Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Packed up

…but not yet out. I’m headed to the Valley in the morning. Didn’t quite get enough done today, and we know that my energy hasn’t been what it normally is, for awhile. (I’m physically okay. Emotionally sapped.)

I think I’m relaxing. Either that, or just getting used to being scared. I’m not quite so wound up, right now. I’m physically tired in normal ways—my back hurts from moving boxes. It almost feels good. There’s a clear reason for the pain. No mystery, there.

I know, lift with your legs. I did the best I could. Don’t pack books into 14” cubes.

I also am very ready for the next thing. I don’t really want to move in crisis mode so much; nor gritted-teeth survival. I’m healthy, now. I need to let myself experience that. If I have this beast, or if I don’t, I’m ready to battle it. Like, yesterday.

I’m going to try (seriously) to finish two reflection papers by the end of the weekend. My deadline is the 13th, but after Monday I’ll probably be swirled around cancer again. I have an appointment with an oncologist in Stockton on the 9th; my guess is that I’ll start interferon the following Monday. The first month I’m on that, I’m making no promises to anyone. After mid-July, I should be at least somewhat capable.

"How are you?" is a standard greeting question; it's thoughtless, most of the time. My friends, teachers, acquaintances ask me, like yours ask you. But they never mean, isn't it nice outside? They're really asking, how's your body and soul, how are you bearing up, what's next for you? I’m still sifting through receiving that question; it so often hits me at odd angles.

I've always given real answers: hungry, tired, happy, distracted, busy but fine. The difference is that now there is no accurate short phrase. I'll either answer with a shrug, or with a story. The shrug shortchanges both of us. The story can be a blessing, and therapeutic. It can also take me where I don't want to go.

A friend asked me this morning, how I was feeling. I know something of her history, and she knows mine. She knows I’m scared; she tried to get me to lighten up on myself. She was teasing me and laughing with me—but she made her point. I understood her intention, and I knew where it came from. I took it in, and I was fine with it. The context of the question was understanding and love.

I bumped into one of my faculty, later; not one I’m particularly close to, but they all know my story. He asked, out of genuine curiosity and concern. I told him. He’s had health issues of his own. He didn’t give me any advice; he just said it was good that I’d have someone caring for me, and he would pray for me. We connected.

Tonight, I nearly lost it with a school friend. She asked how I was, and I don’t remember how I answered. She told me I had done this well. I should have left well enough alone, but I didn’t. I asked her what she meant.

She told me I’d handled this experience with courage and grace. And that I could have been afraid of this, that, or the other (named, and described in detail), but that I’d taken it as it came.

Note: I am afraid of those things. I’m scared out of my wits. And I told her so. I didn’t need to have those monsters thrown at me. I told her what I’m really worried about: not having health insurance when I need it. Of course I can be watched—as long as I can see doctors.

She kept telling me not to worry until I had something to worry about—not hearing that the health concern itself is frightening, even with good care. She harped on it. Finally I just abruptly got up and left. I couldn’t talk about it anymore. Really, I couldn’t be talked at, anymore.

I guess the lesson is: Don’t come at me with an agenda. Don’t try to fix me. If you ask me how I am, and you’re inviting me to talk about any piece of this puzzle, listen more than you talk. Let me be who and how I am. Love me, where I am.

If you want to give me survival tips, do it from a place of connectedness with me. Know what you’re talking about. That’s why my other friend’s teasing was okay. She’s been where I am, and I knew it; and she’s come out on the other side. She listened, first. She looked at my homework, before she gave me her answers.

I may not be where anyone in particular wants me to be. I may need to hold onto something longer than you think I should. I need to work every step of this, because I need to learn from it. I have a pretty good sense of when I’m healthy and when I’m not. Let me explore at my own pace.

And if you don’t know what to say, to begin with? Less is more. Just tell me that you love me, and you’re praying for me. That’s what I need, more than anything. Love and prayer have sustained me.

PS: Susan, thank you for sushi again! :-)


Anonymous said...


Greetings on this rainy muggy east coast day. Way back in the 50's President Eisenhower had a heart attack. I suppose he got tired of the question of "How are You?" too. He has a shirt made, that said "I'm fine, thank you.".

Now I think you should have a tee shirt made, just for the summer and wear while not in school, but have a blog-sphere contest as to what should be on the front. I'm sure you will get great responses.

For instance "Don't look at me, Don't talk to me, and Don't ask me how I am." Or some such nonsense like that.

Continuing to pray for you,


Kirstin said...

Suzanne, that's hilarious! I shall. :-)

Two Auntees said...

For the past few days I have wondered what words I could send to you that might help but from personal experience I know that anything I say really won't make you less worried, less anxious, more peaceful or feel less pain. However, I do know that those who take the time just to be with you,let you talk, cry, not talk, laugh, joke or whatever can be the most helpful. I have checked in on you every day even thought I haven't commented. You are in my prayers.

Maybe have a T shirt with faces that display different emotions and you can just point.

susan s. said...

Yes, sushi can be healing. It always worked for me. ;-)

I read your email and just haven't had time to answer. You are very welcome!

Kirstin said...

Two Auntees, that's a great idea. :-)

You can't fix it; you can ease it, with comments just like this one. Thank you for your presence.