Wednesday, November 18, 2015
But I don't have time to up and leave
Whether it's non-fiction like Wild and Eat, Pray, Love or in fiction books like The Lovely Bones ... these women go through an ordeal and then get to go away and find themselves and heal.
I read Eat, Pray, Love when it was hugely popular. It didn't move me. I didn't get it honestly. I didn't pick up Wild when it came out - my to be read list is much too long to throw it in the mix at this point. But I didn't feel I needed to. These books don't speak to me.
Another friend recently pointed out that in the cancer narrative, women who are diagnosed quit their jobs and change their life or take a mega huge trip across the globe or across a trail or something similar.
What about the rest of us?
Those of us who have families that tether us to home? And don't get me wrong, I don't mind being tethered to home.
I don't have a job to quit. I don't have a life that I want to radically transform.
I enjoy my role as a wife, as a mother, as a granddaughter, as a daughter.
Don't get me wrong, I'd love to have a weekend away from it all. But just a weekend. And it wouldn't be a weekend in which I'd find myself or rewrite my life's vision, or do some insane task like hike a million miles or climb a mountain or something.
It would literally be just a weekend to relax. And probably sleep a lot.
Where does this narrative leave the rest of us? Those of us who are unable to just pick up and go, or don't want to pick up and go. Or those of us who can't switch jobs and move to a new spot. Or we don't want to.
We are still floundering in this post-cancer phase. We are still dealing with side effects. And anger. And learning to try to accept everything that has happened.
Some of us at the same time have lost loved ones or been through divorce or watched our children get sick as well. Some of us still struggle with pain and heartache and anger. Some of us would love the chance to momentarily get away from it all and just be for a few moments.
And yet, picking up and leaving is not an option. Radically changing our lives isn't an option.
So when I read these books, they don't speak to me. They don't give me aha! moments. They don't make me glance around my life and make me want to leave it all behind. They do make me want to toss the book and roll my eyes. Not at the book itself, per se, But at the hype that's coming. The hype that if we only just did x, y, and z, we could be like the heroines of those stories. And become the heroines of our own story, all the while finding out who we are and where we belong in this world.
Pardon me as I roll my eyes.
I know who I am.
I know where I belong.
Cancer did not change my heart.
It made me anxious and worried and angry. It made me wonder why me and also why not me?
And yes, it did leave me thinking about what next? But not what next for MY WHOLE BIG LIFE.
When you are in treatment, things are regimented. You go to the doctor on this day. And this day. This day is when you get your blood drawn. This day is when you know you are going to be extra tired. This is the day you will mostly likely hit your nadir.
And while you feel like you are constantly being poked and prodded - there is some comfort in that. Because if, on that off change, the cancer is back, won't someone notice? They must with all the check-ups and all the questions and all the medicines being pumped into you.
And then boom. It all ends.
It's a beautiful thing, but it's also scary too.
Alright. You had cancer. You had intense treatment. But now you are done. Go out and live life.
But in your head, you are kind of feeling a bit like Wait, what? Nope. Not ready. Give me back the structure of all the appointments and check-ups please and thank you.
But there you are. Out of treatment.
You get asked questions like but the cancer's gone, so you're back to normal now, right? And you smile and nod but you want to scream what the hell is normal anyway? And no. I'm not normal. I don't even remember what normal is anymore.
And sure, in those moments, when you are laying in bed at night, staring at the ceiling, and insomnia has set in, sure, you think. Maybe I do want to pick up and just go away for a year. Or two. Or move somewhere far away. Or get a new job. Or you pray for that life changing epiphany to hit you - bam - out of the blue so that you can wake up the next day and profess to the world that cancer was a gift. And now you know what you want to do with life. And you are so grateful for everything. And isn't it all just wonderful?
But that moment doesn't come. And you can't just get up and jet set around the globe. Or pick up your family and move.
And truthfully, it isn't really what you want anyway. You just read the stories and are so desperate to fill in the what next that you start to think maybe that's the only way to move on. To put cancer behind you. (or grief or the pain of a lost relationship or whatever is weighing on your heart).
But I think there is room for us. There is room for those of us who get up the next day. And do what needs to be done. Taking care of our families, traveling to our jobs, being good neighbors and friends. There is something for us, even if we can only carve out 15 minutes a week to grieve and to start to mend whatever needs to be mended.
There is peace to drinking a cup of hot tea in your favorite chair in the living room while your kids run around you. Sure, it's no cafe in Paris. Or a thermos in a tent on a mountain you are climbing.
But our stories matter too. We deserve time and healing just as much as those who can carve out large chunks of time - weeks, months, years.
Our stories need to be shared as well, and talked about. We don't need to recreate travel stories in our life ... we need to just live our life the way we can. However that may look for us.
How about you? What do you think?