In the last several weeks, I've had a few friends/family members break down and say the words...
"I just don't know what to say."
And, ya know what? That's alright. It is totally alright not to know what to say. Hell, I don't know what to say about what's going on in my guts right now. If anyone/everyone else knew exactly what to say I'd be shocked. (Oh, and jealous, since I'm so often riding the line between being at a loss for words and starting to wonder if the only words I know anymore are the cusswords.)
So, I thought maybe I'd throw out some talking points. You know, in case any of the 27 people who read this blog have been wanting to say something to me, but haven't been sure where to start.
As always, there are three responses that I happen to think are always appropriate when anyone (and I do mean anyone) is facing any kind of trial or trauma (and I do mean any kind of trial or trauma) in their life:
I love you.
I'm so sorry this is happening.
Is there anything I can do to help?
Beyond the three golden statements, there are, of course, several other approved topics of conversation.
Feel free to talk to me:
About your kids
If you've seen a good movie
To tell me what you're reading
Why you think it's ridiculous that everyone on Facebook is obsessing over Caitlyn Jenner
When you try a new recipe for chocolate cake and decide it's the best thing ever
To brag about how your new car gets such incredible gas mileage
Screenshot the lamest thing you've seen on Facebook all day long and send it to me to make me laugh. Call to talk to me about why work is stressing you out. Text me because you're about to explode over how great/terrible it is that the kids are out of school and the entire neighborhood has moved into your kitchen/fridge/pantry for the summer.
You guys, I know this may be hard to believe, but... I'M STILL ME.
I may be sporting a new baby bird fuzz hairdo. I may be about a zillion times more tired than I used to be. I may have been given 3-6 months, outside of a major medical intervention, to live. But please hear me when I say this; I am still me and that means that I still care about all of the important (by which I mean: actually important, but also mundane and seemingly inconsequential) details of your life.
Now, there are a few things that I don't want to hear. So, I'll be real blunt and tell you:
- Don't talk to me about how hard this is for you. I am truly and deeply sorry that my being sick has an effect on so many of the people I know and love, but I can't help anyone else process this. I'm doing my level best to keep my own head above water and therefore cannot be an emotional support to anyone outside of the circle that is my own personal space.
- Don't question my medical choices by offering differing medical advice or miracle cure-all's.
- Don't tell me that I did this to myself.
Don't tell me that I have cancer because I ate too much sugar (in cake, or any of its other delicious forms) or bacon (if one more person tells me that we shouldn't eat cancer-causing pork because of the cloven hooves, I'm gonna lose it) or because I've been carrying an extra 50 lbs around for most of my adult life. Even if you believe this is true, don't say it. It won't help me - in any way - for you to say any version of this out loud, and it will do some serious damage to our relationship if I hear these words come across your lips, esp if you say it after I've told you not to.
- Do not, for the love of all that is holy, read me scriptures, tell me that all things have a purpose, that God doesn't give us more than we can handle, or that my reward will be great when this is all said and done.
Because while I do actually believe that God has a plan for my life, and have accepted that the cancer is part of His plan for me (because we all know for dang sure I wouldn't have added this to my own mortality itinerary), I swear that I will CUT the next person who tries to bring the spirit into this fight.
If I choose to go down a spiritual road during a conversation, then I will need your support and understanding as I talk through those points, but what I don't want is for anyone to think they're my spiritual coach and need to pump me up by sending me scriptures or spiritual/uplifting memes. I will cut you. (And I hate blood. A lot. So that should give you an idea of how much I don't want this to be said/done.)
But really, outside of the four things I've just told you not to talk to me about... Just about anything goes.
You know me. In the way of conversation, just about everything has always gone.
I love you, and I know you love me. I'm scared, and I know that the people who are closest to me are, too. But don't let yourself get so wigged out that you can't talk to me. You can, and you should. I want you to talk to me. I need you to talk to me. We can talk about the cancer, or we can talk about how Scandal went completely off the rails at the end of season four, or we can talk about the coolest thing you saw on your family vacation, or how you really want to make suckers, but can't find the molds, or about what's new on Netflix. Or whatever.
I'm still me. And you're still you. So, we're still friends and/or family. We can't let the cancer stop us or shut us up, because then it wins. ... And as for me and my house, we don't believe in letting the cancer win.