Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Defense Mechanisms

Jennifer Windrum's mother dealt with lung cancer. She also dealt with the stigma that many who deal with lung cancer face. She was treated differently because of the automatic assumption that she had somehow caused her own cancer. After all, only smokers get lung cancer, right?


I have noticed lately that when someone tells me that a person they know is dealing with lung cancer, it is immediately followed by the fact that he or she was not a smoker.

Can you imagine being diagnosed with cancer, and then having to deal with biases that have nothing to do with you and the truth of your situation?

During the course of the last two years I found out that if I would wind up with cancer somewhere else in my body, it still would likely be considered ovarian cancer. There is a chance it could be another type, but often it is just considered to be caused by the same mechanisms that precipitated the original cancer.

I am not sure why I am sharing this. I am really hoping that when I get my scans there won't be news that cancer has spread to any place - including my lungs. I am hoping that this isn't some sort of precursor to another conversation I will have at some point.

I'd like to think I am sharing it because it is a theme that keeps coming up and perhaps needs to be shared, not only for the perspective it offers in regard to lung cancer, but also to cancer and life in general.

Human beings make broad based assumptions and then make broad based generalizations on those assumptions which in turn affect what does or does not happen. We are constantly judging things and people. In some ways I suppose it is helpful, and brings us forward in life. But I think there are way too many times it can also hinder us.

Jennifer has a site smacancer.com that she sells SMAC Monkeys on. SMAC stands for Sock Monkeys Against Cancer. It was an initiative born out of the pain of losing her mom and the anguish over the fact that there is very little invested in lung cancer research. Jennifer often speaks of the disconnects when it comes to the people who deal with the disease.

It is now a day later, and I just saw a post about someone whose daughter is dealing with an "invisible illness." I have met so many over the last couple of years who know all too well parts of what I am dealing with. They may not be dealing with cancer, but they are dealing with something that is hindering their ability to be fully functional, despite the fact that they seem to be OK.

I have been saying for quite some time that what I talk about has to do with a lot more than just me. There is a much bigger - human - picture here. There are things that "no one" ("very few") talk about because of the troubles that come along with it. And while they're not talking about it, it is difficult for others to grasp the severity of the concerns that some people would face.

The problem comes in that even when discussed, it takes something extra for a person to truly understand what is going on if it is something that is outside of their realm of experience. Many times people don't want to get it. I have seen several people comment on things that say they don't want the "negativity" in their life, so they opt to stay away. I am sad to admit it, but there is a time I could have been one of them.

If we could stop labeling things in a way that is "negative" or "positive" and stop feeling compelled to ignore or stomp on the so-called "negative" perhaps we could be more compassionate to another who is in need. Perhaps the seeming negative would even cease to be an issue. After all, the fact that I am in such a dire situation is deemed negative, but if if more people were willing and able to help, then that part would cease to exist.

Coming face-to-face with something and interacting with it is more likely going to help dispel it than the avoidance of it will, and yet we have been trained to go a different way. Might it not be better to be trained to go into a seemingly negative situation and find something affirming than to be taught that the only way to find affirming is to look elsewhere?

Pre-cancer it would have been very difficult, if not impossible, for me to have seen the illness any other way than I did. However, not once while dealing with it do I remember anyone speaking in the way that I do about it. I remember lots of positives and platitudes. It could very well have been that there were things like what I talk about, I just did not go deeply enough into it to find it. I was too busy trying to stay and be in a good place.

I suppose we do our best at any given time. And when we are ready to find our way to a different experience and truth we see things in a different context. Sometimes being ready means we have no choice but to face whatever it is head-on. There are times I really wish I had had it in me to get where I am now without having had to go through all that I have. At the same time, I am not sure how it could have happened any differently. I also recognize myself in how others are in relation to me. If I had never been there myself, I wouldn't have an appreciation of the expanse of the jump from there to here.

I sometimes think I am fighting a losing battle. I sometimes feel my need to speak up and out is digging me more deeply into a hole. There are times I just think I really don't belong here. But then I have a moment in which someone shares something with me about what they think I offer the world, and it is so profound and touching and powerful it reminds me of why I might be taking the journey that I am. It touches me and inspires me to keep going.

But it still sucks. It is only such a small portion of my interaction with the world. I may have much more impact and effect than I realize, but it's just not shared with me. I get it. But there are times the silence is deafening and the isolation is painful.

I am constantly swinging between the pessimism of darkest dark and the optimism of the light. I don't always go to the extremes. It is more like a few degrees to the light, and then back to center and then to the dark. The distance back to center is what makes it seem all that much more worse than it might be. Then there are times that I do wildly, unpredictably swing all the way to the extremes. It overtakes me and I am lost to it for a time. It almost seems I need that, as even the good doesn't penetrate at moments like that. There must be something in the dark I need to appreciate what the light has to offer. Maybe the fact that I have been there and back tells me that it is possible to come back no matter how bad the next time is.

Maybe we wouldn't need defense mechanisms if we didn't have the feeling that there were things that weren't allowable, or undesirable. If we could just look at the components of life and be OK with them as a thing, versus a thing on an invisible spectrum reader of acceptable and unacceptable, perhaps we could do a better job of interacting with, and helping, each other. Instead, we wind up interacting with the "thing" instead.

Which would you prefer? Would you rather be interacted with as yourself or as something you have been labeled as? Odds are it is the former, and in order for that to happen, a person needs to be willing to get past the labels and their perceptions and get to the core of what makes us all relatable to one another.

Oddly enough, it feels like a scary place to be. But it is probably one of the best things that we could ever do for ourselves. Being stripped bare is one of the most beautiful and liberating things that could ever happen to us. We don't need nearly the stuff we think we do. The fact is most of it is really a distraction that gives us a pseudo feeling of love and a sense of completeness. However to have the real feeling, we need to simply just allow ourselves to be.

As I write this, I think about how when you are in a great need to survive, those words represent something that would seem impossible to obtain. It is easier to be without when you have the ability to be with.

The rabbit hole I am in is getting deeper. This blog post is already pretty long, and I am not really sure where I am headed at this point. But maybe that is part of the point of life. Maybe we are supposed to go down into that hole. Maybe we are supposed to journey through the unknown. Maybe there are no destinations to get to, and no endings to seek.

And maybe the fact that we have been taught to believe otherwise is what has us label things and interact with them in the way we do. We are so determined to be happy and have a desired outcome. I don't know about you, but so much of my life has been anything but what I would have had it be. I think the same would hold true for others, as well. And if that is the case, perhaps it makes a case for us to be able to look at life differently and with acceptance, instead of feeling like we are constantly needing to fight it and make adjustments, and feeling badly about ourselves for not being able to do things "right."

If we could all do a better job at allowing, we could stop wasting energy on having to be something we're not, and defending those parts of ourselves that are. What could life look like then? I think it is a rather nice thought to contemplate, actually.

Ok. I am done. For now.
Later gators.

PS I am very much in financial need right now. Is it possible you could help? Please read about a few of the ways you could by clicking here. There are some things I am selling that you might find of interest. Thanks.

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