For some time now I have been re-capping my days. The point is to look at my interactions, new behaviors, and what I have said throughout the day; then celebrate the improvements and take note of the “not-so-muches”. (Mad About You, U.S. TV comedy 1992-1999). I honestly want to change. Recovery is a DAILY practice for me. I am determined to be “normal” someday. I want to defeat my family dysfunction, survive SI, parent better, live well when I am old, and hopefully not die of cancer.
I rarely think about, much less discuss my cancer. It was a blip in the trend of my life, a trip on the pavement, and inconvenience for 6 months. It was an expensive, needy period of my life that put people out and required grace of my job. Treatment was swift as was my discharge of interest by most around me at home, among my family and some friends.
Perhaps a lot of it was my attitude that I wasn’t going to let it interfere with my plans or impose on others anymore than necessary. I could not connect. I could not express my real needs, pain, fears, or relief at finally having the care I so desperately needed. I could not ask for help other than to live with a girlfriend and her family to save on expenses and pay my bills during that time. I didn’t deserve her generosity, but she gave it, took it away, and I a battled it back. We have a messy relationship, her and I. It goes back a generation. She is young in her family, I am old in mine. Her sister was a classmate of my mother’s or roughly so.
She was a woman-child of 12 when I was 8. She tolerated me when there was no one else around. We played “Aunt Betsy” in her closet. In her yard, we had a plastic swimming pool of bubble-bath. She had boobs, wore a two piece, and was gone all day to her friends. In the summer months I was the little kid next door visiting her grandmother.
I moved to Illinois when I was 32 and when I was 33 we met up again. At 39 I had cancer and stayed at her home during the course of my treatment. I didn’t deserve her generosity for reasons I am not going to go into here, suffice it to say I was out the weekend following treatment and we haven’t spoken much since.
My family was not interested in what was happening to me, save for one aunt who drove me to and from chemo-therapy. She did her best, never understanding why I didn’t live with her during this time. There were a few people here and there, but I was mostly alone. My mother never set foot in the state during this time, for which I am having a hard time forgiving. This, plus my total collapse in 2013, has ended any thoughts of a parent-off-spring relationship with her.
Today I faced my cancer alone in my current life. I looked at those around me and decided that I must engage. I must push back on my desire to curl inward, withdraw, disconnect, shut-down, and run, believing I am unworthy and incapable. The unworthy part I can argue, the incapable part not-so-much. A strong part of me remains insistent on turning away. I grapple with finding ways not to need other people, not need a group to belong to, not show myself too much more. I am actively fighting my instinctual pattern of flight.
I want to run, badly. It is getting really painful to fall into step giving and receiving on my unit, continuing to hang with my church friends over this amount of time feeling it normal to accept rides, their grace over my tardiness, and the camaraderie that is developing. It is getting tough to continue a friendship with someone who is getting too close. We spend way too much time together, sync in scary ways, and have an ease (at least on my side of things) that is just too nice for me. I don’t want to get used to it. I often feel like Julia Roberts’s characters Vivian and Erin, who are deeply wounded, wary women, wanting love and acceptance, but not sure it is for them. I am constantly surprised at generosity but ashamed at what brings it about, the need for it, and the surprise that I feel. I can’t figure out why anyone cares, I wait for it to end, and even worse, I wonder how to end it. You see, connection is excruciating for me.
This totally sucks because I am an extrovert. This is either Cosmic meanness, or I am destined to be a Guru of some kind.
Anyhoo, I dragged myself from bed early this morning to be a part of the Cancer Survivor Celebration at my local hospital where I exercise, get my treatment, and work. I MADE myself get out of bed to hear Sharon, a member of my exercise class, tell part of her story. I cajoled myself with the idea that I was part of the group, or kinda wanted to be, and when you are part of a group, you participate in what the group does. You show up as a member interested in other members, you push the collective, you take a place.
I suck at groupiness. This was really hard for me. I came home and had a total melt-down. I cried on my bed for almost an hour before going back. As I cried flashbacks came one after another in rapid sequence. I found myself cringing, scrunching my face, averting my head, slightly turning and swallowing in sobs, whimpering quietly, then cooling, calming, separating
Something came out. Something got released. I still want to turn in, turn away, shut down, go it alone, but a bit of it knows that what was done to me was wrong. I know I am mis-wired. I know if I can only stick it out another year, I will be a different person than I am today. If I can push past the point that I normally fold, maybe I can keep pushing until I am well. Maybe I can beat my undeserving, my failures, my family’s backlash over success. Maybe I can fulfill my destiny, whatever the hell it is.
I don’t know. I just got up and joined my group because life any other way is so not working.