I dated a lot when I was younger. Of course, if you wait till you’re 27 to get married like I did, you’re bound to have a few dates. I went through a lot of frogs before I found my prince charming. And when I found Jeremy, or he found me as I’d like to think, he was quite a bit younger than me. I like to say he’s three years younger than me but for 6 months of the year it sounds like he’s 4 years younger than me. I know, it sounds horrible doesn’t it. I was a senior in high school when he was in eighth grade.
Here are some things he likes to tease me about. And I say tease, because it was our deal when I agreed to marry him that he would never ever, under no circumstances tease me about being older than him…..and well, that did me a lot of good now didn’t it! He teases me all the time. So one thing that happens quite often in the car is that we’ll hear a song I loved in middle school, and I’ll say “oh I love this song” and I’ll turn it up and then I’ll turn to him and he’ll have this blank stare on his face, like “I’ve never heard this song?” And this is because he was in first grade and WHO REALLY REMEMBERS ANYTHING ON THE RADIO IN FIRST GRADE! And I’ll be reminded of how old I am. The second thing that COULD happen is that he has heard of the song because of some retro station from the 80’s or because he just knows more music than I do. But anyway, music can say a lot about your age. And the other thing that happens is that I will have some memory of being some place and I’ll say “when have we been here before?” or “why do I remember this?” And he’ll groan and say…..”Jen, that was with XYZ boyfriend!” And we’ll both laugh because we both know that I dated a lot, especially for some reason in my 20’s…..I suppose I was trying to narrow in on the kill, but still, he thinks it’s funny. Partially because sometimes I say “oh, I went here with so-in-so.” Or something to that effect. Jeremy didn’t date as much, although he had a lot of “girl” friends…..you know…..or so he likes to say.
This is going someplace, I promise. So I dated a lot in my 20’s. And here’s maybe the reason why I dated so much. I was in my 20’s when I was in seminary (Jeremy is not a pastor nor did he go to seminary in case you were wondering), and I was a single woman on a campus with a 3 to 1 ratio of men versus women. Need I say more. There were lots of men to choose from and not so many women. And a good portion of those women were second degree students who were coming back to school as older adults. And a good portion of the men were younger and out of college. So if you were remotely attractive, you were KNOWN on campus. And because every man knows he needs a wife to be in ministry…..I mean who else is going to play the piano for you if you get placed in an old country church…..lol….and be the part-time church secretary. OK…I’m totally stereotyping here, but unfortunately that is the way it WAS for a long time. Thankfully not so much anymore.
So one day I hear word that a “Beeson Pastor” has been asking around about me. It’s a small campus and a friend of mine was a Beeson pastor. Now a Beeson pastor was an elite group of 20 pastors on campus that were invited to come and get their doctorate in a one-year type program. They were paid, given an apartment, and flown all over the world to see churches that were pace-setters, so-to-speak. So this guy just happened to be single, and seeing that he was a Beeson pastor, and decent looking, I gave word back that I MIGHT be interested. You have to play cool ya’know! So he calls me and we went on a date. For about a month, things seemed to progress. He seemed like a really nice guy. Then all of a sudden, I quit hearing from him. I think maybe I saw him around campus a bit and he just seemed to be aloof. At first I was sad. I moped around for a few days. I ate ice cream and didn’t care what I looked like. But after a few days I picked up the pieces of my semi-broken heart and got back in to living. In fact, for several days I purposely thought…..this man is NOT going to see me looking bad and I did my hair extra well, and dressed up. I not only looked better, but I felt better.
And so it is with cancer. I am putting cancer behind me. I’ve been looking good and feeling good. I dress up and do my hair because I can. I have hair and I have the energy to do it. I have a pair of red shoes that I love to wear. I have enough black and grey in my closet to last me a week, I live in neutrals, but lately I’ve been wearing my red shoes a bit more. I even bought some red lipstick. I’m feeling more bold. I’m feeling more courageous. I’m not as scared that cancer’s going to sneak up on me. I like my new breasts. I feel like I am beginning to resemble the woman I looked like prior to cancer….something I wondered might never happen. I’m feeling strong enough to pursue what it might mean to make myself feel whole again (I’m talking my breasts here and future surgeries to improve my breasts). Those red shoes represent strength and courage and my ability to recover. They remind me that I am no longer the wall-flower that I wanted to be when I didn’t have hair and wanted to sink in to the floor every time someone looked at me longer than 2 seconds.
I don’t know where you are in the process. Cancer is an awful diagnosis. I can’t promise that you will ever feel completely whole again. I can’t promise that you can or will move on. But I hope that at some point you will. I hope at some point you can pull out those red shoes and stand tall and strong. I’m amazed that I can, but I am!