Saturday, June 6, 2015

"Everyone Dies"

I was talking to someone recently who made a comment similar to, "everyone dies." That is an interesting thought/statement, and I will tell you what I go through when something like that is said.

To start with, it is one of those paradoxical pieces of my experience, as a I, myself, have said it. On a logical level it is true, and I "get it." But the thing that bothers me when many others say it is that Is feel like it minimizes my reality.

This particular person said she could be run over by a train tomorrow. So I used her analogy to explain why it really isn't the same thing as what could be my possible death tomorrow. For her, she may, or may not even be around a train tomorrow. Maybe she could even avoid being around trains tomorrow. For her, there is an unknown. It is the great unknown that most people live with.

The great unknown is very different than the freight train that is coming toward someone dealing with something like I am.  You see it coming, and you hear it. You can't stop it. You may even feel it. It is in many ways inescapable. You live with it every day, every moment of every day. It is a lot different when you don't know what, if anything, is coming at you than when you do know what is coming at you, and you have very little, if anything, you can do about it.

When I told this person how I felt about when people say it, she was baffled. Why would their experience and perception bother me? Well. This is why. I got to thinking about this more when a woman with Stage IV breast cancer said it was one of the cliches she did not like/appreciate.

On top of the part about "The End," there is also what happens along the way. For some dealing with cancer, it is like they are dying long before they are dead. For some, there is very little life until that train hits. For an average, healthy person who gets hit by a train tomorrow, even if they have issues, it really is not the same.

This is NOT to take away from the experience of others, or to deny their reality - or feelings about their reality. It is more to stand up for what can be my reality, or the reality of others. I could be wrong about how I feel about how others approach things. But often it does feel like when people try to say they understand because of...What it really feels like is that they are trying to tell me I am no different than what they know, and that what I feel, or what I say, or how I react is over-stated. That I am overreacting. That I am too emotional. It feels like they are trying to tell me that the huge monster that I face is no different than theirs, or of those they know.

One person I know keeps telling me he "understands how I feel." He is basing it off the fact that he has had two family members die dealing with cancer. He has no clue how *I* feel. He wasn't even around those family members much as they went through it. He tries to tell me how when he saw them, he spoke of things that had nothing to do with cancer. He tells me this as a way of saying I should talk about other things. 

There are times I talk about other things. But there are times, talking about other things is a denial and an avoidance of what is. Not talking about it is a "luxury" for someone who doesn't have to deal with the stuff. They don't have to face it, or deal with it in any way. So much easier to tell someone how to deal with something they've never dealt with themselves. And watching someone deal with it is not the same as dealing with it themselves.

What I have found is that those who seem to think they know the most about how I should look at stuff are the ones who do not know what it is like to personally deal with cancer.  Sometimes what they say feels like there is a competition. I can't have it worse because what I am dealing with, and going through, is the same as everyone else. Except. It is not. It is not even the same for me and another dealing with cancer. Similarities exist, but similar is not the same.

I will never deny what another person's reality looks and feels like. For them, it is quite real and quite serious. I am also not in competition with anyone, either. I would just ask people to consider what they say, and why they say it. My interpretation could be wrong about how I hear things, given my sensitivity. But the thing is, I question why would people say some of the things they do to me, unless they were trying to tell me that I am not acting appropriately? Why would they say what they do, unless they were trying to minimize what I am facing?

Part of it could be that it makes THEM feel better. If my situation is the same as everyone else's then they don't have to feel badly about not helping me. They don't have to feel badly about not having a "fix."

This is not to say I am right about this in all cases, or that this is in every situation, but I know it does happen, a lot. If you want to make a difference for another who is struggling be careful what you choose to express, and how you choose to express it. For many going through a crisis, the "I know how you feel" band-aid is one of the roughest to receive. 

And even though you may know of something similar, odds are really good that you do not know how the other person feels, and may never even know. If it doesn't truly equate for another person, it doesn't make what you went through any less powerful, and it doesn't minimize it. 

Be mindful of why you are saying what you are. Is it to make yourself, or the other person, feel better?  if it is to make the other person feel better, be sure to acknowledge wherever they are, and whatever they feel about whatever they are facing. Don't try to use what you know as a way to alter how they feel. If you are truly empathic, and truly allow them to be wherever they are, you are giving them more of a gift than by trying to mitigate their emotions or situation.

The minute I feel minimized I am feeling a need to "defend" where I am in relation to something. Even if it is "negative," I am defending it. When someone allows me to be wherever I am, it has an easier chance of being altered, or let go. I don't have to fight for it. 

Someone told me yesterday that I no longer have my "light." He is the second person to say something along those lines. It is incredibly difficult to be a "light" or have a light when life is beyond difficult, when life isn't much of a life. I don't think people get just how difficult my life has become. I don't think they realize why the light might have gone out, or maybe even care. It is like the person who focused more on my series of "negative" messages than what horrible stuff might have been behind them. They are more focused on what is missing, rather than why it is no longer there. They are more concerned about getting the light fixed than looking at what caused it to go out.

I am doing the best I can in every regard. Not a single person who has criticized me, or tried to fix me or my attitude in some way has come anywhere even near close to what I am facing.  They may be facing their own stuff, but that does not mean they are in a position to understand any part of my situation. I know they want to help, but many times their well meaning words only make matters worse.

Saying the things I do, I realize puts some people on guard. It makes some not even want to talk to me. Some might think I should temper my words. At this point, I can't. I won't. 

At the core of the things I say I have a respect for where people are, and that includes myself. People can say whatever they want to say, but if it doesn't work for me in some way, I am either going to speak out and/or I am going to walk away. Right now it is what I HAVE to do.

It is probably the thing that we should all be doing, actually. It seems we have a low level of tolerance for where others are, if it doesn't fit us. Instead of respecting it, we often try to change it, or we try to ignore it in the interest of getting along. Most people will not change merely because we tell them the words we think will alter their opinions. Most people will not change at all.

We have been told "to get along." I wonder if that is at times more of a disservice than a help.

I read recently about how some people dealing with cancer don't talk about it because "people don't care." I don't know if they're right about that, or not. There is certainly a lot that would certainly lend itself in that direction, though. To "get along" with some people I would need to refrain about talking about cancer. Given it underlies everything, that is no small task. When I refrained with that guy I was talking about recently, it was actually exhausting, as it didn't allow me to be who I was in that moment. I had to make sure to filter out anything that had to do with my life dealing with cancer. It affects  everything. I actually felt like I was being superficial with him on some level because of it.

I bet I am not the only one who finds it somewhat difficult to hold back a piece of themselves.

I would imagine some people feel like they hold back in relation to me. Do they hold back something about themselves, or do they hold back things they want to say about me? 

There is a difference. 

I know in the past I have thought I wasn't being true to myself if I wasn't telling a person what *I* thought - about them. Really. What I think about them is really none of my business. However, if I am holding back on things that relate to me, that is significantly different. Of course, we have this idea that if we care about someone then it is our right/responsibility to tell them what we think is wrong with them. We are supposed to bestow our wisdom on them.

Ironically, when the tables are turned, we aren't always so appreciative of how things can work.

This human experience can be quite treacherous at times. It has been very difficult being as outspoken as I have been. Some people really hate it. Some people make it mean horrible things about me. On the other hand, though, I have very different experienced with others. Several new people have shown up who appreciate me just as I am. They appreciate the paradox that a life living with cancer presents me. They, unlike others, actually think I am managing more well than they would imagine for themselves.

I know I won't be able to get this experience universally right. There is just no way I think that could happen, as the same thing can be seen by two different people, and seen in two totally contrasting ways. How I am being is repelling some, and attracting others.

The human part of life can suck, big time. But it can also be the thing that makes life the most rewarding. It is one of the major life paradoxes that keeps us on our toes. It is also a thing that helps us learn about ourselves. 

How many people reading this actually would be willing to be exactly who they are at all times? I bet the thought of that terrifies many. I know it would have terrified me a mere few years ago. I would have liked the idea, but it would have been pretty darn risky. The fact is, what I thought would happen pretty much did. I think we know when things don't really work, but we still seem determined to hold on to what we know - even when it likely isn't in our best interest.

But, when things really fall apart, what then? I guess it is kinda like the Phoenix from the ashes. From the destruction comes new stuff. Had I not become who I am, would I have attracted the same people? 

Even though my life feels like it sucks on many levels, it also feels like it is in a "rebuilding phase." Provided I get to live a while, I suspect it will be much different than I ever imagined it could be. And that is extraordinarily easy to say, as it already is.

And, in many ways, it is because of that freight train coming towards me.

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