a cynic-survivor’s guide to life

Well, today I’m a cynic. I’m a survivor everyday, and plan to remain one everyday, but today? Or at least right this moment — I’m a big time cynic, back to being The Snarky Librarian, so be forewarned.

HONESTLY, I didn’t even realize it was our (12th) anniversary until Frank read Nate’s devotional tonight and read the date, December 28. This was after we had a huge argument, so we both snidely said “Happy Anniversary” to each other. You could sense the pauses between Happy and Anniversary, the swear words hanging in the air, unsaid, unspoken for so many reasons — because once said, they couldn’t be unsaid, but mostly because there was a 7 year old boy in the room who would be more hurt by his parents’ small cruelties to each other than they would be.

These things happen in relationships, arguments over the timer used to put him to bed, for goodness’ sakes, something of such insignificance (my point in the argument exactly) that the smallness of it expands to fill the very air of the room that you’re both in.

Frank is sick (probably upper respiratory infection), I’m tired and worn out from two days of a child who is testing me at every turn. A child who admitted last night that he doesn’t understand why I don’t have cancer anymore. *My heart breaks a little more* at everything he’s been through and last night I tried very hard and very patiently to explain to him why I don’t have cancer anymore and he seemed to understand it but his actions today belied his saying he understood it yesterday.

Today I thought maybe it would be a god idea to ask at the clinic if one of the oncology nurses could explain it to him in an age-appropriate way, but when I approached him with that idea, he shrunk back in his car booster seat, eyes huge, and said, “No, no, I don’t want that.” So of course I won’t force it on him.

I asked him today if he understood and he said, “kind of . . . maybe . . . . . not really,” and then asked if he’s glad that I don’t have cancer anymore and he said, “I don’t know.” My heart broke a little more, both for him and for me — for his confusion and for him getting so used to me having cancer that the me-with-cancer becomes more comfortable than the me-without-cancer.

All of this, and I’m sure you can see why I got more than a bit testy when Frank got weird about not being able to find the timer immediately when he wanted to. Which lead to a huge fight. Go figure. I’m sure wars have been started over smaller issues.

So we had no anniversary. We both forgot; how’s that?! Yay us! Now there’s a chill in the air that has nothing to do with the temperature outside and I think we’ll go our separate ways tonight with nothing more than a ” ‘night” — if that — and that will be fine with both of us. It’s been a difficult year+ a little and we just don’t always have to be mature about things.

Is the honeymoon period of survivorship already coming to an end? Here I never understood before what the hell people were talking about when they said survivorship had it’s own difficulties. I mean, what would be difficult about that?! You LIVE, dammit! But the thing is, you don’t know how to live without that damn grim reaper so many paces behind you even when you’re trying so hard not to be that way. You don’t know how to live life fully, not how you lived Before Cancer anyways. It’s different. It’s rich and it’s sweet and it’s lovely and you count your blessings all the time. . . . but it’s full of complications now that it never had before. Relationships, especially with those to whom you’re particularly close, don’t just fall into place. They take some fine-tuning, or a lot of fine-tuning, and you aren’t skilled in the art of fine-tuning and frankly, you just want to enjoy LIVING and why can’t they understand that you just want to rejoice in your LIFE and can’t they let go of the little things in life too and maybe they just can’t, and why can’t you understand that and accept them for that?

So maybe you’ve changed the most and how do you fit into this whole equation now? As Mom, as Wife, as whatever other relationships present a particular challenge to you right now. You don’t quite understand why you’re especially impatient with Friend A, who has always been one of your best friends, but who worries about all the small stuff, and I mean ALL the small stuff, and you don’t mean to sound . . . . imperious or above her or anything, but because of what you’ve been through, you just have a much better view of The Big Picture these days and most of the time aren’t going to worry about the small things anymore. At least not if you can help it and not when you catch yourself.

So, things change. It’s not other people that change, it’s you who are changed, forever. Again, you don’t mean to sound smug, but anyone who has been through this knows that it changes you in ways that are hard to explain and it changes you forever; you can’t go back to who you were before even if you wanted to.

I’m not saying that all the ways are positive either. Some positive, some negative, some neutral. It just happens.

So I was wrong: he comes down and apologizes for his part in the argument, we talk a wee bit more, and I tell him about what Nate said. I say that I know that Nate is only seven years old and it’s not meant to be hurtful at all, but it feels hurtful when you ask your son if he’s glad if you don’t have cancer anymore and he answers, “I don’t know.” But I was an adult and let him own his feelings; I didn’t show how I felt about that answer. Because, really, he is only seven and he is confused. He needs to be allowed to feel whatever it is that he feels, in total.

All in all, I guess Frank and I were more mature than I thought we would be. Who knew? We’re better people than I give us credit for so many times. 🙂

Happy Anniversary to us.

Cross-posted to Just Enjoy Him.


3 Responses to a cynic-survivor’s guide to life

  1. […] to Mothers With Cancer. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)the landscape of my mindleaving […]

  2. imstell says:

    It’s never easy. Is it? When Ben has conflicting emotions like the ones Nate is going through right now, I usually broach the subject again in a pressure-free environment. “What part about me being not having cancer bothers you?”

    I remember at one point explaining to Ben that everyone dies eventually (though I would try my hardest not to just yet). And that my having cancer was a continual reminder to me that I wouldn’t live forever so I better live my best life *right now* while I could. I explained what a good lesson it was for me and he should try to remember it too.

  3. hey my neice was just reading this on health and she totally agrees, thanks

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