Naked Imperfection by Gillian Deacon

18333473Gillian Deacon is an award-winning broadcaster for CBC Radio, and an environmental writer and advocate. She is the author of the bestsellers There’s Lead in Your Lipstick and Green For Life. She grew up in a home that encouraged always being the best you could be, which is exactly how she decided to live her life. She has always tried to do her best for herself, her family and for the planet; healthy diet, regular exercise, minimal use of cars, the 3 Rs, chemical-free cleaning and body products, minimal consumption, etc. And, she has passed these values onto her three boys. But, she still got cancer. Cancer was never part of her plan.

And then there was the cancer diagnosis. The point at which the compulsion to redress every planetary wrong fell away. The incident that yanked me out of the reverie of a tidier future and thrust me into the unambitious and naked imperfection of right now.

I don’t read a lot of memoirs, but this one called to me. I have read and admired a lot of her work, have tried products she has suggested and given up on ones she has warned against. My family tries to lead a healthy lifestyle (with obvious exceptions of ice-cream, cake, etc.), and we try not to consume more than we need to (also, many exceptions to this rule have occurred, especially as children grow older and want everything their friends have). We try to pass on good earth-friendly values to our children. I’m sure we don’t do any of these things to the extent that Gillian Deacon does, but we try. So, when I saw what her new memoir was about I was surprised and saddened. And, of course, don’t we all worry the same will happen to us, especially as we get older?

In her book, Deacon takes us back to her younger years, her parents, her brother, her brother’s own troubles, her growing commitment to the environment. We get a good sense of who she is and, and how she has arrived at where she is today. We learn about her everyday routines before and after the cancer, how it effects her and changes her life. She does not shy away from telling us her every thought and emotion.

Naked Imperfection turned out to be a joy to read. Yes, it is about her struggle with cancer, but it is also about love, family, friends, resilience, and gratitude. Instead of being dispiriting, it was moving and uplifting to read her story. If only we could all have her zest for life and spunky, positive attitude. This is an honest, wise, and courageous book that I would recommend to anyone.

I jotted down so many quotes while reading this book that I could probably write my own, but I will wade through them and try to find the best ones. Warning: Reading these will cause either some sniffling or a serious lump in your throat.

I am two hours into being a cancer patient. Lesson Number One: surrender control.

If I have cancer, I am mortal, flawed, vulnerable, weak. Wrong. I must have done something wrong. Cancer is the ultimate failure, an inability to repel doom. When people find out I have cancer, they will see that I have failed. That I didn’t have the right information, that my lifestyle wasn’t an antidote to misfortune – that there was no Secret Path.

[Tissue warning] Already I can’t seem to focus on my children, on my responsibilities as a mother. My patience has evaporated. I worry that I am becoming emotionally and physically absent from them; in learning to let go, cut myself slack, and lower the pressure on myself, I’m handing more and more parenting and domestic responsibility off to other people. A voice in my head suggests that this is the beginning of phasing myself out of my children’s lives, preparing them for a life without me.

… I shifted to being crushed by cancer to resolving to be good at it. This was familiar territory: an assignment where I’m judged on my performance. While I would never have chosen the part, it became a role I could rally to. Ace my cancer.

All we have is this moment; that is my cancer mantra.

The knowledge that we are loved lasts even longer than the loving itself.

As it turns out, people really mean it when they say they’ll help with whatever you might need. The greater challenge is to believe we deserve the rescue.

But there is no single action, single decision, single discovery that makes everything make sense and establishes any lasting suggestion of harmony and order in this life. There are just lots of choices… Why do I work so hard searching for the key to make everything right? There is no key. And what’s more, it dawned on me then, there is no right.

I want to live in a world where healthy decisions are easy to make and don’t require a second mortgage.

Busy is the modern epidemic.

… along with the scars and the nightmares, cancer leaves something else in its trail: a stain of perspective.

… there are some things we absolutely cannot know. And that has to be okay. In fact, if I stop- really stop- and think about it, it might even be beautiful.

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11 thoughts on “Naked Imperfection by Gillian Deacon

  1. Cecilia says:

    I’m beginning to hear of more and more women my age who are being diagnosed with cancer…it is quite frightening but maybe not the death sentence it once was. I’ve recently tried to gradually introduce more natural products into our lives too, and realized how easy it is to do that (e.g., using baking soda and vinegar instead of harsh chemicals to clean). The memoir sounds wonderful. I’m glad that she is okay 🙂

    • Naomi says:

      I have found the same thing. I guess it makes sense, since we are getting older. But it is scary. I think you would like the memoir as it is about more than just fighting cancer. Her experience led her to make more sense of the way we live our lives, as well as a few interesting forays into more natural ways to stay healthy.

  2. buriedinprint says:

    This memoir surprised me; I wanted to recommend it almost immediately. There is something remarkable about her tone. It reminds me a little of the experience of reading Miriam Toews’ novel All My Puny Sorrows, which also manages to pull readers into places they might rather not inhabit (temporarily, even) with grace and style. I enjoyed reading your thoughts about it.

    • Naomi says:

      You’re the first person I know of who has also read this book. I’m glad to hear you liked it too! I’m hoping some others will pick it and read it. I was also surprised by how much I liked it. Thanks for weighing in!

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