I'm not sure if its the shaved head or the cancer-warrior-persona that society seems to tack on to anyone who gets a diagnosis or the fact that I'm bleeding my emotions all over the internet these days, but I've been called a "bad ass" more times in the last month than I can remember ever being called one before. This has been a loaded experience for me. Because, as I wrote about a year or so ago, I have a complicated relationship with the term bad ass.
My realization of this issue started innocently enough - a Facebook friend posted a video of a woman schooling the American Ninja Warrior course and remarked that she was - obviously - a bad ass. I found myself watching the video and mentally drafting the training regimen that I would use in order to beat her - therefore, also becoming a bad ass.
Yes - it took under 5 minutes for me to decide that Ninja Warrior would be my next epic adventure (don't worry - I talked myself out of it).
That won't shock those who know me well. They've watched me spend under 5 minutes deciding to take up Muay Thai (even though I hate conflict and, well, fighting), run a marathon (despite running not really being my jam), raise $25,000 in under 6 months for the Massey Cancer Center (even though asking for money makes me crazy uncomfortable), and ride a bike from San Francisco to Los Angeles (when I didn't even know how to ride a bike). My quest to become a bad ass had taken me on some great adventures, but none of them were really me.
I didn't go into each of these adventures for the purpose of becoming a bad ass, but when I got honest with myself I had to admit that a [decent sized] piece of me loved that the bad ass badge might be a bonus in each situation. Growing up, I was not a bad ass. I was the captain of the golf team, first chair flute, and chef at the local Pizza Hut. None of these things do a bad ass make.
So I liked it a bit that in my grown up life I might be seen as a bad ass.
* * *
This realization came on the heels of my - finally - stepping firmly into sobriety after dancing around the issue for years and then negotiating the whole thing with God for a solid eight months. That - putting down the bottle - that was bad ass and one hundred percent me. While all those other adventures were in many ways attempts to shoehorn myself into persona that didn't fit, sobriety was just the opposite - it gave me me. The good, the bad, the ugly - I couldn't hide from myself anymore. All that was left to do was live with myself and get to know the parts of my heart that really needed some work and then do the work.
And that, for the first time, really did make me a bad ass.
* * *
I have some trouble getting my head around being considered a bad ass now - smack in the middle of chemotherapy. I don't feel particularly bad ass. I feel broken. Most days I feel lazy. I feel weak and breathless and tired and, honestly, a good bit of the time I feel sad. I'm not done mourning my old life yet. The one without the enormous belly. The one that featured pigtails. The one that let me wear a bikini without worrying about scars. The one that I loved. I'm not done saying good-bye and I'm not sure I really believe that counts as bad ass.
As I told a dear friend recently, I'm not doing anything anyone else in this situation wouldn't do - I just want to stay alive.
So every time the label "bad ass" gets tossed out there lately, I feel a little funny about it.
I guess I've always felt like you need to take on a challenge voluntarily in order to be a bad ass.
But maybe that's not true at all.
What if just by living our lives as authentically as possible, by listening to God and carrying out his will for us as best we can, we all bad asses? What if by carrying out our calling, even when its not what we would choose to do, even when it feels scary or hard, even when its not the popular thing, what if in living in those ways we are all bad asses?
What if that's why God put each of us here? To be bad ass in our own unique way?