This week, I had my first ever skin cancer check. I don’t currently have any skin cancers. However, I do have very pale skin that doesn’t tan, childhood memories of incredibly blistered and peeling sunburned skin, a couple of lumps and bumps that I am unsure about, and the knowledge that the tumour that ended my father’s life started as a squamous cell carcinoma.

I have been meaning to start a regular skin cancer checking routine since before my father died. When he died, I declared that I definitely must start skin checks. At one time, I even thought that it might be useful to do it on the anniversary of his death every year, because at least then I would remember it.

It is now five years since he died, and I have finally had my first skin cancer check.

When I left the appointment, I felt a number of emotions. There was relief and gratitude that the doctor had said that none of my lumps and bumps were skin cancer. There was an element of feeling pleased that I had finally done something about having a check. There was comfort that my doctor had arranged for me to receive annual sms reminders. I also felt a little evangelistic – the whole procedure was so straightforward that I wanted to tell everyone else who had been putting it off for five years to go and book themselves in now.

I asked myself why I had put off arranging my skin check for so long. What occurred to me was that it was a combination of resignation and fear. I was resigned to having skin like Dad’s, and therefore a predisposed skin cancer path. I was resigned to skin cancer as my fate. I was scared that my fate might be sooner rather than later. So, resignation had helped me to shut down the possibility of ever finding out whether skin cancer would take my life. What I had realised, however, was that resignation was also shutting down the possibility of me taking preventative action, should any of my lumps and bumps actually be skin cancer related. It was time to make that possibility available to me. So I had booked the appointment. and subsequently found that all was well.

I found this quite an interesting reflection, and so I started to think about other places in my life where I had shut down possibilities. I immediately thought about my very long hair. I had not had my hair cut for about two years.

Until 6 months ago, my role at work was quite busy and I found it stressful to try and plan things such as hair appointments around work. I also had a hairdresser who was expensive, so I was putting off having to spend the money. The location of my hairdresser is less convenient than it used to be, so I was contemplating finding another hairdresser. However, my straight hair is incredibly easy to make look like a toilet brush, and I was putting off finding another hairdresser because I didn’t want to end up with one who could only manage toilet brush hair cuts. Basically, what it boiled down to was that I was resigned to it all being too hard. And so, I had done nothing.

Until this week.

This week, I decided that if I could make a skin cancer check happen, I could make a hair cut happen, even on the last weekend before school goes back, when every child in Canberra is getting a hair cut. So, while my husband and children were otherwise occupied on Friday night, I volunteered to go to the supermarket and buy dinner. Then I walked into the nearby walk-in hairdresser and said “Please cut it. In whatever way you like. I don’t want it long any more”. Then I bought dinner, came home and shocked my family when they saw my much shorter hair through the doorbell camera.

It has been interesting to notice the change that shifting resignation and taking action has had within me. I can now see other possibilities that resignation has been closing for me, and I am ready to take those on. All because of a hair cut and a skin cancer check.

So, what is resignation? An interpretation that I find helpful is that sometimes, we form an assessment (opinion) that something is possible. In my case, I had assessed that getting a hair cut and making a medical appointment were both possible. We could also assess that moving house, changing jobs, inviting someone to dinner, having a conversation, and so much more were possible. The interpretation is that if we accept our assessment of possibility, we enter a “can do” mood. In the interpretation that I am basing this on, this mood is called ambition. If you think negatively of ambition, like I tend to, then maybe it might be useful to think of it as a “can do mood”. It is basically a mood of enthusiasm, hope and determination. When we oppose our assessment of possibility, we can enter a mood of resignation. This is the “what’s the point anyway?” mood. This is where I was initially at with regard to booking my appointments.

Resignation, like all moods and emotions, can serve us. It served me by letting me know that I had some valid concerns about the outcomes of both appointments. However, it can also happily go on, shutting down possibilities, without us even realising. At this point, it becomes less serving and also very sneaky about being less serving. It is hard to find possibilities for changing when we are in a mood that shuts down possibilities.

I find it difficult to shift resignation. The techniques that I tend to use are:

  • Sitting with it and trying to understand it
  • Asking myself what the possibility is that I am opposing and why, and then trying to find a way of accepting the possibility to help me shift to a more “can do” mood.
  • Asking myself a question and trying to become curious.
  • Telling someone that I am sitting in resignation, because that seems to make it real for me, and then I feel inspired to try and shift to a mood that is more useful.
  • Declaring that it is time for me to take action, and just doing it (this isn’t always easy, in my opinion).

Because resignation can be sneaky, it can be difficult to detect. I tend to believe now that if I am saying no to things or not getting the things done that I want to get done, it is useful for me to at least ask myself what possibilities I am opposing. Sometimes, I find that I am happy with my choice to oppose a possibility. Sometimes, I can see that resignation is making my choices for me. However, this process gives me the freedom of choice. Then, instead of continuing to put off a skin cancer check for another five years, I can choose what is going to serve me.

Points to Ponder…

  • Where might you be operating from resignation in your life?
  • How is the resignation serving you?

My passion lies in coaching people to become the most resourceful version of themselves, and helping new and upcoming leaders who may be struggling with everyday life as a leader. I believe that the ability to be whatever we want to be lies within each of us, and sometimes it is useful to have help in finding what and where that is.

Image by Valter Cirillo from Pixabay

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