Thoughts from Mega Me

First, promised followup:

I have adjusted rather fabulously to my new glasses. And my new stature. I realize I’ve been seeing myself as increasingly dwarven over the years, swimming in sidewalk. I think that, plus my Achilles woes, had combined to make me feel like I was more senior than I am. Shrinking and stumbling. Now, both are mostly resolved (I’m still Achilles weak), and maybe I’m not quite ready for the retirement home.

So, I can recommend as  a great place to get good glasses for not much money. The only possible annoyance for people: I went for the middling lens index, and around the edges where Rachel mentioned getting fishbowl, I see tiny prisms in certain light. It’s caught me off guard a few times, making me think things were moving around when they haven’t been, but overall I rather like it.


Second, literary update:

I was stalled for awhile, editing. Oh, I was showing up and working, only slogging to get maybe 5 pages done. Last night, a breakthough. I’m now more than halfway done the final type-in edit. 

Partly it was the coming of Christmas, partly it was resistance due to knowing that the marketing bit is coming up quick, and partly it was because the inside of my head sounded like “Duh, huh? Boing boing boing.”  My brain is hibernating. I’m okay with that.


Third, thoughts from the days:

A friend of mine who lives far away has rather aggressive breast cancer. She’s been sending poetry and thoughts on this experience. My step-brother-in-law is currently in the hospital again with a rare and problematic condition. So far, they are both doing well, and I spend time every day holding them both in the light, hoping they continue to do so.

Neither are the type to bemoan their fate, though they are doubtless both scared and grieving some of the time. My step brother in law is positive and hopeful, even when he’s not fully aware of what’s happening besides discomfort. My friend far away is reflective, creative, finding beauty where she can in the experience.

I saw Barbara Ehrenreich recently being interviewed about the poison of society’s need for relentless happiness from people who are being badly affected. She was specifically talking about her experience with breast cancer. There’s a bit of ‘victim’ blaming in the air - a cloud that illness is caused by bad actions or bad thoughts, that if you’re just smiling and strong and positive and active and slender and eat all your carrots, you’re going to live to a billion years.

Ehrenreich didn’t want to have to  be positive and brave to be “doing cancer right”. She, a human being, was often angry and fearful about her disease.

I have also witnessed “positive at all costs” as a coping strategy in people, and I can sympathize with Ehrenreich’s frustration. You don’t earn cancer by crying or being angry. I think it’s very important that people have room for their full expression. Anger and grief and fear, repressed, don’t disappear. To make those emotions unsafe to experience is to cut of a part of ourselves that primes us for action.

To say we bring all illness on ourselves is a new puritanism. Emotions are and exist. What you do with them is moral or amoral, perhaps, but feeling angry or sad, fearful or joyful, well – those things just are.  And we cannot carrot and blueberry and yoga ourselves to immortality:  we will all get sick and die, and it is only a matter of when. Some of us will have that happen before the average life expectancy. The idea that people living “properly” will be healthy and “saved” is superstitition and a misunderstanding of biology.

But I also think that feeling like you control something – your own self-talk, your narrative – can make a huge difference. The harm can come when everyone is required to be on the same page: when that narrative is made explanatory or universal. Otherwise, if someone feels that illness extends some other narrative in their lives, it is a way of owning and encompassing the struggle. To me, that is the essense of our meaning. Our lives are what we’re given, and we mean what we make of them. If illness connects to previous experiences, and vulnerability confronts historical vulnerability, a theme is tendered. It’s psychotherapy. And if it touches something deeper, it can be no different than the magic of sitting to write and feeling as if you’re transcribing from something bigger. As if a Muse is on your shoulder.

Of course some people live their lives in narrative: that’s why we bother telling stories. I would pretty much bet that living life with theme and structure is what taught us to tell stories, rather than the other way ’round.

Anyway, I am learning of my loved ones in challenge. People, like hobbits, often reveal untold strength and courage when threatened. Sometimes it’s Merry and Pippin, brave and adventuring, and sometimes that strength is just one foot in front of the other, dragging your tumor across the days to chemo. Both are strength, and both need support.

To all and anyone, coping, I salute you.


  1. I’m sorry I didn’t see this sooner. Thanks for this.

  2. Yes. No, YES! I am applauding and also weeping a little.

    I am lighting candles for my loved ones. Long lost catholicism come to roost? Or the quiet flicker calming, a visible place to hold thoughts, whether good or bad.

    And thoughts for you and for John, for everyone who is watching illness circle. It is more work than I ever thought possible.

    (compelled to add: captcha says “and grooving” so don’t forget to groove)

  3. A long time ago I wrote this whole comment on this and then decided it was just self-indulgent processing what was in my head at the time, about a high-school friend who’d been diagnosed with Super-Duper-Bad-Ted-Kennedy-Style brain cancer, and how she was handling it with so much more focus on life than I think I would have mustered. I would have spent much more time looking at death and being pissed off and scared. Anyway. She unveiled her blog and I think you’d be interested, so I’m gonna wing a link your way backchannel.

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