Where did my tact go? Where everything else went, I guess. But I thought people were supposed to become wiser and more cautious about what they do and say as time goes on.
At my job, my boss asks, “so Rebecca, how are you doing today? You seem tense and nervous.”
“Nervous? I am not nervous but if you want to see nervous, come with me to my oncology appointments.”
He takes a deep breath, and then says, “I understand. But how are you feeling?”
“Horrible! But don’t worry, the work won’t suffer,” I reply.
Now, I am not sure that’s the right thing to say to your boss. They might worry they have an employee who was going to “act out” or eventually screw up. But it’s true my work hasn’t suffered. In fact, I tend to be even more productive and work harder when I am under stress and do a damn fine job, too (for the record).
Just recently, at a family Christmas gathering with my fiancé and in-laws, I almost became the Grinch. My fiancé is a few years older than me. In fact, I was the youngest person in the room. Everyone was complaining about aging, a topic I am more familiar with than they realize. When I joined the party to complain about my hip pains, my brother in-law said “you’re too young to have hip pains!” — to which I responded with a forced smile, “I am too young for cancer too!”
I could have gone on to elaborate on my premature cancer diagnosis and how, because of my treatments, I basically experienced menopause at the age of 32, but my mother-in-law gave me a nervous look. She knows I can’t keep anything to myself, especially these days. But this time I decided not to share those stories to avoid having people choke on their Beaujolais Nouveau.
Last, but not least, I contacted my family in the Dominican Republic to wish them happy holidays. I hadn’t heard from them in a while, and when my uncle’s wife picked up the phone, my first words were “you don’t call me anymore. Geez, I am not dead yet!”
She said they’ve been very busy, and then we spoke for almost one hour. During our conversation though, I would catch myself speaking my mind about certain family situations and ending with words like, “…I might as well say it now in case I die tomorrow, right?” and “…because I’ve got nothing to lose now, right? Ha ha ha!!” It’s a good thing my uncle’s wife supports the idea of always speaking up, and doesn’t mind the way I do it.
I feel a sense of desperation. Perhaps this has to do with all the bad news I’ve been exposed to lately. I want to do and say everything. I have this picture in my head of not being able to do or speak anymore, and regretting not doing so when I was able to. I no longer want to be careful with what I say. I want the freedom to let things out. But when is it too much?
I had another realization.
Before Christmas, I received Nancy Stordahl book in the mail and started reading it right away – and am loving it, by the way! The morning of Christmas Day, when we were getting ready to open our presents, I came out of my room holding the book under my arm, ready to continue my reading. It took me a while to realize: perhaps my loved ones need a break from cancer this morning. Maybe I need a break from cancer too.
I haven’t felt the holiday spirit for a few years now. I understand other people take this time to reflect and to find some joy. Personally, I don’t use the holidays to reflect about my life because I find myself reflecting every single day. I am constantly exposing myself to the reality of my health situation. It is the way I live.
But have I forgotten about other people’s feelings – those who live in fear with me? Do they need a constant reminder of my cancer diagnosis? I sometimes forget it is painful for them to deal with that. I live “casually” in cancerland, but they don’t. Our worlds are different. I find myself hitting people with my reality more often than not. It’s what I am now. I can’t seem to find a way to control it because of that feeling of desperation. I want to express myself NOW. As long as I am able to.
But when is it too much?