Haircuts and Anniversaries

I have a haircut coming up with Bledi-with-Scizzors. Bledi has been my hairstylist for at least fourteen years now, which is ridiculous. By now he owns the salon, and I’ve had three jobs since we met at Starbucks. Also by now we’re comfortable enough with each other that sometimes he will tell me what he thinks I should have done to my hair, and I will tell him I don’t care what he thinks or if it’s stylish, I just want long hair. But sometimes I get bored with the long hair (recently, I just haven’t had the patience to dry it–or the time, because we moved and my commute in the morning is 15 minutes longer). And so, when contemplating my upcoming haircut, I thought, “I think it’s time to get my occasional bob.”

Also because it’s October. If I ever get a bob haircut, it’s in October. There are two reasons for this: 1) By October it’s cold enough here I don’t feel the need to pull my hair off my neck in a ponytail; while I like to braid my hair in the summer. 2) October (appropriately, as it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month) is when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I had my hair cut in a bob to take an incremental psychological step toward readiness for shaving my head for chemo. Then I didn’t end up needing chemo, but sometimes I still get my hair lopped off in October.

2008 cancer haircut

I was thinking about this the other week, which is why I suddenly remembered that today is the tenth–tenth–anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. I don’t often talk about my cancer because honestly, most of the time I feel like a “fake” cancer survivor, since, at the end of the day, it wasn’t really that bad for me. I had surgery and radiation, but no chemo. I had to take a hormone suppressant which gave me migraines with which I still struggle. I went back and read the relevant blogposts from my Original Blog and discovered that at the time, I really was pretty freaked out and it was a tough process emotionally–but it also was a pretty quick one, relatively speaking, and I had some amazing support around me.

Meanwhile, I have a friend who’s still trying to recover after a year of harrowing treatment, and another friend who has had cancers of various types at least 11 times. (I’ve probably lost count, I’m ashamed to say. It may have been more, at this point–but I hope not.) Also another friend was diagnosed within the last year; her diagnosis sounded really similar to mine, but she does need chemo, and she has a husband and two little boys and the chemo is doing a number on her. Stories like these brave women’s make me sad, and also make me uncomfortable about publicly celebrating the fact that I have basically been cancer free since they cut it out of me, and officially so for five years now.

On the other hand–I’ve been cancer free since they cut it out of me, and that’s ten years. And while I don’t understand why the above, and other, friends of mine haven’t gotten through their diagnoses as easily as I was able to get through mine, and while it would be ungracious of me (particularly since I had nothing to do with it) to brag about it, it would also be ungrateful of me not to note and celebrate it. I don’t take my cancer-freedom for granted. I know I could get it again. But I haven’t yet, and I’m deeply thankful. And so, in honor of my diagnosis and celebration of my current freedom from it, I’ll be pampering myself next Friday–and getting a haircut.

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I’m Jennifer

Wordy Wednesday
This post is part of a series. For the whole story/thought-process, start here.
Banquets. So many connotations. So many candles.

Banquets. So many connotations. So many candles.

One of the reasons I’m a big fan of the Bible is that it was written over millennia, but it has these overarching themes and symbols (plus one major storyline) that run through the whole thing. One of these symbols is that of a banquet. From the very beginning, the image of banquet means fullness and celebration in fellowship with God. There are some messed up feasts in the Bible, too, but when prophets prophesy about God’s reinstating His rule over the earth, sometimes the images they use are firey and brimstoney, but often they’re about a big old party.

The multinational banquet image I found in Isaiah especially, really inspired my time in London. I just wanted to be with all my friends, partying with Jesus, I guess. One of these days I’ll tell you about the actual party that happened five years after I daydreamed about it, but today I’m going to tell you about the night dream that I had about a banquet instead.

I was, indeed, living in London, and three of my friends (two men and a woman) had just “broken up with” me. There was no actual romance involved on my end, although a couple of them had misunderstood the rather stifling and possessive kind of friendship that I practiced at the time (an outworking of codependency). The fault wasn’t all mine, but the whole experience had set me very painfully back on my heels. It was starting to dawn on me that the relational anxiety and competitiveness in which I had always existed, even as a small child, weren’t detrimental only to me, but were harmful to other people. I had just been trying to imagine myself without the characteristic which my erstwhile friends were calling my “jealousy,” and I realised I couldn’t imagine it at all, but that I wanted to be rid of it, even if it meant I were reduced to nothing and nobody. I’d rather be nothing than jealous, I decided. I told God this in no uncertain terms, and then I lay down and cried myself to sleep, as I had been doing the previous few nights.

Unlike the other nights, that night I had a dream. In the dream, I was at a banquet. I was seated at a long, long table, with many people around it and a white tablecloth over it. The lighting was dim enough and the table long enough that I couldn’t actually see the far end of it, but I was seated right near the head of the table. I feel like Jesus was supposed to be sitting at the head itself, but I can’t remember if He was in the dream or not, or if we were waiting for Him to get there, or if He was there but somehow I couldn’t quite see Him or He wasn’t quite aware of me. Although the me sleeping in the bed having this dream was 28 or so, the me in the dream was just a little girl. I suppose my dream self was about 7 or 8. On my left was one of the people who had just sworn off my friendship. She was talking to someone across the table from us. I didn’t know him.

All of a sudden she turned slightly and noticed me sitting at her elbow. “Oh, hello, little girl,” she said, all cheerful but condescending, as some adults are with children, “What’s your name?”

“I’m Jennifer,” I said.

“What’s that?” she asked, although I could tell she hadn’t really even been listening.

“I’m Jennifer,” I said a little louder.

“Stephanie? That’s nice.” And then she continued her conversation across the table with her new friend.

Jennifer!” I shouted, “I’m Jennifer!” But no one could hear me. I woke up just as I had fallen asleep–crying. I wondered if giving up my jealousy would mean that no one would hear me ever again. Would I effectively cease to exist?

I have another memory of this banquet, though. I don’t know if I night-dreamed it or daydreamed it. I don’t remember if it was during this same time period or much later. I don’t remember if it was involuntary or my way of “fixing” the scenario I had dreamed. I don’t think it really matters, to be honest. I don’t think its time and method of transmission makes it any less true. Whatever it was, I have this vague recollection, after the desolation of not being heard, of getting up from my chair because Someone was calling me Jennifer, and it was Jesus, right there at the head of the table, and I climbed into His lap and He held me.