“You can’t make decisions based on fear and the possibility of what might happen.”
― Michelle Obama
Facing difficult decisions can happen at any time. Sometimes these decisions come along as a result of a drastic change in life. I have learned to understand two important things about decisions:
- they can be changed; and
- they don’t always have to made immediately.
From the very beginning of my alopecia journey I made the decision not to wear a wig but that doesn’t mean this may not change in the future. I am pleased not to have rushed in to getting a wig just because that seemed to be the ‘done thing’. I can’t imagine ever taking a different approach, but who knows. The main thing is that I am open to being flexible, taking life as it comes based on whatever is happening at any given moment.
Having alopecia has helped me to examine and question assumptions and ‘rules’ I had imposed on myself in all aspects of my life. Here’s one example.
Christmas 2016 was the first Christmas after my separation from my husband. At that time, I really struggled to understand where my place was with my in-laws. My ex-husband, John, is one of 4. They all have children, in whose lives I have played a significant part. We were married for 16 years and I had a very close relationship with all of my extended family. So, as a devoted auntie to 5 nieces and 4 cousins-once-removed it was a real heart string puller to work out how I could show I still cared about them all without giving off mixed messages to the older members of the family (especially as it was not initially certain that our separation was final). So, I decided to send cards, as I normally would do, and in each of the children’s card I sent a Christmas Tree decoration. I hoped this would signify that I was still thinking of them but not going too over the top as to make it awkward.
Fast foward to this year. Our separation is final and my detachment from the family has become more defined. This has made it easier to make the decision not to engage with the family in the same way. John has another partner now and I have accepted that part of my life is in the past.
So I find myself buying many fewer presents (I always did the present buying when we were married). Instead of splashing the excess cash on my own children – they have plenty already – I decided to join the Operation Child scheme and sent two Christmas shoeboxes to children who have very little.
This has been a valuable lesson in itself. First of all, who’d have thought wrapping a shoebox would be so problematic! Whilst fretting over my choice of wrapping paper and worrying about creases, less-than-perfectly-folded corners etc, I realised the child that who deservedly receives this gift will not judge the outside but will benefit from the various goodies that are enclosed.
On reflection, this made me understand that the gifts I had bestowed upon the little ones last year was in reality for my benefit – to save face, in case John and I reconciled and I reconnected with the family.
This year has been a time for me to reflect and look forward. To learn about the person I want to be and recognise that it is important to make decisions based on my core values and beliefs, and not just to please others.
There is plenty of pressure on us to act in certain ways; to say and do the ‘right’ things; to be the person that others expect or want us to be. There are two problems with this. Firstly, we can only imagine what others want of us (if anything). This means that, although we may behave in a certain way because we think this is what someone else wants, our assumptions are highly likely to be wrong. Secondly, and much more importantly, any behaviour which is in any way inauthentic, false, moulded to the expectations of others, is doomed.
We can never hope to find peace or calm in our lives if we are chasing the supposed wishes of others. We must examine our hearts and respond accordingly. It can feel extremely challenging to question our assumptions about what others might want from us. But the rewards of being brave and having courage to do just that are immeasurable.
“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”
― May Sarton