Thursday, December 04, 2008

Thoughts on survivorship: Living close to the bone

On the YSC boards yesterday, there was a post that explained things well for me, but also got me thinking. With the author's permission, I'm sharing it here.

I couple of recent threads have got me ruminating on why I check in with this board every day, why I read the mets board, etc. even though I'm three+ years out. Here's what I've found: I don't know anyone on here in person, or how you act in your private life, but I do know that when we come here, we discuss stuff that's real. I feel we are authentic, even when we're mean and crazy bitches. Maybe the anonymity helps. We express depths of real love and vitriol here that I doubt we do IRL, at least as often.

Most of the people I know IRL are not living an authentic life; not even close. I call it living close to the bone, or actually inhabiting your own body, if you know what I mean. They stress about things I cannot relate to and have totally bought into their thinking. I can't bear to be part of a conversation anymore that's focused around gossip, who's got what, whether your kid eats broccoli or not, how the teacher is mean and doesn't like your child when I've met your child and he's an asshole. I had a conversation last year with a friend who was *irate* that the deli counter at Safeway did not keep their posted hours and she really needed some smoked turkey. Sent her husband back the next day to give them a piece of her mind. AYFKM?

For example, as you're sitting at the computer reading this, stop for a minute and look around. What's on your desk...notice things. Feel your body sitting in the chair. Are you uncomfortable or in pain? Do you notice your foobs? Expanders feel like rocks? Are you blessedly comfortable and thankful for it? I feel like we are more in touch with our bodies because of cancer, and thus our emotions, because we have experienced "extreme living." You probably do that awareness exercise regularly and don't even notice it. You may even be *gasp* thankful for the little things. I'm not naive enough to think there aren't some shallow broads around here, but for the most part, this is what cancer does to us. We notice our real selves because we can't hide from it anymore.

I feel like, whether we like it or not, we've woken up, and I find it refreshing. That's why I stick around. I like your perspective and the realness that you present here. I'm sorry it takes a near death or an imminent death experience sometimes to live close to the bone. There have been threads started here about whether cancer has been a "blessing." I don't phrase it that way myself, but I thank God that at least now I'm awake, and have a place to chat with others who have woken up too. It keeps me from going back to sleep.

Peace lovely ladies,M2M

Just to be clear, I think that I have been blessed with the most amazing friends that a woman could ever hope for, ever, in the history of time. I do not believe that I do not express love and vitriol (love that word!) in real life that I express on the boards; I know who my friends are and I'm passionate about them.

Still, there is truth to the whole thing.

In real life, my friends and family (in a general sense, not thinking of specific people) do not understand my need to have a breast cancer community, especially when so much of what happens deeply saddens me. (We lost another sister this week. I can not express how it feels.) I also think that many friends and family wonder what I get from the boards that I do not get from real friends.

I have not got breast cancer friends in real life. This shames me. I have not been able to handle the fierce love, protectiveness, and fear in real life. On the boards, I can observe, and try to understand.

Some of my friends are "awake" without the curse of a life-threatening disease. I don't think that I was "asleep" before my diagnosis, but I do think that I am WIDE awake now.

Here is my response to the post:
M2M, that was just so right. Thank you.

I am awake, and I never want to go back to sleep. That is true. Although it is so, so tiring to be so "on" all the time. I try so hard to stuff my life with meaning and truth and thoughfulness and consciousness that it can sometimes exhaust me. I don't want to lose the perspective of how precious life is, but it has come at such a cost. Was I really that asleep before?

Rhetorical question, of course.

I come back all the time because I need to. It is as simple, and complex, as that. M2M, you've given me a lot to think about....and I'm thinking. Thank you.


Aftercancer said...

You are absolutely right. I have some friends that are awake but there is a level of compassion and understanding that comes from being a member of the worst club in town. I went to the Network of Strength Conference in November and was in awe. The women on the boards understand exactly what we're saying.

Sue said...

I think these type of support groups are very important. While I can offer my love and support to you, and can relate to what you're saying on a most basic level, I know that I cannot honestly know what it is that you go through with BC because I have not shared that experience. Although I am saddened that people are dealing with this disease, I am glad that you have a place to be together to share your joys and sorrows. May there be far more joys in the days to come for all of you.