Friday, February 27, 2009

take me as i am

I have refrained from posting an update about my recent foray into dating out of concern of sabotaging my efforts. Now that I am no longer pursuing these two individuals, I feel like I'm at liberty to share more.

When I last blogged about my interest in dating again, I expressed a great amount of ambivalence about how to go forward. When do I disclose my cancer history? And if so, how much do I share at first? Do I tell her about my blog? And what do I say when asked about the "gap" of time between my diagnosis and now? What about the fact that I haven't found stable employment yet? All these questions were swirling in my head then causing quite a bit of unease and self-doubt. Almost nine months had passed since my last relationship. My ex-girlfriend and I met as a result of cancer, so the disease wasn't an issue for us. However, now that I'm interested in meeting new people once again, I've felt confronted with issues that I didn't have to think about previously.

After posting my concerns, I listened to your generous thoughts as well as those of others. People offered different answers. Some suggested I be cautious while others said be upfront. Naturally, I turned to my therapist too. In his customary Zen-like manner, he helped me to analyze the situation with refreshed eyes and recognize that my self-doubt was unwarranted. I had done absolutely nothing wrong, he reiterated. Yes, I had cancer, but it was nothing to run away from or try to cover up due to some misplaced sense of shame. No crime had been committed. No offense was done. I, like so many others, was simply the unsuspecting winner of a random, biological lottery in which my cells went rogue. By no fault of my own, my number had been drawn in this unwelcome drawing and I gained lifelong membership into a community that no one would ever want to join.

My ambivalence about disclosure seemed very odd to me, since I'm so transparent about my cancer experience on this site and elsewhere. But he pointed out that, yes, I have been very open about cancer with those in familiar circles, such with family and friends, my blog readers, the cancer advocacy community, and the hospital community. However, when it comes to meeting and befriending new people who know nothing about me, I've been more selective about what I do or do not share.

Worried about how women would receive my cancer history, I viewed it as some kind of albatross. Part of me felt inadequate. Somewhat incomplete. Of course, this was ridiculous, because I knew in my core that these sentiments were far from the truth. But the self-doubt was there. By absolutely no means did my diagnosis lessen my worthiness or value as a human being, my therapist reminded me. There's nothing that I should feel ashamed of or doubt. In fact, I have so much to be proud of, he went on to say. Just think of what I've been able to accomplish in and out of treatment since my diagnosis five years ago. This rugged, indomitable resolve is a testament to an enduring and pliable spirit that should be celebrated not trivialized.

Each of us has tremendous power. It is the power of the attitude behind each choice. Unfortunately, many times I like so many others have forgotten the awesome transformative potential that rests with how we go about making each decision: to look forward with courage and an open heart or to remain protective of ourselves, fearful that openness will lead to pain and disappointment.

A very wise man, a long time ago, once said:

We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.

I can welcome and embrace these new situations with confidence and openness or shy away from them due to unsubstantiated worries of inadequacy or embarrassment. And again, based on what should I feel inadequate or embarrassed? Negativity and pessimism come so easily it seems. Very little effort is needed to spur them on. Once these self-absorbing fixations start, an endless spiral of doubt and unease can ensue. Optimism and hope, on the other hand, are far more difficult to engender. Work is necessary for these two to grow deep roots.

Reassured and relaxed, I decided to go ahead, ask the person out, and see what happened. And if she wasn't interested, no big deal. This was a first step not a marriage proposal. I was just getting my feet wet. The important thing is that I was doing something healthy and worthwhile. I was reentering the game and moving on with my life.

To my delight, she said yes. We went out twice, but after the second date she failed to return my calls. I enjoyed our time together, but suspected even after the first date that she wasn't digging me (at least in a romantic way). But again, I had a good time. Just the act of going out with someone new, learning about their interests and background, and pondering the possibility of something more was exciting and refreshing.

Now, before we went on our first date, she already knew about my blog and my cancer history. The topic of blogging and web design had come up in a previous conversation. She told me that she had a blog and I, of course, thought this was so cool seeing that we shared at least this interest. But I hesitated to tell her about my own worried about the questions that would follow, but most importantly that such a revelation would scare her away. So, I choked and said nothing. When I saw her again, we exchanged numbers with the intention of getting together at some point. Remembering that some friends had told me that nowadays it's not uncommon for a woman to google the guy's name in search of background information before a date, I felt like it was quite probable that my cancer past would soon come to light. There was no point dodging any longer. So, I went ahead and told her about my site and what it's about. The fact that she didn't look aghast or run away I took to be a positive sign. She asked me about 2 or 3 follow-up questions and that was it. Cancer never came up again.

After sharing this news with her, I felt greatly relieved. The feeling was liberating. The anxiety and ambivalence about whether to disclose or not to had been lifted and now it was out there and out of my hands. If cancer didn't scare her and she remained interested, terrific! But if it made her uncomfortable, then so what. Being myself - sincere and genuine - was the most important thing. If I wasn't at peace with myself, how could I possibly cultivate love for someone else? This experience encouraged me to not doubt my good heart. Ladies, take me as I am.

At the same time that I was pursuing this person, my eyes were also focused on someone else. I thought it best not to keep all my eggs in one basket. I had met this second woman before the first, but circumstances were such that I rarely saw her and had given up hope that I'd be in a situation where I'd see her more frequently. That changed of course. After a couple of weeks of seeing each other regularly, I decided to make my move. I asked her out, but her response was muted. Was she being polite? Who knows? I tried to play it cool and said perhaps another time. When I saw her again the following week, I talked to her with the usual enthusiasm and humor as if nothing had happened last time. She was responsive and seemed engaged, but when the decisive moment came for me to ask her for her number, I didn't. Following my impulse and a vibe that I was feeling, it didn't feel right and so, I backed down. But I felt OK with the decision. I had little energy to chase someone, who from the start didn't seem all too interested. I was striking fast and had little patience for mind games. I wasn't about to waste precious time fawning at someone's every move. I respect myself too much. I have no regrets.

Since then, I've been talking to a few more interesting people. But I'm continuing to go forward with courage and an open heart.

During a recent yoga session, the class was ordered to perform the Warrior I pose. As we were doing it, the instructor said something that resonated so deeply. It felt as if what she said was meant directly for me. To paraphrase: like this pose, we can be grounded and strong but also open and at ease. This is the true heart of a warrior moving forward with confidence and optimism. And like a warrior, I too can embrace that which might seem difficult.

I don't plan to post any new updates about dating right now. Sorry kids. . . .

6 Comments:

Comment Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good for you Duane! I'm glad that you put your toe into the water & then decided to take the plunge.

Mostly, I like that you said this....

"Being myself - sincere and genuine - was the most important thing."

10:56 AM  
Comment Anonymous Anonymous said...

Duane,
You are AWSOME and you deserve someone who is AWSOME!! She is out there waiting.
Best Wishes!!

1:55 PM  
Comment Blogger Kelly Kane said...

Damn, Duane! Becoming quite the ladies man! :)

Hope you have fun!

XO

2:57 PM  
Comment Blogger Bekah said...

I love it :)
love, love, love this.

I hope all young, adults with cancer, get to read this message.

Sending Love,

B

3:21 PM  
Comment Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yay Duane!

The Buddha would certainly approve.

~Sarah formerly up the street

10:07 PM  
Comment Blogger Jim Anderson said...

I wonder how you deal with the "can you have kids" question. This will be a big concern for the age of ladies in which you are apt to be interested. In my case, at 54 years old with 2 teenage kids, I actually desired sterility. And I got it. I saw a urologist, provided specimen and got the news: Since my transplant I'm now shooting mostly blanks. Zero percent mobility also seals the deal. But I wanted that. Saved me from having a vasectomy.
Jim

12:04 PM  

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