it to shine.