Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I typed my post "We're doing okay" and then I left for the cancer center. While I was there, I again encountered the elderly woman from our church. Again she asked me that trick question, "How are you doing?" and I responded with "I'm doing fine". She cocked her head at me, and she again said those magic words. With a big smile, she said, "I know that you're lying." Quote. Unquote. Keeping my smile in place, I said, "But, actually, it's the truth." Inside I was thinking, "My GOD! What do people want me to say?!!!!!!" At that moment, the friendly vampire lady came out and called my name, and I was saved. Or she was. I don't know.
I really have been giving this matter some thought. I don't think that people are, as a rule, unkind. I believe that most genuinely do care when they ask the question "How are you doing?" When I answer, "I'm doing okay," I'm not being unkind or dismissive either. It leaves the conversation open if the person wants to continue it. If they walk away, then I can assume that they're satisfied with the information that they have gotten. It's not my job to try to figure out what they are thinking, what motivates the question, whether it be simple courtesy, a rhetorical question, genuine concern and a desire to help. Writing about it is easier. I write everything, and if people don't want to read it, they will click off my blog and go read somewhere else. Talking about it in any depth takes time. Sometimes, I worry about people thinking 'Oh, gees, I'm sorry I asked!' It just strikes me as better to give a short answer, which gives people a chance to either run for the hills or ask more questions. It puts the conversation in their hands. I don't have to worry about boring anyone. Mostly what I find is that my close friends will ask more questions. I'm pretty open in further conversations, because the fact of it simple: I welcome the support. I always feel better after a good talk with a friend.
I'm learning a lot in these times. Before you are diagnosed with cancer, the idea of dealing with cancer in unfathomable. It is just so flipping big, life changing. Then one day, you are diagnosed, and you discover, for yourself, that it's even bigger and more life changing than you could have ever imagined. Having no choice in the situation, I stepped out. My life became a matter of dealing with the issues as they came up. Suddenly priorities became very, very clear. Insuring the kids were okay and strengthening our marriage to insure that it could endure the stresses. I had to find myself some courage. Suddenly it became very easy to winnow things - people who encourage give me courage. The discouraging people in my life take it away, make me doubt myself. Difficult relationships fell to the wayside quickly. Life has become more pure somehow, for lack of a better word. As I become more courageous, I am more confident about handling other issues in my life. I'm more matter of fact about dealing with disappointments. Life has begun to click into place. At 51, I feel as if I may have begun to wake up. My life is not defined by others. It is defined by myself. If people ask me how I'm doing and they are not satisfied with the answer, that is their problem, not mine. I can share myself and my thoughts freely, but in the end, others will judge me how they will. A liar. A sympathy seeker. Dismissive. These things are not my concern. They are not within my power to repair. My job is to live my life as honestly as I know how, to love my family and friends, to be encouraged, and to encourage, to fight my best fight. In the end, the only thing that I have control over is myself.
And, really. I'm doing okay.


steviewren said...

I wonder what your old lady would have said had you had time to ask; "Why do you think I have to be lying to be okay?"

Redlefty said...

If you're like me in this, then our internal lives are sometimes inversely related to our external lives.

When the ciris time comes, my internal lasers switch to the "on" position and I'm very focused and determined, just as you said. That provides a sense of strength, adventure and direction. And it makes me feel that "I'm doing okay", no matter what it looks like on the outside.

Then, in what would appear to be calmer, happier times, my soul has time to reflect and be conflicted about things because I'm not forced to be so focused on an acute situation. In those times nobody would even ask how I'm doing, but that's actually a tougher season of spirit.

So I'll wait to ask how you're doing until you're cancer-free and employed. :)

Debby said...

Oh gosh, I'm not upset that people ask how I'm doing. Just awfully tired of getting the idea that I'm not giving the correct answer.

Pencil Writer said...

Amen, and keep going! Smiles and hugs--and--of course more prayers for you.

Pencil Writer said...

Oh, Debby, I just remembered something. My youngest grandson is not two yet. He's the one who calls me from time to time (on his own). When I answer the phone and figure out it's him, I always ask, "Hey, J. How're ya doing?" I called yesterday and spoke with my daughter who was holding him. He wanted to talk to Grandma. When he got the phone, after we said "hi" to each other he asked, "How doin'?"

I think he asked me because I usually ask him first. Conditioned response? Who knows, but it made my day that HE asked ME.

I hope that when people ask you "How doin'?" their inquiry will be genuine enough to accept your response of "I'm doing okay" with the hand I've been dealt, and come to realize that you are, in deed, doing "okay." Maybe not quite ready to leap of tall buildings or anything, but considering the alternatives, you're doing GREAT! Some people just don't understand being self-sufficient, or being full of faith in God and in your own abilities, or whatever and some just want drama. So, continue on and "Go Forth with Faith." Lots of us are pullin' for you.

Bob said...

No right of wrong answer, Debby. "Doing OK" is plenty sufficient. It speaks volumes about your inner strength.

Nana Trish is Living the Dream said...

Debby, we love people, but so many are just plain goofy. When I am asked, I usually say, "Dynamic". People don't know what to say and they usually say Wow! I could be feeling like I am ready to fall over, but it's an answer and it usually shuts them up. The ones that really truly care about me know the deal. It's a habit for some people. Saying all that, I think it's fun sometimes to come out with something as strong as Dynamic because they don't expect it. The older I get the more I realize that you just have to roll with it and keep on going. Praise the Lord!

Debby said...

I'm afraid that this has been another whinging post. People do say the strangest things. One person intimated that he understood that I would be angry at anyone without cancer. I HAVE NEVER EVEN THOUGHT SUCH A THING. I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy. Implications that because I say I'm fine, I'm making it impossible to be helped, and then finally being told that I was not telling the truth...Really. I'm starting to get frazzled. I didn't realize it was a trick question. Anyone else out there deal with these kind of comments?

Jennifer said...

I am pleased to have found your blog. I enjoy your honesty and outlook.

LarryG said...

no need to be obsessed about one old lady who has no clue
dealing with disease and being ok are perfectly compatible,
it's like the concept of healing vs cure, two different things, I believe healing is possible beyond cure.
You are an amazing person Debby

King of New York Hacks said...

Your answers are fine and your insights are worthy , but your posts are uplifting. Keep it up, as you are doing all the right things.