“Life-threatening is the ultimate in empowering”, I have heard.
It certainly worked for me. Growing up, teachers observed my lack of self-confidence and recorded their thoughts in my school reports. The reports included words to the effect of “Leigh is bright, works hard, and produces consistently good work. I wish she would put herself forward more, come out of her shell.”
I’m now well and truly out of my shell. Empowered. Confident.
My increased self-confidence was evolutionary to an extent. It developed over time, and with life experience. Increased self-confidence has come with being comfortable with who I am, what I look like, and caring less about what other people think.
That new-found confidence received a huge boost as a result of a life-threatening illness, and Hugo’s death. “What else could hurt me?” I thought. The worst had already happened. That is not to say I am completely devoid of feelings, of course.
But I am changed so utterly, completely, and in so many ways by those events of February and March 2014.
I have been writing about those feelings in this blog, giving talks to healthcare professionals, badgering people on Twitter, become an action lead for the #MatExp campaign. Incredible things that I could not have dreamed of doing about eighteen months ago.
Sometimes I have been fuelled by anger at the unfairness of the world. But my passion has been motivated by the desire for Hugo’s all-too-short life to have been worth something. For improvements to be made in his memory.
While my confidence was better than it had been during my school days, before Hugo died I did not realise or acknowledge that my voice is valid, worth expressing, with views to be valued by others.
I realise now I am a tall poppy. I have the confidence to say that, to be that, to be proud of it.
I am vulnerable and fragile, like a flower in a meadow. Yet I am also strong, reaching out to others, collaborating, trying to teach kindness and compassion.
Working on Hugo’s Legacy. Making a difference to other families in Hugo’s memory.
A member of our #MatExp group made this beautiful image about tall poppies.
I also saw this quote yesterday, from the late, great Nora Ephron (screenwriter of classic films such as Silkwood and When Harry Met Sally).
Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.
My life is fraught with challenges. Legacies of my illness, and Hugo’s death. Anxiety, flashbacks, panic attacks sometimes. A deep, dark abyss of sadness. Sadness at what cannot be unchanged, and what can never be. Missing my son so very much.
But my life includes joy, too. I want people to empathise with me, but never feel sorry for or pity me. I have suffered, I suffer still, I will continue to suffer in some way for the rest of my life.
But I am not a victim.
I am the heroine of my life.
[Better make sure I have the ‘e’ on the end of ‘heroine,’ considering the connection with poppies. But anyway…]
A couple of weeks ago I approached some brands, and they were kind enough to send me some things. My other half, Martin is a photographer and this morning he took some photos of me for the posts I need to write about them.
The look in my eyes says it all. Staring down the lens of the camera.
There is strength behind those eyes.
My voice matters, and so does yours.
You should not have to endure a life-threatening experience to feel empowered, confident, to know that life is not to be wasted, to take advantage of opportunities to fulfil your potential.
So off you go, use that voice. If you are lacking in confidence, find ways to build it up.
Make a difference to your life. Make a difference to others’ lives.
Be a tall poppy, and the hero(ine) of your own life.