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  • a happy, ordinary, middle-aged, suburban woman who paints odd pictures, gardens in a straw hat, lives with the love of her life, is owned by one cat and the ghosts of several others, and walks a little funny 'cause she has a fake leg. She started this website because there's more to life than what we lose, and we need to let each other know what's possible, even if it's only a happy, ordinary life.

November 2011

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kathy a.

no performance anxiety! see -- when i say "hope" and "soon," that is a wish and not any kind of time-frame. i deliberately say that i hope you "feel better" soon because -- wtf about "get well" cards when something is ongoing? anyway, it's all good when you whack me upside the head, because i still think you're great, can use the whacking, and will just scoot off now to check out mandyleigh.

scratch the now, make it pretty soon. i want to scream at the cancer first. because it SUCKS. it sucks for you, big time. it sucked for my dad and a lot of other people. we lost a young boy, alexander, who was dear to us 6 years ago; and now my daughter has another friend who is fighting the fucking cancer. and that young woman and her mom were part of the team supporting alexander, back when.

stupid damned cancer. i hate it.


Waving my hand madly at you!!!! Every time I write a post saying that I feel like shit,post-chemo, or that I have the blues, I fight the need to add "but really, life is good and most of the time I feel just fine, so please don't feel bad for me." So I hear you.
And congrats on the font.


Well, sorry you've been feeling lousy, and glad it's a little better today. :-)

The Goldfish

I've always had this, but it never occurred to me that it would happen to other people. Often I end up lying; if someone wished me better last week and I'm just the same, I shall feign some slight improvement, and another slight improvement the week later - even if in fact I feel worse. This is the nature of chronic illness; it doesn't make for a very positive story.


Kathy: Oh, sweetie, I was not meaning to smack you upside the head. I meant to showcase just another facet of my own nuttiness which, look, isn't all that original, as I've suspected.

There is no perfect way to be. We all do the best we can.

And yes, cancer sucks. Cancer + flu + a sudden onset rogue period? Oh, uh, priceless. Yeah. That's the word I'll use. Priceless.

(Still better than being dead, because at least I can watch TV. And blog, sort of.)

Laurie: Yes! I knew it! Without meaning to expose more of my deepest gender prejudices than strictly necessary, I think a lot of people go through this, but that women go through it differently than men, and maybe more often. I'm generalizing madly here, but it does seem that men are still way too often brought up to be stoic little soldiers, except around their mamas (or, eventually, life partners). When they stifle their complaints, it's so that they can be more strong, more manly, less of an imposition on others. When we (women) do this, it's because we have been acculturated to put other people's feelings ahead of our own, sometimes to the extent that we can actually seem to feel physically the pain, even emotional pain, of others, especially people we love.

The reason I think women tend to do it more than men is simply because men have told me so. Specifically, various men have told me the different ways they imagine they would behave if their bodies felt anywhere near as miserable as mine has felt this week. I hope, and to a certain extent really do expect, that they are wrong, that they would surprise themselves, but I may be projecting. I really do have such an enormous to-do list, you know? It really frustrates me not to be able to function, so of course I will use all my strength trying to function until I cannot squeeze out another ounce of juice. It's not bravery; it's purely selfish. The part where it hurts me, even increases my physical symptoms, to show pain, continued weakness, failure to improve, etc., to others, well, that wacky little thing is love. And men feel it, too, just maybe a little differently.

Leslee: Thank you! Today I really do feel quite a lot better. Thank you for giving a poo.

Goldfish: It may not be a positive story, but it is a love story. Oh how we hate to disappoint our beloveds. Oh how we hate to cast shadows on their hopes.

The thing is, we must respect them and ourselves enough to tell the truth. This is how I feel, anyway. This also means respecting and loving them enough to accept the truth from them, for example, that they might be scared poopless about losing us, and how, that their hearts are broken when they compare memories of how we used to be with how we are now, that they are sick of our being so demanding even if they know we can't help it, etc.

I believe that the most important thing in the world is love, and that perhaps the most important event in human existence is every time we express love to each other, while we still live, while we can still express anything. I believe that telling people the truth is an expression of love. So while we are whining about our situations and each other's behavior, and being afraid by ourselves in what might as well be separate rooms if they aren't in fact, and worrying about each other's feelings so much it causes us physical illness -- and telling each other so -- we are also saying, "I love you." It's not the only way we have to say this, and it shouldn't be the only method we use if we can help it, but it's part of the whole big ball of everything that is represented by the sentence "I love you."

As I said to Kathy above, there's no wrong way to be in all of this. There's no smooth, serene, perfect etiquette here. We all do the best we can.

We bother because we love each other.

Jay Shulsinger

OK. I am glad that you appear to have your sense of humor still. I fell out of my chair reading your last few blogs. So what were the brown chips on a paper plate?

Jay Shulsinger

Your blogs provide us with inspiration and lots of humor.

kathy a.



Jay: You will have to wait for tomorrow's post for my Grand Revelation re this year's contest subject.

And BTW, I am an extremely silly woman with a very trivial life, and that's just how I like it. Therefore, while it pleases me deeply to amuse and even occasionally inform, calling me or my writing "inspiring" or "inspirational" will in fact get you smacked upside the head, you and anyone else who dares to pursue that avenue.


Kathy: Back atcha, kiddo. :)

The Goldfish

Oh Sara, your comment made me cry. :-)

And yes you're right, and put it beautifully. Thank you.


(hugs Goldfish very hard)

Kay Olson

Beautifully put, about the love.

I no longer get to the point in any conversation where I feel this performance anxiety. It's a small town and my parents have about 30 years in the community, whereas I went to grade school here but only returned about 8 years ago. So my parents' (read my mother's) interpretation of what my life is about tends to win out over my interpretation. My mom's fairly cool but, well, she's a mom.

I recently attended a church-sponsored speech by a Muslim man about Islam (shocking, SHOCKING, that was in a red-county small town!) and no less than seven people enlightened enough to even attend told me how wonderful it is that I managed to make it out of the house, me and my scary trach and vent. Not just, "So good to see you. How come you never come to church?" (I'm not a member of any church.) But "Oh, how lovely you managed to get out of the house for a little while this evening."

I am a champion for making it out the front door. I'd like a little of that guilt please. I actually miss that.


Kay! Sorry it's taken me so long to reply to this. As usual, you gave me much to think about.

1. There are red counties in MN?

2. Given that, that IS remarkable for your local church to be hosting an event about Islam. It makes me sad that it is remarkable, but the day I read this my true love had just read aloud to me some news story about some other church somewhere (don't think it was MN) where there was a big sign out front now reading (and I paraphrase, not having perfect recall): "WE HAVE A MUSLIM PRESIDENT AGAINST THE WILL OF GOD. [Bible passage citation]" Or some such sh*t.

And that's just embarrassing. As an American, I am embarrassed by this level of bigotry and ignorance. My true love says he likes it when the godbags are outrageous like that, though, because at least you know they haven't been driven underground yet. He likes 'em right out in public where he can see 'em instead of lurking around in covert cells planning to blow up government office buildings with fertilizer and such, or off obsessing in little shacks and seedy apartments by themselves 'til the day they snap and shoot children.

It's an interesting point. And a total digression, of course. (insert sheepish grin here)

3. Yeah, the patronizing. Oh, it does get old. And there is a line, and you and I have talked about this before, between people who actually love you (and whom you love) and people who are just using you, objectifying you to make themselves feel good. And yes, we can always tell the difference, and no, I don't feel guilty about letting them know they've been spotted, either. I have told people to their faces things as, uh, hostile as "I'm just so glad that I could make you feel good by leaving my house." But I don't live in a small town in Minnesota, and I don't have a trach or vent to interfere with my ability to deliver sarcasm.

And all that notwithstanding, I still try to hide symptoms from my true love, still try not to vomit in front of him, hate making pain noises where he can hear them, etc. And all my closest friends and family have been told never to ask either of us how I am doing. I've promised the ones who need to know that if anything changes significantly I will tell them and other than that I don't want to talk about it. My true love is as likely as not to burst into tears or snap if someone says "How's Sara doing?" not because things are so bad at this very moment but because he is so very sad and so very frightened -- and because he really doesn't know the answer.

The ones who really care about us and aren't just drama vampires understand and honor all this. They might not always say the precisely correct thing, but they only do say what they say out of love. They are not to be confused with the many other people who look at us and make decisions about what it is that we are supposed to mean to them, how they are supposed to interact with us in order to fulfill their own ideal visions of themselves. For the first set I have nothing but love and compassion -- and guilt and anxiety. For the second set not so much.

These people you encountered in the church who couldn't just interact with you as a human, well, you know what category they fall into.

Kay Olson

Yes. Red counties in Minnesota. It's disheartening, isn't it? McCain won my county, even though the state predictably went blue. Michele Bachmann, that right-wing religious woman who wanted all Congressional members to take some sort of test proving their commitment to America, re-won her seat in a nearby district. My Congressional rep is Collin Peterson, a pro-life Democrat -- I actually voted for him because he's always the least worst option. And, of course, my district's Senate seat is still up in the air here between Coleman and Franken.

My hometown has a population of about 17,000 and the nearest other town is about seven miles away. There are many people here who rarely travel the ninety miles to the Twin Cities to bump into non-white, non-Christian folk. There is a 3-M plant here and a couple of other businesses that draw people with engineering degrees from around the country. We have two Mexican and Chinese restaurants each, all run by families of those ethnicities even though there is otherwise no discernible Mexican or Chinese population here. Likewise black or Jewish or gay. We have a community college, all the fast food chains, an Applebees, WalMart, Target.... And we're a shopping destination for smaller nearby towns.

It's an absurd mix of ethnic/cultural isolation and commercial worldliness. Anyway, that's a snapshot of where I currently live. I do miss the city. Any city, really, with it's vibrant diversity.

Yes, we can tell the nuances of patronization, can't we? But I find it hard to remember -- to keep it in my brain -- that my just showing up somewhere and being one in the crowd is somehow a revolutionary thing for others to behold. It's a pretty low bar for me.

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