As a toddler and youngster I was shy and would take a back seat to watch events so that I could be as inconspicuous as possible. As a teenager I really wanted in - bleached hair, plucked eyebrows, scowl and all. I think it’s a somewhat common natural human instinct to want to blend in with the herd and be that enviable kind of normal. The irony is the people I love and respect the most - are not all - but often non-conformers.
My sister, Louise has been one of those; she’s always been humorously ambivalent to the movement of the herd (in my head that sentence is said in the voice of Sir David Attenborough). During her first days at school she wore a large woolly bobble hat and refused to remove it. There would be this sweet little huddle of children gathered attentively around the teacher and a girl on the periphery, daydreaming in a bobble hat. Her confidence and ambiguity unsettled some, mainly teachers, who advised she have extra, more personal one on one lesson time. She daydreamed in those too. On the flip side I think these same attributes made her an attractive pal and she had some great friends who loved her, and still do, for who she is.
When she was a teenager she began to conform a little, wearing a little makeup, getting drunk in friend’s houses and having to be collected shamefully by my parents. The difference was, in her free time she would dissect the fish for dinner and there would be fish eyes and intestines neatly laid out on the window sill. When my parents collected her from said friend’s house, completely inebriated, the friends parents commented how delightful she had been, after she had been sick in their shed they’d had an enjoyable time talking about astronomy for the last hour!? She has so many rib tickling stories I could use but I’ll save her for now. I’m indulging myself in a few of the classic memories now – chuckle chuckle.
My parents never worried about her, and they were right not to. She’s a pretty magnificent being, a Scientist, Doctor, a game changer in life and someone you love to know. In her old age (ha), she’s adapted to having a few different personas - like all of us – but if you say something that disrupts her moral compass, she’ll articulately let you know. I’m so proud of her, can you tell?
I on the other hand, until sometime in my twenties, transformed my way through life like a colourful iguana trying to adapt my likes, dislikes, personality and appearance to those around me. It’s partly who I am; whilst it made my teenage years a little testing (my eyebrows and parents really took the brunt of this) it served me better as an adult where I think it helped me adapt to living in different countries, meeting different people and showing some empathy in my aid worker role. I still have to rein myself in occasionally not to try too hard to ‘fit in’. I think it was a combination of marriage and motherhood that made me finally accept I’m ok this way and I should own it.
Moral of the story, Girlies – life takes all sorts. Whatever you are, you’re wonderful – own it. Wow, I sound so much like my mother or perhaps a little Oprah. Either way I’m fairly sure it could get a groan out of a teenage Evie and Isobel.
Anyway, as if to test my newfound acceptance, cancer updated my status as definitely not normal – and there’s no going back. I am extremely happy to be alive, watching the spring flowers pop up and seeing the girls develop holds a whole new feeling of gratitude. But, if I’m honest, there are times where I grieve for normality – whatever that is.
I’m now daring myself to be a little normal, which is hard as I haven’t officially had the ‘all clear’. All being well, I will have another 2 months before my next scan. There’s no ‘Ta-Da’ you’re well again moment with cancer so it does feel a little daring of me to be so bold and normal. Booked a little getaway with Nick, made plans with friends and do all those wonderfully normal things like talk about painting our pagoda and going camping. Man, are we wild. Jeesh.
To cement this shift to a new normal, I have stored away my wig and had a haircut. The haircut involved some of my favorite people, doughnuts, mimosas and bloody marys so I’m pretty happy with that new normal.
Here’s my new haircut and Isobel 3 months post treatment!