In the nearly six years since my initial breast cancer diagnosis, I have become increasingly introverted. As a child, I was pretty outgoing. However, later in my teens and throughout adulthood I have developed a form of social anxiety that makes it easier to address a crowd of hundreds than to speak to a handful of new people at a social gathering.
I come by it honestly - anxiety disorders run in my family - but the structure of my day to day life hasn't helped. When I was going to an office every day, I had to interact with co-workers and new people every day - and (mostly) I enjoyed it.
I've always liked spending time on my own but these years of introspection have made it seem like more of a hurdle to confront social anxiety. I have a busy social life but I choose to spend time mostly with trusted friends, going places that are familiar to me.
I don't think there's too much wrong with that but I have seen how fears can make one's world smaller and deprive us of experiences that we might enjoy or, at the very least, that can teach or inspire us. I talk to my kids a lot about how everyone needs to strike a balance between doing things we know that we love and undertaking new challenges - about how confronting our fears is often the only way to make sure that our fears do not come to control our lives.
This year, I've been very inspired by my friend Andrea, who has taken it upon herself to do many things that take her outside her personal comfort zone. While she's danced and travelled and taken on public speaking, I've attended a conference, taken a job as an Elections Ontario officer for a day and now - my family is heading on an entirely new adventure.
This morning, we are pointing the car towards Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on our way to take part in a week-long family vacation hosted by Little Pink Houses of Hope. We will be joined by 13 other families and every mother in the group will have been treated for breast cancer. The only mandatory group activities will be dinner on the first night and the last. In between, we will be in our own beach house and all group meals and activities (in the past, these have ranged from jewelry making to hang-gliding) during the week are optional. I'm very grateful for the opportunity and the generosity of the organizers but I'm also freaked right out.
It's going to be an experience. And, as Susan (aka the Bubbster) pointed out to me in an email, "The trip sounds wonderful and you'll all 'dine out' on the vacation for years to come. They'll be happy and funny stories, I know."
In other words, great blog fodder. And most definitely, an interesting experience.