Friday, October 9, 2009

Pity

I never saw a wild thing



sorry for itself.


A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough


without ever having felt sorry for itself.

D.H. Lawrence

I have time to myself again. I have a lot of time to myself now. I just got off the phone with a concerned old acquaintance. It was a rather exhausting phone call. Clearly she was uncomfortable with the news of my illness and wanted in some way so much to help, despite my protest that those who are here to do those things are already in place. It was an odd phone call. Questions and concerns solicited by this person clearly fishing for more information to report back to a gossip circle. A person feeling compelled to offer me pity, only to be surprised that I am not wallowing in self pity. Most of the kind of help offered by all these concerned people is self-serving. I’m not talking about everyone, just "these" people that suddenly claim a sort of friendship in my time of "need". I did not exist until this happened, and now "these" people want to help because it’s what makes them feel good, and it helps them not feel so bad about me.  I am not the kind of person that likes this sort of attention and I do not like sharing the intimate details of my health in order to give a few something to do.  A phone call out of the blue. After this, I probably will never hear from her again. These are some of the people I was fooled by and attracted to in my youth as I searched for safe friendships in my insecure ullage. They wear two faces.  Now these people seem like the brittle colorless straw found in the horse stall. Sometimes sweet enough to chew on between your lips; other times covered in shit.

Okay, I'm the sick one here.  Wait to hear more before you judge me.  She being many layers outside my social circle voiced feeling sorry for me. I mean she really put it out there.  "You poor thing."  "How can you go on?  I would just be so depressed if I were you!"  Not really there to listen or support me, but rather to feel good about being helpful. Admonishing me for not being utterly depressed.  I must be in denial.  Feeling awkward about discussing my illness, yet this was the sole purpose of the call initiated by her. She asks about my illness, yet stumbles over her words. She is inappropriate and ignorant, but I’m sure doesn’t mean to be, or realize. She does not know me well and my strong will.  I assure her I am fine and cared for and that I appreciate her sentiment. My response is trite, but an attempt at polite appropriate social grace. I lead the conversation away from the topic of me, yet she insists she must organize some "help" in the form of foil covered dinners made with the love of total strangers. Along with this comes the rules on how I should label and return dishes when finished with the donated meals.  I am already dreading the amount of energy I will need to entertain total strangers at my door and collect phone numbers and meeting arrangements for returns and so on.  Perhaps they are used to others in need who have the desire of such attention. It is not the help I need or want at their convenience. This is not a broken leg or the flu. They do not understand what kind of support we need but rather they insist. I am made to feel guilty for saying thank you but declining. 

The fact is, my husband is a great cook.  I do have young children that will not have the mommy taxi for a time.  I do not have babysitters or family to help.  I do not have a maid to clean my house or do the laundry.  I will not be able to drive myself to my chemotheraphy and back.  I will not be able to cut the grass or shovel the snow when it comes.  They do not ask about those things.  I do not want to be a project.  More unhelpful helpfulness.

Those are the people who simply don’t understand who I am. I am not like them. I am public about my illness and my strength, because I am confident and I feel compelled to share my story to inspire others to fight this illness and why we need to find causes and cures. I am open when I choose, not when I am forced. I do not wish for pity or attention of that kind. It is a nuisance to me. I know by my own wisdom that they innocently believe they are caring and helpful. They truly mean no ill-will because they are not thinking beyond their own intentions. I am sure to accept their kind notions politely, but the pity does not fit into my will. The pushiness is wearing on my soul at this point however. They serve to fill the unknown gaps in their esteem and enjoy the prize of social grooming when their charitable work is done.  I am certain from their perspective, I am the poor lost soul facing death and gloom.

When they see me, suddenly the conversation is only about cancer.  Now that I have it, I must know everything.  Now that I have it, it must be all that I want to talk about.  I listen to so much unwanted advice and pity.  They claim they understand what I'm going through and assume everyone’s experience must be the same. They share that they had a relative who had cancer, and so I am forced to listen to the stories and be comforted by the proof of their apparent understanding for my situation. Most of the stories that are shared are about their relatives twice my age.  The "cancer talk" is their way of relating to me I suppose.  I feel as though my real identity has been stripped away.  I can't breathe under the weight of this new identity, what they see.

These are the souls that need constant filling, they demand constant grooming. They must serve and do good deeds in order to feel purpose. Service for a prize. They brag on good deeds intended or done. Their self-esteem is on a daily meter controlled by others actions and opinions. For whatever reason they believe that acts of service is what they must do to be whole. They must be public about their actions.  Then I am painted as weak and helpless.  They want to take credit for any improvement I make.  This damages my strong fighting spirit. These are the people separate from those who intend good for the doing, because it is in their heart, in their nature.  There is a different energy felt in pity from the comfort of concern.  Concern is born out of love.

I am the soul that looks after my husband and my sons.  I have held the hand of many a friend through crisis. Now I look in the mirror and I see what they see. Physically I am changed. I do not recognize the face in the mirror. I am identified by my illness and not by inner soul. The eyes I see lack life and shininess. I am tired. I recognize what I see as me, but then I look away because it is not me. "I look like a cancer patient!" I chose not to wear wigs. I chose not to hide. This is the face of cancer. This is how it looks. It is not cute, pink or fuzzy. Why are people still ashamed? Why are people still uncomfortable? With how many people have cancer, we should all be experts at being around cancer. But people still hide it. People are still uncomfortable. "Breast" cancer is too embarrassing to say for many. I am shocked by people’s prudishness sometimes. They are afraid. It is too much to comprehend for most. I know that. Comfort comes in the knowing. It comes in the journey. The dragon follows me wherever I go. To everyone else, I look like the dragon.

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