A short story

Let me explain to you why I don’t write on this blog much anymore.

Writing here is kind of like whenever someone asks me “How’re you doing?”. It’s a complicated question. If I told you about every small thing going on with me, you would probably have tears in your eyes. It’s only natural. The pain, the discomfort, the constant trips to see doctors and nurses, the shots, the blood, the depression, the fatigue, the bruises on my eyelids, the nausea, the numbing of my taste buds, the insomnia, the bone pain, the pills, the sympathetic looks people give me, the tube running into my arm – its all a bit much, really. But, in so many ways, it is how I’m doing. Thanks for asking.

I’m also doing pretty well, thank you. I’m happy. I’m surviving. Things are progressing. I have discovered a depth of love with friends and family and strangers that I never knew existed. I’m in remission. I’m (hopefully) going to be cured. I love school and academia and pursuing a new chapter in my life. I enjoy food much more. I have a lot of excuses for not doing things I find unpleasant. I get lots of nice mail. Thanks for asking!

So, what do I talk about here? Do I talk about what I think will help fellow cancer patients the most? The details about chemo and radiation and health care and treating Hodgkin’s Disease? I like that. I like being a place for information, for sharing my experiences to help other people get through their experiences. But I can’t speak to or for those people – each of our experiences is different, and I don’t pretend to understand.

Or do I talk about my reflections on life? People still ask me (mostly people I’ve just met) if this whole experience gives me a new perspective on life. Now, they don’t know my old perspective on life, so it is difficult for me to explain it to them. And I rarely take the time. Maybe I’ll say something like “I’m less of a dick now” or “Traffic doesn’t bother me as much” and they nod knowingly, as if I’ve imparted some deep wisdom of the universe. I think those people are idiots. And I think that is one of the stupidest questions I’ve ever been asked. Imagine if every time something bad happened to you, some joker came up and said “What did you learn from this?” What did you learn from this car accident? What did you learn from your best friend dying? What did you learn from stubbing your toe?

What did you learn? Hopefully, everybody asks themselves this question all the time, after good experiences and bad experiences. I think people who ask this question are the kind of people that don’t want to figure things out for themselves so they ask around a lot and hope someone else will figure it out for them.

The only people I can have this conversation with are sensitive nurses/doctors/therapists and other cancer patients…because we have some kind of a shared experience. I try not to ask a new mother what she’s learned by having a baby – because I’ll never really understand. So, non-cancer patients shouldn’t really expect to learn a whole lot from me.

Saying that, I read a very short story today that almost completely describes how I feel most of time. I thought I’d share it as a way to describe a little bit “What I’ve learned”. Enjoy.

Illegally copied from The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2004 – by Dave Eggers

When She Started Saying “Appreciate It” After “Thank You”

She was fifty years old when she began to do this, to say “I appreciate it” each time she said “Thank you”. She said these words during interactions with clerks, bus drivers, cabbies, cashiers, bellhops, telephone operators. While for the first four or so decades of her life, it seemed enough to say “Thank you” or “Thanks” or “Thanks a lot,” now she seems invariably to add “I appreciate it,” or more accurately, ” ‘Preciate it,” to her Thank yous. She can’t pinpoint when this happened, but it’s now involuntary, it’s constant, and the odd thing, the strange twist, is that she damn well means it every time. She really does appreciate it when people do kind things for her, no matter how trivial, no matter how expected the service might be given the person’s line of work. She is thankful when any human interaction goes off without a hitch, so thankful that her heart gets down on its knees in gratitude and her mouth translates this into words: “‘Preciate it.” Has she had so many ugly interactions in her life that she feels thankful for those that go smoothly? Perhaps. At her age, they have added up – the tussels with congenitally angry people, the random misunderstandings, the clashes with the uncompromising or the crazy. All she wants now is to pass through days with rancor. Days without rancor! She should engrave that on her door, tattoo it on her chest. Does she fear people? She does not. Is she affected when her meeting of a new person, in any context, goes poorly? She is devastated. For days she carries with her the sneers of surly pharmacy counter-persons, the inexplicable rage of the woman whose long-leashed dog got caught up in her legs and who somehow blamed her, the entangled! These conflicts affect her too much, she knows. Every one brings her close to a precipice from which she seems destined to fall into a two-day funk, and thus when instead of being pushed over she is pulled back and embraced, even in the slightest amount – is extended the most basic human courtesy – she finds herself soaring. Seeing her life as a series of potential skirmishes, she appreciates, damn well ‘preciates, peace of any kind.

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2 responses to “A short story

  1. Stevo! This kind of reminds me of something that I was watching on the Science channel about memory. It said that Einstein had a 12% memory retention, which I suppose is rather high compared to the average. (I think that stopping to smell the roses applies.) I pray that your memories are of the best possible reactions, the things that truly matter. Love you guys.

  2. I’ll speak for Rory too when I say we miss you.

    That’s all.

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