Red

Finally, I am mad. I guess going through stages isn’t really my nature, and maybe it isn’t such a surprise that I have accepted cancer so graciously. I’ve never been one to make a fuss. It isn’t expected of me, and the times I’ve expressed strong thoughts in the past, the diversion from my usual temperament has not been well-tolerated. And so it goes, these days.

I’m not immune to “life” — or as I sometimes call it, “crap.” Part of this gift of experiencing the universe is learning to navigate with grace and wisdom, and if it were all easy, we’d die just as we’re born — still fighting to keep our toys. I’m game for the paths, wherever they lead, but I do wish for a few small courtesies along the way.

Large courtesies I’ve got in spades – love, fabulous friends near and far, sweet notes, red lipstick, sock monkeys, cocktail jelly beans, new teas, funny photos, tomato pie, taxi service, Tuesday dinners out and Wednesday date lunches. I have blessings upon blessings. Every time I pass a radiation patient waiting wordlessly and alone for a taxi ride home, I know I have it better than the laws of fairness would dictate.

But here’s the thing. At 57, I’ve spent a lifetime taking care of other people, from a childhood spent trying to keep peace between my parents, to various boyfriends, three husbands, two kidlets, four stepkidlets, and miscellaneous pets — some of them not even mine. I spoke up for my mom at every appointment while she fought leukemia for six months, and sat with her while she died. Now I try my best to help my dad maintain some quality of life and sense of autonomy while he struggles with a growing dementia and paranoia. And, oh yeah, I work to grow a business. All this is life, of course, and I love living it full tilt. Cancer? Just my luck of the draw, and I can handle it.

But I can’t handle this: an almost complete lack of time/space/breath/peace/environment/solitude/conduciveness/peace/breath/space/time for healing. I can’t put myself anywhere physical or metaphysical where life and needs stand still long enough to shut down my caretaking heart and brain and simply be for enough moments to whitelight this insipid invasion. I can’t fill the reaching hands full enough to be able to let them go and hold my own hands for a day, or half a day. I guess I don’t know how, or maybe it just isn’t my turn yet. But I need this self-handholding, this affirmation, this love that comes from within and focuses on me. Just for a time.

When the kids were growing, a good friend told me that I didn’t seem to do anything for them. I still have no idea what she meant — I thought I was teaching them independence, along with every skill I knew. Another told me that I sure didn’t have any trouble taking time for myself — when I told her I had enrolled in a yoga class for one hour a week. I’ve been told that my (my!) priorities are skewed, and that I was “a failure as a wife, a daughter, and a mother.” In other words: “Don’t be who you are; be who I need.” I’ve dealt with it. I’ve been Zen; I’ve persevered; I’ve adapted and chameleoned and given time and again, and still maintained some sense of self.

I’ve almost learned to let the words of idiots roll off my back, but then there are those with valid needs. I can’t be mad at my father for needing me, for calling six times a day and going through the same conversations and concerns and solutions every single time. I can’t be mad at a husband who wants me to put the computer aside for an hour a day, even though I have three more hours to go on top of the eight already used. I can’t be mad at siblings who are working their tails off to make their own livings and their own lives. And I’m fighting the urge to be mad at myself — for not being fast enough to accomplish mountains in minutes of time, for my tenuous grip on patience, for my occasional need to bitch and moan and my wimpiness for not just standing up and screaming when I need to.

So I don’t know where to point this anger, but it’s here. Finally, I am mad.

11 thoughts on “Red

  1. Holy Cow Stacy — I would fly out just to throw my arms around your neck and give you a giant hug. I know we’d get along famously since we both love writing and art, but hey, we even like the same clothes on Pinterest 🙂 As it happens I have radiation through the 12th — almost done! But send me a picture, and I’ll be channeling the sunlight and your sweet face! xx

  2. Sitting here sobbing at 6:57 a.m…..because, I guess, I’m mad, too….and because I am SO thankful that I read your words this morning….your inspiring, fighting, real, beautiful words. They touched me deeply, and helped me put things into better perspective.

    You know how ‘they’ say that everyone who crosses our paths in life, does so for a reason? It’s like I woke up this morning and felt compelled to read what you just wrote….like that was THE reason our own paths crossed. Even in your anger, you have helped me this morning. You have touched my life in a way that I cannot even begin to explain. Just know that you did good with your words….and there you go….doing something for someone else again. 😉

    I want you to know that I am staying in a gorgeous house in the hills overlooking Berkeley until the 13th. There is sunshine every day, and a huge swimming pool in the back. If you feel like doing something awesome for yourself….for just you….hop on a plane and come out. You will be treated like royalty, and you will have lots of time for peace and serenity. That is my invitation to you, and it is most sincere.

    Lots of love….lots of it,
    Stacy

  3. Just say “no”. You are a remarkable woman, and some things just have to give. Family counts and family matters, after that, shirk and delegate. So what if you don’t get around to answering an email? You owe the time to yourself. Write and post if it helps, we all love your words and perspective, but if you can’t muster up the energy, so be it. We understand. Take time for you. Love you. Sending thoughts of healing.

  4. Beautifully written, as usual, Pam. It seems that you are gaining some very interesting insights into your life. It takes energy and courage to do so and I applaud you. Keep working to be good to yourSELF and immediately silence any and all b.s. from idiotic, negative, jealous, self-centered, and/or unsupportive voices/people! Xoxo

  5. “I can’t put myself anywhere physical or metaphysical where life and needs stand still long enough to shut down my caretaking heart and brain and simply be for enough moments to whitelight this insipid invasion.” — perhaps this is what this life lesson is really all about?

    Just a thought.

    XOXO

  6. I’m mad for you. How dare those people? Have they never flown on a plane? Oxygen goes on you first. You have to be able to breathe before you can help others to breathe.

    Breathe. Take all the space and time and air you need—and want.

  7. Good! Get mad! Scream! You can scream really, really loud while driving in your car alone…and it feels good! Fuck cancer..it pisses me off, too! xo

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