#leapfear Day 19 – Cheryl

So I think my Mom made the computer lose everything I had just written in the last half hour.  She was always very private so I am taking it as a sign that she didn’t want me to share her final days.

I am pretty sure though that she wouldn’t mind me sharing how important Cheryl was to us in those final days.

Cheryl and I were neighbourhood acquaintances.  Twice, actually.  Seems we grew up in the same neighbourhood in Sault Ste. Marie. Went to the same school.  She was friends with my best friend’s sister.  In this life, we would see each other at neighbourhood parties and our kids were in the same grade, but other than that, we didn’t really know each other.

When my Mom was admitted to the hospital for the last time, Cheryl found out and became my lifeline out of the hell of medical decision making that I had entered.  I do not know what I would have done without her knowledge (she is a trained palliative care nurse), kindness, friendship and empathy.

Thank you Cheryl.  I wish I had words to adequately explain how much of a difference you made to me.

And then I want to smack her;) She is the friend that texted me (in my blog about my family photos) that she will get her family photos done when she loses weight.  Look. At. Her. Seriously Cheryl?? Can you be any hotter!?

But I think that my favourite photos from this session is the series of 4 with her in the multicoloured top and white background.  She is so free, alive, and just pure fun in those.

Special thanks go to my amazing makeup artist Lindsey from BeYOUtiful Esthetics

Cheryl choose to answer the questions in the format of an essay:

The more I reflected on the role that fear has played in my life, and read the truly awe-inspiring stories of the women who have already been featured in this project, I realized that I didn’t have one pivotal moment when I chose to let go of my fears. It was a gradual relaxing of my need to control myself and my environment, a slowly-evolving belief that things can work out well, possibly even better, if I trust the natural order of things.

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Earlier in my life I often avoided situations in which I might not excel. I was a perfectionist who was embarrassed to make a mistake. Already awkward in social situations, I didn’t want to set myself up for further ridicule. I lived my life by an imaginary book of ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’. When I found my life following a path that I wasn’t sure was the best one for me, I carried on anyway because I wanted to please those around me and wasn’t confident enough to stray from what I perceived was the ‘expected’ course. Don’t get me wrong, my life has been good, and maybe it was the path I was intended to take, I just never consciously chose to take it.

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On the cusp of my 49th birthday (really, it will be my FIRST 49th birthday!), I’ve found myself reflecting on the life I’ve lived so far. I’ve come to realize that each time I chisled away at my fears it was with the encouragement of women I’m blessed to have met:

My mom encouraged me to take a leap and leave my hometown of to go to university ‘far far away’ in London. She said I could always come back to the north if I wanted. This was a huge leap for me. Until that point I was following what my dad said I ‘should’ do: go to the school that was closer to home. When I graduated, there were no full-time nursing jobs back home and I was fortunate to land one of the few positions in London. Thus, the girl with northern blood in her veins who craves being near the shoreline has lived the last 30 years of her life in a land-locked city in the ‘south’. I’ve been blessed to have full-time work, but I’m sure my husband is tired of hearing me speak wistfully of twisted pines, ‘real winters’ and rocky shorelines!

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A woman I worked with, who is now looking down on us all from heaven, helped me to overcome my fear of driving on the 401 with my 2 toddlers in the car. I can still picture her with her red curls bouncing and saying, “Pshaw! The train is for sissies! Get in the car by 5 am; get in the middle lane; hold onto the steering wheel, and you’ll eventually shoot out of the other side of Toronto.” She was often in my thoughts last year as I confidently drove my kids to volleyball tournaments throughout the province.

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About 10 years ago I decided to take a leap and change specialties in my career. The transition from orthopaedics to palliative care was terrifying but felt ‘right’ in my heart. I recall bumbling my way as I strove to give the best care possible to my patients and their families. At one point I struggled with anger at a daughter who, in my perspective, didn’t allow her dad to have a ‘good’ death. Upon hearing my struggle, Valerie, my physician partner, responded, “It’s not your journey! What makes you think that you, after knowing him for 30 min, are the expert on what a ‘good’ death looks like for him? His daughter has known him for decades. SHE gets to be his voice, not you.” As harsh as this story might sound, it gave me freedom to be present and listen with my heart, not just my mind, when working with patients and families.

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This same woman taught me that, “not making a choice is actually a passive decision to stay in your current situation”. I had often viewed myself as a person whose life was directed by others or by circumstances out of my control. I was afraid to make choices because I feared making a mistake. Upon reflecting, I now take ownership of where I’m at in life. I’m setting goals for the twilight of my career and see my upcoming retirement filled with opportunities and choices I’m no longer afraid to make.

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Participating in Anita’s project has pushed me to conquer another fear. I’ve carried a self image of the size ‘x’ woman I ‘should’ be, never wanting to be photographed because that would create a hard copy of the size and shape I really am. The joke is that I’ve been this size much longer than I was ever a size ‘x’ and if I’m going to be true to myself and a role model for my daughter, I had better take the leap and show up for the session!

Earlier in this essay I purposely chose the work ‘chisle’ to describe how women in my life have helped me face and overcome many fears. I like this word because I recognize that I’ll always have some fears and that’s OK. The difference is that now I’m taking ownership of them and trying to actively choose how they shape the sculpture that is me!