Let me introduce you to my new friend. I kind of like her. Her name is Julie Ann. Watch out. She speaks her mind. She’s fierce and focused. She definitely does not have “Geneva” as one of her nicknames. Oh wait, Julie Ann wouldn’t want me to waste time telling you she speaks her mind. She doesn’t really care if you care. So pour your coffee (or Julie Ann suggests whiskey or tequila…) for this Mug Up. First, a little background…
My middle name is Ann, but I have always liked it when people called me by my full name, Julie Ann. When I was little, my parents had one friend who always called me “Julie Ann”. It never failed to catch my attention. Like did she she recognize something in 10 year old me that all the others didn’t see? While maybe Julie was playful and went along with the flow, read Trixie Belden books and Tiger Beat magazines and did what was expected, maybe Julie Ann challenged authority, took the lead to get others interested in things no one else did in the neighborhood, read more serious books and of course, was able to kick ass?
Enter cancer. From the first time I went to the hospital for the mammogram that lead to my cancer diagnosis, everyone there called me Julie Ann. I corrected them at first, but then, I decided I liked it and started saying my name as “Julie Ann” when asked. So much has changed in my life since Diagnosis Day…changes I had no control over. By claiming “Julie Ann” as my name, a bit of control comes back each time I hear it said. And with that, came a sense of letting down the walls of politeness and I began really saying what I needed and didn’t need. Yet at the same time, I put up some barriers around who I spend my time with, and where I choose to be. This has made my immediate world a bit smaller right now, but it feels right. And when that changes back, Julie will want to throw her arms around you and give you a big hug and go out for a drink and hear all about your sister’s husband’s great aunt that had cancer. Right now, it doesn’t help. Certainly there is a down side to this no-bullshit Julie Ann – just ask my sister Jody how I spoke to the nurses when I was readmitted after my double mastectomy. I’m pretty sure Julie would send flowers. Or chocolate. Or wine… Julie Ann says they’ll get over it.
But guess what, just because I have cancer and I’ve reclaimed this “voice”, I’m still Julie, too. I am playful. Just ask my dogs and read through some of my text threads with certain friends and family. I still read “light” books mixed with “serious” reading. Currently in the rotation are Andy Cohen’s “Most Talkative – Stories from the Front Line of Pop Culture”, “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles (Jim – I’m almost done!), an assortment of beach reads by Kristin Hannah and Nadia Bolz-Weber’s “Pastrix – the Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and a Saint”.
I still can go with the flow, but more and more it is when I chose to. And as for doing what is expected of me, well, Julie Ann (or maybe that is cancer itself?) might be overpowering that part, but sometimes I still hold my breath a bit when I start questioning what people will think if I tell them how I think. Honestly, doing what was expected of me still got me cancer. So what do I have to lose? Really though, when you are facing cancer, doing what is expected of you feels pointless. And not authentic. Neither Julie or Julie Ann have time to live that kind of life.
Julie has been working on her next blog entry and you’ll see the more expected celebrations of small victories and appreciation for the graces that are WITHOUT A DOUBT, in abundance all surrounding this journey. Julie is warning you though, one of these days the blog will be taken over by Julie Ann. When that happens, you might want to hang on and pour a double. She has a lot to say…
~Mug Up Mermaid