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.