So I went to Tai Chi today after skipping last week. The instructor was back after being out for a couple of weeks for surgery. There were only five students there, it being August and all. One participant was in California visiting her daughter. The director of Cancer Wellness had fallen and hurt her knee, so there was no one in the office.
After class, one of the women and I stood around yakking in the classroom, along with the teacher and her assistant. Our conversation turned to being rather antisocial at this time in our lives. I made the usual confession of being an extreme introvert. “I don’t have a social life,” I told her. Turns out she doesn’t have much of one herself.
She said something that resonated, though. It was this, “Even though I might not go, I still like to be invited.” Ah, yes, we never outgrow our insecurities, although we do outgrow our need for milk. Neither of us are spring chickens. Her husband has had a stroke and I am a widow, so we are not in great demand anywhere.
There is something about cancer survivors or family members of those with it, who are happy to show their vulnerable side in a safe place. That is what we were standing there doing. Going over our lives, as if to say, “Mine is pretty unremarkable. And yet I matter to myself if to no one else.”
“This is what I think,” I offered, “I think this is my time. I have had to be the strong one in the family for so long, even though my mother always hinted that I was weak. But I’m not. And now it is time for me to do what I like, to take care of myself. To make sure I don’t end up doing or saying things that wouldn’t serve me.”
I can tell you that this was a worthwhile conversation and one that I have had many times with women my age. How we have given the last drop of blood to the clan and wish to stop and receive some back or at least to be left alone to nurture ourselves. For ultimately we are born and die alone.
Writing, for me, is one way I take care of myself. And surprisingly, it is also the way I carelessly give myself away. Every sword is double-edged. Every now and then someone tells me I don’t know what I’m talking about and it always hurts. But I don’t let them stick around to tell me more. I have at least learned that much. Healthy self-respect, who doesn’t need some?